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Unexpected Developments

At the beginning of the GNU project, I imagined that we would develop the whole GNU system, then release it as a whole. That is not how it happened.

Since each component of the GNU system was implemented on a Unix system, each component could run on Unix systems, long before a complete GNU system existed. Some of these programs became popular, and users began extending them and porting them -- to the various incompatible versions of Unix, and sometimes to other systems as well.

The process made these programs much more powerful, and attracted both funds and contributors to the GNU project. But it probably also delayed completion of a minimal working system by several years, as GNU developers' time was put into maintaining these ports and adding features to the existing components, rather than moving on to write one missing component after another.

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Last updated: 1999-08-06