Re: Nanotech: Open Source or Proprietary

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Thu Jul 13 2000 - 04:31:55 MDT

On Wed, Jul 12, 2000 at 01:20:48PM -0400, Robin Hanson wrote:
> Has anyone made an estimate of the fraction of ability-weighted programmer
> hours that goes into open source vs. other software? How about comparable
> estimates for related industries like drugs, movies, music, or airlines?

Dunno about ability-weighted programmer hours, but one of The Register's
columnists did an analysis last year of what went into a typical Linux
distribution CD from Red Hat. Costing out programmer time at US $50K
per year, and costing in the various supplementary packages that were
originally funded as academic research projects, they came up with the
startling figure that Linux "cost" US $8Bn to develop, over a 25 year
period (although Linus only released his first kernel in 1991). This
shows up most clearly when you think about things like X11, sendmail,
gcc, Emacs (and the other GNU utilities) and evolutions of research
projects like Postgres.

The point is that the expenses were borne by users, not by a vendor who
then tried to make a cash cow out of it; the distributors earn their
money from support and services, not by arbitrarily putting a price on
the right to copy information and jealously defending it.

-- Charlie

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