GNU Definition and Meaning

GNU project. Initiated by Richard Stallman with the goal of creating a completely Free Software operating system. The 27 of September of 1983 the project was announced to the world for the first time in the newsgroup net.unix-wizards. The original announcement was followed by other Essays written by Richard Stallman such as the GNU Manifesto, which established his motivations for carrying out the GNU project, notably “returning to the spirit of cooperation that prevailed in the early days of the computer user community.”.


According to AbbreviationFinder, GNU is a recursive acronym that stands for GNU ‘s Not Unix (GNU is Not Unix). Since in English ” gnu ” (in Spanish “ñu”) is pronounced the same as ” new “, Richard Stallman recommends pronouncing it ” guh-noo “. In Spanish, it is recommended to pronounce it ñu as the African antelope or phonetically; The GNU Operating System – Free, not free. What is the GNU project? therefore, the term is mostly spelled (GNU) for your better understanding.

In his talks Richard Stallman finally always says “It can be pronounced in any way, the only wrong pronunciation is to say Linux


UNIX is a very popular non-free non-free software Operating System, because it is based on an architecture that has proven to be technically stable. The GNU system was designed to be fully UNIX compatible. Being compatible with the UNIX architecture means that GNU is made up of small individual pieces of software, many of which were already available, such as the TeX text editing system and the graphical X Window system, which could be adapted and reused; others instead had to be rewritten.

To ensure that the GNU software remained free for all users to “run, copy, modify, and distribute,” the project had to be released under a license designed to guarantee those rights while avoiding further restrictions on them. The idea is known in English as Copyleft -copy allowed- (in clear opposition to Copyright -right of copy-, and is contained in the GNU General Public License (GPL).

In 1985, Stallman created the Free Software Foundation (FSF) or Free Software Foundation) to provide logistical, legal and financial support to the GNU project. The FSF also hired programmers to contribute to GNU, although a large portion of the development was (and continues to be) done by volunteers. As GNU gained popularity, interested businesses began to contribute to the development or commercialization of GNU products and related technical support. The most prominent and successful of these was Cygnus Solutions, now part of Red Hat.

In 1990, the GNU system already had a Text Editor called Emacs, a successful Compiler (GCC), and most of the libraries and utilities that make up a typical UNIX operating system. But a key component called the kernel was missing.

In the GNU manifest, Stallman mentioned that “an initial kernel exists, but many other programs are needed to emulate Unix.” He was referring to TRIX, which is a kernel of remote procedure calls, developed by MIT and whose authors decided that it should be freely distributed; TRIX was fully compatible with UNIX version 7.

In December 1986, work had already been done to modify this nucleus. However, the programmers decided that it was not initially usable, as it only worked on “some extremely complicated and expensive equipment” which is why it would have to be ported to other architectures before it could be used.

Finally, in 1988, it was decided to use the Mach core developed at the CMU as a basis. Initially, the nucleus received the name of Alix (thus a girlfriend of Stallman was called), but by decision of the programmer Michael Bushnell it was renamed to Hurd. Unfortunately, due to technical reasons and personal conflicts between the original programmers, Hurd’s development ended up stalling.

In 1991, Linus Torvalds started writing the Linux kernel and decided to distribute it under the GPL license. Quickly, multiple programmers joined Linus in development, collaborating over the Internet and gradually making Linux a UNIX-compatible kernel.

In 1992, the Linux kernel was combined with the GNU system, resulting in a free and fully functional operating system. The Operating System formed by this combination is usually known as ” GNU / Linux ” or as a “Linux Distribution” and there are several variants. (See also: Controversy over the GNU / Linux naming)

It is also common to find GNU components installed on a non-free UNIX system, rather than the original UNIX programs. This is because many of the programs written by the GNU project have proven to be of higher quality than their equivalent UNIX versions. These components are often collectively known as “GNU tools.” Many of the GNU programs have also been ported to other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and ” True ”

Programs developed by the GNU project

List of some programs developed by the GNU project:

  • Bison – parser generator designed to replace Yacc.
  • Bash – Command interpreter.
  • BFD – library archives.
  • Binutils – GNU Assembler, GNU Linker, and related tools.
  • Classpath – libraries for Java.
  • DotGNU -.NET substitute
  • Emacs – Self-documenting, extensible text editor.
  • GCC – Compiler optimized for various languages, particularly <a href=”C programming language”> C </a>
  • GDB – Application Debugger.
  • GNU Ghostscript – Applications for PostScript and PDF.
  • GIMP – photo editing program.
  • Glibc – library for C language.
  • GMP – library for calculations with arbitrary precision.
  • GNOME – graphical desktop environment.
  • Build system for GNU.
  • GNUnet – decentralized personal communications network, designed to resist unauthorized interference.
  • GNUstep – implementation of the OpenStep set of libraries, as well as tools for programming graphical applications.
  • GSL – Scientific Library for GNU.
  • Gzip – Applications and Libraries for Data Compression.
  • Hurd – a Microkernel and a set of servers that function in the same way as the UNIX kernel.
  • Maxima – a System for algebraic calculations.
  • Octave – a program for numerical computation similar to MATLAB.
  • GNU MDK – a set of tools for MIX programming.
  • Texinfo – documentation system.
  • LilyPond – musical score editor.

The GNU project and the development of other packages

  • CVS – version control system for source code.
  • DDD – graphical tools for error detection and debugging.

GNU distributions

The only completely GNU variant is GNU with the GNU Hurd kernel, this is distributed as Debian GNU / Hurd and others, although there is no official version as of yet.

Linux is the most used kernel with GNU, although Linux itself is not part of GNU. GNU is also used with other kernels. For example, on Debian GNU / kFreeBSD, Debian GNU / NetBSD, Nexenta OS, or GNU-Darwin.