During 1983 Richard Stallman of MIT got some particular idea about software usage. It was about giving full rights to software users. He called it Copyleft. Its inverted copyright. The concept of copyleft was described in Richard Stallman’s GNU Manifesto in 1985. You can read more about it here. Based on that he created 4 laws for softwares. They are following:
1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others (freedom 2).
4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
These all together is called Gnu General Public License (GPL). If any software which is released under this is called Free Software.
Then he started to build an operating system called GNU. Lot of people joined him in that effort. To manage all these tasks he created an organization called Free Software Foundation.
Now, if somebody asks you what is the contribution of Richard Stallman?
Without a single second delay people with common sense will tell he freed computer users from chain of control and created a system for developing software that users can own. Yes that is his achievement, that is his role. He is not a computer programer writing code to count LOC later. He is a true visionary, philosopher, one of the greatest human being ever born in our world who made world a better place.
You cannot judge him based on his lines of code. Only idiots who has no knowledge about the society will count lines of code.
His contribution lasts for ever. If people use softwares or any product that is easily copyable and breaks laws of conventional economics then Stallman’s works will be a great tool for social justice.
Fight for freedom is not a one time task. It is a war for ever. Since we live in a capitalistic system, the profit motive will create evil people who try to steal our freedom. They will always comes with new new kind of traps. Even some free software activists too get deluded in their tricks. In that never ending war, Richard Stallman is the great leader who is fighting to protect user’s freedom. And his contribution will lasts for ever.