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This foreword has been kindly contributed by Richard M. Stallman, the principal author of GCC and founder of the GNU Project.

This book is a guide to getting started with GCC, the GNU Compiler Collection. It will tell you how to use GCC as a programming tool. GCC is a programming tool, that's true--but it is also something more. It is part of a 20-year campaign for freedom for computer users. We all want good software, but what does it mean for software to be "good"? Convenient features and reliability are what it means to be technically good, but that is not enough. Good software must also be ethically good: it has to respect the users' freedom.

As a user of software, you should have the right to run it as you see fit, the right to study the source code and then change it as you see fit, the right to redistribute copies of it to others, and the right to publish a modified version so that you can contribute to building the community. When a program respects your freedom in this way, we call it free software. Before GCC, there were other compilers for C, Fortran, Ada, etc. But they were not free software; you could not use them in freedom. I wrote GCC so we could use a compiler without giving up our freedom.

A compiler alone is not enough--to use a computer system, you need a whole operating system. In 1983, all operating systems for modern computers were non-free. To remedy this, in 1984 I began developing the GNU operating system, a Unix-like system that would be free software. Developing GCC was one part of developing GNU.

By the early 90s, the nearly-finished GNU operating system was completed by the addition of a kernel, Linux, that became free software in 1992. The combined GNU/Linux operating system has achieved the goal of making it possible to use a computer in freedom. But freedom is never automatically secure, and we need to work to defend it. The Free Software Movement needs your support.

Richard M. Stallman
February 2004

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire