Re: The life of Kermit
On 2008-05-05, Mark Hobley <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
: PC Pete <PCPete@audiography.com.au> wrote:
:> Thanks again for your involvement. It's good to know Kermit is still
:> very much a live project!
: I like kermit. It is a pity about the restrictive licencing that makes
: the source code effectively read-only, unless patches are used.
: The project would probably be a lot more active, if it was under an open
: source licence that permits free modification of the source code and
: distribution of modified versions.
: There is a gkermit package which is distributed under GPL, but this does
: not contain connection establishment facilities. If gkermit supported
: connection establishment, it would be great.
You probably know the history. Kermit was "free software" long before there
was Open Source (TM), FSF, or GPL. In the 80s and into the 90s, it was a
truly massive worldwide cooperative effort to cover every known computer and
operating system and you can see the results on our FTP site:
It started as means to solve a local problem at Columbia University -- how
to interconnect and share files among PDP-10s (DEC-20s), IBM mainframes,
CP/M microcomputers, the then-brand-new IBM PC, and shortly thereafter
the Macintosh and 4.2BSD Unix, and this we did pretty much in-house as a
our job. Since we were paid to do it, we were glad to share, and we
received a lot of other stuff developed elsewhere in the same spirit and
Other sites began contributing Kermit versions of their own for VMS,
PDP-11s, lots of different CP/M and DOS variations (in those days there
many DOS's, not just one), Data General, Honeywell, LISP machines, you name
it, and pretty soon we were spending more time dealing with platforms that
didn't even exist at Columbia than we were supporting Columbia's own user
community, which was (to tell the truth) a lot of fun. But Columbia didn't
see the point in paying us to do things for the outside world and advised us
to shut down the Kermit Project and move on (this started as early as 1984).
That did not appeal to me, so in 1986 I proposed hiring a dedicated staff to
be paid from income received from fees we would charge for shipping the
software on magnetic tape and by selling books. This worked OK for some
years but once the Internet removed the need for sending tapes through the
mail, we needed another source of income to keep the project alive and thus
was born Kermit 95.
Well, here we are 27 years later and the business aspects -- order
processing, charging, invoicing, dunning, budgets, reports, forecasts,
spreadsheets, and all the rest -- take up so much time that there is little
opportunity for development, plus, as you say, the restrictive license puts
people off who might otherwise be interested in contributing to the
I would like nothing better than to take Kermit Open Source, but Columbia
will not fund an Open Source project. If I could identify a stable source
of funding for, say, 5 years, I would do it in a flash. But the bottom line
is, the Kermit Project must be paid for, one way or another and these days
the only viable income stream seems to be license fees. It can't be done by
selling support contracts (we have tried that in the past) or coffee cups or
I've approached numerous corporations and came close a few times, but
something always happens at the last moment (usually it's that the key
person vanishes without a trace, or the corporation itself, like DEC).
I keep trying. This too takes a fair amount of time.