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It's not a Zero-sum Game

Some times I'm amused to look at the list of all Debian Packages and just see what random sorts of stuff has entered the free software world. I was amused to find at least three implementations of Pascal (Free Pascal, P2c and GPC) two of which included GTK bindings and other modern libraries. There were two versions of Prolog, again at least one of which had SGML and GUI support. There seem to be countless Lisp and Scheme variants including some that are self-hosted.

Thanks to thedward, I also ran across Qemu. Now I can run i386 binaries.binaries on my PPc Debian box. Admittedly it has some issues, especially in the mode where it just emulates a single binary rather than an entire OS session. Apparently it is good enough to run Putty in Wine, or has been at some points in the past. Probably still a year away from prime time, but neat project anyway.

The thing that amazes me about all this is that people find the time to work on all this free software. I can understand lots of random projects that really don't have much functionality or don't seem to work. But the projects I've cited here all seem to have significant effort going into them--enough I'd consider using them in a production environment. I guess the main conclusion I draw from this is that market forces really aren't sufficient to explain how resources actually get allocated.

Comments

(Anonymous)

What are you defining as your market?
I think this is true for most of the the markets people might mean when discussing software development.

I think if you get a broad enough definition of market that you are talking about the allocation of all resources, then yes it is within the market, but I suspect we don't have a good understanding of why people spend time on what they do.

I suspect that in some cases these people are getting paid for there work. If that's true then it suggests that we actually have a fair bit to learn about economics and what business models work.