Presented by

  • Keith Packard

    Keith Packard

    Keith Packard has been developing free software since 1986, working on the X Window System, Linux, and rocketry electronics. He is currently a Principle Engineer with SiFive and a consultant on Linux Graphics for Valve Corporation. Keith received a Usenix Lifetime Achievement award in 1999, an O'Reilly Open Source award in 2011 and sits on the foundation board. He has spoken at numerous free software events around the world, including Linux Con, the Plumber's Conference, Linux Conf Australia, FOSDEM, FISL, Guadec, Akademy, OSCON and many others. Keith would appreciate being referred to with he, him and his pronouns.


Stretching back over 35 years, the X Window System is one of the oldest surviving free software projects. Having its origins before the invention of the GPL, the history of X offers a slice through the whole lifetime of the software freedom movement. Using X as a lens, we can study the causes and effects of licensing, community and corporations in the world of free software. This presentation will describe the origins of X, a discussion about the influences and interactions with the major Unix workstation vendors and early interactions with the Free Software Foundation. Also included will be a description of how internet performance bottlenecks in the mid 80s drove structural and governance changes in X that haunt the larger software ecosystem to the current day. Finally, a discussion on how software licensing choices drive community structure and affect corporate engagement will be included. Linux Australia: YouTube: