The GNU Project (GNU stands for the recursive “GNU is Not Unix,” and unlike the actual word gnu, the G in GNU is pronounced) was begun in 1984 by Richard Stallman of MIT with the aim to develop a complete free (meaning free for everyone to look at, to learn from, and to build upon) software operating system. In 1989 he codified the terms under which this free software was released, producing the GNU Public License (GPL) which is the basis on which much of the GNU/Linux operating system is released. The license is often referred to as the copyleft license in contrast to the restrictive practise of copyright.
By 1991 when Linus Torvalds wrote his Linux kernel GNU provided the operating system. By combining the GNU operating system with the Linux kernel the seeds for this most popular free operating system were sown.
Many users installed the GNU tools on many different computers as replacements for vendor supplied tools. This provided these users with a consistency across the many different platforms they used. The tools even eventually appeared under MS/Windows, providing a Unix-like environment on a very different operating system (http://www.cygwin.com).
The tools developed by the GNU project include such essential utilities as the GNU file management utilities and the GNU text file processing utilities. The GNU file management utilities include fundamental command line tools like ls (to list information about files/documents), mkdir (to create new directories/folders), mv (to move directories and files around), rm (to remove files), and many more. The GNU text file processing commands include cat (to concatenate files together), head (to preview the top few lines of a file), sort (to sort the contents of a file), and wc (to count the number of lines, words, and bytes in a file).
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