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Brian Fox - Inventor, Programmer, and Great Black Man

by Ty Mc about a year ago in history
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Here is an article about Brian J. Fox, a great programmer and African American more people should know about.

I love to talk about the African American programmer and inventor Brian Jhan Fox. The man is a great inspiration to black computer scientists like myself. He is also a famous name among Linux developers and advocates of free software for the masses, but he doesn't receive enough recognition by the general public in my opinion. He is a very accomplished mind and I would be honored if I accomplish even half of what he has achieved in my career as a data scientist.

The man was born in 1959 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Herbert Fox, a brilliant physicist and educator who teaches to this day at the University of Massachusetts, though he has been nominally retired since 1992. Herbert also had careers in music composition, economics, and electronic engineering, making him a brilliant jack-of-many-trades. Brian’s grandfather was artist Daniel Fox, the man who created the icon Rich Uncle Pennybags, a.k.a. The Monopoly Man or Mr. Monopoly. Donal Fox, Brian’s brother, has also achieved some degree of greatness as an American composer, pianist, & improviser, becoming the first African-American composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony. Basically, the Fox family was filled with people who were able to leave their mark on history and Brian became no exception.

In 1985, Brian Fox began his career in computer programming by working with Richard Stallman. Stallman is an American free software movement activist who, at the time, had just created the Free Software Foundation (or FSF) - a non-profit 501(c) organization that promotes the universal freedom to modify computer software under copyleft terms. While working for the FSF, Fox created the GNU Bash software. Bash is a free shell and command language that lets someone who is using the Linux operating system to run computer commands & applications directly from the computer terminal. It was made by Brian to be a replacement for the Bourne shell, a program that - at the time - was proprietary and owned by AT&T. Bash is now the default shell for working with computer terminals in most Linux distributions, the Solaris 11 operating systems and even Windows 10 through the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Bash is not only an important piece of shell software, it is the most popular shell among all operating systems. Bash was released back in 1989, but it is still going strong with its latest release, Bash version 5.1, coming out on December 7th of 2020.

Bash is the not the only piece of free software Brian Fox has created for the public. The man helped to author GNU Info, a utility application that provides documentation and information on Linux commands while a user is using a Linux operating system. He was the original author of the GNU Readline software library which lets Linux users edit lines of code and create interactive software programs directly from a computer terminal. Brian even maintained the GNU Emacs free software text editor until 1994 when he left the Free Software Foundation organization.

From there, Brian joined the banking company Wells Fargo to create the first interactive online banking software in the United States. He also served as the CTO for multiple technology startup companies. By 2008, Fox collaborated with software developers Alan Dechert and Brent Turner to create a completely open source election system. The code for the system is publicly available to be used by different organizations, but is still secure enough to support large-scale democratic elections. The program was demonstrated at the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco from August 5th to August 7th of 2008. From there, Fox founded the California Association of Voting Officials and the National Association of Voting Officials. These nonprofits promote open source voting systems to, hopefully, be used in the election of public officials.

As an advocate for open-source democracy, programmer, and inventor of many software programs, Brian Fox is an inspiration to tech-savvy African Americans who hope to invent computer programs to help others. If you are a black man or woman reading this article who is interested in any way in programming, inventing, or working to make a better democratic society, hopefully Mr. Fox can serve as an inspiration to you too.


About the author

Ty Mc

I love to write fictional stories, articles about history, and blog about practically any topic that pops in my head. Hopefully, you can read some of my stories and find something that interests you!

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