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Often, when there is discord between a tool and a project, the developers simply create
a new tool. Indeed, in the world of software, the temptation to create new tools can be
deceptively easy and inviting. In the face of many existing version control systems, the
decision to create another shouldn’t be made casually. However, given a critical need,
a bit of insight, and a healthy dose of motivation, forging a new tool can be exactly the
Git, affectionately termed “the information manager from hell” by its creator is such a
tool. Although the precise circumstances and timing of its genesis are shrouded in
political wrangling within the Linux Kernel community, there is no doubt that what
came from that fire is a well-engineered version control system capable of supporting
worldwide development of software on a large scale.
Prior to Git, the Linux Kernel was developed using the commercial BitKeeper VCS,
which provided sophisticated operations not available in then-current, free software
version control systems such as RCS and CVS. However, when the company that owned
BitKeeper placed additional restrictions on its “free as in beer” version in the spring of
2005, the Linux community realized that BitKeeper was no longer a viable solution.
Linus looked for alternatives. Eschewing commercial solutions, he studied the free
software packages but found the same limitations and flaws that led him to reject them
previously. What was wrong with the existing VCS systems? What were the elusive
missing features or characteristics that Linus wanted and couldn’t find?
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