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What pupils write about proprietary software and why it motivates me


Pupils all over the world are learning about the story of "Ada & Zangemann - A Tale of Software, Skateboards and Raspberry Ice Cream": it is encouraging to see how new generations are inspired to start coding, and to write to Zangemann about his behaviour. Below a message from our president Matthias Kirschner to our readers.

Image showing the Ada & Zangemann book in different languages
The story of Ada & Zangemann is currently available, for purchase, in French, English, German and Italian

2023 has been a busy year at the FSFE. Besides our general promotion for software freedom, we have helped EU regulators to better understand Free Software for their work on the Cyber Resilience Act, the Product Liability, the Interoperable Europe and the AI Act. We have followed up on the Digital Markets Act about device neutrality, monitored the implementation of router freedom, and made sure to keep public administration accountable for their promises on Public Money? Public Code!". We supported Free Software contributors by answering questions and providing tools to better handle legal obligations.

This year, as well as in the two decades before, there are times when, despite working hard with our team, there are setbacks. Regulators who (even though it is 2023!) still do not understand how Free Software works, companies that, again and again, try to restrict software freedom for their own benefit despite the harm they thereby do to society, or people in the Free Software community who fight with each other instead of focusing on our common mission.

Looking ahead, next year marks 20 years of working for the Free Software Foundation Europe for me. On 10 December 2003 I joined the FSFE’s discussion mailing lists; in 2004, I became the FSFE's first intern; later, I continued as a volunteer; and since 2009, I am a staff member.

At the FSFE, I have the privilege of working with many volunteers and colleagues who encourage each other to continue our work, even in situations where others might have given up. We remind each other why we are doing this work, and why it is crucial for society to continue it despite hard resistance.

Some of those reminding moments are when I get emails and letters about the book "Ada & Zangemann - A Tale of Software, Skateboards, and Raspberry Ice Cream": emails from parents telling me about their daughter who started programming after reading the book to her; cute postcards from children telling me their thoughts about the book; or an email with pictures from a hospital in the Middle East who got some of the books and shared with us how much the children enjoyed reading the book (and side note, as one character in the book, many of them have 3D printed arms or legs due to war injuries).

In June, we received the letters that pupils wrote from the English International College in Marbella (Spain). Their teacher, Kaye Fogarty read the book together with her 8- and 9-year-old pupils, focusing on "the access to the internet on a global level and how the inequality of access in certain parts of the world hugely disadvantages people there in terms of education and opportunity". The pupils then shared their thoughts on the book by writing letters to Zangemann, the antagonist of the book. We got permission to share those letters with you -- so you can see for yourself why that was a motivating moment for me.

Reading all these letters and emails, I am sure that there are many young people out there who care about software freedom. While people in our movement have been working hard for software freedom for 40 years now, I am confident that there will be new generations, bright and energetic who will take the reins and using technology to shape their future. I have a strong feeling that they will continue with, and strengthen, our movement for the challenges that lie ahead for humanity in the next 40 years.

Enjoy reading the letters yourself

Thank you for your support!

Matthias Kirschner, President FSFE

PS: Here the feedback I received by the teacher: "A wonderfully entertaining read with an empowering message for younger generations, one which will shape our world and the way we live in it." Kaye Fogarty, The English International College, Marbella