I have been reading a fascinating book which I will use next semester in at least one course I teach--How We Got to Now by Steve Johnson. On the surface, the book deals with six inventions that changed the modern world. Perhaps more interesting is the insights about the inventors and in particular the mental frameworks that led to the breakthroughs. Equally interesting is how the book helps to illustrate the seminal work of Thomas Kuhn on paradigm shifts and their impact.
One particular story about the AT&T telephone monopoly illustrates the power of open source technology. Almost from the birth of telephony, AT&T had a monopoly in the U.S. The company worked very hard to maintain the monopoly. In 1956 AT&T agreed to license all the technology of its subsidiary Bell Labs for free to American companies in return for keeping the telephone monopoly. Bell Labs went on to create and advance technologies such as transistors, computers and cell phones, all of which were licensed to other companies. The quality of the technology and its subsequent adoption and impact demonstrate to me the power of the open source model. Wikipedia defines open source as "a decentralized development model that encourages open collaboration."
Perhaps this example from AT&T will help people to remember the alternative of open source.