When Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple a few weeks ago, story after story read like the obituary of a life-changing visionary. There is no question the leadership of Steve Jobs changed personal computing and consumer electronics forever. Still, he remains with us – so we may not have seen Steve Jobs’ last creation.
Many lesser-known technologists have made important contributions to this world while operating in relative obscurity. One of those people, Tim Perdue, succumbed to cancer on 16 September 2011. Unless you were actively reading Slashdot in the early 2000s, or participating in software version control discussions, you’ve likely never heard of Tim. That said, there’s a stellar chance you’ve benefitted from one of his coded contributions.
Tim Perdue was part of the team of four developers who originally created SourceForge. You have probably downloaded software from SourceForge’s vast repository without realizing; VLC Player, Audacity, and VirtualDub are just three examples of applications available for download from SourceForge that made my computing experience better. The master stroke of SourceForge, however, wasn’t the ability to download software (lots of places made that easy). SourceForge was a place that made creating, sharing, and distributing open source software and code easier.
For those who develop open source software as part of a collaborative team, SourceForge was a paradigm shift. SourceForge made it possible to integrate version control, track bugs, collaborate with people remotely, get access to database resources, and increase the probability of attracting other developers to your project. The 300,000 projects on SourceForge today certainly have Tim to thank on some significant level for helping create a collaborative community which continues to foster software development.
Tim was also one of the first people to make a good real world performance comparison between MySQL and Postgres. I’m not sure the specifics of his comparison are still relevant, but it was certainly controversial at the time (because SourceForge was operating at a much higher transaction volume than most web database projects running on the LAMP stack).
As the goals of SourceForge changed over time, Tim Perdue created a fork of the original code to continue empowering developers to create great software. This new effort, dubbed GForge, powers developer communities like RubyForge and CakeForge. It integrates with version control solutions (like git) and provides enterprise features (like integration with Microsoft Visual Studio).
Tim Perdue is an Iowan (like Chris Pirillo and myself). Tim also happened to attend the University of Northen Iowa at the same time Chris was there, and their brief encounters always centered around the discussion of technology.
I believe it’s fair to say that at 37 years old – a year younger than I am as I write this – Tim left our world at too young of an age.