Eric Steven Raymond, super mind in open source software, wrote multiple ground breaking articles and books explaining and analyzing the software world. He mostly focuses on open source and the hacker culture. Raymond (2000) wrote an excellent article titled, "A Brief History of Hackerdom" that outlines the events that lead to the culture of volunteer programmers.
Starting in 1945, the technology of computing attracted the world's brightest and most creative minds. "Real Programmers," a phrase eventually coined in the 1980s, wrote machine language code that was both artistic and eloquent. Real Programmers built and played with software for fun.
Most will agree that the hacker culture began in 1961 when MIT acquired the first PDP-1. The Tech Model Railroad Club became the center of MIT's artificial intelligent laboratory. Their culture grew with the introduction of ARPnet in 1969. The first artifacts of the hacker culture developed around 1973 to 1975 when the Jardon File launched across the ARPnet. The Jargon File later became published as "The Hacker's Dictionary."
Another important moment in the culture involved the XEROX PARC, the famed Palo Alto Research Center. From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, PARC invented amazing hardware and software innovations, including mice, windows, icons, laser printers, and local area networks.
As a result of the innovations, three cultures stood in the 1980s: the ARPnet/PDP-10, Unix & C crowd, and microcomputer enthusiasts. During this period, Richard Stallman organized the Free Software Foundation, dedicated to producing high quality free software.
After 1987, Intel released an inexpensive chip set that made home computing affordable for the first time. Shortly afterwards, Linus Torvalds developed a free Unix kernel for 386 machines. Linux offered a full feature Unix OS with entirely free and redistributable source code. The ground breaking Linux OS evolved in an entirely unique way with a large number of volunteers coordinating over the Internet to develop the OS. The Internet was key in the Linux development. The Internet came to homes for the first time for only a few dollars and with the newly invented world wide web.
Raymond, E. S. (2000). A brief history of hackerdom. Thyrsus Enterprises. Retrieved February 22, 2012 from http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/AUTHOR_P/R000825P.pdf .