The "Asterisk" Story

Editor's Note:  Its been awhile but we are back.  Big changes coming soon.  Had to take leave but that is now in the past.  I wanted to start off with posting this Origin story about Asterisk is you haven't committed their story to memory.

Origin stories are all the rage these days, and while perhaps the origin of Asterisk isn’t as exciting as the genesis of Wolverine, it’s still a pretty interesting tale.

Way back in 1999, Mark Spencer had just started Linux Support Services (LSS), an innovative small business that offered support for the Linux operating system.  This was the height of the “Dot Com” era, and many start-up businesses were taking advantage of the open source operating system.  LSS took off, and as it grew, Mark found that he needed a phone system.

Back in those days, phone systems were 100-percent proprietary.  They were also expensive.  Not wanting to take out a loan for a phone system he would probably outgrow in a matter of months, Mark decided to build his own PBX.  Unlike proprietary phone systems, Mark’s solution was flexible software that took advantage of the power (and price point) of Linux. Mark named the project “Asterisk,” a reference to the wildcard character.

Within a year, the Dot-com bubble popped and the demand for Linux support dried up.  Fortunately for Mark, interest in his software PBX had exploded.  Linux Support Services quickly pivoted to focus on the growing demand for hardware and services related to Asterisk.  The groundswell of interest in an open source telephony system grew into the Asterisk Community with thousands of developers and users who pitched in, providing patches, enhancements and valuable feedback. What started as a pragmatic solution to a cash-flow problem, turned into a revolution.

By 2003, the business had been renamed “Digium” and was well on its way to becoming the world’s leading purveyor of telephony interface hardware.

In the nearly 13 years since Mark released the initial Asterisk code, the PBX market has undergone a massive shift.  Open standards now rule what was once a proprietary market.  Expensive, limited proprietary PBX hardware has given way to commodity computers running powerful software.  Digium has grown from being a niche player to competing with the biggest names in the PBX market.

So, there you have it.  That’s how it all started.  By the way, if you have an interesting story about how Asterisk or other open source software changed your life, we would love to hear it.

Source:  Digium Inc.


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