The landscape of modern computing has been shaped significantly by the tireless efforts of individuals who have devoted their time and skills to create open-source software. Often, these individuals have sought little to no personal financial gain, instead opting to contribute to the collective knowledge and tools available to developers worldwide. Among these tools, few have had as profound an impact as the Vim open-source code editor, a creation of Dutch engineer Bram Moolenaar, first released in 1991.
This week, a somber note from Moolenaar’s family, published on Google Groups, announced his passing on August 3 at the age of 62. The cause of death was not disclosed, only that Moolenaar had been grappling with a medical condition that had rapidly progressed over a few weeks.
The family’s message read: “Bram Moolenaar passed away on 3 August 2023. Bram was suffering from a medical condition that progressed quickly over the last few weeks. Bram dedicated a large part of his life to VIM and he was very proud of the VIM community that you are all part of.” The family also shared that they are planning a Dutch-language funeral service in the Netherlands, though a date has yet to be confirmed. Moolenaar’s Vim text editor has achieved legendary status among software developers. It has consistently been recognized in surveys as one of the most widely used text editors or Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), and has even become the default editor for some Linux distributions. Vim was initially built as a clone for vi, a much-loved Unix text editor. Moolenaar’s Vim was partly constructed on another vi clone, Stevie, which is no longer supported. Moolenaar was not only a pioneer in open source software but also in the charityware model.
With the license of Vim, he encouraged users who found value in his work to donate to a cause supporting children’s education in Uganda, rather than making a direct donation to him. According to The Next Web, these donations amounted to approximately 30,000 euros annually, sufficient to support the education of about 50 children, from primary school through to university. Moolenaar’s dedication to Vim remained unwavering, with updates continuing until just a few weeks ago. His career has been marked by involvement in numerous notable projects, with his most recent role at Google, working to enhance the Merchant Center. His passing marks the end of an era, but his legacy in the world of open source software will continue to influence generations of developers.