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Tuesday, 15 December 2009 08:36

Open source commemorative challenge coin minted

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Need something unique for the open source Linux-loving GNU-spouting Free Software Foundation member in your life? ThinkGeek has the answer in the form of commemorative open source challenge coins. They will contribute to the open source cause and might even get you a free drink.

Military history contains a rich tradition of challenge coins. These small medallions bear an insignia and are carried by members of specific organisations. They are so named because they prove membership when challenged.

They also can raise morale, giving members a sense of bond and belonging and camaraderie. While the actual origin of the tradition is the subject of debate the most common view is that it commenced with the United States Army Air Service.

During World War I air warfare was still a new phenomenon. Early pilots came from a mixture of backgrounds. According to legend, a wealthy lieutenant order small coins struck which he presented to his fellow squadron pilots as a memento of their service together.

One pilot had never owned anything like this and kept it in a leather pouch around his neck. During combat this pilot’s aircraft was grounded and he was captured by the German forces. His personal belongings were taken but the pouch escaped confiscation.

The pilot was able to escape and encountered a French patrol. However, the French were on guard against disguised German saboteurs. The pilot showed his coin, the only form of identification he had, which saved his life from mistaken execution.

After this episode it became a tradition for all members of the squadron to carry their coin at all times. To ensure compliance the pilots would challenge each other to produce the coin. If the coin could not be shown the challenged had to buy a round of drinks, otherwise the challenger was liable.

While other legends abound, the challenge coin is an honourable and recognised military device for improving morale and recognising service.

ThinkGeek has crafted its own for open source lovers worldwide. It comes in two forms with Linux/GNU and GNU/FSF variations.

The price is $US 19.99 with $3 donated from each sale to the Free Software Foundation. You won’t want to try and pass these off as real coins given the sizeable price difference but for the geek in your life this is certainly a unique gift.

Plus it might get them a few free drinks along the way.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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