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In the Beginning was the Command Line

Timothy, Slashdot, How Ya Gonna Get ‘Em Down On the UNIX Farm? here.

theodp writes “In 1919, Nora Bayes sang, “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” In 2013, discussing User Culture Versus Programmer Culture, CS Prof Philip Guo poses a similar question: ‘How ya gonna get ’em down on UNIX after they’ve seen Spotify?’ Convincing students from user culture to toss aside decades of advances in graphical user interfaces for a UNIX command line is a tough sell, Guo notes, and one that’s made even more difficult when the instructors feel the advantages are self-evident. ‘Just waving their arms and shouting “because, because UNIX!!!” isn’t going to cut it,’ he advises. Guo’s tips for success? ‘You need to gently introduce students to why these tools will eventually make them more productive in the long run,’ Guo suggests, ‘even though there is a steep learning curve at the outset. Start slow, be supportive along the way, and don’t disparage the GUI-based tools that they are accustomed to using, no matter how limited you think those tools are. Bridge the two cultures.'”Required reading.

Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon, In the Beginning was the Command Line, here.

 About twenty years ago Jobs and Wozniak, the founders of Apple, came up with the very strange idea of selling information processing machines for use in the home. The business took off, and its founders made a lot of money and received the credit they deserved for being daring visionaries. But around the same time, Bill Gates and Paul Allen came up with an idea even stranger and more fantastical: selling computer operating systems. This was much weirder than the idea of Jobs and Wozniak. A computer at least had some sort of physical reality to it. It came in a box, you could open it up and plug it in and watch lights blink. An operating system had no tangible incarnation at all. It arrived on a disk, of course, but the disk was, in effect, nothing more than the box that the OS came in. The product itself was a very long string of ones and zeroes that, when properly installed and coddled, gave you the ability to manipulate other very long strings of ones and zeroes. Even those few who actually understood what a computer operating system was were apt to think of it as a fantastically arcane engineering prodigy, like a breeder reactor or a U-2 spy plane, and not something that could ever be (in the parlance of high-tech) “productized.”

Wow

Microsoft refused to go into the hardware business, insisted on making its software run on hardware that anyone could build, and thereby created the market conditions that allowed hardware prices to plummet. In trying to understand the Linux phenomenon, then, we have to look not to a single innovator but to a sort of bizarre Trinity: Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, and Bill Gates. Take away any of these three and Linux would not exist.

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