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In The Beginning Was The Command Line, Updated 416

Unqualified code-monkey Garote submits his annotated version of Neal Stephenson's In The Beginning Was The Command Line, updated to discuss UI design theory and fill in some of the gaps from the last five years. (And yes, he has been granted permission from Neal to do this.) There's plenty more to cover of course: Will the command-line last only as long as the keyboard? How will desktop search technology change our workflow? What about the 3D interface? Scroll to any random paragraph in the essay and you'll find something worth expounding on. What's ahead for the next five years?
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In The Beginning Was The Command Line, Updated

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  • by sgant ( 178166 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:26AM (#11262735) Homepage Journal
    I thought in the beginning was the "punch card".

    Talk about a bad UI!
  • by Petronius ( 515525 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:29AM (#11262745)
    "I was raised on the command line, bitch"
  • GUIs? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kippesoep ( 712796 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:29AM (#11262750) Homepage
    What is this GUI thing you speak of, you young whippersnapper? I'll use a command line 'til my dying day, pounding the keys with my cane if I have to.
  • Hopeful (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:29AM (#11262751)
    What's ahead for the next five years?

    Hopefully, some higher power will pick an OSS desktop, create some interface and application standards and we can all start dumping Windows. Until then, my Linux migration ends at the point where I have to pick gnome or KDE (or even something else).

    Which one should I pick and why?
    • Re:Hopeful (Score:3, Insightful)

      by koreaman ( 835838 )
      For newbs like yourself (I'm not saying this in an offensive way) I would recommend KDE.

      Or try Fluxbox if you have an older comp, but it's not very similar to Windows.
    • pick anything (Score:5, Insightful)

      by poptones ( 653660 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:56AM (#11262928) Journal
      as a former windows power user who transitioned completely only about a year ago, let me offer this advice:

      Pick up an ubuntu cd, give it a partition, and use it more than the two minutes it takes to conclude it's not windows.

      Seriously. Forget windows is even there for a week. Pretend someone stole your old computer and all they left you with is this weird piece of shit doppelganger that sorta looks like your old pc, but everything's just a little "off."

      Accept the fact transitions are not always easy, and give this doppelganger a week of your computing life. Then go back to windows.

      And make sure you have some clean clothes handy, because you're going to need a shower afterward.
      • Re:pick anything (Score:3, Interesting)

        Actually very good advice (if completely off topic)

        I was (and still am) a windows power user who was going up the very steep learning curve of learning Linux some 5/6 years ago. I could do "some" stuff with it, but it wasn't until my main PC died and I was left with my Linux laptop for a couple of weeks that I all of a sudden Just-Got-It tm

        These days all operating systems are all pretty much the same as far as I am concerned, XP is a great desktop, Linux is a great server, Sun is a great number cruncher a
    • Re:Hopeful (Score:5, Informative)

      by BladeMelbourne ( 518866 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:00AM (#11262950)
      Xfce [] is an excellent choice, although not at widespread as GNOME or KDE.

      • Much smaller download
      • Lower memory usage, responsive UI (ideal on P2, P3)
      • Very simple to use, but powerful enough for most power users

      It doesn't look too bad either ;-) My only complaint is with the file manager, so I use Xfe/Xwc instead. It comes in Fedora Core 3 if you don't already have a Linux distro installed.

      • and do the apps like openoffice and firefox work in xfce? I just started running fc3 and it's much more up-to-date than my old system, but launches gnome immediately on bootup. I haven't yet figured out how to turn that off, and it's a big pain. Gnome itself also sometimes gets wedged in a way that trashes my desktop beyond recovery. I have to delete ALL the gnome configuration files in my home dir (and also the ones in /tmp, which took me a while to figure out) and start over from scratch. Sort of lik
    • Try them all for a while. Try KDE, GNOME and XFce. If you're feeling bold, try GNUstep.

      You can install them all and run your favourite. As long as they're all installed, it doesn't matter which one you run, you can run all the applications for each, since you have all the support libraries and daemons installed.

      The great thing about unil-like operating systems, and FOSS in particular is the healthy choice, competition and collaboration.

      If you've been brought up in the Windows monoculture, this is a huge cul

  • by checkitout ( 546879 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:30AM (#11262757)
    Keyboard ain't going anywhere. Expect it to exist for as long as there are words to type.
    • The keyboard isn't sacrosanct... granted, we'll always want to be able to enter text (at least those of us belonging to the rebel alliance will).

      I can't imagine ever having speech recognition being good enough for a programmer, it would be too slow to have to say "cout less than less than quote capitalised Hello comma world less than less than quote semi colon", and it would make the workplace an awful noisy place :-)

      But what about the non-invasive "thinking caps" featured recently in a story? Maybe on
    • And why would that be the case considering how long time it takes to be proficient in typing? Surely, it is possible that an alternative text entry interface would emerge in the future.

      For example Dasher [] is pretty cool, and there are other (in fact numerous) alternative interfaces. See for example Masui's on-line bibliography [].

      • Dasher is pretty useless:

        Experienced users achieve writing speeds of about 34 words per minute, compared with typical ten-finger keyboard typing of 40-60 words per minute.

        Experienced dasher users can peak at 34 wpm.. experienced typists can often peak at more than twice that on a qwerty (not to mention a Dvorak layout []). And imagine using Dasher for coding - Dasher works well for writing words, but fails totally with the symbols and syntax used in programming.

        Some users might be able to work withou

    • You couldn't say them?
      Or think them?
      Or look at something and have the brainwaves converted into words applicable to that which you're looking at (or have bound to that image).

      The command line will only be around as long as there is a keyboard... and the keyboard won't live forever.
      • the grandposter sez:

        Keyboard ain't going anywhere. Expect it to exist for as long as there are words to type.

        That's a tautology. Maybe he was just making an oblique joke?
      • Typing for a skilled typist is both much faster and easier than speaking. Especially for prolonged periods of time.

        There's a rather long while till we get reliable thought-controlled interfaces, and even then they may need some extra training. How many more thoughts you create than you actually say/type? You cull most of the plans before they take any serious shape and are converted into words. Untrained thought-writing would be just a feast of spurts of senseless text and undoing them.

        Reliable voice reco
      • You couldn't say them?

        I've tried. You just can't get the same degree of bandwidth and precision of expression from speaking as you can get typing individual characters at a keyboard. Especially if you're trying to code something.
        • And that's saying nothing about the way recognition systems can get hopelessly messed up by variations in background noise, other speakers and even a bad cold.

          Every time someone mentions speaking instead of typing I always wonder whether they've actually seen inside a busy office, tech support centre or lab. The noise can be bad enough without people saying everything they are typing...
      • You get my keyboard when you pry it from my cold, dead hands...
    • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:33AM (#11263184) Homepage Journal
      Keyboard ain't going anywhere. Expect it to exist for as long as there are words to type.

      lol - u r gr8.

    • Keyboard ain't going anywhere.

      It'll go into a scrap heap when sensors can pick up arbitrary 3D motion of every finger without having to bang down on a key. OK, maybe early prototypes will require that you glue foil patterns onto your fingernails.

      Getting out of the 2D keyboard into full 3D gesturing will improve text input speed.

      Probably most importantly, it will more easily permit non-Latin alphabets to be input, such as Chinese.

    • <Scotty>

      A keyboard. How quaint.


      c'mon, you know you were thinking it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:30AM (#11262758)
    "Evolution optimized homo sapiens for wandering the savannah - moving around a plane - and not swinging through the trees. Today this evolutionary bias shows in comparing the number of people who drive a car versus the number of helicopter pilots: 2D navigation (on the ground) vs. 3D navigation (in the air)."

    What absolute, total, bollocks. Cost of helicopters vs cost of cars has not figured into this tit's thoughts, then?
    • Besides, Homo Sapiens is hardly a hardy wanderer. 40km by foot per day is pretty much the best pace anyone can maintain over a length of time. Many animals migrate far further. No, Homo Sapiens was optimized by evolution for staying put and using tools to his advantage.
    • Obviously it does in that particular example. But look at the sales and popularity of Doom Vs. Descent. Descent was vastly more impressive at the time, with its full 3D engine. The multiplayer mode was also stunning once you got the hang of it. But a huge, huge number of people were put off it because they kept getting lost, disorientated, or otherwise couldn't cope with the extra degrees of freedom.
    • Supply and Demand.

      Demand for helicopters is low; supply is low. Therefore, price is high.

      Demand for cars is high; supply is high. Therefore, price is low.

      Basicly, if everyone knew how to fly, then one could buy a helicopter for ~$50k. Maybe less.
  • by MadMorf ( 118601 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:31AM (#11262765) Homepage Journal
    I read this book when it first came out and I have to say that I was quite disappointed.

    His insistance that Windows doesn't have a command line shows a deliberate distortion of the truth to try to make his point.

    Any REAL Windows Admin knows this is false and it's a prime way to identify an Anti-MS zealot.

    Anyway, it hasn't stopped me being a fan of NS, but it did disappoint me in a big way.

    • by RenatoRam ( 446720 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:38AM (#11262813)
      Anybody who has used the unix comandline for REAL knows why even experienced admins think that windows lacks a commandline.

      No completion, no reverse-search in history, no pipe filters (and no, pipe more does not count), and so on...

      Sure, if you install cygwin you get a lot of the stuff you have on *nix, but this simply proves the point: to have decent commandline tools you have to install a POSIX emulation layer.
      • Anybody who has used the unix comandline for REAL knows why even experienced admins think that windows lacks a commandline.
        No completion, no reverse-search in history, no pipe filters (and no, pipe more does not count), and so on...

        Personally, I find completion a huge pain.
        And with DosKey there is a CLI history, easily accessed.

        Most of what *nix users use on the command line are add-ons and most have equivalents available for Windows.

        Not saying the Windows CLI is perfect, but it is there and quite usabl
        • Doskey?

          No, you obviously don't know what we are talking about.

          Press CTRL-R and some letters: the history is searched backwards for that command. Press it again and go back for other occurrences.

          doskey... pah!

          And we are NOT talking of "addons". Most of the pipe filters are part of the basic binary apps.

          Sure, if you are on a Digital Unix 4.0 machine you are pretty much stranded with the oldish and poor userland utilities, but on modern linux CLIs all the things I'm talking about are there FOR SURE.

        • Personally, I find completion a huge pain.

          This doesn't make any sense at all; I assume you don't know what "completion" refers to. This is where instead of typing:

          cd /longdirectoryname/longerdirectoryname

          you just type

          cd /l[tab]/l[tab]

          It's brilliant, and saves many keystrokes. The only way it could possibly be a pain is if you use many actual tab characters in your commands, which is extremely unlikely. If you don't like it for some arcane reason, just don't press the tab key.

      • PS Windows XP has tab completion.
      • I'd like to add that the majority of *useful* packages on *nix are controlled through the command line. In Windows, unless you have physical access to the box, you are screwed. Sure, you can do VNC once you are up and running, but you still can't configure DNS, IIS, or a hundred other parameters unless you have a mouse.

        Compare that to Linux where virtually every graphical way to accomplish something is usually a wrapper still reading and writing text files behind the scene.
    • I felt the same way. The book wasn't that groundbreaking or correct at all.
    • Remember, he wrote this in 1999. The state-of-the-art "enterprise" version of Windows then was what, NT 3.5?

      Windows has come a long way since then. Keep the essay in context.
    • I don't remember any mention that windows didn't have a command line. But I think he talked about how windows is a graphical operating system, in the sense that the GUI is completely tied to the OS, and if you want a command line, you can run it on top of the GUI, when it should be the other way around, like on Linux, where you run the GUI on top of the command line.

      Honestly, if you have a windows server, after you configure it, why do you need it to run the GUI? but you can't turn it off... and remote ses

  • by mrjb ( 547783 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:32AM (#11262766)
    People use the command line nowadays to control servers by SMS. Spoken commands, as well, are likely to follow a command-line type interface. Just uttering "Tea, earl grey, hot" in expert-mode is a lot less infuriating then "press 1 for tea, press 2 for coffee, press 4 for chocolate milk, press 5 for cola, press 6 for beer" -- (6) "Press 1 for lager press 2 for stout press 3 for ale" (1) "press 1 for hot press 2 for cold" (2) "Press 1 for alcohol free press 2 for alcohol-rich" (2) "Press 1 for carbonated 2 for cat-pee" (and so on)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:32AM (#11262768)
    The current state of the human interface to computers works well because there is an extremely limited number of commands a computer (or computer program) understands. As computer sophistication improves and functions increase in complexity, the "point and click" interface will become too cumbersome. It is inevitable that the typical user interface will evolve toward the same one used between humans for everyday interaction, e.g. the spoken word.

    • >>It is inevitable that the typical user interface will evolve toward the same one used between humans for everyday interaction, e.g. the spoken word.

      Great now not only will I not be able to understand the guy speaking to me, but my omputer won't either.

      Spoken word only works for SOME interface uses. I use it to play chess. writing a document I can type many times faster than I can speak. Unless it's for a ~20 word memo. Then I simply memorize it.

      I see a blending of the the two. I also traditi
  • Future ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:32AM (#11262773) Journal
    There are many ways to predict the future, I personally think the monitors will be everywhere, from our flat's walls to our clothes' sleeves.
    It'll still be flat (2D) and people should now realize that what counts is the input.
    For years, we only had one focus at a time and this should change, thus allowing drastical changes (imagine if several networkedusers have a focus on an app at the same time... impossible ? who remembers the Acorn "Spheres of chaos" where 4 users could play on the same machine at the same time ?).
    So, I'd go for a more practical approach to a 2D interface (I was thinking of some itnerface that would ban both scrollbars and overlapping windows by magnifying the active zone of each focussed elements while reducing the others thus making these still visible, ergo invokable)...
  • Monad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:36AM (#11262796) Journal
    When seeing an article like this going on about command line histories and 3D desktops, it's interesting that a major new feature in Microsoft Longhorn will be the completely new shell code-named Monad []. Hm. Better late than never, I guess. I wonder why they see a need for it though; aren't they trying to move away from a command line? Maybe it's an attempt to get back users having switched from Windows. Who knows, but that sounds a bit strange too, since it won't be very compatible with a *nix shell either. :-/

    IMHO, it's one of the strangest and most surprising moves in Longhorn.
  • Real computing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Himring ( 646324 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:36AM (#11262799) Homepage Journal
    I studied English lit and ancient Greek in college. I gained the best understanding of grammar, syntax and sentence structure from Greek. Breaking down those huge words, looking at a language from scratch -- it has helped me the most in English. It's tough now to not see Greek in English words. I view prepositional purposes from the Greek model and all parts of speech came into light through Greek (queue the "it's all Greek to me" jokes).

    When it comes to computing, I started out at the command line. True computing, to me, IS the command line, and I gained the most understanding of computers from it. I prefer to use Linux that way (I don't load a GUI). "Windows is a good terminal" is how I think Richie put it, and although the GUI is here and necessary, real computing will always be from the command line. I will admit Lynx never replaced a GUI web browser for me, but someone who really knows the command line (and therefore the OS) can run circles around the mousey admins....
    • As a fellow language nerd, while "queue" (as in "queue the 'it's all Greek to me" jokes) works, particularly with this audience, I think the word you're looking for is "cue." (See some discussion here [])
  • by roegerle ( 694906 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:39AM (#11262818)
    "The only good thing about windows is I can run multiple sessions of DOS."
  • While I like a GUI for day-to-day tasks, I really wish cmd.exe in Windows2k and XP didn't fall by the wayside. Remember when DOS used to be fun to zip around in? That was back in DOS 5/6 days. It seems to have fallen to a heavy state of neglect by MS. Too bad, since sometimes it's easier to navigate around in cmd.exe in a pinch.
  • by truth_revealed ( 593493 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:47AM (#11262856)
    Three digits were turning to zero for God's sake! We're lucky to escape with our lives. Remember what happened to people in the year 1000? Of course not - because they did not adjust their computer code to handle Y1K and they all perished.
  • Eventually (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:50AM (#11262883) Homepage Journal
    Interaction with a computer will evolve to the point that we think and the computer picks it up. It's plausable that our very thoughts could someday be tuned in much like you can pick up someone's bluetooth network from a short distance away which leads to major privacy concerns. However if we become closer and more intergrated into machines with enhancements it could very well be that we give up on privacy for the benefits of group mind (What one knows all know).
    • Um... since when was the set of plausible things not a subset of the set of possible things?
    • However if we become closer and more intergrated into machines with enhancements it could very well be that we give up on privacy for the benefits of group mind (What one knows all know).

      We are the BORG. Prepare to be assimilated.
  • by lwriemen ( 763666 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:53AM (#11262905)
    Let's face it, without OS/2 there never would have been a Windows 95. Rising competition from OS/2 caused Microsoft to release a very cut down version of Cairo, and step up it's anti-competitive strong arming of IHVs and ISVs. Competition from Linux is the only reason stability has increased in Windows, and is driving MS to address security issues. Apple still has very little competitive influence, since it doesn't look to expand much outside of it's niche market. OS X was surgery to stop the bleeding, not a grab at extra marketshare.
  • Desktop Search? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:54AM (#11262914) Journal
    For the life of me, I still can't quite figure out what all the hype is about desktop search.

    I can understand the hype about searching for things on other folks' computers (such as on the internet) because I don't have a priori knowledge about where to find some information.

    When I store things on my computer, however, I already (at some point) know where that bit of information is. I created my own "filing system" optimized for the way I think. You might say it's some sort of O(1) function to find something (now, navigating to that something might be a little more difficult). The human brain is way better about managing the location of objects than a computer (so far) in terms of retrieval.

    Think about it: the word "search" connotes looking for something you either think or know exists somewhere, but you don't know where. If you know where something is, you don't search for it but just go and grab it.

    Now, of course there are times when you haven't used something in so long that you might not remember where it is, and I can see how a search might come in handy for that. But if most people use computers like I use them, they use a small subset of the things on their computer very frequently, and the rest is archived away. I would have to say that less than 5% (that's a 95% confidence interval - it's probably way less than that) of my total computing experience (on my desktop) is spent on trying to find stuff.

    Does anyone out there know how "desktop search" is supposed to improve the way I do work when most of the time I am either creating new data (programs, documents, etc.) for a specific purpose or playing games? Am I missing something about the power of "searching" in general?

    • ### For the life of me, I still can't quite figure out what all the hype is about desktop search.

      I for one have around one million files in my home directory alone, doing a simple 'find' on the filenames alone takes like 10-30mins, searching for file content is way bejoint was is tolerable for interactive use. A proper implemented desktop search on the other side could give me results in a fraction of a second.

      Now how does this improve the work flow? Simple, ever tried to find some letter, email or whatev
  • For those of you with Macs, check out Quicksilver. I think this is the future of the command line, at least for most users. Quicksilver basically lets you type command lines from the UI. What you do is type Command-space and then a series of characters that narrows a seach of your machine. You can lauch programs, open files with the appropriate application, visit URLs and pretty much anything else via plugins. It doesn't completely replace the command line but it comes close.
  • by DrSbaitso ( 93553 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:00AM (#11262949)
    As the author points out, comparing Apple and MS isn't quite fair because MS is in the software business and Apple the hardware business (mostly). However, this is misleading:
    Why would Apple want to switch from making $100 off the sale of a computer, to $10 off the sale of an OS? Their market- and mind-share would have to instantly increase by ten times just to break even on that move. Linux is downloadable for free -- why would any company deliberately compete with that? Even Microsoft is bailing out into other markets, as fast as it can.

    The size of the profit (even if I believe his numbers) is irrelevant without considering both the number of units moved and the size of the profit margin. In MS' case, even if they are only making 10 bucks a copy on XP (which I highly doubt), the marginal cost to make it is like 50 cents, so they can essentially print money. However, he's right about the longterm viability of the operating system business; but if he doesn't think that Apple would switch places with MS from a pure business standpoint, he's wrong.
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:24AM (#11263106)
    I'm a die hard command line user, yes. I have no delusions about it always being better than a GUI--I use both--but I do a significant amount of work from the command line.

    What's peculiar to me is how crusty and stale most command line environments have become. Most UNIX users swear by bash, which isn't even as nice as 4NT for Windows. Feels like there's a lot of room for improvement here. For example, how about capturing all of the output per command, then quickly allowing you to scroll through a list of previous commands and jump to its output? Or getting away from overly static command line windows and instead having something like a simple text editor, where you can move around in a "document" and press Enter at any time, with the output always appearing below it (some language interpreters work like this). And shell scripting languages are irrelevant these days, so a shell doesn't need to be bulked up with such commands. Just use Perl or Python (or whatever) for that sort of thing.

    Note again, I'm not trashing the command line. I'd simply like to see it move forward.
    • OMG, do you even know what you are talking about ?

      I do not know 4NT, but from your example, I am pretty sure you do not know a lot about bash or even ksh.
      All the features you cite are already present in bash, and then a lot more.
      Saying shell scripting language is irrelevant today feels just plain arrogant and uneducated to me.
      Did you even hear about the shell commands ? script ? shell editor mode ? screen ?
      And bash is not stagnant, bash 3.0 was released some days ago for christ sake, with new features too.
  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:26AM (#11263126)

    When comparing a industrial strength drill (hole-hawg:unix/linux) to a normal drill (consumer-drill:windows/mac) the commenter writes:

    What's more powerful, a hole-hawg, or a five-speed consumer drill with large grips, a safety shut-off, and a built-in level? The hole-hawg, obviously. But which would you rather use to drill, say, five hundred chandelier mounts in a ballroom?

    I have to go with the tool that has a good chance of drilling 500 mounts. I don't trust fancy consumer drills to survive drilling many large deep holes.

    Which, I think, also applies to unix/linux. I don't get all misty-eyed and sniffly at the thought of using a shell and good ol' CHUI tools. Nope. I use them because they consistantly get the job done quicker and easier than other tools.

    The problem is that a lot of these nifty tools are scary, in meatspace and in cyberspace. They also require some training before use -- a steep learning curve. Take a bolt extractor (looks like a very corsely threaded thich screw with a square end for the wrench). Hand one to the average person and they won't know what the hell its for. But with a little knowledge and another simple tool (a good drill and a bit for metal) its rather useful to take out a broken bolt. What about a cutting torch? Screw up, and you'll be seeing grandma and Elvis. Learn to use it correctly and you'll be able to remove a drum from a vehicle with rusted out brake hardware, or to cut through thick chunks of iron.

    Are these tools a little macho? Perhaps some of them (cutting metal with fire is damn fun). But is that why these tools are in use? No, these tools are used because they get the job done.

    I have money in the bank, and I spend enough time in front of a monitor to be able to justify the purchase of software tools if they were able to fulfill a need that OS tools could not (and a certain proprietary OS is an excellent software tool for running proprietary games).

    This commenter reminds me of someone who got into OSS because OSS was "cool".

    Imagine someone who decides that he'll learn vim because hackers use vi (or emacs). He looks at a cheat sheet, figures out what i, a, hjkl, and :wq does, and is content at being a "hacker" for the next six months. Afterwords, he discovers some nice commercial IDE and, sick of the lack of features he finds in vim, decides to go with the commercial IDE. After all, he knows that vim can't lookup man pages for functions, jump to a function declaration, change its indentation style, edit multiple files, integrate with compiler errors, or a host of many other things that the commercial IDE can do. He sits back convinced that those OS lusers are fooling themselves, the same way he fooled himself.

  • The ultimate UI (Score:2, Interesting)

    All this discussion made me think, what is the ultimate UI? An obvious answer is another human or humaniod. We will use all of our natural channels of communications, with negligible learning curve. Obviously such a system requires great break throughs in AI.
  • by RoboOp ( 460207 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:32AM (#11263177)
    Keyboards were for secretaries.
    In the beginning there were a bank of switches.

    If you couldn't be bothered to translate the error codes from hex and look them up in the manual, who needed ya?

    Now scram. It's grandpa's naptime.

    • If you couldn't be bothered to translate the error codes from hex and look them up in the manual, who needed ya?


      Octal, fool! The only true representation of value is Octal!

      Sheesh. /. sure is getting overrun by kids these days...

      Hex, indeed.

      Hey /. guys, we need a filter option to weed out 6 digit /. IDs :)


      This post was written with tounge in cheek. Not my cheek, but she'll get over it...
  • That essay need words removed, not added ... it has some interesting thoughts, but it is horribly written and rambles on endlessly. It is way too long.

  • Will the command-line last only as long as the keyboard?


  • by joss ( 1346 )
    I guess if he had just written his own article as opposed to annotating an article we know and love, it wouldnt have made it to slashdot.

    I just don't get the same feeling of insight that the original gave me [I had issues with the original too, but there was enough great stuff in there to make criticism seem petty, I'll write my own article if I feel like saying anything]. NS's might have had some details wrong, but the overall flavour was right, I feel like this has the details right, but somehow misses o
  • by hopeless case ( 49791 ) <christopherlmarshall&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @11:33AM (#11263711)
    The annotator's main point in response to Neal was that the right interface is the one that gets 'whatever work you are interested in' done.

    His constant comparisons to cars and drills and toasters miss the mark by a mile. Those appliances are not about extending your mind.

    Computers are about amplifying your mind's ability to process information. Large numbers of people agree with each other on how they want their toast prepared, their holes drilled, and their vehicles to work and can safely leave all the decisions about how best to do those things to specialists.

    Every person, however, has a different reaction to reading a great work of literature. There is enough overlap between people's experience in reading any given book that people can meaningfully discuss literature with each other, but not so much that we could expect another person to read Moby Dick for us and tell us what it means to us. The only way to know what Moby Dick would mean to you is to read it yourself.

    How telling that the annotator didn't want to touch Neal's last section, the left pinky of god, where he points out that this quest for the perfect interface to 'get something done' makes no more sense than a button labeled 'life my life for me.'

    You are the only one who can possibly make all the decisions that count as 'living your life.'

    I think programming (in the broader sense of understanding the hardware and software's theory of operation well enough to arrange the 'pieces' to carry out an analysis or goal), will become more and more a part of the average person's use of computers, just as reading and writing and thinking in general continue to become and larger part of the average person's life.

  • I want both! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by qray ( 805206 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @11:42AM (#11263794)
    I find that I can do some things more efficiently on the command line while others are much easier with a gui.

    For instance, I have a directory, and I need to copy 10 out of a 100 files. There's no commonality between the ten nor are there any distinguishing characteristics. GUI's excel at this.

    Now I want to rename a bunch of files and add a old. prefix to them. That's easy on a command line, but difficult to accomplish on the current crop of GUI's, at least that I've used.

    So why slam either. Each is a tool with its own advantages and disadvantages.

    Keyboard isn't going away until something more efficient comes along. Sure there will be cooler input devices and they'll have strengths, but for general input into a computer nothing beat a keyboard out side of direct neural interface. It would be nice to see more efficient keyboards become mainstream.

    -- fiewl diwor dowe wutie er godist phudo
  • expounding (Score:4, Funny)

    by krgallagher ( 743575 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @12:28PM (#11264250) Homepage
    "Scroll to any random paragraph in the essay and you'll find something worth expounding on."

    OK I had to try this. Here is the random paragraph:

    "The Microsoft Gorilla, on the other hand, cannot be trained. Instead, you must keep rephrasing your directions until the MS Gorilla can comprehend them. He consumes both front seats, lowering the mileage of your car, and blocking most of your view. Though he sounds like a bad deal, MS Gorilla is actually extremely popular, because he looks impressive, drives aggressively, and keeps his mouth shut. If you speak in his limited vocabulary, he will take you Where You Want To Go Today ... especially if he can plow monkeys off the intervening road. However, if you touch anything on the dashboard, or try to haggle with him over the exact route, he may become irritated and casually drive your car into a telephone pole. People learn to not argue."

    WOW! What a great image. It does a great job of describing Microsoft's OS too. In fact that is why I don't care for Microsoft. I like to fiddle with the dashboard. I'm always changing the radio station or adjusting the temperature.

  • by watanabe ( 27967 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:09PM (#11264612)
    I'd let him comment on my writing, too. Just because it would make me look great.

    His writing is so abysmal that it just makes Stephenson look even smarter by comparison. I stopped after he turned the car dealer metaphor into a monkey metaphor.

    Monkeys? Chauffering me around? Dude, I'm freaking out. Car dealers I get. Linux, OS X, BeOS and Microsoft, I get.

    Chauffer monkeys? I don't get. Never had one, never want to have one. I don't even want to think about little blue-suit monkey-men driving me around. What kind of world do you live in??

    I'm stuck now, because I want to go back and re-read the original, but I can't take more of the monkeys. Google gave me this link: perhaps you all will appreciate it as well. Original Command Line essay without the monkeys [].

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.