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In the Beginning Was the Command Line

Posted by Sravan | March 12, 2009 .

I read a fascinating essay book called In the Beginning Was the Command Line. Written in a very lucid and entertaining style, it is about the author’s perspective as to why operating systems can’t remain a commercial venture, and a school of thought which looks at GUI in terms of a (growing) stack of abstractions between the human input and the machine output. Whether or not one agrees with his opinions, the analysis of the cultures in Microsoft and Apple seem to throw light on some of their decisions to this day.

Mind you, this was written in 1999. As a small reminder, Internet had been undergoing a rapid metamorphosis and Google was still an infant (founded in Sep 1998). While he did not mention Google – the need for a search engine was far from apparent then – he wrote the following about the Internet:

Anything that shows up there is free for the taking (possibly illegal, but free). Executives at companies like Microsoft must get used to the experience–unthinkable in other industries–of throwing millions of dollars into the development of new technologies, such as Web browsers, and then seeing the same or equivalent software show up on the Internet two years, or a year, or even just a few months, later.

Spot on, except that today the units of time have marvelously shrunk.

Curiosity led me to find that Neal Stephenson, the author, is a major writer who explores a wide range of themes related to technology in his works. And I wasn’t even aware of subgenres like Cyberpunk, Postcyberpunk, Cybernetic Revolt, Cyberspace and Cyborg.

You can download a copy of the book from its home page.

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