In the Beginning...Was the Command Line

Neal Stephenson, Author Harper Perennial $10 (160p) ISBN 978-0-380-81593-7
After reading this galvanizing essay, first intended as a feature for Wired magazine but never published there, readers are unlikely to look at their laptops in quite the same mutely complacent way. Stephenson, author of the novel Cryptonomicon, delivers a spirited commentary on the aesthetics and cultural import of computer operating systems. It's less an archeology of early machines than a critique of what Stephenson feels is the inherent fuzziness of graphical user interfaces--the readily intuitable ""windows,"" ""desktops"" and ""browsers"" that we use to talk to our computers. Like Disney's distortion of complicated historical events, our operating systems, he argues, lull us into a reductive sense of reality. Instead of the visual metaphors handed to us by Apple and Microsoft, Stephenson advocates the purity of the command line interface, somewhat akin to the DOS prompt from which most people flee in a technophobic panic. Stephenson is an advocate of Linux, the hacker-friendly operating system distributed for free on the Internet, and of BeOS, a less-hyped paradigm for the bits-and-bytes future. Unlike a string of source code, this essay is user-friendly--occasionally to a fault. Stephenson's own set of extended metaphors can get a little hokey: Windows is a station wagon, while Macs are sleek Euro-sedans. And Unix is the Gilgamesh epic of the hacker subculture. Nonetheless, by pointing out how computers define who we are, Stephenson makes a strong case for elegance and intellectual freedom in computing. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1999
Release date: 11/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 160 pages - 978-0-06-156874-9
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-0-06-156871-8
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-0-06-156876-3
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-0-06-183290-1
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-91737-7
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X