by Leon Rosenshein

In The Beginning Was The Command Line

Back in the old days the competition for users came down to Operating Systems. OS's were proprietary walled gardens and everything was done in service of selling the OS. Sun and Solaris owned the Internet (the network is the computer), Microsoft and Windows were going after the desktop (a computer on every desk), and Apple had the creative niche (think differently), and BeOS and NextStep were out there selling themselves as better than everything else, but no-one was buying. Except for that oddball OS in the corner, Linux. It's available online, you need to know what you're doing (or have access to someone who does), doesn't support all of your hardware, and it's free, but outside of those constraints, it just works. Oh, and it lives by the command line.

20 years ago Wednesday, Neal Stephenson released his take on the battle. It has car analogies, fan-bois, cultural relativism, and oral histories. A lot of it is either dated or no longer relevant, but the themes certainly still apply, and Linux is still Linux. And the command line is still there, and we spend oh so much time using it.

Understanding the past is key to the future, whether it's user interface, architecture, cultural directions, market forces, or AV platforms.