In the Beginning...was the Command Line (Anglais) Broché – 9 novembre 1999
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Description du produit
Présentation de l'éditeur
This is "the Word" -- one man's word, certainly -- about the art (and artifice) of the state of our computer-centric existence. And considering that the "one man" is Neal Stephenson, "the hacker Hemingway" (Newsweek) -- acclaimed novelist, pragmatist, seer, nerd-friendly philosopher, and nationally bestselling author of groundbreaking literary works (Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, etc., etc.) -- the word is well worth hearing. Mostly well-reasoned examination and partial rant, Stephenson's In the Beginning... was the Command Line is a thoughtful, irreverent, hilarious treatise on the cyber-culture past and present; on operating system tyrannies and downloaded popular revolutions; on the Internet, Disney World, Big Bangs, not to mention the meaning of life itself.
Biographie de l'auteur
Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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Stephenson presents, first of all, a rather simplified version of the history of PC computing world and the operating systems that have helped define and advance (or impede) the development of the PC from something that only a geek could love to a ubiquitous near-appliance. His definition of what an operating system is matches what most programmers, using common sense, would call an operating system: a suite of low level tools that perform the mundane tasks of interpreting what an application wants to do to the physical realm of reading/writing memory, disk files, displaying graphics, etc. This is not a trivial point, as the current insistence by Microsoft that its operating system is inclusive of web browsers, audio/video players, and other application-level programs is a key item in its anti-trust defense. However, Stephenson bypasses the relevance of this in favor of defining the differences between the MacOS, Windows, UNIX, and BeOS. For this purpose he uses a highly useful (and sometimes funny) metaphor defining each OS as a car dealership, each of whom sells their type of product to a different type of customer.
One of his major points is the idea that an OS is a saleable product, even though in essence it is nothing but a long string of 1's and 0's, information only, and not a physical item, represents a paradigm shift, on the order of trying to sell a car's driving interface (steering wheel, brakes, etc) as a product separate from, and having intrinsic value in its own right, the car itself. Given the obvious nonsense of this separation in the case of the car, he makes the case that operating systems should all eventually be given away free, ala Linux, and that businesses that depend on OS income are treading a very dangerous path.
He shows a definite preference for those OSs that allow the user to 'get under the hood' and tweak its operating parameters, such as Linux, and includes a long discourse on the whole concept of simplified, pre-packaged interfaces as culturally defining/defined, including some good analogies with what Disney does to make complex, detailed subjects immediately comprehensible to Joe Six-Pack.
All of this makes for easy, enjoyable reading, whether you are a power user or just someone who wants to send e-mails. But his conclusions about which OS is best and the future direction of OS evolution is definitely skewed towards the power user, someone who is comfortable in dealing with all the inner complexities of computers and software. As such, he sometimes forgets that computers are a tool (even though he devotes a section to different levels of tools in terms of quality , power and user skill levels), of no use to the user except insofar as they provide something that user wants and needs, and it is that end result the user wants, at the absolute minimum of fuss on his part.
A thought provoking essay, whether you agree with him or not.
I can't go back and read/review this when it was first published. I wish I could, but I can't. I can only review it as I enjoyed it current day.
It is an argument to the strength of Stephenson's prose that a shallow, dated essay on GUIs and command line operating systems even gets 3 stars 5 years after being published. Analogy and whimsy are well-used by Mr. Stephenson here in discussing the different types of users and how they wish to interact with the machine. He makes a dry subject entertaining.
Unfortunately, this many years past publication the world has move greatly on. Yes the command line vs. GUI worldviews have not changed, but neither has the freeing of OS's happened either.
Additionally, beneath the whimsy and wordplay are only some nifty, but not fleshed out ideas almost laid down as truths. Stephenson needed to back up his ideas with some more evidence rather than thought experiment.
Despite those faults though, it is an enjoyable, but now purposeless, read.
As a computer person and programmer, I really enjoyed the content and writing style.