In the Beginning… was the command line (Neal Stephenson)

Programming History, 7/10 – September 2008

This is basically a short diary of the thoughts of Neal Stephenson about Microsoft, Apple, Linux and user interfaces. Tech is a hard subject to write about in an interesting way but Neal can do it well and obviously has a rich history and deep understanding of technology – he is one of my favorite computer-related fiction writers. It feels a little dated and a lot of the material will already be familiar to most programmers but it’s only 150 pages and worth the few hours it’ll take to read it.

A quote from the book will demonstrate the kind of thing it’s about:
“Gnu is an acronym for Gnu’s Not Unix, but this is a joke in more ways than one, because GNU most certainly IS Unix,. Because of trademark concerns they simply could not claim that it was Unix, and so, just to be extra safe, they claimed that it wasn’t. Notwithstanding the incomparable talent and drive possessed by Mr. Stallman and other GNU adherents, their project to build a free Unix to compete against Microsoft and Apple’s OSes was a little bit like trying to dig a subway system with a teaspoon. Until, that is, the advent of Linux, which I will get to later.”

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