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Book details of 'In the Beginning...Was the Command Line'

Cover of In the Beginning...Was the Command Line
TitleIn the Beginning...Was the Command Line
Author(s)Neal Stephenson
ISBN0380815931
LanguageEnglish
PublishedNovember 1999
PublisherAvon Books (Pap Trd)
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virtualbookcase.com score: 4.0 ****-  Vote for this book

The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'In the Beginning...Was the Command Line':

Reviewer Koos van den Hout wrote:
Neal Stephenson, known for a number of books such as Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash, looks at his own tools (the computer he uses for writing) after a particularly dissapointing episode (the computer ate his files). And he starts a long and deep look into 'how we got here and what is wrong'. Although somewhat dated (the book is clearly written in the run towards the Microsoft antitrust case) it is a clear view on the state of computing. MS-DOS was replaced by Windows, Microsoft makes (almost) no hardware and lots of software for cheap hardware. Apple makes special (expensive) hardware for a certain niche. Linux is up and coming and uses the high availability of cheap hardware (thanks to windows) combined with the free software model. Neal also looks at BeOS, which could have had an interesting role in the Microsoft antitrust case (they could testify to the ways in which Microsoft did not want PC vendors to even allure to the existance of alternative operating systems). A good book. Written like a good outside observer with some great insights into the matters of operating systems and why they are needed and what they do, what they allow and what they disallow. He even admits that he was part of the people with a macintosh bias. I'd say he could do us a favor by writing a '2006' version of the book with the latest insights into how the world has changed in the operating system world.

Reviewer amazon.com wrote:
Neal Stephenson, author of the sprawling and engaging Cryptonomicon, has written a manifesto that could be spoken by a character from that brilliant book. Primarily, In the Beginning ... Was the Command Line discusses the past and future of personal computer operating systems. "It is the fate of manufactured goods to slowly and gently depreciate as they get old," he writes, "but it is the fate of operating systems to become free." While others in the computer industry express similarly dogmatic statements, Stephenson charms the reader into his way of thinking, providing anecdotes and examples that turn the pages for you. Stephenson is a techie, and he's writing for an audience of coders and hackers in Command Line. The idea for this essay began online, when a shortened version of it was posted on Slashdot.org. The book still holds some marks of an e-mail flame gone awry, and some tangents should have been edited to hone his formidable arguments. But unlike similar writers who also discuss technical topics, he doesn't write to exclude; readers who appreciate computing history (like Dealers of Lightning or Fire in the Valley) can easily step into this book. Stephenson tackles many myths about industry giants in this volume, specifically Apple and Microsoft. By now, every newspaper reader has heard of Microsoft's overbearing business practices, but Stephenson cuts to the heart of new issues for the software giant with a finely sharpened steel blade. Apple fares only a little better as Stephenson (a former Mac user himself) highlights the early steps the company took to prepare for a monopoly within the computer market--and its surprise when this didn't materialize. Linux culture gets a thorough--but fair--skewering, and the strengths of BeOS are touted (although no operating system is nearly close enough to perfection in Stephenson's eyes). As for the rest of us, who have gladly traded free will and an intellectual understanding of computers for a clutter-free, graphically pleasing interface, Stephenson has thoughts to offer as well. He fully understands the limits nonprogrammers feel in the face of technology (an example being the "blinking 12" problem when your VCR resets itself). Even so, within Command Line he convincingly encourages us as a society to examine the metaphors of technology--simplifications that aren't really much simpler--that we greedily accept.

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