Quotes for "In the Beginning was the Command Line"

Neal Stephenson

  • We had a human/computer interface a hundred years before we had computers.
  • During the intervening ten years, I had a passion for the MacOS that seemed righteous and reasonable at the time but in retrospect strikes me as being exactly the same sort of goofy infatuation that my friend's dad had with his car.
  • (it is commonly the case with technologies that you can get the best insight about how they work by watching them fail).
  • Applying this to the case of Apple Computer will be left as an exercise for the reader, and not a very difficult exercise.
  • The first and most important mental habit that people develop when they learn how to write computer programs is to generalize, generalize, generalize.
  • Nothing is more disagreeable to the hacker than duplication of effort.
  • not only are we not offended to be dazzled by manufactured images, but we like it. We practically insist on it. We are eager to be complicit in our own dazzlement: to pay money for a theme park ride, vote for a guy who's obviously lying to us, or stand there holding the basket as it's filled up with cosmetics.
  • If you followed those tourists home, you might find art, but it would be the sort of unsigned folk art that's for sale in Disney World's African- and Asian-themed stores. In general they only seem comfortable with media that have been ratified by great age, massive popular acceptance, or both. In this world, artists are like the anonymous, illiterate stone carvers who built the great cathedrals of Europe and then faded away into unmarked graves in the churchyard. The cathedral as a whole is awesome and stirring in spite, and possibly because, of the fact that we have no idea who built it. When we walk through it we are communing not with individual stone carvers but with an entire culture.
  • But more importantly, it comes out of the fact that, during this century, intellectualism failed, and everyone knows it. In places like Russia and Germany, the common people agreed to loosen their grip on traditional folkways, mores, and religion, and let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abbatoir. Those wordy intellectuals used to be merely tedious; now they seem kind of dangerous as well.
  • Words are the only immutable medium we have,
  • A huge, rich, nuclear-tipped culture that propagates its core values through media steepage seems like a bad idea.
  • So many ignorant people could be dangerous if they got pointed in the wrong direction, and so we've evolved a popular culture that is (a) almost unbelievably infectious and (b) neuters every person who gets infected by it, by rendering them unwilling to make judgments and incapable of taking stands.
  • Sometimes their lack of a broad education makes them over-apt to go off on intellectual wild goose chases, but, hey, at least a wild goose chase gives you some exercise.
  • The average buyer of an OS is not really paying for, and is not especially interested in, the low-level code that allocates memory or writes bytes onto the disk. What we're really buying is a system of metaphors.
  • If you are like me, and like most other consumers, you have never used ninety percent of the available features on your microwave oven, VCR, or cellphone. You don't even know that these features exist. The small benefit they might bring you is outweighed by the sheer hassle of having to learn about them.
  • In order to understand how bizarre this is, imagine that book reviews were written according to the same values system that we apply to user interfaces: "The writing in this book is marvelously simple-minded and glib; the author glosses over complicated subjects and employs facile generalizations in almost every sentence. Readers rarely have to think, and are spared all of the difficulty and tedium typically involved in reading old-fashioned books."
  • Where my homeowner's drill had labored and whined to spin the huge bit around, and had stalled at the slightest obstruction, the Hole Hawg rotated with the stupid consistency of a spinning planet.
  • They might use Apple/Microsoft OSes to write letters, play video games, or balance their checkbooks, but they cannot really bring themselves to take these operating systems seriously.
  • Unix is hard to learn. The process of learning it is one of multiple small epiphanies. Typically you are just on the verge of inventing some necessary tool or utility when you realize that someone else has already invented it, and built it in, and this explains some odd file or directory or command that you have noticed but never really understood before.
  • Windows 95 and MacOS are products, contrived by engineers in the service of specific companies. Unix, by contrast, is not so much a product as it is a painstakingly compiled oral history of the hacker subculture. It is our Gilgamesh epic.
  • Understanding it is more like anatomy than physics.
  • In practice you hardly ever encounter a serious bug while running Linux. When you do, it is almost always with commercial software (several vendors sell software that runs under Linux). The operating system and its fundamental utility programs are too important to contain serious bugs.
  • Should we throw another human wave of structural engineers at stabilizing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or should we just let the damn thing fall over and build a tower that doesn't suck?
  • The great idea behind BeOS was to start from a clean sheet of paper and design an OS the right way. And that is exactly what they did. This was obviously a good idea from an aesthetic standpoint, but does not a sound business plan make.
  • This is a little bit disingenuous. To go back to the car dealership analogy, it is like the Batmobile dealer claiming that he is not really in competition with the others because his car can go three times as fast as theirs and is also capable of flying.
  • a problem of mindshare.
  • Microsoft has power because people believe it does.
  • The courts may order Microsoft to do things differently. They might even split the company up. But they can't really do anything about a mindshare monopoly, short of taking every man, woman, and child in the developed world and subjecting them to a lengthy brainwashing procedure.
  • Chances are that these default lives would actually look pretty damn good to most people, good enough, anyway, that they'd be reluctant to tear them open and mess around with them for fear of making them worse.
  • that life is a very hard and complicated thing; that no interface can change that; that anyone who believes otherwise is a sucker; and that if you don't like having choices made for you, you should start making your own.