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. --Jennifer Buckendorff
I have always been a Windows user (since 3.1). Up until recent, I made the switch to Linux and haven't looked back. Read morePublished 12 hours ago by Chad
This book in an amazing review of the history of computers and programming. Stephenson's writing is, as always, fantastic. I read this book in one sitting, unable to put it down.Published 11 days ago by Thomas
A well written history of the computer operating system. Plenty of wit and wisdom without indulging his tendency to run on.Published 8 months ago by Charles Beckman
As always, his maximalist writing also gives me ideas for a vast range of other intellectual pursuits. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mary L Wandrei
It's an interesting read, if for no other reason than to get perspective from someone with more Linux history than yourself, but I'm not sure I subscribe to a number of his... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Charles McCabe
Stephenson uses this essay to muse on the current state and evolution of computers, particularly the relationship between hardware and software, as well as the user experience. Read morePublished 12 months ago by K.
Entertaining and informative, and even more so as the command line retreats further and further into the past of the experiences of the typical user.Published 12 months ago by John