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
If you are even vaugely interested in that plastic box you sit in front of 10 hours a day, you must read this.Published on July 8 2004 by Amazon Customer
Stephenson opens with a neat analogy -- computer operating systems
companies as auto manufacturers:
"... Read more
Many of you brainiacs out there will no-doubt be offended or amused by this piece, brand it "wrong" or "simplistic", and get back to your highly specialized... Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2004 by Christian Hunter
basically it's a long Linux rant by someone who, while bright, isn't very deep in his thoughfulness, ability to craft a truly fetching AND sturdy idea, disregards fatal flaws in... Read morePublished on Jan. 1 2004 by Uh huh.
I read half of this book in a store today, and found it extremely entertaining. (1) As the author himself states at nealstephenson.com, the essay is out of date. Read morePublished on Dec 20 2003 by solid oak
Reading this essay I realizeed that there is a /third way/ between GUI (Windowze/Mac OSs) and command line (generally Linux) and it is not BeOS (It is truly sad what happened to... Read morePublished on Nov. 9 2003
This book, available for free at Stephenson's website if you don't want to shell out eight bux, is amazing. Read morePublished on Sept. 8 2003 by James B Jackson
"The writing in this book is marvelously simpleminded and glib; the author glosses over complicated subjects and employs facile generalizations in almost every sentence. Read morePublished on April 26 2003 by Meghan E. O'Leary