In The Beginning ... Was The Command Line

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 13, 2006.

  1. Been rereading this Neal Stephenson essay from a few years ago. Showing its
    age in spots, but still some insightful comments to be found. Like this:

    We like plain dealings and straightforward transactions in America. If
    you go to Egypt and, say, take a taxi somewhere, you become a part of
    the taxi driver's life; he refuses to take your money because it would
    demean your friendship, he follows you around town, and weeps hot tears
    when you get in some other guy's taxi. You end up meeting his kids at
    some point, and have to devote all sort of ingenuity to finding some way
    to compensate him without insulting his honor. It is exhausting.
    Sometimes you just want a simple Manhattan-style taxi ride.

    But in order to have an American-style setup, where you can just go out
    and hail a taxi and be on your way, there must exist a whole hidden
    apparatus of medallions, inspectors, commissions, and so forth--which is
    fine as long as taxis are cheap and you can always get one. When the
    system fails to work in some way, it is mysterious and infuriating and
    turns otherwise reasonable people into conspiracy theorists. But when
    the Egyptian system breaks down, it breaks down transparently. You can't
    get a taxi, but your driver's nephew will show up, on foot, to explain
    the problem and apologize.

    Microsoft and Apple do things the Manhattan way, with vast complexity
    hidden behind a wall of interface. Linux does things the Egypt way, with
    vast complexity strewn about all over the landscape. If you've just
    flown in from Manhattan, your first impulse will be to throw up your
    hands and say "For crying out loud! Will you people get a grip on
    yourselves!?" But this does not make friends in Linux-land any better
    than it would in Egypt.
     
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 13, 2006
    #1
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