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In the Beginning Was the Command Line (1999) (inria.fr)
102 points by federicoponzi 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 13 comments

> For a long time I could not bring myself to take the notion [of a free OS] seriously. It was like hearing rumors that a group of model rocket enthusiasts had created a completely functional Saturn V by exchanging blueprints on the Net and mailing valves and flanges to each other.

Absolutely brilliant.

Unrelated: It's amazing how many predictions he got right. It took Microsoft another 15 years to fully realize that you cannot "bet the farm" on your OS.

Seems like betting the farm on their os worked for them for a good long while.

Perhaps their strategy has shifted at the precise time that it will no longer be so profitable.

Keep in mind that Apple's ability to monopolize its own hardware supply was once cited, by learned observers, as a great advantage over Microsoft. At the time, it seemed to place them in a much stronger position. In the end, it nearly killed them, and may kill them yet. The problem, for Apple, was that most of the world's computer users ended up owning cheaper hardware. But cheap hardware couldn't run MacOS, and so these people switched to Windows

Well, almost 20 years later. It seems like Apple'sstrategy was right. By owning the hardware and software and having the culture to do both, they were able to come out with the iMac that made them profitable, the iPod that made them relevant, and the iPhone that made them rich.

Owning their own OS allowed them to take one OS and port it to phones, tablets, watches, set top boxes, and speakers.

I don't think Apple's strategy can be summed up as 'monopolizing its own hardware supply'. Though it was definitely part of their MO, it's difficult to prove that it was responsible for making them profitable / relevant / rich.

Plenty of companies have tried owning the hardware and software stack on their products, and not ended up being successful.

The phrase 'owning the hardware and software stack' also disguises the fact that they took an existing software stack that had a kind of free licence that allowed them to remove the freedoms of their customers / users.

The suggestion that Apple has a single OS that they've ported to phones, tablets, watches, set top boxes and speakers is a bit disingenuous. Microsoft tried pushing the 'one OS everywhere' propaganda more than a decade ago (too), but it simply didn't / couldn't happen (either).

Ultimately it isn't a compelling sell to end users -- what users are most interested in is a consistent, quality interface, which may include consistent availability of quality applications, depending on platform.

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.

It’d be interesting to see this updated 20 years on. Microsoft giving away OS’s. Apple making money. Linux powering 90% of the cloud. Unix/Linux in nearly every phone on the planet. The command line and batch processing re-ascendant.

"This is exactly how the World Wide Web works: the HTML files are the pithy description on the paper tape, and your Web browser is Ronald Reagan"

already worth the read

Stephenson is a miracle worker with metaphors

Garrett Birkel's 2004 annotations are also interesting. They are now themselves older than ITBWTCL was when he Birkel wrote them.


"The only real question about BeOS is whether or not it is doomed."

As a former BeOS user, this still stings me a bit.

The rest of TFA discussing free software seems prescient, considering BeOS somewhat lives on in Haiku

I teared down (re)viewing 97 demos not long ago. So nice, smooth, tiny .. doing things I could barely do without doing acrobatics (live colorimetry reconf, threaded ui from scratch, mediafs) all on old hardware.

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