When I was younger and first using a computer, I would "Open with Notepad" all sorts of files to see if anything about the structure was readable. That's why I liked text files then, these days I like them because they are often indicators of the mindset of simplicity.
I haven't even tried to use any todo apps, (the text file has always served me well) but what experience I have with proprietary formats is that they're a poor choice for storing data, since either they're poorly designed or the designer is constantly redesigning them and invalidating your data.
I like Things for Mac myself because it automates repeating and scheduled todo items, and has a distinction between completable projects and areas of upkeep. A programmer can leave any time they want by processing its XML file.
This blog post doesn't express things nearly so well as the book, but the argument has validity.
Is it because we've built so many tools around text that text seems so powerful, or is it because text is powerful that we've built all these tools?
Knowledge is of the mind+brain+body+environs. Text is just data. Just as machine code is "just data" if you don't have a processor that "understands" it. Remember - it took 20 years to decipher the hieroglyphics on the rosetta stone. Also, good luck with storing images in plain text.
Moral of the story - don't get too attached to anything :)
If you can't and are paranoid about losing your digital stuff, maybe DSpace will help - http://www.dspace.org/
Binary data isn't as easily human readable or parsable. Images can be stored in text when base64 encoded, or when a text-based image format is used, such as XPM (old hackers may remember using vi as their X11 image editor of choice, back in the day) and SVG.
An acquaintance of mine has a true blue 5.25 inch "floppy" disk with text data of his research that he can't recover - 'cos the disk's format is inaccessible, the text is not in ASCII (probably EBCDIC), drives that read it aren't available now, the OS that knows the file system (CP/M I think) isn't available, the cpu that the OS ran on isn't available now .
I'll grant that you can recover it, but only with great difficulty - sort of a Rosetta problem.
I agree with you though, tools like netcat, ssh, and dd are super powerful without implying any kind of formatting Text works with these by virtue of being representable as a stream of bytes.
Seriously, I can understand the fascination with something so fundamental to programming. I'm just surprised the favorite editor wasn't mentioned.
But for my money, how about logic? Why the hell do logical operators make sense, how have ideas with absolutely no physical basis taken a life of their own and woven all this magic around us?
From that point of view, 'or' 'and' 'not' and 'xor' make perfect sense.
It was, at least inferentially: Emacs.
It's hard to really quite grasp just how crazy computers are without mucking about in some square waves for a few hours :)
The IDE is the new command line, it seems.
Not necessarily a bad thing - I like using Visual Studio when doing C#.
I don't, because while I know vim verbiage, I've never found it more productive than having a big fookin' screen with TextMate and some terminals floating around.
I'd probably feel differently if I went back to working on Linux.
Look at the binary representation of pi; you'll find the sum of all human knowledge encoded there in ASCII, EBCDIC or any other code ever invented. You just need Google to index it all for you so it's useful.
And, if you're stuck for 3D video or textures or audio, you can cheat a little and define a 'container' and then use that 'container' within the text file. For example, imagine an XML file containing the rules on how to parse it- that is just another text file. You could do the same with any form of data. Binary data can be represented in ASCII too, they would just be 7x as large as a binary file.