In the Beginning... Was the Command Line Review

In the Beginning... Was the Command Line
by Neal Stephenson
Avon, 1999.
Paperback, 151 pages.
ISBN: 0380815931.
Ordering information:

In the Beginning... Was the Command Line
by Neal Stephenson This account of the development of computer operating systems and the reaction of users and computer professionals to different operating systems is both funny and insightful. Neal Stephenson, author of Cryptonomicon, writes in a literary, witty style as he uncovers the development of operating systems, his falling out with Macs and his explanation of why people actually continue to use Windows. Stephenson covers operating systems including MacOS, Microsft, BeOs, Unix and Linux and also touches on Disney World and GUI. Stephenson attacks both Apple and Microsoft in the process, including the loyal users who settle for either of these choices for an operating system.

Stephenson provides lots of technical backup to his trouncing of Windows and MacOS -- much to the delight of techies and hackers. Despite his jabs at Microsoft, Stephenson has this to say about the company being a monopoly: "The U.S. government's assertion that Microsoft has a monopoly on the OS market might be the most patently absurd claim ever advanced by the legal mind. Linux, a technically superior operating system, is being given away for free and BeOS is available at a nominal price. This is simply a fact, which has to be accepted whether or not you like Microsoft." Whether you are infatuated with Stephenson's points about Windows or MacOS being unsophisticated and overpriced operating systems or not, he does provide a great deal of insight into why people argue about Macintosh versus Microsoft, why hackers prefer Linux or BeOS and about the quality of operating systems in general. In the Beginning… Was the Command Line is a very enlightening and entertaining look into the development of the operating system, which has become a very hotly debated subject as of late. Stephenson currently prefers BeOS over its more prominent rivals, but one wonders how long it will be before he sours on this operating system, too. In any event, his book is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the great operating systems wars.

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