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am 23. Mai 2000
Warning: I am a die-hard Neal Stephenson fan. If this bothers you, don't read further!
That aside, "In the Beginning Was the Command Line" should be required reading for anyone who a) regularly uses a personal computer b) has expressed an opinion on the current DOJ vs. Microsoft case. Most computer users are as unfamiliar with why they use Windows (or Macs) as they are with the history of the elevator. The elevator did not significantly change the world; GUI's & PC's have. I know half of you are already yawning, looking for another book to purchase, but wait...this is a really quick read, &, better yet, it's hysterically funny! Yes, folks, you not only get informed, are given some concepts to contemplate, you actually enjoy the process!
Stephenson admits this book is simply an essay, his musings on the 4 main operating systems currently in use (MacOS, Windows, Linux, BeOS) & how they can be viewed in the context of global culture. He gives examples from personal experience, & unlike most techno-geek/hacker types, he doesn't appear to view Bill Gates as the anti-christ (which is probably why some people hate this book). But please, don't let that scare you off. This book is an easy read for those who have never typed a single line of code in their life, while still being thought provoking for even the "Morlocks" (Stephenson's term) of the world.
Let's face it: if you're reading this, you're an Internet user. Thus, you use computers. You need the information in this book. It's only $6. BUY IT!
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am 10. Juli 2004
Neal Stephenson ist für seine Science-Fiction Romane bekannt, dieses Buch ist dagegen eher ein Essay über die Geschichte von Computern und Betriebssystemen. Dabei nimmt Stephenson das Thema aber nicht zu ernst, anstelle trockener Informationen findet man unterhaltsame Anekdoten. Man erfährt zum Beispiel, warum die Kommandozeile immer einer grafischen Benutzeroberfläche überlegen ist oder warum trotzdem jedermann das MS Windows Betriebssystem benutzt.
Man muss kein Überhacker sein, um dieses Buch zu verstehen, denn es geht weniger um die technischen Aspekte als vielmehr um den Einfluss, den einige Softwarefirmen auf unsere heutige Gesellschaft haben. Stephenson ist dabei erfreulich parteiisch und er scheut sich nicht, seine Meinung in klaren Worten auszudrücken.
Zusammenfassung: Dieses Buch ist witzig, kontrovers aber leider zu kurz.
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am 31. Mai 2000
While I disagree with the premise that GUIs are inherently evil and moronic, and that command lines are better are smarter, I found this quite an interesting book. Much of what the author says is true though the writing is sophomoric at times, especially when he tries to sound hip and cool. There were some blatant inaccuracies and some other things that I looked askance at, especially since I have extensive experience with Windows 95/98 as well as Linux, as well as Unix on "grown-up platforms." But the book makes for an interesting conversation piece, gets you thinking. At least it made me think more about the role that vision plays in intellectual processes, as opposed to verbal channels (i.e. language and text.) Ultimately Stephenson confuses his theory "selling OS's is ridiculous" with the theory that "visual based systems are inferior." If you read his book critically and take its rants and raves with many grains of salt, it can be fun and rewarding.
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Vorweg: Ich bin Stephenson-Fan. Als solcher musste ich natürlich auch seine Eindrücke über die Computerwelt gelesen haben. Nunja, schlecht war es nicht, aber es ist eben wenig mehr als ein Aufsatz über Computersysteme. Dabei vermixt Stephenson ein wenig Sachlichkeit, Meinung und seine Weltanschauung und das wirkt teilweise etwas belehrend und besserwisserisch (Aha, Microsoft wird also bald untergehen...) Dank Stephensons ironischer, flüssiger Schreibe und der tatsache, dass der Mann Ahnung hat, wovon er schreibt ist das Buch letztlich doch recht interessant. Wenn man sich für die Materie interessiert, nicht allzu viel (das Buch ist dünne) und vor allem keinen Roman erwartet, kann man einen Kauf wagen
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am 17. Februar 2000
I had read and enjoyed the author's previous book, "Cryptonomicon" and was impressed with the amount of technical discussion he included (and the insight and detail he included about the Seattle and Silicon Valley tech lifestyle). I had often wondered if there was any "there" there. This book proves it. While I felt the book stopped short by only discussing the evolution of operating systems since the advent of PCs (I go back a lot farther; and there were other PC OSs that could have been mentioned), I thought he did an excellent job of capturing the recent evolution and the related technological-social debate. In fact, beyond the depiction of the technical underpinnings of the current OS wars, and beyond the knowledge of Seattle/Silicon Valley geek life-as-we-know-it (on a par with Douglas Coupland's Microserfs), the other reason I really enjoyed this book is that Mr. Stephenson managed to express in writing the very complex and convoluted feelings that I have about the whole Microsoft/anti-Microsoft debate (and have not been able to adequately express to my friends). So I have been recommending that they read the book instead.
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am 16. Mai 2000
Reading the book, I felt like I had wandered into a strange neighborhood bar where the local good fellow was ranting on and on about how "authentic" experience and free will could only be had by using a non-Windows operating system (and a non-Mac also). Somehow, we'd all be more intelligent, critical thinkers, if we invented our own operating systems. Why stop there? Why not build our own computers? And I don't mean buying off-the-shelf parts, but actually getting our own silicon, wiring, etc. This book really is for techies, and not for those who regard computers as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Although the author tries to create a larger context ("we should make our own decisions"), his own history of screwing around trying to set a system up is pathetic. I'd rather be hiking, surfing, or riding, than waste more time trying to reinvent the wheel.
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am 4. Juli 2000
The opinions in this are most superficial but generally interesting, and make for an undemanding afternoon's read.
But good God, do we have to picket Stephenson's publisher to get an editor assigned to him? Stephenson says in four paragraphs what he could just as well say in two sentences. Much of this essay reads like someone just strung together the posts in a ranty Usenet thread. This, folks, is the kind of thing an editor is supposed to stop from happening. And unlike most bad writing, it's a /pity/, because this could have actually been a very good essay.
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am 29. Dezember 1999
After 50 or so pages of throat-clearing, Neal Stephenson gets down to the real business: he regards the GUI (graphical user interface: think Windows/MAC desktop)as a metaphor for the failure of intellectual discipline and curiosity in our age and in the generations of children and grandchildren we will leave behind.
The very simplicity of using a GUI-based computer these days is, to Stephenson, exactly the problem. We don't know what we don't know, and we are rapidly losing our ability to learn just what it is one should learn if we are going to function as intellectual beings. Once the thread is lost, how will we regain our grip?
Sure, we're victims of time pressures and the world is overcomplicated and we can benefit from the "executive summary," but how does consuming predigested knowledge make us fit for our job of advancing man's place in the universe?
This is a heavy challenge, especially to parents who deal on a daily basis with offspring who either won't or, sadly, in some cases, CAN'T read.
Just as pocket calculators cover up arithmetical shortcomings and Velcro conceals an inability to tie one's shoes, reliance on a technological marvel such as the GUI (whether it's on a computer or a TV screen, or, in a tableau vivant, at Disney World) actually accelerates the dumbing-down of society.
That Neal Stephenson presents such a grim picture within a personal, quirky and quite humorous narrative is a terrific achievement. This is a book I am going to pass around to my friends, techies and non-techies alike.
Note to my friends: Beware, there are lessons contained in this slim volume.
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am 7. Januar 2000
Oh, to be Neal Stephenson, and have to clout to get a publisher to publish a nonfiction volume containing an essay that's already available on the Web for free. And, oh, to be Neal Stephenson and write an essay that's still worth paying for.
Some of his points have been made elsewhere in different contexts ("The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business and Society" makes similar points about the growing role of appearance in American society) but Stephenson makes them so well, and ties things together so cleanly, that even when they're not new they sound that way. Like this one:
"During this century, intellectualism failed, and everyone knows it. In places like Russia and Germany, the common people agreed to loosen their grip on traditional folkways, mores, and religion, and let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abattoir. Those wordy intellectuals used to be merely tedious; now they seem kind of dangerous as well.
"We Americans are the only ones who didn't get creamed at some point during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have inherited political and value systems fabricated by a particular set of eighteenth century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But we have lost touch with those intellectuals...." (p. 53). Free or for money, read it!
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am 27. Juli 2000
This book is an excellent and plain-spoken commentary on both the OS wars and the direction media and technology are driving world culture. While other reviews have complained that some topics are inadequately covered, for example the Be operating system, they are missing the point that this is neither a review of Be for the uninitiated, nor a some kind of technical manual. People looking for that should stick to PCWEEK and O'Reilly This book distills a lot of perspective in a few short chapters. For those who are willing to accept Stephenson's arguments without a lot of direct evidence this is an insanely useful book. Of course, if you don't believe him, you can test his conclusions just by running four or five computers in your home with the various OSes installed. More important than his commentaries on the relative merits of the OS are his fun yet chilling thoughts in chapters like THE INTERFACE CULTURE where he discusses Disneyland and our love for mediated experience. This is the same territory investigated by semiotician Umberto Eco in his book Travels in Hyperreality but Stephenson is more lucid & terse, and does not bog himself down with theoretical constructs.This book is worth any four college texts in critical theory and should be read by MBA's as well as anybody working with the media. Don't discount it just because it feels like light reading and more the journalistic essay than the scholarly dissertation.
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