The GUI Happily Hoodwinked the Computing Culture


…and we love it for it.

I admire anyone that masters the art of working off the command line.  It’s a talent that I’ve unfortunately let slip by the wayside.

I recently read a post from Gwen Bell; a blogger, and digital denizen that I greatly appreciate.  She was discussing her appreciation of the command line, the challenges of adopting its use, and the frustration she felt going back to working with Apple’s OS X operating system (OS).

I think her excitement and frustration was misplaced to some degree, but that isn’t her fault.

Those on the surface of the current computing culture have in some ways been misled by the computing industry.

In order to make personal computers (PCs) more accessible to the general public, the industry had to make them easy to use.  One way of doing this was to change how people interacted with them.

In the old days of computing the user had to have in-depth knowledge of a computer (and how it worked) to use it.  There essentially was only one way to interact with a computer, through the command line (similar, but not completely like the command prompt now used in current versions of Windows).

Now most operating systems come with some version of a Graphic User Interface (GUI).

The GUI essentially liaisons between the user and the computer.  It provides an elegant means for a general user to access the various programs and functions on the machine.  For example, most people are familiar with some version of Microsoft Windows OS, and its point and click method of accessing programs and opening windows to view directories.

Clicking an icon opens a program, or a folder to view the files it holds.

Convenient access of this type has contributed to the cultures false sense of computer literacy.  The GUI essentially presents a functional illusion to the user, by allowing the user to readily perform routine (and not so routine) task on the computer; but it doesn’t offer the general user much insight into the inner workings of the machine

The command line allows you to access the same thing, only without all the bells and whistles.

Purist enjoy the use of the command line both for nostalgic value, and convenience when it comes to performing task.

I think I just found a new goal.  Reacquaint myself with the command line.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Gwen Bell.  Her work is fascinating.


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