‹ Alex Wiltshire

Talking computer

Jul 26, 2012

Long-time programmer Bruce Lawson on why he hates computers, but loves what you can do on them.

I think of non-GUI programs in the same way as I do about going camping. Some people love sleeping in a tent and getting up in the night to walk in the rain to poo in a hole they’ve dug behind a tree. Not me. I spend a considerable portion of my income on a house with a central heating system and three flushing toilets, so there’s no bloody way I’m going camping. You may think it a badge of honour that you can do “sudo dpkg -i –force-all cupswrapperHL2270DW-2.0.4-2a.i386.deb” from memory. I think you’re burying your turds with a trowel in a thunderstorm.

His central point is that there’s no ‘natural’ way to communicate with computers - despite the current bravado around that sort of thing, the cold blink of the command line is just as much of an abstraction from the zeroes and ones as a mouse gliding over gradient-shaded windows. And it’s also more difficult to use.

I’m kinda proud that I used to know my way around DOS and in the early 90s wrote a fantastic .bat file that would swap in different autoexec.bat and config.sys files depending on the game I wanted to play. But I never want to go back to it.