Saturday, January 19, 2013

Command Line Confusion

One of my earliest childhood memories about our computer was a treasure chest full of secret codes scrawled on post it notes. They were actually chains of command line entries so I could navigate DOS and play my favorite games while he was at work. But without these cryptic commands, an abyss stood between me and DuckTales: The Quest for Gold.

For many who grew up in the 90's and later, even those as myself who are predisposed with an interest in technology, the concept of the command line evokes some colorful adjectives: Intimidating, Confusing, Antiquated.

When my first Computer Science class at PSU threw me head first into the command line I began to question my life goals. I endured, and a year later, is still feels foreign.

But I am at least now compelled forward with the understanding that the command line is a necessary step if you hope to pull back the curtain that shrouds technology in magic.

LinuxCommand.org has a great introduction to the command line concept and terminology. Then I recommend heading over to the UNIX Tutorial for Beginners (University of Surrey). It is the best tutorial I have found that is practical in it's scope and pace, without quickly overwhelming a reader who is truly a beginner.

Working at the command line places you at an intimate proximity to the heart of a computer. Understanding that the commands used are merely concise programs that operates on data, equips you with a new perspective. You start to see the foundation and basic building blocks that all software is constructed upon. More importantly, you begin to imagine how you could build more sophisticated programs with those blocks on that same foundation.


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