Musings, Software Development

The Command Line: A Love Hate Relationship

Posted by Adam

So, since Week 1 of Makers, my feelings towards the command line are changing. In week 1, I likened it to a printer – often doesn’t do what you want or expect of it, but never actually tells you in plain English what’s wrong with it, either giving you a cryptic message or more often preferring to remain completely silent.

Now, I’d say, you just have to know how to use it. It’s like one of those old cars that the piston-head owner is completely in love with, while most normal people think it is primitive and temperamental.

I can completely see why PCs never really took off until Microsoft and IBM found a solution to the problems of the direct operating system. I just feel like it could do with giving more feedback. I want to know when I’m on the right track without having to constantly ask.

The rule seems to be that if it doesn’t issue you with an error message, then the computer is happy. But that doesn’t mean I will necessarily be happy? It’s like speaking to somebody in a foreign country: I know I said something in their language but I swear the train station is the other way!?

But while all that is true, for a lot of things, it’s extremely nifty.

For everything the mouse did for graphical interfaces, ultimately making computing accessible to the masses, it still introduced the irritation of having to point a cursor into a text area, for example, and then moving your hand to the keyboard to type in it.

If you master the command line, a lot of that goes away. The only catch is that you do need a good command of shell script so that you can tell it exactly what you want it to do, and accuracy is vitally important.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve grown used to the command line under certain circumstances – maybe even developed an admiration for it. And that’s probably a good thing, because from what I’ve learned so far, as a software engineer, I’ll be spending a lot of time with it whether it annoys me or not.


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