Thursday, March 24, 2005

Commanding Topic

This week in my Human Computer Interaction class I am discussing the various interfaces:  Direct Manipulation, Menu/Form Completion/Buttons and Command Line.  I have to admit that many times I favor the command line interface above all else for many tasks.  Yes, I still use Emacs and vi and feel a bit frustrated at times over the inability to bend the menu  items of Word or Power Point to my needs.  I also have not found a direct manipulation interface the I totally like although Apple's OS X  comes close.  I really dislike X Windows, always have, even when I had a SPARC I pizza box with purple feet.

(You have to be old to understand that one.  Basically the first Sun SPARC had a large pizza box form factor and its feet, rubber squares to elevate for heating and protect the desk top, were purple.  The day they unvieled the Sparc I, which was revolutionary, all the engineers were wearing purple speakers and it wasn't until the unveiling that folks in the audience got the subtle hint.  Whew, what a digression.)

All of this reminded me of Neal Stephenson's essay, turned into book, In the Beginning was the Command Line.  Although he referred to folks using command lines as Moorlocks, a not so kind reference from H. G. Wells, Time Machine (read the book, the movie was horrible), it is a great essay/book.  Even better, a version of the essay is on line with updated comments by a fan.  You can find it here.  Although I appreciate that the fan, Garret Birkel, made it available, I would focus on the original Stephenson text and  then return and read Garret's comments.

I hope you enjoy it!  Later.