Command Line: Implosion

Computer users are constantly interacting with interfaces. Unless the user knows how to manipulate the physical properties of a computer directly through modifications to its hardware, interfaces are crucial. There are many different types of interfaces that have been created since the invention of the computer. What technological advances in user interfaces try to do is bring the user closer to interacting with the computer on a closer level without having to manipulate its hardware. The command line is one of the first interfaces that a user was able to use a computer. My limited knowledge of the command line derives from a “crash course” on the subject by Zed Shaw. The command line allows the user to travel back in time to a period when the modern GUI does not exist. All possible actions from a traditional GUI started as simple commands on a platform without a graphical interface. The GUI overlays graphics on top of these simple commands in order to make an operating system a lot more user friendly. Instead of having to memorize commands and the strict syntax required to get the correct output, a GUI gives the user the opportunity to access their files with a physical feel. Files created in the command line seem phantasmal; the user cannot see them. Interaction with files becomes distant. While a GUI places a metaphoric veil over the command line, it brings the user “closer” with the virtual world. When I say closer, the GUI brings the command line to life, applying images and physical properties to something virtual. The computer’s interface begins to resemble reality by direct manipulation with a tool; a mouse. In turn, to Jean Baudrillard reality and the simulation further implode.

The mouse itself has been adapted to bring the user closer to the hyper-real (or perhaps vice-versa). The trackpad is a modified version of the mouse, which instead of the user having to utilize a tool with their entire hand, the hand itself is enumerated and the only things required to control the interface are fingers. Trackpads bring the user closer to simulating direct manipulation over files. Touch pads and mice are third party mediators between the user and the interface. With the new improvements to touch screen technology, the mouse and touch pad have begun to become more and more archaic. Touch screens, while still being a third party mediator, disguise their true nature. The user touches a folder directly on the screen to reveal its contents. The distance between virtual information and the physical world seems to shorten.

Virtual information is becoming physical information. More intimate interactions between the user and the virtual world are more severe and more prevalent than ever. From abstract concepts and undefined space to graphical interfaces that connect the user through the senses, interfaces have brought the user closer to that virtual information. Technology will propel interaction even further, pushing the boundaries until virtual information will seem indistinguishable to reality. Hyper-reality is imminent.


pwd = print working directory

hostname = my computer’s network name

mkdir = make directory

cd = change directory

ls = list directory

rmdir = remove directory (cannot remove directories with contents)

rm = remove file (be careful to do recursive moves)

pushd = push directory (save for later)

popd = pop directory (go to saved)

cp = copy a file or directory

-r = copy directory w/ contents

mv = move a file or directory

less = page through a file

cat = print the whole file

cat > newfile.txt makes a new file and allows you to write in it until you press CTRL-D

find = find files

grep = find things inside files

man = read a manual page

env = look at your environment

echo = print some arguments

export = export/set a new environment variable

exit = exit the shell

$|$ = The | takes the output from the command on the left, and “pipes” it to the command on the right.

$<$ = The < will take and send the input from the file on the right to the program on the left.

$>$ = The > takes the output of the command on the left, then writes it to the file on the right.

$>>$ = The >> takes the output of the command on the left, then appends it to the file on the right.

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