Command Line Reminiscence

I’ve mentioned before that my first serious computer experience was on an old IBM PC-AT 286 running MS-DOS 5.2. I became quite capable of instructing that machine from the spartan DOS prompt, and every once in a while I long for the days of text-based interfaces and obscure commands (it’s a nerd thing).

The good news is that every major modern operating system can still be controlled, to varying degrees, from command line interfaces when you long for a retro experience. In Windows, you go to Start > Run and run the command ‘cmd’ to bring up a command prompt that works very, very similarly to the long-defunct MS-DOS. Mac OS X has a program called ‘Terminal’ in its Utilities folder that brings up a UNIX command prompt. In Linux it varies by distribution and interface, but there is always a ‘Terminal’ listed somewhere in its menus.

In the UNIX/Linux world (which includes Mac OS X, especially if you install MacPorts), there are a couple essential programs that allow you to live in the command line world for a while. ELinks is a capable text-based web browser. Alpine is a text-based email program (loosely related to the somewhat well-known PINE system, which has been discontinued). There’s also the Nano text editor (as well as the much more difficult, though immensely powerful, Vim and Emacs editors).

If you’re like me, and you want to spend a couple hours getting your work done in a text-based environment, it can be done. All I need to really put me ‘over the top’ would be a text-based office suite.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.