Linux

Keeping the command line alive


Over the last year I have noticed something: I pretty much consistently leave a terminal window open on my desktop at all times. I am using Aterm running with the command:

aterm -tr -sh 50 -fg yellow -bg black +sb

plus I am removing the border (I use Enlightenment) so all that exists is a shaded rectangle with a command prompt.

I have found this to be incredibly useful -- for so many reasons. But one thing it's proven to me is that I simply don't want to be without the command line.

I consider the Linux desktops to be one of my specialties, so I am very fond of the GUI. But there is just something inherently "Linux" about the command prompt. Not only is it the single most versatile tool, it's also the least assuming, least resource demanding, and least intruding. The way I run my terminal it's just there, in the background, waiting for its next command. Sometimes it's "top", sometimes it's "ls -l", sometimes I'll flush iptables, or secure shell to another account. But it's always there and ready.

But it makes me wonder...as Linux evolves into the environment it is becoming, what is going to happen to the command line? We've seen Microsoft shed the terminal and then bring it back. But I just can't imagine Linux without bash. Can you imagine not being able to roll your own bash scripts and run them from the terminal window? I know I can't. I depend upon scripts for so many things.

Of course I realize that there is GUI frontend for nearly every command line tool now. But sometimes the frontend just doesn't have the flexibility as the command line. Imagine leaving open every frontend for every command you use on your desktop. Let's see, off the top of my head I'd have:

  • Konqueror for ls, cp, mv
  • Gftp for ftp
  • Gtop
  • yumex for yum
  • system-install-packages for rpm
  • vlc for play

You get the idea. Pretty soon your desktop is covered with applications and your system resources are down to zilch.

So instead I just leave that command line open...even on a desktop machine. It's just too useful.

Sure I'm old school. Of course I'd rather just have a Window Manager and not a Desktop Environment. Yes there are many times I'll use Pine instead of Thunderbird. But that's just me. Naturally, though, I fear the evolution of the operating system is going to attempt to leave the command line behind. I'll be a relic. A forgotten dinosaur from an ancient, musty past who will have to content himself with running old-school distributions.

But then I think I'm okay with that. I think my romantic connection with the command line is a good thing. Even while the GUIs get better and better, I'll keep my strangle hold on the command line. And so long as my addled brain can remember all the switches and flags, I will keep using the command line. And in the very spirit of the OS itself I will hoist up my Tux flag and yell, "It's my Linux! I'll use it the way I want!"

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

81 comments
FXEF
FXEF

Linux with out a Terminal, I don't think so. There are just too many jobs that require a command line interface. I very rarely boot Linux to runlevel 3 without a GUI but use Terminal all the time in runlevel 5. Terminal enhances my Gnome desktop to no end.

GreyTech
GreyTech

It's nearly all been said. The right tool for the job and user is perhaps the key. Repetitive tasks like my automated backup use bat files with some kix32 scripts calling cli ftp and cli zip tasks but I would not like to have to remember the whole sequence twice a day. Changing security policies using cli would be a pain compared to secpol.msc or gpedit.msc. I run all day as a restricted used but have shortcuts on my desktop to call command shells for local user or admin user, this keeps security tight and flexibility comfortable. Command line has its place with techies, but they are a small (but vociferous) minority compared to the total user base. Long live the command line!

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

Looks like I'm in a minority of 1 and 1/2 half replies to this blog. Kill it, and take the keyboard with it. I hate keyboards always have, and I've had to use one for over 30 years to maintain my interest in computers. When I first discovered the mouse (about 1988) I thought I had been handed the weapon that would start the destruction of the keyboard - and I still hope it occurs in my lifetime. Why am I typing in a variant of 'English' when I want my computer to do something? For a start 'English' and computers should never be combined. A GUI is spoken language independent. We can use symbols on our GUI that everyone can understand. My biggest gripe with programming/scripting/command line languages has always been 'why do they use English words to perform a function?' For over 50% of the people using computers English is not their first language. GUIs go someway to removing this problem. The keyboard. It's laid out in such as way as to make it more difficult to type 'English' words (the idea is to keep letters that occur more often consecutively in English words, away from each other so that the hammers don't collide). I have always refused to learn how to type on a Qwerty keyboard, and why should I, since the first thing I do with a new keyboard is to lay the keys out alphabetically and remap them. I mean, I spent much of my childhood learning THE English alphabet, why when I pick up a computer should I have to learn another? It's not like the keys interfere with each other anymore. So, yes - kill the keyboard, remove the English language from computer instructions and I'm afraid there is just no need for the command line any more. Rant Over: Les.

Justin James
Justin James

You actually just revealed, wuite well, why Linux (or any other *Nix) is not (and will not be, for the time being) a mainstream desktop OS. Users should *not* have to keep a command line open in a GUI environment, yet in *Nix, it is practiacally mandatory. For most users, the GUI is a must but the command line should rarely be seen. In *Nix, the command line is a must, but the GUI is disposable, let alone mission critical. It is a combination of the insanely lousy nature of every GUI out there for *Nix (KDE and GNOME and CDE and all of them stink, big time, in terms of usability, usefulness, and consistency) that make it harder to use the GUI for practically everything instead of the CLI, and the fact that there is will way too much, even for Joe Six Pack, that can *only* be done from the CLI. J.Ja

iainwrig
iainwrig

Powershell utilizes and adds alot of functionality to the command line in windows server enviornments in longhorn or whatever it is , Linux will always have the terminal!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I mean, I knew a kid in high school who scratched the letters off his keys so his younger brother wouldn't muck with his computer but reordering the keys themselves; wow, yeah, I have to respect that kind of dedication. Actually, I thought one of the keyboard formats used the English alphabet order but I can't remember what it would be called and it's sure not devork. I rather like the keyboard and use the mouse because I have to in some situations but the keyboard is king of speed for me. I'll happily give it up but not until medical science can offer me a proper cyberjack and a nice thin wired connection to my terminal. (I'd go wireless but it'll never be as solid a connection.) I'm a business analyst also though so I feel your pain too some degree. My audience prefers to see eye chart reports of number but there's little that compares to a graphic representation that says it all in a single glance.

TheTinker
TheTinker

Beyond the many points made about convenience, standards, and functionality that have already been mentioned that will not allow for this, there is one MAJOR issue that I haven't seen addressed. GUIs break. I can't count the times that for what ever reason, on what ever platform, the GUI was unaccessible. If the computer will boot and function at all, CLI is available. I can get back to a fully operational state because I know my way around the command line. It's not just your desktop box and servers, but all of your network equipment has a CLI because it is an efficient, light-weight interface that has very little to break. So, you don't like the command line? Don't use it. I like multiple interfaces because they all have strengths and weaknesses, but if I could only have one it would be the command line.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]My biggest gripe with programming/scripting/command line languages has always been 'why do they use English words to perform a function?' For over 50% of the people using computers English is not their first language.[/i]" They use English words because any [b]other[/b] language would serve far fewer people even than English does. Even a language created by a Japanese programmer in Japan and initially for a Japanese audience was created using English-language programming idioms because English is the single most accessible (spoken) language for programmers worldwide. "[i]GUIs go someway to removing this problem.[/i]" I hope you're not suggesting that linguistic programming be replaced with GUI-based programming. A number of attempts at this have been made, and they've all failed for the same reason: GUI-based programming is limited, neutered, and sucky. Worse yet, there's just no way to quickly convey any kind of complex information from one person to another over computers in a more convenient form than text. Would you prefer that this entire discussion was carried out with screenshots and thumbs-up/thumbs-down images? You, yourself, wouldn't have been able to convey what you wanted to say in such a fashion. Maybe you just want to have a virtual keyboard on the screen so you have to click on each individual letter key one at a time with your mouse. If so, you're basically alone in that desire. Software exists that can allow you to do that so you don't have to use a physical keyboard. You can even get some kind of touchscreen technology going so you can choose letters by pointing at them, but then you've just come back to hunt-and-peck typing with a less convenient interface than the physical keyboard. Maybe you'd like to write all your text out -- but if so, you're mostly alone on that one as well. Writing is slow, laborious, and problematic for computers to translate into text. Presentation as images introduces all kinds of problems, such as breaking cut-and-paste functionality for text. As long as text is necessary, the command line isn't going away. Live with it. It's unfortunate that you must suffer with the fact that you're a grumpy minority, but the rest of us don't want the world to grind to a halt because you dislike keyboards.

qkelly
qkelly

Extreme views like "kill the keyboard" are interesting to make a point, however I think they miss the point by throwing out the baby with the bath water. The power of unix style command line utilities is the ability that some apply to pipe simple utilities together to create more powerful commands and scripts. I tend to observe that the wise old fellows who still remember COBOL and punch cards are less likely to get Sure the future will hold new and inovative computer interfaces like those in the Minority Report. But I believe there is still plenty of usefulness in the command line interface and in particular the ability to pipe output to input esp when dealing with text based information. You may want to check DVORAK as an alternate to QWERTY for you keyboard mapping. The Dvorak layout was designed to address the problems of inefficiency and fatigue which characterized the QWERTY keyboard layout. (wiki)

Justin James
Justin James

... there is a keyboard out there ("Das Keyboard") that has no lettering at all. It is a combination fashion statement, art object, and a tool to force you to learn to type properly. :) J.Ja

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. but why use English at all? Why not come up with a language that uses symbols to represent the instruction set that mean the same to everyone. We do it with Windows applications. Why not, because it would mean a radical change to the keyboard - EXACTLY! "A number of attempts at this have been made, and they've all failed" - what does 'failed' mean. Model compiled software has resurfaced its head many times during my career. It has not caught on to such a large extent that it looks like dominating the software development industry yet, but each time it resurfaces it gets more and more interest. Eventually it will become the norm and languages like C# will go the way of COBOL, FORTRAN and assembler. " Would you prefer that this entire discussion was carried out with screenshots and thumbs-up/thumbs-down images?" Yes, yes, absolutely! I'd much rather convey my thoughts more accurately using graphics, supported by text. Ok, I'm an analyst, so if you know something about my job, you'll understand the headaches I get because people insist on working in English. Hope this clarifies where I'm coming from. Les.

Justin James
Justin James

... in every GUI, there are certain pictographic idioms that are totally meaningless in many cultures! J.Ja

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. just for me. I want to be able to use something more efficient for entering text than a piece of equipment that has been around in something like it's present form for how long - a century of more? Surely something radically different will become available. I know there have been great efforts at voice recognition, but there are some obvious downfalls. How about thought recognition, Or a keyboard where I can simply look at the keys? I live in hope. Les.

apotheon
apotheon

People see the interface in Minority Report, and they think "That'd be a great way to run a computer!" There are two problems with that: 1. Your arms would get REALLY tired if that was the only interface to your computer, or even just the main interface. 2. That interface would be GREAT for a couple of applications. It would actively get in the way of most others. How, exactly, do you type up your resume with that interface (for example)? "[i]You may want to check DVORAK as an alternate to QWERTY for you keyboard mapping.[/i]" Unfortunately, programming languages are to some extent designed with keyboard layout in mind. The same is true of certain excellent applications (like Vim). Since I do programming in Vim, Dvorak doesn't really work for me as a keyboard layout -- QWERTY is more appropriate to my needs. Besides, I sometimes type more than 100 WPM with QWERTY, and it doesn't really fatigue me (I've learned some good typing habits over the years and learned how to choose my keyboard well).

apotheon
apotheon

What Microsoft really does with a lot of that stuff is take great ideas from other sources and turn them into marketable products. For instance, WinFS is entirely based on database-driven filesystems that started in the Unix world, if I remember correctly, and that "Milan" table PC of Microsoft's is basically just a poor (but impressive from a marketing standpoint) implementation of something that has been in university computer science research departments for decades. I think the key is that Microsoft is good at taking a concept still only halfway to completion according to the standards of those who came up with the idea in the first place, adding some fit and polish to it, and selling it -- because Microsoft realizes that even half-finished it's still something that looks new to the vast majority of people in the general public. Unfortunately, with the more ambitious such projects, things tend to blow up bureaucratically before they actually get to market (WinFS comes to mind, again). That's because MS project management is kind of schizophrenic, to put it kindly. Because software is a more ephemeral "product" than hardware, that bureaucratic meltdown is far more likely than with hardware, I think. Project managers for software projects tend to be fooled more often into thinking they can do anything, because nobody's building anything tangible, so project specs grow out of control and become huge development death-march nightmares that ultimately result in half-baked messes like MS Windows ME.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My Dad has an elite. I had the keyboard just preivous to that. I think the only major difference is a slightly slimmer casing and some narrower keys in the model after mine. I did like the keys up the middle of the split keyboard though and I still miss having "6" on my left hand. I should put some effort into picking up another one. Your right about the post-Elite keyboards though. I don't even have multimedia keys on my current keyboard. The 18 mappable on the fly macro keys are fantastic and I'd love to track down Linux support for the onboard LCD so it can work like in Windows but the few multimedia-ish keys on it get very little use.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I remember someone telling me that MS keyboards and Mice tend to be licensed out to Logitech for manufacturing leaving MS to focus on design. If more of there innovations made it out of the lab (You know who you are winFS) they may retain more of there good will. They do dream about future tech though. You can't argue that they don't at least dream. Signing a non-disclosure before seeing the MS home of the future may have been a little much for the FOSS group they invited for a show and tell (and free Zune) mind you.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Heck, they even have legal standards a work environment must meet including air quality, lighting, furnishings and all the rest of the obscure ergonomics we never think about. I could easily be corrected on that mind you. I think of those standards, then I think of my little windowless cubicle with expense friendly lighting.

Justin James
Justin James

Is indeed excellent! Their keyboards tend to be of very high quality, as are their mice. I had a first generation Explorer optical mouse (the first grey one) from 1999 or so until late 2006, quite a healthy run for a mouse! I am grateful that they quickly exited the home networking field, though, it did not need any more players. One reason why Microsoft hardware is so good, is because they poor millions of dollars into human/machine interaction. You may not realize it, but Microsoft is really off the radar on this stuff, but they are to computing as Charles Eames/Herman Miller were to offices. For example, I read an article a few weeks ago about how, for places that cannot afford more than one PC, they are working on allowing multiple users to share a single PC, with multiple mice & multiple keyboards, but the same monitor. Apparently, sharing PCs is quite common in many developing nations, and Microsoft is working to make that easier. The new Tabletop PC they demoed, while not perfect, is another good example of the effort & energy that Microsoft puts into these things. I find it to be pretty sad that they also do the same level of search into software, but so little of it actually makes its way into shipping products. Microsoft as a company is not "un-innovative", but the majority of their innovations never see the light of day, or do so in a mangled fashion ("Clippy" comes to mind). J.Ja

apotheon
apotheon

I don't actually like working in the near-dark so much, but I find myself doing so from time to time. For such occasions, the light on my Thinkpad is invaluable (as is the ability to turn down the brightness of my screen). Just as I think it's a bad idea to buy a home until you can afford to buy a proper house and pay for little luxuries like someone to mow your lawn for you without straining your finances at all (which means a condo is a bad investment), I also think that running a business with programmers is a bad idea until you can figure out how to pay the costs of a good work environment (including healthy lighting and their choice in chairs and keyboards). People seem to like to buy a home long before they're ready, though, and to start businesses that depend heavily on programmers sitting in $8 chairs with migraine-inducing fluorescent lighting and bad keyboards.

apotheon
apotheon

That sounds like my Microsoft Natural Elite from before they started trying to turn the Natural Elites into "multimedia keyboards". It's the best under-$20 keyboard I've ever seen. Oddly, Microsoft hardware is sometimes quite excellent, despite the problems of Microsoft software. The best pointing device I ever had was a Microsoft optical trackball, for instance.

Justin James
Justin James

... are actually a destructive workaround to a huge problem. It is no secret that many IT folks prefer to work with the lights off. As a result, we also like backlit keyboards. The problem is, while "lights out" *feels* less straining to the eye, it is actually even worse for your long term eye health than the overhead lights! The real solution is to get quality, indirect, full spectrum lighting. But no office manager want to be spending $20 per lightbulb and rip out overhead lights, just for ergonomics. If we all worked for the same shop for 40 years, and they got to pay us the disability when we become legally blind, they would, but we won't work there when the health problems kick in. The "modern" office was designed in the 1950's for an entirely different type of worker. The only thing current workers have in common is the use of the telephone, and sitting at a desk. Even how we use the desk itself has changed radically! J.Ja

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I miss my MS ergonomic "battle axe" (so called due to shape). It was one of the first generation without all the extra buttons and crap. Just a standard 112 keyboard split in the middle. It was great after a short period of adjustment but lost some keys when something heavy landed on it. I keep meaning to get another but even now, I couldn't give up my G15 with backlit keys for one.

apotheon
apotheon

I've seen some sign of such behavior on Freecycle. I mostly use it just to keep an eye out for things I happen to need where a second-hand give-away would save me $50 or more (such as the recent acquisition of a reasonably high-quality office chair for my SigO to replace the broken-down piece of garbage chair she'd been using for several years). I happened to find one on the list about the time we were thinking of going to the Better Back Store to get her a chair that would probably have ended up costing between $60 and $200. Instead, this chair -- with only a little bit of cosmetic damage at the top corner of the back that can basically be fixed with a piece of gaffer's tape -- cost only about forty-five minutes of our time. That's less time than it would have taken to buy a chair. . . . but giving stuff away on Freecycle seems like a good way to collect psychopathic stalkers.

Justin James
Justin James

I've been a Freecycle member for about a year now. Maybe it is just the people in my area, but I am completely, utterly turned off by it. About 8, 9 months ago I was giving away a very good 17" CRT. Nothing wrong with it, excellent quality monitor. The way people acted on there was absolutely juvenile, like it was a Constitutional right that just because you email me, you will get the item, never mind that they never replied to my emails and were not even the first to ask about it. It was just toally amazing, the insanity that a old monitor could provoke, resale value was probably $15. So while I still get the newsletter on a regular basis, mostly as a venue for ditching old stuff that I do not need anymore (I really do like the idea of Freecycle, it is why I participated in it to begin with), I am totally gunshy about it now. J.Ja

apotheon
apotheon

Look up Freecycle online, and get on the mailing list for your area. Someone's bound to be giving away 15" CRT monitors within the next month. I see those things on my area's Freecycle all the time.

Justin James
Justin James

It is pretty bloody expensive, they retail for around $300 for the USB version. I lucked out, someone had a nearly new one on eBay very cheaply, with the "Buy Now" option (they bid up quite quickly to near retail), but it took me about a month of patience to get one. The person I bought it from had just gotten it, and then their employer bought one for them, so they had an extra. Like I said, it is amazing for normal typing duties, but for code work it is so-so. Then again, a lot of that is because I barely do any coding at home, so I have not really gotten used to it. I certainly would not want to play an FPS on it, that is for sure. Still looking at specialized gamepads (keyboards in a shape designed for gaming), until I get one, mouse-only games and RTS's are really my only choice. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Let me know if you can find one, I would be interested in a little 7" or so LCD (or even a dinky, old CRT) to hook up to my server, just in case I never need to troubleshoot a hardware or deep OS issue... J.Ja

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I think it's actually smaller than a notebook keyboard rather than just being a notebook keyboard in an external case with a usb plug. Let me see if I can track down a few links; crap, nope. had myself all spun around on that one. Page 34 of the March MaxPC has a "PC Trauma Kit" listing some nifty tech tools. They highlight a mini monitor from xenarcdirect.com that you can stuff in your tool bag. I seem to have got the mini keyboard in the background image stuck in my head too. (Wow, I don't usually get spun around quite that badly but when I'm mistaken, oh, am I ever mistaken ;) ) But then, you could find a nice black mini keyboard and "Das" it yourself though. As for IBM, they've always made good keyboards as far as I know. It's gotta be a legacy skill left over from the analog business machine days.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've been checking back into the website for a few years now watching for realease dates. Not enough to preorder at premium pricing though. I only hope they provide support for more than Windows. I'm liking my Logitech G15 at the moment but it's my back lite board until the Optimus becomes feasible. I'll have to check out the Das Keyboard II and Justin's ergo once I get through the news postings.

Justin James
Justin James

... the little 3 button one, at least. It looks to be quite useful! I would not trade my Kinesis Advantage KB for the world, it has actually reversed significant amounts of the carpal tunnel damage in the six months that I have had it, my typing speed and acuracy has improved, and my stress has gone down. But the three button one, I can see a million uses for it, particularly if they release a wireless version! J.Ja

apotheon
apotheon

Where can I find such a thing? Of course, these days I use a laptop for almost everything, so an extra keyboard in my backpack might just be redundant. It'd be especially redundant considering I use Thinkpads, which have some of the best laptop keyboards ever made.

apotheon
apotheon

I keep wondering if the first commercially available model will be called the "Optimus Prime". If they could coordinate with Hasbro, that'd make for a great marketing strategy, coinciding with the release of the Transformers movie. Anyway . . . I think the keyboard you mean is the Optimus keyboard. It looks pretty nice. I'm all about the gold connector mechanical switch black Vader-esque keyboard design, though. Yeah, Das Keyboard II is where it's at.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Bah, what's the name of it now. They have a three key usb thing that uses LCD topped keys configurable to whatever. Far as I can tell, that was the fundraiser so they could build the full keyboard due out this year. I figure I'll give it six months after release or until the price drops then my order goes in. Oh mommy, what fun I'll have hacking around with a 112 lcd topped keys.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

This was back in my highschool days but I've seen Das a few times. I stumbled across a posting of it on a blog and had to check it out. I even considered ordering one for a few minutes. I think there is also a blank key mini keyboard for the techie that has to have a keyboard in there tool back and wants the "Das Keyboard" feel.

apotheon
apotheon

I drool for Das Keyboard II.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]but why use English at all? Why not come up with a language that uses symbols to represent the instruction set that mean the same to everyone.[/i]" What's the difference? We might as well just replace English with Pig Latin or American Sign Language, then. Ultimately, there isn't really a difference other than in the most superficial sense if you replace one complex language with another. "[i]Model compiled software has resurfaced its head many times during my career. It has not caught on to such a large extent that it looks like dominating the software development industry yet, but each time it resurfaces it gets more and more interest. Eventually it will become the norm and languages like C# will go the way of COBOL, FORTRAN and assembler.[/i]" Actually, the trend for programmers and other technical jobs has largely centered around bringing computer languages closer and closer to matching the natural language level of abstraction -- natural language like English. "[i]Yes, yes, absolutely! I'd much rather convey my thoughts more accurately using graphics[/i]" Accurately, maybe -- I don't really know. Certainly not as clearly, though, with as much nuance and compelling detail. I'd rather be able to have conversations that consist of more than insipid metooisms. "[i]supported by text.[/i]" . . . but when you throw that into it, you're back to using keyboards!

online
online

Saving and opening can both be depicted using arrows...an up arrow to open, a down arrow to save. I've seen variations on this. I'm old enough to understand the 3.5 inch disk icon...old enough to understand a 5.25" disk icon, for that matter!...but you're right, they're far from universally understood anymore.

Justin James
Justin James

... and what would you show instead, you know? A hard drive? Few people in general use know what that looks like. A CD? Few people save to CD, they will think that is a special "burn to CD" option. Like was for the "print" icons that too often look like dot matrix printers. And so on and so on. :) J.Ja

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Most OS and application toolbars have a "Save" icon that resembles a 3.5" floppy diskette. That's a symbol that's becoming meaningless in all cultures.

apotheon
apotheon

Not to mention . . . I could go on all day with more "not to mention" items. I decided to stop typing after a bit. Yours is a nice, succinct point that was well-placed, though.

Justin James
Justin James

Heck, for debugging I would love to have a special-purpose remote, with a "play", "pause", "fast forward" and "one step forward", etc. buttons, and a shuttle/jog wheel. I can think of a thousand special purposes where an interface like that would actually maked a ton of sense! But for 99% of the tasks that 95% of users do, a full motion interface just gets in the way. Even special keyboards can be a hassle. I have a special keyboard, it is absolutely awesome for typing. But for coding it is miserable. The keys that are de-emphasized because most latin alphabet typers rarely use them (brackets, braces, pipes, backslash, forward slash, etc.) are just the keys that programmers access in excess, particularly in C style languages. As a result, the keyboard that is great for plain old typing actually hinders me coding! On the flip side, the keyboard I used for well over 10 years was a programmer's dream. Where most keyboards have the Windows key, it had a dedicated asterisk key! It also emphasized the backslash/pipe keys, braces, brackets, etc. It also hasd a full set of F keys on the left of it, for the *Nix folks. It was a great keyboard for programming, and I miss it greatly. My point is, I agree 100% that many special purpose apps could benefit from a Minority Report like interface, just as programmers can benefit from special keyboards, and gamers benefit from special keypads or controllers or joysticks. But to make that the major input device hurts the vast majority of users. And that's why we have USB ports. ;) J.Ja

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

Can anyone see uses for this as an input device for a PC? (Not just for games.) Les.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Not perfect for everything, but I can think of a few application, based on the concept: CAD - being able to move, rotate, connect, etc... components simply by 'grabbing and dragging', Video editing - reordering frames via 'grab and drag', traversing forward or backward in a sequence with a simple hand gesture. ...

Justin James
Justin James

In the movie, the interface was this giant transparent screen, what would show information and you would manipulate it by moving your hands all over the screen while wearing special gloves. It looked like a full contact sport to me, just reading your email would burn 800 calories. Definitely one of those "looks cool in the movie, but obviously of little value in reality" items. J.Ja

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Gorilla Arm: Term coined for the first ATM interfaces that had the touchscreen at eye-level. The interface, while aesthetically pleasing proved to be impracticle. It was observed that people using the interface resembled gorillas picking at things. Gorilla-Arm is now a cautionary term to interface developers.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

For the benefit of the movie-impaired, what do these interfaces look like? How do they supposedly work?

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Good luck with your 100 WPM, you ought to be commended.[/i]" Thanks much. One of many reasons I can justify some of the time I spend in places like TR is the fact that it keeps me typing a lot every day -- thus keeping me in practice as a touch-typist. I'm sure I'd get rusty and drop back down to 85ish most of the time if I didn't engage in online discussion as much as I do. It's job skill maintenance! Really!

qkelly
qkelly

Yes I agree. The interface needs to fit the application and they shoudl be many and varied, hence "horses for courses". Similarly the keyboard needs to fit the person's preferences. And those are many and varied. There are specific keyboards for programming languages too. But the QWERTY keyboard despite it's ineficiencies is the dominant player and is by no means dead. Good luck with your 100 WPM, you ought to be commended.

Editor's Picks