Understanding the Command Line

If you have ever watched an experienced computer person use a command line, it is mind-boggling. You instantly have no clue what is going on. They are executing commands faster than you can process what they are typing. It’s gives you the impression that they are some sort of super-genius, like they could map out the human genome in their mind or memorize pi to a billion digits. It invites the thought that no normal human should be able to do this.

And yet, they are normal humans.

My circumstances forced me to learn how to navigate a command line. It’s something I naively didn’t expect I would need to learn. I was wrong. However, in the middle of my toiling, I had an ‘Aha’ moment. It was a realization. Suddenly, I got it. I understood what a command line was. It is something that is obvious to everybody who knows it, but shrouded in mystery to those who don’t.

I realized that a command line was an alternative interface you could use to do everything you normally do on a computer. You can create a new folder, move files into that folder, move the folder into the trash, and empty the trash bin. You can perform a search, locate a file, navigate to the file, and open it in the program of your choice. The command line is an alternative interface to the “desktop” interface you usually use. In fact, not too long ago there was no desktop interface and the command line was the only way to operate a computer.

I know that this is like junior high computer class material, but like I said, it was an ‘Aha’ moment.

And suddenly, I felt a sense of understanding for people of old age, who have no idea how to operate a computer. I understood that feeling of apprehension like I was about to break something, or the confusion over what are the basic workflows of operating a computer. I felt dumb asking questions every 10 seconds… dumb for wanting a friend to double check what I was about to do, just in case it wouldn’t bring the outcome I wanted.

It’s a perspective I hope I don’t soon forget.

(by the way, if you are also seeking to understand the command line, this is the best tutorial I’ve ever found on the topic)