The command line is a text based way to interact with a computer developed in the 1960s [( 1964, MIT Computation Center staff member Louis Pouzin developed the RUNCOM tool for executing command scripts while allowing argument substitution)*wikipedia*] this was the primary way of interacting with a computer until the 1980s. The BASH shell is a popular command line interpreter until today. What fascinates me about the command line is its reliance on text and symbols to operate. After reading a book by Steven Pinker some years ago the idea of what occurs in our minds as a base for interacting with the outside world is somewhat akin to the command line but goes deeper still. At the very base of a computer is a set of symbols called machine language which is the true interactive component of a computer which is the pathway to programming that acts as a higher language. A kernel has to interact with the computer’s hardware at the very core of a computers functionality. The command line then seems like a great book of words and symbols that can pass through the many layers of interaction interfacing with our own minds. It is as though it is a toolset that is under the skin. The mind simply commands somewhat like when you think ‘move my arm’ and you will move it automatically. Artificial intelligence then could potentially be a set of reflexes that simply happen in real time. That is the potential anyway. Computers (in many forms) have been a revolutionary tool symbolising nearly all forms of communication and augmenting many tasks to be the primary tool for communication.
The most telling feature of the command line is the conservation of resources. It was initially a feature of computers themselves as they lacked processing power and resources but is quite important today in regard to energy saving. If one logs into the command line and operates maintenance routines very few resources are needed. If one were to go on the internet with a text based browser for example latency issues and bandwidth issues are avoided. The fact that we can still use this ‘book’ to interact with a computer is simply a fact whereas we would otherwise be masking the processes with a graphical interface rather than knowing one level of truth that becomes a tool to interface with. The other idea that attracted me to the command line was scripting a set of commands that can be run to produce output. This was my main inspiration for creating some synthesised spoken word pieces for computers quite a few years back. I was able to command the computer to play various videos, music or speak. This was orchestrated and for me was akin to the mind of the mentally ill being commanded to perform tasks from an externalised (truly internalised) set of behaviours based around hallucinations. Even though the tasks were orchestrated rather than interactive, I still feel that the core motivations of mental illness are orchestrated through a set of commands that can be thought of as part of the wiring of one’s mind. The commands are universal. A universal interface written from sets of DNA.