When I was a child the cost of a Unix workstation was so far out of my reach and my world - a Unix workstation was the cost of a car. When I was a teenager in the 90’s Linux made faux-Unix available for a fraction of the cost on commodity hardware, but you wouldn’t have confused the performance of a 486 with a Sun workstation. You were just pretending on the PC. (The “real work” of scientific computing and programming in academia was still done on the big, out of reach Sun and SGI workstations.)
Now Unix is everywhere. Unix is so pervasive and boring that now it’s fascinating, but we don’t use it like we did in the previous decades.
On the desktop OS X became the most mainstream Unix derived from the “legitimate” BSD legacy, only to be supplanted by Android’s use of the semi-legit Linux, which means everywhere all around me are little Unix boxes in people’s pockets, talking to a million anonymous Unix boxes in data centers.
For fun I have a $35 Linux computer. The faux-Unix on it is more powerful than those workstations and mainframes I could only imagine having as a child.
Tilde club reminds us that we have the tools to spin up digital virtual communities on software and hardware that is so cheap and abundant that it’s hard to fathom. The hardest part is actually doing something interesting with it.
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