Hear the epic true tales of how developers, programmers, hackers, geeks, and open source rebels are revolutionizing the technology landscape. Command Line Heroes is an award-winning podcast hosted by Saron Yitbarek and produced by Red Hat. Get root access to show notes, transcripts, and other associated content at https://redhat.com/commandlineheroes
C and UNIX are at the root of modern computing. Many of the languages we’ve covered this season are related to or at least influenced by C. But C and UNIX only happened because a few developers at Bell Labs created both as a skunkworks project.
Bell Labs was a mid-twentieth century center for innovation. Jon Gertner describes it as an “idea factory.” One of their biggest projects in the 1960s was helping build a time-sharing operating system called Multics. Dr. Joy Lisi Rankin explains the hype around time-sharing at the time—it was described as potentially making computing accessible as a public utility. Large teams devoted years of effort to build Multics—and it wasn’t what they had hoped for. Bell Labs officially moved away from time-sharing in 1969. But as Andrew Tanenbaum recounts, a small team of heroes pushed on anyways. C and UNIX were the result. Little did they know how much their work would shape the course of technology.
Creating a machine that thinks may have seemed like science fiction in the 1950s. But John McCarthy decided to make it a reality. And he started with a language he called LISP. Colin Garvey describes how McCarthy created the first language for AI. Sam Williams covers how early interest in thinking machines spread from academia to the business world, and how—after certain projects didn’t deliver on their promises—a long AI winter eventually set in. Ulrich Drepper explains that the dreams of AI went beyond what the hardware could deliver at the time.
But hardware gets more powerful each and every day. Chris Nicholson points out that today’s machines have enough processing power to handle the resource requirements of AI—so much so that we’re in the middle of a revolutionary resurgence in AI research and development. Finally, Rachel Thomas identifies the languages of AI beyond LISP—evidence of the different kinds of tasks AI is now being prepared to do.
Shells make large-scale IT possible. They’re a necessary component to modern computing. But it might not have turned out that way without a lot of hard work from a developer at the Free Software Foundation named Brian Fox. Now, the Bash shell is shipped with almost every computer in the world.
In the ‘70s, Bell Labs wanted to automate sequences of repetitive, complex commands. Chet Ramey describes how Bell developed several shells—but there could be only one officially supported shell for UNIX. Enter the Bourne shell. Though it was the best of that crop, the Bourne shell had its limits. And it was only available with a limited UNIX license. Brian J. Fox recounts his time at the Free Software Foundation where he needed to create a free—as in speech—version of the Bourne shell. It had to be compatible without using any elements of the original source code. That Bourne-Again Shell, aka Bash, is possibly the most widely used software in the planet. And Taz Brown describes how it’s one of the most important tools a developer can learn to use.
Languages used for IT infrastructure don’t have expiration dates. COBOL’s been around for 60 years—and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We maintain billions of lines of classic code for mainframes. But we’re also building new infrastructures for the cloud in languages like Go.
COBOL was a giant leap for computers to make industries more efficient. Chris Short describes how learning COBOL was seen as a safe long-term bet. Sixty years later, there are billions of lines of COBOL code that can’t easily be replaced—and few specialists who know the language. Ritika Trikha explains that something must change: Either more people must learn COBOL, or the industries that rely on it have to update their codebase. Both choices are difficult. But the future isn’t being written in COBOL. Today’s IT infrastructure is built in the cloud—and a lot of it is written in Go. Carmen Hernández Andoh shares how Go’s designers wanted a language more suited for the cloud. And Kelsey Hightower points out that languages are typically hyper-focused for one task. But they’re increasingly open and flexible.
Languages come and go. A few have the right stuff to rise to the top—and fewer stay there. Perl had a spectacular rise, a quiet slump, and has now found its place in the world of programming.
Perl seemed destined to rule the web. Michael Stevenson and Mike Bursell describe how Perl’s design made it ideal for the early web. We hear from Conor Myhrvold about its motto: “There is more than one way to do it." Elizabeth Mattijsen shares how—despite Perl’s strength—a long development cycle slowed Perl’s growth. And although it’s not the top web language anymore, John Siracusa points out that Perl lives on as a niche tool.
A mission to set the course of the world wide web in its early days. 10 days to get it done. The result? An indispensable language that changed everything.
Becoming a programmer used to require a Ph.D. and having access to some serious hardware. Then, in 1965, a couple of engineers had a radical idea: make it easier for people to get started.
Beginner languages, like BASIC, burst the doors to coding wide open. Tom Cormen and Denise Dumas recall how BASIC changed everything. Avi Flombaum and Saron share tips on picking a first language in this new era of software development. And we hear from Femi Owolade-Coombes and Robyn Bergeron about how the next generation of coders are getting their start with video games.
Beginner languages give everyone an opportunity to get their foot in the door. And that helps the industry as a whole.
A benevolent dictator for life steps down and changes the course of the Python language forever. Guido van Rossum’s “Transfer of Power” memo brings attention to the way programming languages evolve.
In this episode, Emily Morehouse makes the connection between Python’s technical extensibility and its inclusive community. Michael Kennedy explains how Python is both easy to learn and powerful enough to build YouTube and Instagram. And Diane Mueller highlights how the Python community took the lead on so many inclusive practices that are spreading in tech—including the rise of community-led decision-making.
Sometimes, a benevolent dictator can get a language started. But Python shows it’s communities that make languages thrive.
The first episode drops June 25. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter.
The best and brightest took us to the moon with the computing power of pocket calculators. Now they’re taking us farther—and they’re doing it with the tech we’ve been talking about all season. Open source is taking us to Mars.
The Season 2 finale takes us to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Tom Soderstrom shares how much JPL has gained by embracing open source. Hila Lifshitz-Assaf explains that NASA is solving some of their greatest problems with open software and crowdsourcing. And Dan Wachspress describes how working with NASA means proprietary companies need to make some sacrifices—but they get to work on the most innovative projects in the world.
The explorers of the final frontier are choosing to work in the open—and Mars is their destination. What’s next?
Developer advocates play important roles in open source communities. We brought a few of them together to explain how and why they do what they do.
Sandra Persing (Mozilla), Ricky Robinett (Twilio), and Robyn Bergeron (Red Hat) sit down with Saron to share what they’re working on, how they support their communities, and what they’re looking forward to in 2019.
What does serverless really mean? Of course there are still servers—the basics of the internet aren’t changing. But what can developers accomplish when someone else handles the servers?
Serverless computing makes it easy for beginners to deploy applications and makes work more efficient for the pros. Andrea Passwater shares how convenient it can be to abstract away (or remove from view) the infrastructure components of development. But as with any convenience, going serverless has tradeoffs. Rodric Rabbah explains that going serverless can mean giving up control of your deployment and restricts your ability to respond to problems—which is why he helped create Apache OpenWhisk, an open source serverless environment framework. And Himanshu Pant considers when to use serverless services.
Serverless computing should be about developer empowerment. But we have to stay curious about the big picture—even as we simplify our toolbox.
Big data is going to help solve big problems: how we grow food; how we deliver supplies to those in need; how we cure disease. But first, we need to figure out how to handle it.
Modern life is filled with connected gadgets. We now produce more data in a day than we did over thousands of years. Kenneth Cukier explains how data has changed, and how it’s beginning to change us. Dr. Ellen Grant tells us how Boston Children’s Hospital is using open source software to transform mountains of data into individualized treatments. And Sage Weil shares how Ceph’s scalable and resilient cloud storage helps us manage the data flood.
Gathering information is key to understanding the world around us. Big data is helping us expand our never-ending mission of discovery.
Bad security and reliability practices can lead to outages that affect millions. It’s time for security to join the DevOps movement. And in a DevSecOps world, we can get creative about improving security. Vincent Danen tells us how that’s led to a drastic increase in what’s considered a vulnerability. Jesse Robbins, the former master of disaster at Amazon, explains how companies prepare for catastrophic breakdowns and breaches. And Josh Bressers, head of product security at Elastic, looks to the future of security in tech.
Failure is the heartbeat of discovery. We stumble a lot trying new things. The trick is to give up on failing fast. Instead, fail better.
This episode looks at how tech embraces failure. Approaching failure with curiosity and openness is part of our process. Jennifer Petoff shares how Google has built a culture of learning and improvement from failure. With a shift in perspective, Jessica Rudder shows how embracing mistakes can lead to unexpected successes. And Jen Krieger explains how agile frameworks help us plan for failure.
Failure doesn’t have to be the end. It can be a step to something greater.
Looking to get into open source but not sure where to start? Are you a contributor trying to understand why only some pull requests get accepted? Or are you a maintainer who’s feeling overwhelmed? This episode looks at what it means to commit to an open source project. We follow our heroes as they progress through the roles of open source contributors: from finding projects and contributing to them, to building and maintaining thriving communities. Shannon Crabill shares how she got her start in open source at Hacktoberfest 2017, and Corinne Warnshuis describes how important it is to include people from all backgrounds to create good software. There are many ways to contribute to open source. Let’s walk through this together.
Every new programming language is created to do something previously impossible. Today, there are quite a few to choose from. But which ones do you really need to know? This episode dives into the history of programming languages. We recognize the genius of “Amazing Grace,” also known as Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. It’s thanks to her that developers don’t need a PhD in mathematics to write their programs in machine code. We’re joined by Carol Willing of Project Jupyter, former Director of the Python Software Foundation, and Clive Thompson, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and Wired who’s writing a book about how programmers think.
Before the terms 'open source' and 'internet' were even coined—there were gamers. They created proto-open source communities, sharing and building upon each other’s work. For many programmers, gaming led them to their careers. In this episode, we explore the creative free-for-all of early game development over ARPANET. Game development brings together a massive mix of creative and programming talent. But while creating video games started as an open process, a lot has changed. Hear how you can get involved in building our very own Command Line Heroes game—and in the spirit of games, hunt around for this episode’s Easter egg.
In Season 2 of Command Line Heroes, we’re living on the command line, tracking the changes that shape the world of open source development. We’re discovering the origins of programming languages; mastering the art of making a pull request; learning about supercomputers, hybrid clouds, and more. Where does that lead us? Great heights and beyond.
Episode 1 launches September 11th. Listen for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you do your thing.
Imagine a world where open source never caught on, where no one thought it’d be a good idea to make source code available to anyone. In this episode, we imagine this bizarre possibility. And we celebrate the open source tools and methodologies that got us where we are today.
Join us as we wrap up Season 1, an almost 30,000-foot view of how the open source world came to be. Next season, we’re zooming in and focusing on the epic struggles of today’s command line heroes.
“There is no cloud. It's just someone else's computer.” Or server, to be exact. Big cloud providers offer a relatively easy way to scale out workloads. But what’s the real cost?
In this episode, we talk about the battle in the clouds, where any winner is still very much up in the air. Major Hayden, Microsoft’s Bridget Kromhout, and others help us understand the storm that’s brewing and where that leaves open source developers.
The rise of Container technologies opens a new frontier for developers, simplifying the movement of work from machine to machine. As Containers become more popular, though, a new battle emerges. This race is for the control of orchestration and involves the industry’s fastest, strongest players.
Containers are one of the most important evolutions in the open-source movement and in this episode, featured guests Kelsey Hightower, Google developer advocate, and Laura Frank, Docker Captain and Director of Engineering at Code Ship, along with others, explain how this new technology is the building blocks of the future.
As the race to deliver applications ramps up, the wall between development and operations comes crashing down. When it does, those on both sides learn to work together like never before.
But what is DevOps, really? Developer guests, including Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman and Cindy Sridharan (better known as @copyconstruct) think about DevOps as a practice from their side of the wall, while members from various operations teams explain what they’ve been working to defend. Differences remain but with DevOps, teams are working better than ever. And this episode explores why that matters for the command line heroes of tomorrow.
It's the turn of the 21st century. Open source software is changing the tech landscape. But new patterns of work have now become necessary. Developers search for a revolutionary approach that will allow open source development to flourish. A group of developers convenes at a ski resort in Utah to craft such an approach. What emerges is a manifesto that changes everything.
Dave Thomas, one of the authors of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, brings us back to that now famous retreat where the agile revolution was first organized. Not everyone was as quick to sign on to this new approach, though, and in this episode, we hear why.
It's the 1990s. The empire of Microsoft controls 90% of users. Complete standardization of operating systems seems assured. But an unlikely hero arises from amongst the band of open source rebels. Linus Torvalds—meek, bespectacled—releases his Linux O.S. free of charge. While Microsoft reels and regroups, the battleground shifts from personal computers to the Internet.
Acclaimed tech journalist Steven Vaughan-Nichols is joined by a team of veterans who relive the tech revolution that reimagined our future.
The O.S. Wars. The 1980s is a period of mounting tensions. The empires of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs careen toward an inevitable battle over proprietary software—only one empire can emerge as the purveyor of a standard operating system for millions of users. Gates has formed a powerful alliance with IBM while Jobs tries to maintain the purity of his brand. Their struggle for dominance threatens to engulf the galaxy. Meanwhile, in distant lands, and unbeknownst to the Emperors, open source rebels have begun to gather…
Veterans from computer history, including Andy Hertzfeld, from the original Macintosh team, and acclaimed tech journalist Steven Levy, recount the moments of genius, and tragic flaws, that shaped our technology for decades to come.