Detailed
Compact
Art
Reverse
August 11, 2020
The 10x Coder is often positioned as a mythical developer who can always save the day. Saron and Clive investigate how much of that myth is grounded in truth. Greg Sadetsky argues that coding is much like professional sports—some athletes are bound to be much better than those starting out. Brianna Wu and Bonnie Eisenman pick apart the myth by sharing how much they have had to clean up after supposed 10x Coders. Jonathan Solórzano-Hamilton recounts the story of "Rick," a self-proclaimed rockstar developer who assumed too much. And everyone considers the benefits of the 1x Coders—because what use is code without ideas and experiences to guide development?
July 28, 2020
Home office. Corporate park. Co-working space. Funland campus. Coders expect options when it comes to their workplace. The relocation of the average workspace from the office to the home has revealed the benefits of working from home—but also highlighted its tradeoffs. Saron Yitbarek and Clive Thompson continue their discussion of coding careers by considering workspaces. Mary Allen Wilkes shares her experience as the first developer to work from home. David Heinemeier Hansson argues remote work gives his colleagues time for deep thinking. Dave West explains why he believes face-to-face work still produces the best results. And Maude Mensah Simpson weighs the freedoms of the home office against missing opportunities for in-person interactions.
July 14, 2020
Command line heroes are software engineers, developers, programmers, systems administrators—coders. That variety in coding careers is almost as varied as the paths coders take to land their jobs. Saron Yitbarek and Clive Thompson start the season by exploring some ways coders start their tech careers—some common, many unexpected. Many choose to start with a degree in computer science. But don’t underestimate the maturing bootcamp tracks, the mid-to-late-career switchers, and coders from outside the insulated tech hubs. You might be surprised who answers the call to code, where they come from—and how much they’ve already accomplished.
June 30, 2020
After four seasons of epic tales about how command line heroes have shaped the tech landscape, we're tackling a new topic: the job itself. Season 5 covers the job of being a coder. How coding careers begin. How the job is done. How it’s changed. And how coders are shaping its evolution. Clive Thompson, tech journalist and friend of the podcast, joins us for this 3-episode mini-season. Clive shares his insights from the over 200 interviews he’s conducted with coders: programmers, developers, software engineers, sysadmins, and more. The first episode drops July 14, 2020. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates.
May 5, 2020
Steve Wozniak (aka Woz) has had a tremendous effect on the world of hardware. Season 4 features many of the devices he’s designed, built, worked on, and been inspired by. But for Woz, what’s most important isn’t necessarily the devices he’s created—it’s how he built them. Woz recounts how his early tinkering led to a lifelong passion for engineering. He started learning about computers on a GE 225 in high school. Soon enough, he was designing improvements to computers he wanted to buy—eventually defining his mantra for simplicity in design. That philosophy helped him finish the Apple I after seeing the Altair 8800 at the Homebrew Computer Club, and to create the floppy drive for the Apple II. But what he’s proudest of these days is the recognition for his engineering accomplishments—and sharing them with the world.
April 21, 2020
Gaming consoles are pioneering machines. The Dreamcast pushed the limits of what even consoles could do. But that wasn’t enough to guarantee commercial success. Despite that failure, fans say no other console has accomplished so much. The Dreamcast was meant to restore Sega to its glory days. After the disappointing Saturn, Sega pitted two teams against each other to build a new console. Andrew Borman describes the Dreamcast as a generational leap in hardware. Jeremy Parish explains how big a departure its production was from Sega’s usual processes. Mineko Okamura provides an insider’s insight on developing the Dreamcast. Brian Bacino recounts the console’s massive U.S. launch. But despite record U.S. sales, Sega had to pull the plug on the Dreamcast. Too good to let die, homebrewers like Luke Benstead plugged it back in.
April 13, 2020
Steve Wozniak (aka Woz) has had a tremendous effect on the world of hardware. Season 4 features many of the devices he’s designed, built, worked on, and been inspired by. But for Woz, what’s most important isn’t necessarily the devices he’s created—it’s how he built them. Woz recounts how his early tinkering led to a lifelong passion for engineering. He started learning about computers on a GE 225 in high school. Soon enough, he was designing improvements to computers he wanted to buy—eventually defining his mantra for simplicity in design. That philosophy helped him finish the Apple I after seeing the Altair 8800 at the Homebrew Computer Club, and to create the floppy drive for the Apple II. But what he’s proudest of these days is the recognition for his engineering accomplishments—and sharing them with the world.
April 7, 2020
People never stop tinkering. Hardware hacking didn’t disappear after personal computers became mainstream. But it did change. A new generation of artists, designers, and activists are banding together to change the world—with open source hardware. Hardware hacking used to be expensive and time-consuming. Adaptable microcontrollers are making tinkering much easier. But even as the barriers to entry started falling, the practices around selling hardware have continued to veer toward secrecy. Ayah Bdeir, Alicia Gibb, and Limor Fried are working to keep hardware open. These leaders share how they helped build the open source hardware movement, and navigated fierce disagreements to make engineering accessible to all.
March 24, 2020
Few could imagine what a handheld computer would look like—or even do. But a trio of visionaries saw where computing was headed. To succeed in this new frontier, though, they would need to create everything from scratch, and throw out the conventional wisdom on hardware. Their creation, the PalmPilot, went on to break sales records. It showed the world what was possible and it helped people realize that the value in tech was shifting once again. But when the tech bubble burst and new competitors entered the market, Palm’s grip on the handheld computing industry began to slip.
March 17, 2020
Moving from punch cards and paper tape to floppies wasn’t straightforward. Hear the story of An Wang, who pushed computer storage technology forward.
March 10, 2020
The floppy disk was one of the greatest breakthroughs in computing. It helped spin up the software industry with a format that endured for decades. And in some cases, it’s conserved treasures once thought to be lost forever. Before floppy disks came along, computing was weighed down by punch cards and magnetic tapes. Steven Vaughan-Nichols describes the magnitude of the changes brought by the floppy disk. Dave Bennet explains how the need for permanent storage, which was also easily mailable, led to the first 8-inch drives. George Sollman recalls how he was tasked with creating a smaller floppy, and what unexpected sources inspired the next design. And when Sollman showed it to the Homebrew Computer Club, a couple of this season’s usual suspects asked him to see more. And the rest is history. Or is it? Matthew G. Kirschenbaum points out that floppy disks are still in use in some unexpected places. And Jason Scott and Tony Diaz tell us how they brought some source code from the sneakernet to the cloud.
March 3, 2020
Forrest Mims had a lot to say about Ed Roberts. Hear more stories about Ed's meeting with Paul Allen and Bill Gates, and the partnership they started.
February 25, 2020
The Altair 8800 is why we have computers in most homes today. It was initially designed for hobbyists. But a few visionaries saw massive potential in this strange little machine—and worked hard to make others see it too. What they created led to so much more than anyone could have ever imagined. Forrest Mims tells us how his co-founder, Ed Roberts, planned to save their struggling electronics company. His idea? A microcomputer made for hobbyists. That computer led to a fateful phone call from Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Dan Sokol and Lee Felsenstein recall the unveiling of the Altair 8800 at the Homebrew Computer Club, and how it sparked Steve Wozniak’s eureka moment for the Apple I. We then hear from John Markoff about an infamous software heist that set the stage for the debate about whether code should be proprietary. And finally, Limor Fried reflects on how this story continues to influence today’s open source hardware movement.
February 18, 2020
In the 1960s, Dartmouth saw the GE 225 as a massive opportunity for its students. Hear how a few faculty members and students made the mainframe widely accessible.
February 11, 2020
The computing industry started booming after World War II. General Electric’s CEO refused to enter that market. But a small team of rebel employees bent the rules to forge on in secret. They created the GE 225. It was a giant leap in engineering that pushed computing from a niche market to the mainstream—sowing the seeds for today’s tech industry. Before the creation of general-purpose mainframes, computers were often built to perform a single function. William Ocasio recalls how GE’s first specialized computers, the ERMA, helped banks process thousands of transactions per day. John Joseph recounts how a few key GE employees hoodwinked their CEO into creating a computing department. Tomas Kellner explains how their work resulted in a revolutionary machine—the GE 225. And Joy Lisi Rankin describes how engineers at Dartmouth College adapted the GE 225 for time-sharing and used it to create BASIC—major milestones in making computing more accessible.
February 4, 2020
The Soul of a New Machine is a bestselling book that almost wasn’t. Hear about the obstacles author Tracy Kidder had to overcome in order to bring his engineering classic to life.
January 28, 2020
They don’t fit in your pocket. But in their day, minicomputers were an order of magnitude smaller than the room-sized mainframes that preceded them. And they paved the way for the personal computers that could fit in a bag and, eventually, the phones in your pocket. 16-bit minicomputers changed the world of IT in the 1970s. They gave companies the opportunity for each engineer to have their own machines. But it wasn’t quite enough, not until the arrival of 32-bit versions. Carl Alsing and Jim Guyer recount their work at Data General to create a revolutionary new 32-bit machine. But their now-legendary work was done in secret. Codenamed “Eagle,” their machine was designed to compete with one being built by another team in their own company. These engineers recall the corporate politics and intrigue required to keep the project going—and how they turned restrictions into advantages. Neal Firth discusses life on an exciting-but-demanding project. One where the heroes worked together because they wanted to, without expectations of awards or fame. And all three discuss how this story was immortalized in the non-fiction engineering classic, The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder.
January 14, 2020
No one ever said hardware was easy. In Season 4, Command Line Heroes is telling 7 special stories about people and teams who dared to change the rules of hardware and in the process changed how we all interact with technology. The first episode drops January 28, 2020. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates and bonus content.
October 1, 2019
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.
September 17, 2019
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.
September 3, 2019
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.
August 20, 2019
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.
August 6, 2019
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.
July 23, 2019
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. JavaScript was the underdog that won against all odds. Clive Thompson recounts the browser wars and how much the fallout influenced the future of the internet. Charles Severance explains how JavaScript went from a last-minute moonshot to the default web development language. Michael Clayton confesses he, like many others, underestimated JavaScript. And Klint Finley describes a gloomy internet without it.
July 9, 2019
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.
June 25, 2019
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.
June 11, 2019
Command Line Heroes is back for Season 3. We’re exploring the epic history of programming languages and how communities affect their development. We're talking Python, learning about JavaScript, and diving into Perl. And that’s just our “Hello, World” for Season 3. The first episode drops June 25. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter.
December 18, 2018
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?
December 17, 2018
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.
December 4, 2018
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.
November 20, 2018
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.
November 6, 2018
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.
October 23, 2018
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.
October 9, 2018
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.
September 24, 2018
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.
September 11, 2018
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.
August 28, 2018
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.
March 27, 2018
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.
March 13, 2018
“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.
February 27, 2018
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.
February 13, 2018
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.
January 30, 2018
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.
January 16, 2018
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.
January 16, 2018
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.
December 1, 2017
Introducing a show about the developers, programmers, hackers, geeks, and open source rebels who are shaping our digital future.
    15
    15
      0:00:00 / 0:00:00