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Command Line Heroes

Command Line Heroes

Author: Red Hat

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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
45 Episodes
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Sometimes an inventor designs a device for a specific purpose. Sometimes it’s to try something new. But successful inventions often shape industries beyond those they initially intended. Dr. Marc Hannah built an invention with far bigger effects than anyone could have imagined—like bringing dinosaurs to life, building liquid robots, and letting the Titanic set sail one more time. Raqi Syed gives some context on the evolution of special effects in the movie industry. Mark Grossman explains how the graphics world was more than ready for an upgrade. Tom Davis recounts the difficulties that he and his team had getting people to understand what was possible with the Geometry Engine. Luckily, Steve “Spaz” Williams defied his bosses and showed them its power to bring worlds to life, starting with Jurassic Park. Camille Cellucci explains that from then on, everything changed for the movie industry—and for the broader world of graphics.For more on the history of computer graphics, Mark Grossman recommends this post. Steve "Spaz" Williams shared a short doc about the making of Jurassic Park. If you want to read up on some of our research on Dr. Marc Hannah, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. Follow along with the episode transcript.
Dr. Mark Dean has a superpower. He wasn’t born with it. He wasn’t exposed to high levels of radiation. It’s a power he learned from his father. And because of it, he was able to revolutionize the personal computer. David Bradley explains how in the 1980s, IBM had a reputation for building big, enterprise mainframes. No one believed IBM could make a competitive PC. But that’s exactly what “Project Chess” was tasked with creating. Tony Hey describes the monumental shift in strategy it was for IBM to enter the PC market. Pete Martinez and Dennis Moeller recount their days working with Mark on the skunkworks project. And how IBM's strategy for creating a computer in under a year changed the personal computing industry forever—opening it to innovators outside the walls of IBM. Mark Dean holds 3 of the 9 patents for the IBM 5150—the first IBM PC—including the revolutionary ISA bus. He then went on to lead the team that created the first gigahertz microprocessor, and eventually taught at the University of Tennessee. Mwamba Bowa shares her most cherished lesson from the inventor—how to cultivate that super power for herself. Clips of Mark Dean courtesy of Susan "Suze" Shaner,  Principal of Sage Leadership Strategies, from a Comcast Cable interview, November 2009,  and from the American Museum of Science & Energy featured talk,  August 2019.If you want to read up on some of our research on Dr. Mark Dean, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. Follow along with the episode transcript.
Aristotle and Eratosthenes are big names in geodesy. They got pretty close to measuring the size of the Earth. But the woman who got it done? She grew up a farmer, dreaming of something bigger. And her work changed how we see the world.Dr. Gladys West didn’t have much room for error in her quest for higher education. Marvin Jackson recounts the obstacles in her path—and the challenges she faced in her early career. Gavin Schrock traces how geodesy progressed before Dr. West, and how foundational her work was for the GPS systems that followed. Paul Ceruzzi describes the state-of-the-art technology available at Dahlgren that helped Dr. West model the world. Todd Humphreys explains how that model, and the GPS systems that use it, support our way of life in more ways than we realize.It’s an astounding story that may never have been told if it hadn’t been for Gwen James, Dr. West’s Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sister. She makes the case for telling these stories before they’re lost—because there are definitely more of them out there.If you want to read up on some of our research on Dr. Gladys West, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. Follow along with the episode transcript.
Many of us grew up playing cartridge-based games. But there's few who know the story behind how those cartridges came to be. And even fewer who know the story of the man behind them: Jerry Lawson. Few people realized how his vision would change video games. Jenny List explains how before Jerry Lawson, a console could only play one game. Benj Edwards describes how Lawson partnered with a pair of engineers to design a console with swappable cartridges. Pong creator Al Alcorn recounts the FCC limitations on Lawson’s Fairchild Channel F—and recognizes Lawson’s immense contributions to the gaming industry. And those in the know, like Jeremy Saucier, advocate for sharing Lawson’s story.Because Lawson’s story was almost lost, he was recently recognized by Joseph Saulter at the Games Developer’s Conference—thanks to the work of journalist John William Templeton. And his children, Anderson and Karen Lawson, share how passionate Jerry was about electronics—and how much it meant that he finally got the recognition he deserved.If you want to read up on some of our research on Jerry Lawson, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. Follow along with the episode transcript.
Inventors don’t always get the credit they deserve, even for world-changing breakthroughs.  Season 6 of Command Line Heroes tells the stories of ingenious inventors who haven’t been given their full due. These heroes did nothing less than create new industries, dazzle our imaginations, and reshaped the world as we know it.  The first episode drops on October 13, 2020. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates.  
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? If you want to read up on some of our research on 10x coders, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. Follow along with the episode transcript.
Where Coders Code

Where Coders Code

2020-07-2832:282

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. If you want to read up on some of our research on workspaces, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. Follow along with the episode transcript.
Becoming a Coder

Becoming a Coder

2020-07-1433:186

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. If you want to read up on some of our research on coding careers, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. Follow along with the episode transcript.
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. Head over to redhat.com/commandlineheroes to catch up on seasons 1-4.
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.Follow along with the episode transcript.
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.  If you want to read up on some of our research on the Dreamcast, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode.   Slight correction: While the Dreamcast did have a keyboard and mouse available, it did not have a full keyboard controller.   Follow along with the episode transcript.
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. If you want to read up on some of our research on open source hardware, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode. Follow along with the episode transcript.
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.   If you want to read up on some of our research on smart phones, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode.  Follow along with the episode transcript.
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. If you want to read up on some of our research on floppy disks, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode. Follow along with the episode transcript.
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. If you want to read up on some of our research on personal computers, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode. Follow along with the episode transcript .
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. If you want to read up on some of our research on mainframes, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes . You’ll find extra content for every episode. Follow along with the episode transcript.
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. If you want to read up on some of our research on minicomputers, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode. Follow along with the episode transcript.
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.
The C Change

The C Change

2019-10-0125:3520

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.That's all for Season 3. If you want to dive deeper into C and UNIX, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode. Follow along with the episode transcript. Subscribe to the newsletter for more stories and to be among the first to see announcements about the podcast. See you soon for Season 4.
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.If you want to dive deeper into LISP and the origins of artificial intelligence, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode.Follow along with the episode transcript.
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Comments (69)

Beatrix Ducz

inspiration not only for young, but old girls as well to try to leave a mark upon life. #girlscode

Nov 18th
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Milad

I can't wait!!

Sep 29th
Reply

Cat Foster

I've always been interested in programming, but never thought I could do it. I thought that listen to a podcast about it my help me understand it better and make me more comfortable with it. I didn't expect to fall in love with programming or this podcast, but I am falling hard. Much love!

Sep 17th
Reply

Milad

it was awesome!

Jul 14th
Reply

.N!M4

what have happen to this podcast?

Jun 2nd
Reply

Lorenzo Fiorini

O_O this was my face when she said she does manufacturing in downtown Manhattan

May 27th
Reply

James Abreu Mieses

Awesome show.

Jan 28th
Reply

Goodwine Carlos

woot!

Jan 16th
Reply

.N!M4

Oh god! I’m starving to hear this season

Jan 15th
Reply

Dylan Quinones-Mattei

Wow what is wrong with people being white? If the agile group what just african americans this episode would have no mention of diversity and its impact on this subject. Very biased and subjective to this time in history. Terrible episode.

Jan 14th
Reply (1)

Alfredo Arias

great episode, thanks!

Jan 1st
Reply (1)

Indrajeet Javeri

Awsome Podcast

Dec 28th
Reply

Manuj Bhalla

Cost of serverless is more if you are trying to create a high TPS service with API gateway + lambda and cold starts need to be considered. Generally in this scenario an auto scaling group of EC2 or ECS/Fargate containers can optimize cost

Dec 15th
Reply

rastapasta420👌

The third episode and you're already ham-fisting in diversity into an unrelated thing. "Agile was made by a white guy," so what? Build something better yourself before you tear somebody else's work down.

Oct 26th
Reply

Masih Zarafshan

loved it

Oct 26th
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Saurabh AV

Very nice podcast, makes me feel proud of being part of a programmers legacy!

Oct 1st
Reply

Joshua

seems like an intriguing podcast 😁

Sep 9th
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Kodiak Firesmith

great series!

Sep 8th
Reply (1)

Lawson C

love it😀😄😄😄😀😀😀😁

Aug 19th
Reply

yashar esmaildokht

very nice podcast

Aug 6th
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