Applying the Unix Philosophy: How to Write Code That Lasts in 2017

Tools

Marilyn C. Cole

The Unix philosophy of writing programs that do one thing well and are composable has left a lasting mark on computer science. Most of us use the command line every day. We try to write code that is modular, reusable, and simple. We understand that simple does not equal easy. We know that foundational components of the machines we use every day were written decades ago.

And yet: web development in the last ten years or so may feel to some like a possessed carousel spinning so fast that before you get familiar with one JS framework, it’s getting thrown off the side in favor of the next.

Some recommend simply learning how to learn as part of the solution for framework fatigue. “Learn to learn” has another meaning here as well; many engineers would recommend that learning for learning’s sake will make you a better developer. Plenty of people advise simply becoming accustomed to adapting to new frameworks.

While all of that is valuable, understanding essential JS, your code in general, and some of its strongest and most useful components will also help you create small and light pieces that compose and customize to your needs. Understanding a bit of the history of the command line tools we use every day will cement the understanding of how valuable these tenets are, and will give you a stronger appreciation of the gurus from the days of punch cards and room-sized mainframes that held less data than your watch. Let’s learn some of their lessons, adapted for our modern age.