Archives » December 17th, 2003

December 17, 2003


In Biculturalism, Joel Spolsky has written an insightful little article on the difference between Unix and Windows programmers, and by extension the reason Unix is so clunky to use on the desktop.

What are the cultural differences between Unix and Windows programmers? There are many details and subtleties, but for the most part it comes down to one thing: Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers.

This is, of course, a major simplification, but really, that’s the big difference: are we programming for programmers or end users? Everything else is commentary…

The cultural schism is so sharp that Unix has never really made any inroads on the desktop. Aunt Marge can’t really use Unix, and repeated efforts to make a pretty front end for Unix that Aunt Marge can use have failed, entirely because these efforts were done by programmers who were steeped in the Unix culture…So here we are, 20 years after Unix developers started trying to paint a good user interface on their systems, and we’re still at the point where the CEO of the biggest Linux vendor is telling people that home users should just use Windows.