Fifty years ago some very hard core computer nerds at Bell Labs started punching cards with PDP-11 assembly code. This was the genesis of Unix.

That was a long time ago and things that old surely have no relevance today, right? Wrong!

Maybe you own one of those popular fruity computers — they run Unix.

Maybe you’re interested in doing something with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud — those VMs should run Unix. Or maybe you have an account on a proper high quality web host — which mostly use Unix.

Maybe you want to play with a Raspberry Pi — as I recently noted, they are very cool and should run Unix.

Maybe you’ve screwed up your computer and you need very competent rescue tools to bail you out — you probably need Unix.

Or you want to be a cool hax0r dude — Unix will be extremely helpful for that. Maybe you’re trying to defend yourself from the hax0r dudes or trying to protect your privacy — I think Unix is essential for that. The Department of Defense agrees. The North Korean government does too.

Maybe you’ve figured out how to break into your telephone and wrest control from its predatory corporate masters — Android and iOS use Unix. Same with Chrome OS.

Maybe you’re trying to get a job with a cool company — maybe a major animation studio or NASA or SpaceX or Tesla. Or if not cool, at least lucrative, like finance technology or one of those handful of tech companies that controls your life — Unix everywhere!

It’s not just elite esoteric technology that favors Unix. I personally use Unix for everything I do with a computer all of the time. From writing software and building robotic vehicles to playing games and watching dumb YouTube videos, these days I use Debian Linux with the MATE window manager. I marvel at the patience and submissiveness of people abused by their non-Unix systems. There is a better way!

Unix is everywhere and ever chipping away at the bad non-Unix operating systems that persist like stubborn bathroom stains. Unix is an ancient technology that you can invest in learning knowing that you can leverage its power for the foreseeable future. So how much would you pay for this amazing product? Amazingly it is also (usually) publicly-licensed and utterly free in all senses of the word. The only price of admission is you learning about it and building skill with it.

Given that Unix is already extremely prevalent in today’s computing landscape and the fact that it is absurdly useful, it always suprises me when people have no idea about even the rudimentary basics. To do what I can to help with that, I have recently compiled a compendium of Unix commands that are useful to me. If you are a casual user, they might be worth having a quick look at. If you have a computer science degree or are some kind of computer professional, then it is essential (by my definition of the word "professional") that you be familiar with the whole list.

Chris' list of helpful Unix commands:

I started using Unix in 1987. (On a PC in 1990!) That’s a long time to use a particular computing technology. However, I’m hoping I’ve got that many more years of use still left because I will probably be using Unix for the rest of my life. I hope you can too.