C. Sean Burns, PhD

The Text, Please. Just the text.

Keeping it Minimal

My 30 plus year history with computing has been a history of keeping things minimal.

In the 80s, I had a Tandy 1000 SL with, I think, MS-DOS 3.x. That computer lasted for about six or seven years, and I enjoyed it and learned a lot about computers by primarily using the DOS command line.

I brought my computer with me when I went to college in 1991, but I also used the computers in the college's library. I don't know what kind of computers these were, but what I really liked about them was that they had WordPerfect 5.1. Like the word processors we have today, I didn't use the vast majority of the functions WP 5.1 offered, but what I liked about it was that, like all DOS-based applications at the time, its interface was minimal. I felt comfortable and at home in that DOS minimalism, and have never stopped seeking or recreating it since.

My Tandy stopped booting sometime around 1994 or so, and I graduated at the end of 1995. I went several years without my own computer, but in 1998 I started working for a company and had to use a computer with Windows 95, and then later I bought my next computer, which had Windows 98.

The graphical user interface was entirely new to me, and I hated how busy it was. In the early 2000s, it occurred to me that it would be nice to install WP 5.1 on my computer so that I could have that full screen, single application interface that I found so appealing. By this time, it was already too late. WP 5.1 was gone, but in my search, I found other ways to recreate a minimal writing experience when I found Emacs, and then Vi/Vim, and of course, Linux. It's now been about 16 years since I first installed Linux.

The computing world had only grown more complicated and busy, but I still like to keep it as simple as I can. I use the i3 window manager, after having used ratpoison for years. I practically live in the terminal, and Bash, Vim, and Mutt are my primary applications. If I could only use w3m all of the time, I'd be even happier.