At the heart of every modern Mac and Linux computer is the “terminal.” The terminal evolved from the text-based computer terminals of the 1960s and ’70s, which themselves replaced punch cards as the main way to interact with a computer. It’s also known as the command shell, or simply “shell.” Windows has one, too, but it’s called the “command prompt” and is descended from the MS-DOS of the 1980s.
Mac, Linux and Windows computers today are mainly controlled through user-friendly feature-rich graphical user interfaces (GUIs), with menus, scroll bars and drag-and-drop interfaces. But all of the basic stuff can still be accomplished by typing text commands into the terminal or command prompt. Using Finder or Explorer to open a folder is akin to the
cd command (for “change directory”). Viewing the contents of a folder is like
ls (short for “list,” or
dir in Microsoft’s command prompt). And there are hundreds more for moving files, editing files, launching applications, manipulating images, backing up and restoring stuff, and much more.