Why It’s Time for a Renaissance of The Terminal

Why It’s Time for a Renaissance of The Terminal

HeavyBit’s Generationship Podcast: Reimagining The Terminal, conversation between Rachel Chalmers of Heavybit and Mike Sawka of Wave Terminal

Creator of Wave Terminal, Mike Sawka recently chatted about Wave with Rachel Chalmers on Heavybit's Generationship Podcast. The talk focuses on the terminal, how easily it's overlooked, and what's missing from the terminals we use today. Mike also shares insights into the origin story behind Wave, lessons learned from building a company and being persistent with your vision.

The problems with the Terminal

When Mike would ask terminal users if they have any problems at first they would say everything was great. But once they stopped to think about it they’d start listing the issues: copy and paste, lots of context switching, command history, disconnections, etc.

There has been little innovation in terminals and Mike puts this down to a "chicken and egg" situation. It comes down to the fact that there is a terminal and a shell and traditionally the terminal was a hardware terminal so all the "smarts" went into the shell. As Mike points out:

"Now if the shell wants to do something new, all the terminals have to support it and if the terminal wants to do something new the shells would need to support it so no one ever made any progress." With Wave, Mike is looking to break that 50 year old "chicken and egg" problem, allowing the terminal to be smart, independent of the shell. He approached it by thinking how a terminal would be designed from scratch with today’s technology.

The right ways AI can help developers be productive

If you were to set out to develop a terminal from scratch using today’s technology, AI and specifically the new GenAI technology available today would be powerful additions. "AI is going to be a big enhancement to developers" Mike says and then goes on to elaborate on 2 key aspects of programming where AI can help the most immediately:

  1. The Mechanical Aspect - help turning thoughts into code quickly or the mechanical transformation of what’s in developers’ heads into code

  2. The Recall Aspect - remembering functions, api functionality, etc. Traditionally senior engineers have been the guardrails for an organization’s best practices and AI can increasingly play a role here.

Programming is alive and well and we need to focus on using AI in the most effective ways, namely:

  • Reducing repetitive work

  • Helping people learn

  • Increasing institutional knowledge

The Terminal Renaissance

Mike finishes off the podcast sharing his love for Terminals and his vision for the future:

“I really want to see a renaissance of the terminal. I really want to see a shift back to the CLI from the web. I think a lot of applications have moved to the web and it is very siloed. What was so great about the terminal was commands could be composed and they could be scripted. If we can bring some of that UI goodness, some of this AI, some of these more interesting concepts to the Terminal we can really see the Terminal take off and be a new remade application.”

And of course Mike is rooting for Wave to do this and leading the way with the open source project and community. You can listen to the full podcast here: