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You Probably Don’t Know The Stories Behind These 10 Common Tech Terms

You Probably Don’t Know The Stories Behind These 10 Common Tech Terms

Words like ‘spam’, ‘mouse’ and ‘hacker’ are ones that we instantly associate with technology. As we tend to use them very regularly in a world dominated by tech, they have become a natural part of our lexicon. They are so natural, in fact, that we rarely question where these terms originate or why they have been used to describe technology. Why has the device to control a computer’s cursor been named after a small rodent? How has the name of canned processed meat become a way to describe unwanted messages? There are fascinating stories behind many of these common tech terms that you probably didn’t know. We look at ten of the most popular and find out their origins.

1. Hacker

Hacking is a word now synonymous with the dark side of the internet. It’s a common tech term that describes a computer user who breaks into software and uses its data. However, the origins of the word ‘hacking’ are remarkably different. In the past, it was used to describe someone who was a tech guru. The book ‘Piracy Cultures‘ says that the term was first applied to tech in the 1980s and meant someone who “works like a hack at writing and experimenting with software, one who enjoys computer programing for its own sake”. Some people have attempted to reclaim its original meaning, calling those who break into software ‘crackers’ instead.

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2. Robot

It’s hardly a surprise to find out that robots have their origins in science fiction. However, the work of fiction to coin the common tech term was not a H.G. Wells or Philip K. Dick story; it was a Czech language play from 1921. It was called ‘R.U.R.‘ and told the story of a factory that makes artificial people who eventually rise up to wipe out the human race. Today, a robot is no longer just a science fiction character, though. Robots are now a reality and are being used in fields like military and healthcare. Furthermore, the play’s writer Karel Capek’s vision of the future might not have been too far off. Bill Gates believes that they will one day be an essential part of every company, forcing many humans out of a job.

3. Meme

Everyone has seen a meme in some shape or form. A meme is any form of information that is imitated across the internet, be it a link, image or video. However, while we’ve all experienced a meme, many of us don’t know the story behind its name. This common tech term was coined by none other than Richard Dawkins who used the word in his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene‘. Of course, this was many years before Good Guy Greg or the Harlam Shake. Therefore, Dawkins could never have anticipated its widespread use across the internet. However, it still bares resemblance to the original meaning: the way cultural information spreads. Dawkin adapted it from the Greek word ‘mimeme’ which describes a thing that’s imitated, and it is also closely related to the French word ‘même’ which means ‘same’.

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4. Bug

Most people believe that the common tech term ‘bug’ came from computer programmer Grace Hopper, who literally found a bug in her system. Hopper was working on Harvard University’s electromechanical computer in 1947 when she found a dead moth in the relay. Ever since, any technical hiccup became known as a bug. However, Hopper and her staff weren’t the first to use it; that would have been Thomas Edison. In 1873, aged 26, he called a fault with his quadruplex telegram system a ‘bug’. He wrote in his notebook: “Awful lot of bugs still.” His journals showed that he continued to use the word throughout his career, too.

5. Spam

Every time you get an email telling you you’ve “won the lottery” and you mark it as ‘spam’, you have the British comedians Monty Python to thank for its name. The common tech term for copious amounts of junk messages derives from a sketch in which everything in a cafe contains spam. One disgruntled woman insists that she doesn’t like spam, and soon the patrons begin to relentlessly chant and sing the word ‘spam’. The sketch remained popular even in the internet age and the word was later used to describe annoying and unwanted stuff that’s everywhere.

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6. Hive

On the Windows Registry, a database that stores configuration settings for operating systems, branches are stored in numerous disk files called hives. The origin of this common tech term is something of a practical joke that existed among Microsoft employees. One of the developers was so afraid of bees that the people responsible for the registry decided to fill it with bee references. To make fun of him, they called the area where data is stored ‘cells’ and the files themselves became ‘hives’. The name has stuck ever since.

7. Mouse

Douglas Engelbart, the creator of the mouse who passed away last year, never really opened up about the origins of its name. He claimed that no one could remember why they chose it, except the device bared a slight resemblance to a mouse with a tail. However, a hardware designer who worked on the technology at the time, Roger Bates, has a slightly different recollection. He wrote in his book ‘What The Dormouse Said‘ that the cursor on the screen used to be called a CAT. The navigational device was called a ‘mouse’ because it would chase the cursor.

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8. Blog

A programmer of games and educational software, John Barger, decided to create a website in 1997 to share his thoughts on whatever he so desired. He wrote about computing, artificial intelligence and James Joyce. He called the website a “weblog”, seeing as it logged his thoughts and feelings via the web. Two years later, the term was reworked by Peter Merholz who shortened it down to just ‘blog’ for his own personal site. It became a common tech term later that year when Pyra Labs decided to create a website that would allow people to set up their own similar online journals and called it Blogger. It remains a popular platform for blogging today. Meanwhile, the act itself is a pastime that millions of people all over the globe have engaged in.

9. Cookies

The inventor of the cookie, Lou Montulli, explained why he chose the word ‘cookies’ to describe small pieces of information stored on websites. “I had heard the term ‘magic cookie’ from an operating systems course from college,” he wrote on his blog. “The term has a somewhat similar meaning to the way Web Cookies worked and I liked the term ‘cookies’ for aesthetic reasons.” So where did the term magic cookies come from? There’s no explanation, but it’s believed to have derived from an old arcade video game in which players collect them to progress.

10. Firewall

In the real world, a firewall is a barrier that has been designed inside a building to protect it in the event of a fire. In technology, it works in much the same way. It’s a digital barrier that protects software from external problems getting in and causing damage. Although it’s now a common tech term, the word was used in a technological sense for the first time in 1988 by the Digital Equipment Corporation, who published a paper about a filter system known as packet filter firewalls.

Featured photo credit: Stuart Anthony via flickr.com

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Daniel Sarath

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

Computers and cell phones have become an integrated tool in our professional and personal lives that the original methods of using pen and paper may not be so common anymore.

Although our old-school methods of note taking may not have entirely left us, technology is advancing with no intention of slowing down; iPads are moving into service industries, video calls are taking the place of in-person interviews, and store receipts are making its way into our email inbox – all of which requires the skill of typing.

Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be boring and never had to be. Thankfully, there are effective games and apps that can help you learn to type fast with swift precision and accuracy.

Why Typing Fast Matters?

Learning how to type fast is a game changer. In fact, you can save 21 days per year by typing fast!

Although shaving several minutes from curating a long email or texting paragraphs in a text message may not seem to be of great significance, the minutes soon do eventually add up and the long list of tasks then evolve into frustration. By the end of the day, time is being wasted, and the work pile is stacked high over your head.

Why not alleviate some of those frustrations through practice and dedicating your spare time to build muscle memory?

Learning a simple skillset like speed typing can drastically improve other essential areas in life including time-management and prioritization. Not only does it help you efficiently complete tasks at work and in your personal life, but it also boosts your productivity.

8 Most Effective Typing Games and Apps

Everyone learns at different speeds and uses various methods. While some work better under pressure and tight deadlines, others thrive when given ample amounts of time to learn and soak in the knowledge that is being provided. Despite the number of resources that are available in the hollow corners of the internet, it’s all about finding one source that helps you learn at your fullest potential.

Whether you’re a keyboard ninja or not, here are some effective typing games and apps that allow you to test your speed, accuracy, and maybe shoot some spaceships along the way.

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For Beginners

1. Speed Typing Online

    What’s more fun than to type to the story of Alice in Wonderland or the lyrics to “Hey Jude”? Speed Typing Online is an online typing game that allows you to dive into the creative and familiar world of famous books, fables, songs, and even hone your skills in data entry.

    The bright blue frame holds the text, which then turns green after punching in the accurate keystrokes. After the end of the personal timer, a statistics page appears to show you your typed words per minute, accuracy, correct and incorrect entries, and error rate.

    2. Typing Trainer

      Typing Trainer

      is another online platform suited for beginner typists looking for step-by-step lessons. Learning the keys on a keyboard can confusing especially for those who aren’t as familiar or getting adjusted to typing on a computer keyboard.

      Typing Trainer has a collection of step-by-step tutorials that covers everything from sentence drills, introduction to new keys as the lessons progress, and skills test. The Typing Trainer specifically highlights unique features in each lesson including a warm-up section where the user begin to build muscle memory and learn to type without looking at the keyboard.

      The website is also programed to identify difficulties the user is facing when typing specific words or sentences.

      3. TapTyping – Typing Trainer

        There is the feeling of physically typing on a keyboard and then there’s the feeling of typing on a touch screen mobile device.

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        Since the use of cell phones has become closely integrated into our everyday lives, learning to type on a mobile is much of a skillset as it is to type on a computer. The mobile typing app, TapTyping – Typing Trainer, allows users to practice while on-the-go making it perfect for commuters who want to practice typing during their down time.

        The app allows you to challenge other typists around the world with TapTyping’s global leaderboard and test your skills by taking advanced lessons. There’s always room for improvement and with the app, you’ll be able to find your mistakes by watching a heat map of your finger strokes.

        For professional writers and programmers

        4. The Most Dangerous Writing App

          Suitable for writers facing a creative block or on a tight-deadline, the Most Dangerous Writing App is a website that forces your fingers to type as quickly as your ideas.

          If you stop longer than 5 seconds, everything you had written will slowly disappear from the screen.

          Sessions are timed from 3 minutes to 20 minutes, or can go from 75 to 1667 words. This online app is perfect to brain dump ideas, write a chapter of a manuscript you’ve been stuck on, or help with procrastination.

          If you’re up to the challenge, try the hardcore mode – an alternative option where a single letter appears on the screen at a time. This level prevents you from seeing the entire word, sentences, or even correct any spelling or grammatical mistakes until the timer is complete.

          If you’re wondering, copying and pasting is not an option until each the end of each session.

          5. The Typing Cat

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            Looking to upgrade your typing skills? Also working as a personal tutor, the Typing Cat has a list of regular typing courses with the option to try other lessons with more complexity such as HTML. Learning to type code is a another valulable skillset worth adding.

            Even with disregarded interest in the coding world, using the code course enhances your typing skills and allows your fingers to familiarize itself with uncommon word combinations and placement of punctuations on a keyboard.

            The coding course can be difficult even for typing whizzes, but it’s all a part of muscle memory. According Psychology Today,[1] only a handful of people actually learn how to type by looking at an actual keyboard, while a majority of the population locate specific keys intuitively through muscle memory.

            Available courses include EcmaScript 6, HTML 5, and CSS 3.

            Fun typing games

            6. ZType — Space Invaders Meet Webster

              Remember playing the iconic 70’s game that allowed you to shoot tiny purple and green aliens from one end of the screen to the other with a two-bullet laser? It’s hard to believe that Space Invaders just turned 40 , but you can still get the same adrenaline rush with ZType, a typing game with the same shooting concept.

              Ztype works in waves – stages that must be cleared but instead of aliens, you must type out the words before the missiles destroy your ship at the bottom of the screen. Every so often, longer and mor complex words would appear and if the words are not typed in the allotted time, a series of letters will disperse like missles.

              The game is quick on the fingers and will still have your heart pumping until the very end.

              7. Epistory – Typing Chronicles

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                Although this game does cost money to purchase, it is worth the investment if you’re looking for a refreshing and alternative mode to learning how to type fast.

                Epistory – Typing Chronicles is a role-playing action and adventure game of a young girl riding a fox in a magical and fictional realm; together they combat enemies in the shapes and forms of words.

                Once you’re starterted, you almost forget you’re playing a typing game. The paper craft art aesthetics of the game has you captivated by the vibrant colors and character’s storyline, while having you build your typing skills.

                8. Daily Quote Typing

                  Need some inspiration? Say no more.

                  Daily Quote Typing is one of many gammes available on Wordgames.com – a website that offers a variety of typing games ranging from different levels based on your experience.

                  With Daily Quote Typing, users are able to type out inspirational quotes by famous leaders, inventors, and innovators such as Mark Twain and Albert Einstein.

                  Bottom Line

                  At the end of the day, discipline and patience is what teaches to type faster. It comes down to making that commitment to improving not only your typing abilities, but in a lifelong skill that benefits other areas in life.

                  By practicing daily and using effective games and apps, it’s only a matter of time before keystrokes will become second nature and your brain will adapt to learning other skills faster.

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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