Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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’.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Daniel Sarath

Digital marketing

5 Reasons Why You Should Try Freelancing after Graduation Top 10 Best Headphones For Workout You Probably Don’t Know The Stories Behind These 10 Common Tech Terms 6 Ways To Learn About An App’s Performance Before You Download It

Trending in Technology

1 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 2 7 Clever Goal Tracker Apps to Make the Most of Your Business in 2019 3 10 Smartest Productivity Software to Improve Your Work Performance 4 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2019 Updated) 5 16 Less Known Gmail Hacks That Will Super Boost Your Productivity

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 15, 2019

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

Joe’s Goals

Advertising

     

    Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

    Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

    Daytum

      Daytum

      is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

      Advertising

      Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

      Excel or Numbers

        If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

        What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

        Evernote

        Advertising

          I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

          Evernote is free with a premium version available.

          Access or Bento

            If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

            Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

            Advertising

            You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

            Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

            All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

            Conclusion

            I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

            What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

            Read Next