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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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Last Updated on December 30, 2018

18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2019 Updated)

18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2019 Updated)

No one can dispute the countless benefits technology has brought us. It’s undoubtedly allowed us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources beyond what was once imaginable.

If you’re not taking advantage of one of the hundreds of time management apps and tools out there, you’re definitely missing a trick.

But with so many apps to choose from, how do you know which ones to use? Well, this will depend on your needs, but we’ve put together a list of 18 of the very best time management apps that can help you with the most common time management challenges.

Let’s dive straight into the list…

1. Rescue Time — Use your time wisely

    If you have doubts that you’re using your time sensibly, this app will send you weekly reports to indicate what things are stealing your time. You may be shocked to discover how much time you’re actually wasting.

    Download Rescue Time

    2. Remember The Milk — Keep on top of all your tasks

      If you’re struggling to manage everything you have to do, and you work with many different devices, then this is the app for you. It’s a great free tool which is compatible with your mobile, computer, Gmail, Outlook, etc. It helps you to manage your tasks easily, and reminds you of them – wherever you are.

      Download Remember the Milk

      3. Focus Booster – Boost motivation to complete tasks

        This app is based on the principles of the Pomodoro Technique, and is aimed at individuals who procrastinate and feel overwhelmed by tasks. It’s designed to enhance your focus and remove any anxiety you might have with time pressures.

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        Download Focus Booster

        4. Toggl – Keep track of time spent on projects and tasks

          This is a great alternative to time-sheets, if you need to track how much time you spend on different projects. Effective time management starts with being clear on exactly how much time you actually spend on your projects and tasks, and then through analysis, working out how you can manage them more effectively.

          Download Toggl

          5. Dropbox — Store and send large files easily

            There are many apps that allow you to transfer content from your computer to other devices – but Dropbox is free and easier to use than the others. With the Dropbox app, you can even access and share important files on the go.

            Download Dropbox

            6. Evernote — Keep all your notes in one place

              Evernote is a free productivity tool that allows you to capture all your ideas, thoughts and images in many different ways (e.g., with voice, notes or images).  You can even record your meetings, interviews, speeches and ideas, create lists, add voice or text attachments, and share your files with friends. You can also sync Remember The Milk with Evernote to really optimize your time.

              Download Evernote

              7. Mind42 — Focus on tasks at hand with mind mapping

                Mind mapping is a great productivity technique, and Mind42 is the best free mind mapping app currently available. It helps you to become more organized by focusing your thoughts – thereby gaining clarity on what needs to be done.

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                Download Mind42

                8. SyncBackFree — Back up and sync your files effortlessly

                  This free software allows you to back up, restore and synchronize your files easily. It not only saves you time now – but also in the future. If you have never backed up your files before, you should definitely take a look at this pivotal tool.

                  Download SnycBackFree

                  9. MyLifeOrganized (MLO) — Manage your to-do lists effectively

                    Check this out if you find it difficult to manage all your tasks, to work with your to-do lists, and to organize your goals. This task management system helps you to target what you should be focusing on to reach your objectives. It automatically generates to-do lists, with priority actions for your immediate attention so that you can track your progress methodically.

                    Download MyLifeOrganized (MLO)

                    10. 1Password — Have all your passwords remembered

                      This app allows you to keep all your passwords in one encrypted database, protected by one password. This saves you time when you forget your passwords and need to retrieve them. It also allows you to use various passwords for different accounts so you don’t compromise on security.

                      Download 1Password

                      11. Pocket — Keep your eye on the ball

                        When you’re surfing the web, it’s easy to get distracted by enticing and fascinating websites. Use this tool to save your ‘finds’ to access and read later on at a convenient time which will not impact on your immediate work.

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                        Download Pocket

                        12. [email protected] — Boost your attention span

                          This amazing app combines neuroscience and music to boost your productivity. According to the developers, it’s possible to increase your attention span by up to 400%! Ideal for those who find it difficult to focus while studying, working or reading.

                          Download [email protected]

                          13. Launchy — Interact with your computer in a smart way

                            This small and simple tool allows you to launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes. This makes life so much easier as you don’t need to go through the start menu to access what you want.

                            Download Launchy

                            14. Forest — Boost your focus by growing a forest

                              This unique and fun app helps you stay focused and on-track. The concept is simple: whenever you want to focus, plant a virtual tree. If you stay focused, the tree will grow. If you lose focus, the tree will die. As the app’s name implies, you can grow multiple trees to create a virtual forest!

                              Download Forest

                              15. Trello — Track your projects in a highly visual way

                                This is a hugely popular app that you may already be familiar with. It works by allowing you to create cards for tasks that you need to complete. Each card moves across the Trello board (which is typically broken into columns such as To Do, In Progress, and Completed) as your start, work on and complete the associated task.

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                                Download Trello

                                16. Wunderlist — Digitalize your to-do lists

                                  Purchased by Microsoft in 2015, Wunderlist is an easy to use, feature-packed to-do list app. From planning a holiday, to sharing a shopping list with a partner, or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist will keep you on top of all your tasks.

                                  Download Wunderlist

                                  17. TimeTree — Have a shared calendar with your family

                                    This app allows families or teams to share multiple calendars and appointments. So, whether you’re planning a party, or run a local sports team, Time Tree can keep everyone up-to-date with all current and upcoming activities and events.

                                    Download Time Tree

                                    18. Todoist — Capture and order all your tasks and activities easily

                                      Todoist is close to being the ultimate digital to-do list. It’s available via browsers and apps, and lets you schedule all your tasks and activities. Each item can be flagged for priority as well as given a due date. There is also a neat option to add notes to any of your tasks.

                                      Download Todoist

                                      The above list covers what we consider to be the very best time management apps and tools. And the good news is – that many of them are completely free of charge! So, what are you waiting for? Select the ones that will be the most valuable to you – and begin boosting your productivity now!

                                      Oh, and one more thing… Take a look at a couple of our other articles that will help further streamline your time management:

                                      40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone and 20 Quick Tips For Better Time Management

                                      More Recommended Productivity Experts on Lifehack

                                      • Leon Ho — The Founder and CEO of Lifehack, which he share productivity hacks to make life easier
                                      • Carl Pullein — A renowned productivity and time management coach
                                      • Mark Pettit — A Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs who want to achieve more by working less

                                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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