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The Real Stories Behind Some Common Technological Terms

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Many of the words used today to describe common technological terms have double meanings. These words are so commonplace now that it seems hard to figure out how they were associated with modern day technology. Here are seven of the most common terms, which have been adapted to represent their computer counterparts and how they were linked to forever change our computer vocabulary.

1. Spam

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The word is mostly used to define junk email but is originally the name of a lunch meat. It became synonymous with wasted email due to an old sketch from the comedy show Monty Python. In the sketch, there was a diner with Spam in every dish and the characters sang the word “spam” out loud several times throughout the show. Soon it was used in Internet chat rooms and has since been used to describe annoying, repetitive things that people don’t want.

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2. Mouse

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We all know this navigational device, without which our home computer system would be incomplete but no one, not even the inventor, knows for sure where the name came from. In a 1968 conference, Douglas Engelbart said that he did not know where the origin of the term came from. He said that “looked like a mouse with a tail, and we all called it that in the lab.” But Roger Bates who was working along with Engelbart said that they called the cursor on the screen a “CAT”, and that since the cursor went wherever the device pointed, it became know as a mouse.

3. Meme

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This term has become increasingly common in social media and is used to describe a thought or action that has become viral on the Internet. The term comes from Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, in which he shortened the Greek word “mimeme” to “meme” so it would rhyme with the word gene. “Mimeme” means “imitated thing”. Also “meme” is also similar to the French word “même”, which means “same”.

4. Blog

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A blog is basically a personal website in which a person shares his thoughts and feelings with people on the Internet. This term is a shortened version of the original name, “weblog” (read web-log) which was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger. Barger used the term to describe his website which “logged his Internet wanderings”, and the word was soon truncated and is now known as the popular web pastime.

5. Hacker

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A word most commonly associated with someone who steals digital information. However, in the early days, the term was used to someone who was technologically literate or talented with electronics (not just computers). The origin of the term is descirbe in the book Piracy Cultures as “one who works like a hack at writing and experimenting with software.” So the term that we use to describe the virtual thieves is a misnomer. Positive hackers prefer to call these crooks “crackers”.

6. Firewall

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This software is a must nowadays, as it protects our computers from hackers, viruses and worms. The term is hundreds of years old and it originally means a wall that was designed to protect buildings from a spreading fire. The digital counterpart does just that – protecting our computers from spreading viruses and online threats.

7. Cookies

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We have all seen this term whenever we enter our browser’s settings, but there are some that do not know what it is. A cookie is a small piece of information which is stored every time you visit a website. The word is derived from an older computing term, “magic cookies”, which has the same basic meaning. The inventor of the web cookie, Lou Montulli, explained that he had heard the term “magic cookies” in a college class and used it to name his creation since he liked it for aesthetic reasons.

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