Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Techonyms: 10 Words That Survived Generations X, Y, and Z



The other day my son asked me if he could borrow my laptop so that he could sync the music on it to his phone. As I handed it over, I marveled at the fact that I knew what he was talking about, although I came from the pre-internet age. Back then, computers were as big as bedrooms, and creating digital hearts on a monitor screen in computer class took forty-five minutes - not the twenty seconds now needed to download the app for free.

As technology has transformed, so has our language, and if you look carefully from the perspective of a childhood unburdened by constant email and social media status checks, you'd notice that when it comes to tech terms, the lingo is universal; no translator is needed as you travel from country to country. 


This is your kid on technology...

When I was growing up, hardly anyone talked about a revolution of mainframe brains that would not only make our lives easier, but would bring the world closer together via websites.


 For those who have not yet conformed, and can be heard verbalizing, "It made me laugh out loud!" instead of silently texting "LOL" to the person standing next to you, I have compiled a list of common words whose meanings have radically changed since the internet went public in the 1990's. My hope is that when asked, "Do you have wi-fi?", you'll stop showing your guests your vintage record player and pull out the password that keeps your network secure - and I don't mean your group of business contacts...
Wi-Fi ain't what it used to be

1. MEMORY: If the first thing you think of when you hear that word is, I don't have enough of it, don't go see a doctor, get an upgrade. Memory is no longer just the brain's ability to retain and recover knowledge and facts, but on our computer devices, it pertains to the amount of storage on hand. The chips are capable of  holding many bytes of information, and it gives our brains a break; mnemonic devices are a thing of the past. In order to remember Cousin Jack's birthday, just add it to the calendar in your phone with an alert that will pop up on the day - I'm sure there's an app you can download that will even scold you for having to be reminded.

2. MOUSE: Ladies. When hubby bellows, "Honey come look at this mouse!" do not scream and climb up on the nearest chair. He's probably just excited about showing you the toy he just bought. A mouse is a device that is used to control the cursor or pointer on your computer or tech gadget. There are desktop mice, gaming mice, optical mice, and mouseballs, and the best thing about them is you can hold them without worrying about getting bitten.

3. COOKIES: They're not just for dessert anymore. Cookies are small text files that are stored on your hard drive. Servers can access them when you return to sites you've visited before. So if you don't feel like entering your name and password every time you log on to Facebook, cookies are used to remember that info as well as shopping preferences, credit card numbers, etc. Tossing your cookies has become more serious than just throwing up after a crazy night... 




 4. SPAM: When I was in college, my roommate and I were once so poor, we could only afford a can of Spam. We resorted to knocking on doors in the dorm to collect every spice we could find in order to season it and transform it into something edible. In the end, we made it last a week, probably because it tasted so bad that we couldn't stand to eat more than a few bites at a time. Is it a meat? Is it a jelly? The jury is still out on that question, but in the case of unsolicited junk emails and repetitive promotions for my blog posts and books, we can all agree on one thing. In either form, Mrs. Bun from the Monty Python sketch said it best, "I DON'T LIKE SPAM!"

5. SURF: The surf that we used to know and the surf of today have much in common; both have the ability to carry us away. Whether you are at the beach on a board, or behind a keyboard and surfing the internet, this activity is time consuming and can do away with reality while we're involved in it. Computer users often get lost looking at and bookmarking interesting sites. They are swept away, sometimes for hours, as if by a tidal wave of information, a danger that a surfer might face in the ocean. My advice: keep it balanced, don't go out so far that you get lost or meet up with scammers or sharks.

6. THREAD: I've never been much of a seamstress. I can't believe I passed Home Ec in high school. My wrap around skirt looked like a blanket made of corduroy with an extra belt of material I had forgotten to cut. Since then threads of all kinds have the ability to terrify me. In terms of tech, a thread is a continuous conversation on email, newsgroups, social media postings, and blogs, usually found in the comments section. I have been part of some threads that have been as over my head as I found sewing to be. Some have been downright confrontational and violent, while many have been eye opening. If you find yourself entangled in a long thread, beware. Those are usually the most intense, and a thick skin may be required...or maybe I'm just a little too afraid of being  "needled". 



7. USER: We've all seen them, the latchers-on who are happy to ride our coattails in terms of money, reputation, or co-dependence. Liking them, or the drug addicts we also label "users" is tough, because both groups tend to be extremely unpleasant. But hold on a minute. Should we be so quick to judge the very name that could be applied to ourselves? If you are reading this post, then you too are a user my friend. Users, or computer users, access websites and take advantage of the tech tools that are readily available. Even if the information I'm relaying in this post is new to you, you are still one of us. Welcome.

8. CLOUD: Nope. Not the big, fluffy white things that hang in the sky as a result of condensation. Cloud storage has to do with managing your information, media, and other data. It takes your information and tucks it away, but in many different places, so the idea of security is a growing concern. Just imagine me filling a few diaries of private information, but keeping the journals in a box under my friend's bed. How often does she lock her bedroom door? Can I be sure that she's not peeking at my innermost thoughts? Now I'm reconsidering what I will write down and which diaries I will keep there. Heavy hitters like Google Drive and iCloud are beginning to face those issues.

CF loves ???


9. MASK: Although masking in database talk works very much like a Halloween mask - keeping us from seeing some features and revealing others that conform to the images we are trying to create - the idea of using this word to describe the filter applied to tech devices to hide whatever values we'd like to keep private, is far from what I imagined as a youngster when I rang doorbells and begged for candy. But I have to admit, in both cases, the freedom to hide parts of us from being seen creates a certain security...at least until our mask is ripped off and we are exposed...

10. i(ANYTHING): Internet, individual, instruct, and inform, were words that Steve Jobs used originally to describe the iMac. After a while though, the idea that the "i" behind iPod, iPhone, iCloud, etc. has always stood for internet stuck. But at the rate that technology has been moving forward, the origin of that lowercase letter has become - like the cassette players of the seventies, or the Blackberry of the new millenium - defunct and irrelevant. Nowadays, when we use "i", we are less likely to be talking about ourselves, but most likely referring to artificial intelligence of some sort. Relationships have been forged over iBooks and in iCafes - I have been known to enjoy a virtual toast from time to time with "iFriends" as far away as Australia, bellowing a resounding
Join me for a drink?
"iCHEERS!"with people I may never meet face to face. One of the most popular sayings is, "There is no I in TEAM", but with the advances that we have made, I think we can agree that i(anything) helps make the world a bit smaller, and as a result, closer to people who are physically far away.

No matter which definitions you stick with, our language continues to change, becoming more universal and opening cultural doors that have been previously closed to many. The only thing we need to do is to keep up.

Want to add any words to the Techonyms (Homonyms for Techies) list? Which ones are your faves?












CF Winn is the award-winning author of The COFFEE BREAK SERIES, a hilarious group of short stories meant to be read while on break or in the waiting room of the doctor's office. Her first novella, SUKI, has been grabbing hearts and hugging souls all over the United States.

You can now order SUKI in paperback at BOOK REVUE, one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores, by email at info@bookrevue.com or by calling (631) 271-1442.
Learn more about SUKI at BOOK REVUE http://www.bookrevue.com/localauthors.html

More posts like these can be found at Humor Outcasts and The Patch where she is a regular contributor.
CF Winn is the founder of Winning! Publications, a firm specializing in editing and promotion services for authors. Her latest project is the just released Trailer Trash, With a Girl’s Name, a hilarious and heartwarming story of a boy saddled with a girl’s name and forced into a nomadic existence. Order it now: http://www.amazon.com/Trailer-Trash-With-Girls-Name-ebook/dp/B00IX0MIAO

10 comments:

Monica said...

Loved this post, Chris :)

CF Winn said...

Thanks! Do you have a fave? Stacey likes RAM...sometimes he says things he thinks will shock me...

Monica said...

I'd go with Spam, because I love Spam Musubi :)I know it can't even compete with RAM, but still ;)

Sean K said...

Another good one My Friend!!!! Well worth the wait!!! ;)

CF Winn said...

Oh Monica...I've seen the pictures of all of the delicious meals you make...have any of them been the Spam meal??

CF Winn said...

Thank you Sean! What is your favorite techonym?

Medic2RN said...

Great post! I remember if we had a video game system, it was Atari because there were no other game devices. Now we have Wii, XBOX, Playstation, etc. We were entertained by a dot and a couple of lines that we could move with our controls, now it's so life like, it's incredible.

CF Winn said...

Thanks for reading! The idea that my entire of life is crippled if the wi-fi in my house goes down is so surreal...especially since like you, I came from a time when pay phones were how we communicated with our parents and Atari was the most technology we'd see for about ten years. In my next post, I'll mention the iPhone 5c. Although I'm planning on making the article public tonight, it's completely possible that somehow this afternoon, that technology might change and my reference will be dated..LOL

MaryMargaret Tucker said...

When did you write this? I need to know today"s date because I seem to have lost every single week of the New Year! Great article...I think Mask is best since its the one I know the least about...but that's a whole different article, what your friend doesn't know about the internet and technological mind!

CF Winn said...

I published this post on January 28th and today is February 23rd. Lost time is usually associated with alien abduction...do you have any unusual markings on your body?? LOL