35 years ago this week on 27th April 1981 Xerox PARC introduced a device that decades later would be found in houses all around the world – the mouse.
Xerox didn’t invent the mouse – that credit goes to Douglas Englerbart - but the Xerox 8010 Star Information System came with the first integrated designed for use with a personal computer.
So why was it called mouse? OK, that's fairly easy - it looks like a mouse. But many of the words we use in the modern-day tech lexicon have surprising origins. Did you know Bluetooth you use to pair your phone with a wireless headset was named after a 10th century Danish monarch who enjoyed blueberries?
Read on for a little tech etymology lesson.
What is it? The most important and popular computer navigation accessory ever.
Where did it come from? The inventor of the computer mouse didn’t really explain how he named the wooden-box-and-wheels combo he patented in 1967. "I don't know why we call it a mouse," Douglas Englebart, who died in 2013 aged 88, said. "It started that way, and we never did change it." He later added that it “looked like a mouse with a tail, and we all called it that in the lab." (via Scientific American)
What is it? Unwanted and persistent emails, messages and communications from content providers or advertisers.
Where did it come from? While this sounds like an obvious one - the Spam meat product is as undesirable to many as all those annoying messages and emails - that’s not actually the case. The first usage of Spam in a tech sense originates from a classic Monty Python sketch. During the skit, every item on a café menu features the tinned spiced ham, complete with Spam-obsessed Vikings singing its praises. Spam, wonderful Spam!
What is it? An internet or social media user who deliberately posts inflammatory content in order to elicit a response.
Where did it come from: Although it can often seem like an apt description, the origin of troll – in the modern internet parlance – does not come from the cave-dwelling beast of legend. It originates from its verb form, ‘trolling’ which is to go to fishing by dragging a baited hook behind a boat. Others claim it derives from ‘trolling’ the web - systematically searching it.
What is it? A regularly updated website where written reports and multimedia content is posted.
Where did it come from? Not too much detective work required here. The word ‘blog’ is an abbreviation of ‘web log’, which itself came to mean a regularly updated online diary.
What is it? These days, a hacker is usually identified as an unscrupulous bad guy trying to steal our personal data or commandeer our web accounts.
Where did it come from? The original usage came into the language at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 50s and 60s as a positive description for those working on tech problems or finding ways to expand the possibilities of new technology. Those original ‘white hat’ hackers like to use the term ‘cracker’ to describe the malicious members of the community. (via The New Yorker)
What is it? Helpful short-range connectivity technology, which allows users to pair devices in order to exchange files, play music and talk using wireless headsets.
Where did it come from? Bluetooth is named after King Harald Blatand, the 10th century Danish monarch who earned the nickname Bluetooth for his penchant for eating blueberries. Harald helped to unite all of the warring factions in Scandinavia and the inventors of Bluetooth had a similar intention, only with devices over short ranges. The Bluetooth logo you see in your smartphone’s status bar is also comprised of the Danish runes for H and B. (via EEtimes).
What is it? Websites often serve up ‘cookies,’ which are small files used by websites to monitor how we use them and improve the user experience.
Where did it come from? There are many theories about this, but the most accepted suggests cookies got their appetising names after the ‘magic cookie,’ which programmers used in the early days of computing to refer to small data packets passed between programs. Other theories suggest it may come from the Chinese fortune cookie, while others even suggest it derives from the trail of cookies left by Hansel & Gretel in the fairy tale so they could see where they’d been. (via Cookiecontroller)
What is it? Characters and icons used to replace or accompany words within instant messages, social media posts and more.
Where did it come from? A lot of folks think emoji derives from the word emotion, like emoticon (emotion + icon). However, emoji comes from the ‘e’ – the Japanese for picture and ‘moji,’ which means character.
What is it? Meme describes the viral dissemination of an idea or joke across the web. Memes, such as the classic “One does not simply…” Boromir meme, can be altered repurposed depending on the subject matter.
Where did it come from? It was coined by scientist Richard Dawkins, who, in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, expressed a desire to invent word to mean ‘cultural imitation’ passed from person to person. He decided on meme (it rhymes with ‘cream’) after the French word to mean ‘same’ or ‘alike,’ and the Greek ‘mimeme’ which means ‘something imitated’. (via Wired)
What is it? A programmable piece of technology or software capable of operating autonomously.
Where did it come from? Czech playwright Karel Capek invented the word, for his 1921 play Rossum’s Universal Robots. It derives from the Czech word robota, which means ‘work’ or ‘serf labour’. (via cracked.com)
What is it? An online scam where a hacker poses as a reputable party in order to steal money or personal information from a web user.
Where did it come from? The word’s origin derives from fishing (as in fishing for information, hoping to reel in unsuspecting parties), and phreaking, a term given to a type of phone hacking popular in the 1970s. Hackers love to exchange the 'f' sound for a 'ph'.