Computer nerds love to throw around acronyms of all sorts, like CPU, NIC and PCMCIA (Central Processing Unit, Network Interface Card, and Personal Computer Memory Card International Association or would you believe, People Can’t Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms). There are also many words adopted by the computer industry with more interesting origins. Computer bugs, to post, boot or ping, “404,” and Roflcopters are some of the terms that have curious roots.
A very early “bug in the system” was not within lines of programming, but an actual moth in the hardware. Navy Admiral Grace Hopper is often credited with finding the first bug in a computer. In 1947, while investigating a problem with the system, a moth was found trapped in a relay of the Mark II computer at Yale University. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. has preserved the insect, which was taped to a note reading “first actual case of a bug being found.”
When your computer “posts” it is not passing a point on a race track, but performing a “power-on self-test.” These checks are completed within the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) to check for foundational elements needed to run the computer.
Subsequent “booting,” originally called a “bootstrap load,” is the initialization of process of the computer operating system. A genuine pair of cowboy boots has bootstraps to grab in order to pull the boots on. When you press the power button, a computer knows how to grab its own bootstraps and get things going.
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We borrow a term from sonar technology when we describe how to test an IP address. To “Ping” an IP address is to send out a Web-based request to test to see how quickly it responds. This process simulates the sonar technique of sending out an audible test and waiting for the returning echo.
While the origin of the term “mouse” is quite obvious when you look at the shape and “tail” of the device, less intuitive is the floppy disk, which first appeared in an 8-inch, then 5 ¼-inch size with a thin plastic casing. The magnetic disk inside was lightweight and flimsy, and deserved its droopy name. Instant messaging and texting has provided many entertaining short-cut terms. A good joke often elicits LOL, or “laughing out loud” which evolved into ROFL (rolling on floor laughing). Overuse of these terms led to the creation of Roflcopters and LOLcats, which provide even further entertainment. “Google” these terms to find many examples of nerds at play.
Online dictionaries of computer terms include “404,” in reference to the “404 Error: File Not found” received when a Web page or internal file cannot be located. “404” can describe an inability to remember, a disappointing experience or regrettably, a dimwitted person.
The use of the word “nerd” began decades ago. Originally it may have been an attempt to group college students by their pastimes, those who liked to drink and those who didn’t. One group was labeled “drunks” one group was the literal reverse of the word, or “knurds.” Who knew how attached we would become to such an unflattering nickname?
Patty Harshbarger, the owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277.