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What's Happening

So that's what it means.
May 2024

Have you heard of IEEE802, 11b Direct Sequence? No? Well, let’s move on to Selective Serotonin Retake Inhibitor (SSRI), or it’s shorter name, Fluoxetine. Drawing a blank on that one too?  Figuring most people would, the creators of both entities turned to the same marketing company to come up with a catchier catch-phrases. They did. The  I-triple E one, we now know as Wi-Fi. It can be argued that an overdose or over-exposure to it may necessitate the second, SSRI, which we now know as Prozac.

This little bit of nomenclature trivia got me to thinking of how very many current daily-use internet words I take for granted without a clue to their origins. Let’s dig into a few. Some of these new words, now added to our dictionaries, give us a clue to their meaning. Others, not at all.

Podcast is a word created to describe a digital medium consisting of audio or video episodes that related to a specific theme. The term was popularized in the early 2000’s, and was named after the iPod Mp3 unit that played them. iPod stood for “I Play on Demand.” These now discontinued portable players were designed and marketed by Apple. Inc.

Speaking of Apple, here’s an interesting aside on that company’s now universally recognized symbol.  Steve Jobs wanted a simple design for his products, and after a pleasant visit to an apple farm, suggested something in that vein to graphic designer Rob Janoff.  Not wanting his stylized apple design to be misconstrued as a cherry, Janoff depicted the fruit with a big bite out of it.

There are those that see the logo as carrying an underlying caution.  In the Garden of Eden, Eve took a bite out of the apple and gained knowledge of good and evil. The Apple logo reminds users that access to knowledge can be used for good or ill. Take care.

Broadcast is a word that harkens back to a time before cable when stations would beam programming out over air signals that were captured by antennas on people’s houses.

Likewise, “back in the day,” (1950’s), Hi-Fi was much in vogue. This was an audio-equipment manufacturing euphemism for High Fidelity. The later (1990) Wi-Fi, was, as you probably guessed, a shortened form of Wireless Fidelity.

On to the what we know as the Webb. This is a shortened version of what originally was called the Worldwide Webb. The term was coined in 1989 by a British computer scientist, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. He was looking to automate info-sharing between scientists in Universities and institutes worldwide. The term came to describe scientific info pages and data, linked and inter-tied to other educational institutions, like “the strands of a spider web.” Berners-Lee also factors into the https designator that prefixes so much of internet messaging. Originally titled Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (which would over time evolve and morph to include the s for secure, it used encryption to authenticate the accessed website, with the end to protect the privacy and integrity of the exchanged data while in transit. To this day, messaging info transmitted lacking the https designation, are suspect. Of course, the Webb now is ubiquitous, no longer the purview of just science or academia.

To describe a global network of billions of computers and other electronic devices interconnected and allowing access to the encyclopedic wealth of worldwide human data, the term INTERNET is used. That is the sea in which I surf in researching for this BLOG.

By the way, that strange word BLOG now resides in all three of the English language dictionaries I checked. The Oxford dictionary referred to it as a “regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style.”  Merriam-Webster defines a blog as “a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and other hyperlinks.” Collins dictionary shortened it all to “a blog is a website containing a diary or journal on a particular subject.” In all three, I’d be cast as a blogger. Beats most of the other things I’ve been called.

Finally, let’s talk about cookies, an internet term for something not near as benign as that sold by Girl Scouts. Like the word “gay,” this word had taken on a meaning very different than how it was defined in dictionaries fifty years ago. According to web-browser/programmer Lou Montulli, in computer-speak a “cookie” derives from an earlier programming term, Magic Cookie, which was a packet of data programs designed to insuring that data remained unchanged even after being sent and reused several times. This usage morphed to where a cookie now refers to a piece of data from a website that is stored within a web browser that the website can retrieve at a later time. It tells the server that the user has returned to a particular site. In short, it stores and remembers every site we’ve visited. Aside from the fact this data, compiled over time, takes up space and can eventually slow computers, the data can be sold to third parties over which we have no control, opening the door to a myriad of unpleasant results.  Remember, unless encrypted, internet providers can see everything we access or do on the internet.

Anthony dela Torre
Author

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