Why do people call software problems bugs? Where did the term boot come from? These computer words are not arbitrary words that sound ‘techie.’ They have an origin. Let’s step back in time — sometimes way back in time — to learn about where some of these terms came from.
When computers were new they used relays and vacuum tubes. A woman named Grace Murray Hopper was a pioneer in the field of computers. In 1946 she described the source of a problem — a ‘bug’ — a moth trapped in a relay. The picture above is the actual bug that was found, then taped to her notebook.
Software updates are often called ‘patches.’ Programs today are not patched like programs in the past. Older programs had reserved areas in memory. Developers would make changes to programs and insert the changes in the reserved area, literally a patch similar to a piece of cloth added to a worn article of clothing.
Today’s programs are updated by a complete replacement of the executable file. However, the term patch is still used.
Boot or bootstrap
When a computer is started it is ‘booted’ or ‘bootstrapped.’ Some may think this term should be reserved for times when they want to kick it down the stairs or off the desk.
Computers go through a start-up process which runs a simple program to load a much more complex program (like the operating system). It is as if the computer were “picking itself up by its bootstraps.” The term bootstrap (or boot) described the startup process of early computers and it is still used today.
The internet is a network of networks, originally called the internetwork. It has since been shortened to internet. Many people use internet and World-Wide-Web (or the Web) interchangeably, but they are in reality two different technologies. The Web is a system of hyperlinked documents that uses the internet to transfer the documents.
RAM is a term used to describe memory in a computer. It is an acronym which stands for Random Access Memory. Some believe memory is the disk drive, but they are two different things. See this article for more information about the difference between them.
The Universal Serial Bus is a relatively new device that allows users to plug peripherals into their system. The name describes the technology real well – it is a universal bus that connects devices, transferring serial data. See this article for detailed information about USB.
There are many other terms used in the world of computers. Understanding terms is not required to use computers, but it is interesting to learn their origins.