History lesson: The origins of wiki, blog and other high-tech lingo

Technology we take for granted today was new not so long ago, and somebody had to name it.

FRACTAL: Coined by IBM researcher and mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot in 1967 in a paper he published in Science, this word means a mathematical description of the kind of complex irregularities existing in nature, such as the branching of trees.

HYPERTEXT: Ted Nelson coined the words hypertext and hypermedia in 1965 and worked with Andries van Dam on the development of the Hypertext Editing System in 1968 at Brown University. With its prefix hyper- from the Greek for "beyond, over," hypertext is text on a computer that can take the user to other hypertext information through connections called hyperlinks. The first practical use of hypertext is credited to Douglas Engelbart's "oN-Line System" (NLS), developed at Stanford Research Center in the 1960s. (Engelbart is also co-inventor with Bill English of the computer mouse.)

INTERNET: According to the Computer History Museum, the term used in the context of TCP/IP networking was most likely introduced in Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Request For Comments (RFC) 675, "Specification of Internet Transmission Protocol program" by Vint Cerf, Yogen Dalal and Carl Sunshine, which was published in 1974.

MAINFRAME: Uncertain origin, but the Computer History Museum believes the use of the term main frame, originated in precomputer days in the mechanical and telecom industries, arose in the first half of the 1960s as a reference to a central processor of the computer or, more generally, the computer without the peripherals. The compound word mainframe developed closer to the 1970s (when smaller minicomputers were common) to identify the larger, general-purpose machines. According to the museum, "IBM, the company most people today would associate with being a mainframe manufacturer, did not embrace the term as a name for a category of computers until probably the early 1980s. You certainly will not find the word 'mainframe' in the 1964 IBM System/360 Principles of Operation."

MALWARE: A term to describe the wide range of malicious code, it was first used by Yisrael Radai on July 4, 1990, in a public posting in which he wrote: "Trojans constitute only a very small percentage of malware (a word I just coined for trojans, viruses, worms, etc)." Chris Klaus gets credit for being the first to widely use the word malware in presentations.

ONE-TRANSITOR DYNAMIC RAM (DRAM): Almost all computer chips today use Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) technology in which each bit of information is stored in a memory cell consisting of one transistor and a tiny capacitor. IBM researcher Robert Dennard was awarded U.S. Patent No. 3,387,286 in 1968. Today's DRAM chips typically store 64 million bits, and DRAM is a key component of a wide variety of computers and electronics.

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Ellen Messmer

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