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.

Technology we take for granted today was new not so long ago, and somebody had to name it. Though sometimes it's hard to pin down exactly who deserves the credit — or blame — here's a shot a some of the more familiar terms.

BLOG: Short for weblog, the word is traced to Jorn Barger's "Robot Wisdom" Web site in 1997, in which he began "logging the Web" by collecting information he came across. Peter Merholz is credited with contributing to use of the term in 1999 in his weblog by stating, "I've decided to pronounce the word 'weblog' as 'wee-blog. Or 'blog' for short."

BYTE: A measurement of information storage coined in 1956 by Werner Buchholz during the design phase of the IBM Stretch computer to describe how much data a computing machine might bite, with the spelling changed so as not to be confused with bit. (See computer history of IBM Stretch.)

BROWSER: Tim Berners-Lee, often called the "father of the Web," in 1989 invented software he called WorldWideWeb. But Berners-Lee says the term browser predates the Web, as there were hypermedia browsers. (See below, WORLD WIDE WEB and HYPERTEXT.)

CELL PHONE: AT&T Bell Labs engineer William Rae Young is credited with suggesting the hexagonal cell concept for a cellular mobile phone. Young's technical work was referenced in an internal document written by co-worker Douglas H. Ring in 1947 on how to build a wide-area cellular service. The first mobile telephone call was made from a car in St. Louis on June 17, 1946, but it was far from what we think of as a portable handset today. The equipment weighed 80 lb., and the AT&T service — basically a massive party line — cost $30 per month plus 30 to 40 cents per local call. But Bell Labs was beaten to the punch for the first cellular phone call. That was made by Martin Cooper, then general manager of Motorola's Communications Systems Division, as he carried a hefty cell phone through New York City and placed a call to his rival, Joel Engels at Bell Labs, on April 3, 1973.

CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER: According to the Computer History Museum, the C-level position for IT is believed to have started in military and government before being adopted by industry. William Synnott and William Gruber get credit for coining the term in 1981.

COMPUTER VIRUS: A phrase widely used today to describe self-replicating and invasive software, the term's invention is credited to Leonard Max Adelman, who suggested it to researcher Fred Cohen for his 1984 study "Experiments With Computer Viruses." Adelman is also co-inventor of the RSA (which stands for Rivest-Shamir-Adelman) cryptosystem.

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Ellen Messmer

Network World
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