JAKARTA (JP): Have you ever browsed hardrockfm.com to listen to the radio program? It is real time! What is not real about the time? No millennium bug has plagued the world. This must be a pretty big bug. Millennium bug and real time along with many other new words, phrases, and terms are the product of the digital era, the new economy era.
English is very fluid, both in absorbing words from other languages and in creating new words. English is the easiest language to learn, yet for some people like me, English can be difficult to master.
With the help of an eccentric novelist, William Gibson, the word cyberspace was coined in 1984 and was then popularized. We are now familiar with many words started with the suffix cyber: cybercity, cybercafe, cyberworld, cyberpunk, cybernaut, cybersquatting, cyberwoozling, cybrarian, and many more.
The suffix cyber may have been picked from the word cybernetics, the science of communication and control theory.
How could it have been adapted from the word cybernetics? First of all, cybernetics (1960s) came before cyberspace (1980s). Cybernetics is the control systems study (of aircraft guns) designed by Nobert Wiener of MIT during the World War II. It helped pave the way for the electronic brains that we call computers. The word cyberspace (Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984) came afterwards.
Once a prominent person or a best-selling novel uses an unusual word or phrase, it seems that everyone rushes to learn and use it. Cybernetics was not as famous as cyberspace. The latter is used widely on the Net and mass media has endorsed the usage of the word. Cyberspace is only more famous, but not the first to deal with computers.
There are some other unique phrases, terms, and words that are in current use, such as arguably (Dana Scully of the X-Files used it. With her cold expression she once smiled and said, “”They arguably call it the alien.””), or FAQ (frequently asked questions), WYSIWYG (wiz-ee-wig — what you see is what you get), and many other acronyms. Acronym (from the Greek “”acro”” — in the sense of extreme or tip, and “”onyma”” or name) is the abbreviation of several words in such a way that the abbreviation itself forms a word.
The Net has introduced many other acronyms to support and speed up communication via the non-F2F (face-to-face) medium: the computer. With the expression on the face concealed behind the laptop screen, would not be easily communicated to your opponent thousand of miles away from Jakarta. Before you could touch-type the keyboard, you found it even harder to express what you needed to say promptly. “”Find the [a] on my left, and the [l] on my right, and hit [enter], then go back with [esc]””. Too complicated.
Speed is one characteristic of today’s Internet. If I can type words and as fast as my head tells me to, this would really help my interaction with others on the Net. Things have changed at the speed of light, and are changing. Anyone waiting for anything technological to be perfected into a new improved model would wait forever and be left behind.
Moore’s Law, coined by Gordon Moore (1965), states that microchips double their power (speed and overall capability) and get twice as cheap every 18 months. Back in the early 1990s, the first Internet era in Indonesia, I remember I saw “”baud rate”” on my black and white screen — now the term to measure data transmission speed is bps, bits per second.
My first and expensive Internet connection was so slow that I could sit in front of my computer while watching TV, brushing my hair, and making a cup of coffee — all at the same time. Suddenly “”NO CARRIER”” appeared as I gazed at the screen in front of me! I had been disconnected. Talk about speed!
That was then, and this is now. Many abbreviations, acronyms, words, and phrases are rushing into our everyday’s life. At the click of mouse, every time I browse the Net, I find at least five new technical words and I store them to my local kooky brain afterwards. Some of them are original, funny or weird, some of them are just derived from common English.
I have sorted these new words into several boxes. Besides acronyms and abbreviations, there are combined words, such as: Microsoft (micro from tiny and soft, short for software) or abandonware (a computer software that is no longer in favor nor is marketed by its original creator). Pixel came from picture element. Other easy-to-guess words share the root of an already common word. From the word broadcast, look out for narrowcast, multicast, unicast, and anycast.
Other technical irksome words are just the extension of an existing version. Words like these are mostly numbered or are added to with another letter. IPv6 is definitely the sequel of IP the first version and so forth. Byte grows to kilobyte, megabyte, and beyond. MP3 is not the third generation of the standard technology for compressing a sound sequence. It actually stands for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. MPEG itself stands for Moving Picture Experts Group.
Some words have different meanings to the original one. When I scream “”Mouse!””, I am not referring to the squeaking animal with a funny nose. This device used with most computers apparently got its name due to being about the same size and color as a toy mouse. Today, a colorful ergonomic mouse can really be fun to grip. Cookie is the mechanism for rotating the banner ads of a website. Not as yummy as its baked version, cupcakes is a name of one application program. Java, not the island nor the coffee, is a computer programming language.
I suspect these types of words were created by some computer geeks — they who sleep when necessary, dedicate 21 hours-a-day at a computer, spend another three hours reading about it or trying to locate a configuration of numbers on pieces of post-it scattered somewhere. Surrounded by many edible and non-edible items, one guy probably just spilled his coffee and eureka! he just baptized the programming language known as Java Plus. As strong as could be, Java has made him stay awake for 10 days already.
While I am still figuring out the semantics of cyberspace, virtual reality and hyperreality, many more eerie words, phrases, and terms have taken birth. No matter what the future holds for e-linguistics, I adore Bill Gates, the guy who invented many versions of geeky words and lame monopoly-ware.
I also praise Timothy Leary, the late professor who said PC is the LSD of the 1990s. He is a ding-a-ling man who has enlightened many people with his amazing Chaos and Cyberculture. Both Bill and Tim are the originators of the new economy — as we call it today. New economy, what is new about it? Oh, don’t you get it?