HomeHome : News : Aug 30, 2013

Old Fashioned Tech Terms

August 30, 2013 — by Per Christensson

I pressed the rewind button on my DVR the other day and thought, That's strange. Nothing is actually getting rewound. Why do I still call it the rewind button? When I press rewind, the DVR simply reads from a different area of the hard drive. There is no tape that needs to be physically rewound.

The term rewind has been obsolete for a long time. When was the last time you heard the slogan, "Be kind and rewind?" You certainly can't rewind CDs and DVDs. Yet when I checked today, the official documentation of the latest CD and DVD players reference the rewind and fast forward buttons. "Fast reverse" and fast forward would make more sense, but "rewind" is so engrained in our vernacular, I guess we're stuck using an old fashioned term.

This led me to think of other old fashioned terms we still use. One that comes to mind is "taping" a show. For example, "Did you remember to tape the last episode?" I guess the sarcastic response would be, "No, but I remembered to set the DVR to record it." Unlike "rewind," the term "tape" (used as a verb) seems to be on the way out, since "record" has mostly replaced it. I still say "tape" sometimes, but I usually correct myself.

Another term that has a questionable future is "hard drive." We've used that term for so long, it's hard to imagine replacing it with something else. But if you have a computer with an SSD, it simply isn't accurate to say, "I have a 512 gigabyte hard drive." Most mobile devices use flash memory, so it doesn't make sense to say you have a bunch of photos on your phone's hard drive. If that's the case, what word can replace "hard drive?" I don't know. While the generic word "drive" would make sense when referring to SSDs, it wouldn't be accurate when referring to modular flash storage or PCI-based flash memory. Maybe we'll just have to accept using "hard drive" as a universal term.

Modern technology has also affected the term "click." You used to be able to say, "click here" or "click and drag" with no ambiguity. However, with the prevalence of touchscreen devices, it is more accurate to say "tap here" or "tap and drag" if someone is using touchscreen input. I've found this is a pretty big hassle when writing help articles. Hopefully, "click" will simply evolve to mean both click and tap, so we won't be forced into another "he/she" grammar dilemma.

These are just a few of the "obsolete" tech terms I've come across. If you can think of others, please post them in the comments. It would be interesting to hear your predictions for the future use of the terms as well.