Computingisms

As long as I can remember, people on the technical side of Computing have been accused of speaking in a totally different language. This page looks at terms that the current generation of Computer Geeks won’t even recognize because they were last used before they were born!

Neatnik – a Computer Programmer whose programming idiosyncrasies include many habits that do not improve the program being written, other than making it Pretty in the Programmer’s eyes, from “Beatnik”. For example, a PHP programmer who insists on using unset() on every Variable after its last usage in a program.

Core – computer memory, from an era when Magnetic Core Memory was almost universally used in computers, where a doughnut-shaped piece of ferrite stored one Bit. For example, “How much Core does it take?” meant “What is the minimum amount of computer memory required by this program to run properly?”

Deck – a neatly stacked set of computer Punch Cards, ready to be placed in a Card Reader, either stored in a box that originally held blank Punch Cards and/or held together with an elastic band. For example, “Where is the Deck for Payroll?” meant “I can’t find the punch cards that I need to activate the Payroll system’s computer programs”. Or “Don’t drop my Deck”.

Sequence Numbers – numbers in the same set of columns for each of the Punch Cards in a Deck that allows the cards to be put back in their correct order by feeding them through a Card Sorter. For example, “I just dropped your card deck. Does it have Sequence Numbers?”

Punch – a device for punching holes in Punch Cards to encode information, in the same way that a Printer prints information. For example, the mantra “Reader, Printer, Punch” helped FORTRAN programmers remember that Unit 5 was Reader, Unit 6 was Printer and Unit 7 was Punch.

Hopper – where punch cards are stacked to be read into a Card Reader, often called an Input Hopper, with a weight on ensure the last cards easily fed into the Card Reader.  For example, “Lets throw these into the Hopper and see what happens.”

Head in the Tube – predecessor of Heads Down but solely related to Computer Programming from an era, circa 1990, of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer terminals and monitors. For example, “I’ve had my head in the tube all morning.”

Shop – an organization’s computer area, including the people, the Data Centre and the office space. For example, “Any openings in your Shop?” meant “Is your organization looking for any computer people?”

Line Printer – A computer printer that prints mechanically on continuous forms paper, with all possible characters on a chain that rotates completely for each line of print. For each of the (typically) 132 columns of print, there is a hammer that pushes the correct character for its column from the chain into the ribbon, placing ink in the shape of the character on to the paper.

Multi-Part Paper – A set to two to six continuous forms, separated by carbon paper, and known as Two-Part to Six-Part. Rather than repeatedly print the same computer-generated report when multiple copies are needed, it would be printed once on Multi-Part Paper then Burst and Separated.

Burst and Separate – Use a Separator to remove the carbon paper from Multi-Part Paper and create a stack for each copy of the report. Each stack is then run through a Burster to separate the continuous forms report into pages by tearing through the perforations.

Glitch – an intermittent Bug.

Kludge – a hasty and clumsy Fix for a Bug.

Bit Bucket – imaginary component of the CPU, typically used as a teaching term to remind students that the computer’s Shift instruction does not save bits that are shifted out of the memory location. Inspired by the detachable container on keypunches where the holes punched in the cards go.

Still in Use

Although these terms still are relevant, their origins go way back, to the 1960s and prior.

CPU and CPU Time – a full page is dedicated to this topic.

Hex – hexadecimal notation of data or other contents of computer memory.

Garbage Collection – a software technique to identify and free up data stored in memory that is no longer required, typically found in computer programs that handle large strings. Today, programs that require Garbage Collection are considered to have a Memory Leak.

Bug – when referring to Software, a coding error that caused a malfunction; first Hardware use in 1947 by Grace Hooper’s Mark II computer, referring to a moth trapped in a relay.

Fix – a software change to correct a Bug.