A sharp rebuke to drabness

A sharp rebuke from Lulu Meservey, one of the Substack executives.

Technology is magical. But the language of technology has become generic and sterile:

We should go back to the days of Greek and Latin:
“Television” (far-seeing)
“ Automobile” (self-moving)
“Facsimile” (made alike)
Words that sound magical.

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The worst part of the tech names is that they don’t even fit. A drab acronym is applied to a theoretical distinction, then it specializes to one physical implementation of the distinction, then further variations are just tacked on without thinking about function or metaphor.

Random-access memory (RAM) originally described matrix-style magnetic memory. There was nothing random about it, but some drab theoretician called it random-access because you could pick any cell in it by activating the right combination of X and Y wires. This was meant to distinguish it from sequential-access memory such as paper tape or magnetic tape, where you have to wind through a bunch of unneeded parts to reach the item you need. For some reason SAM never became an acronym, so RAM was a distinction without an opposite.

Random-access then applied to any matrix-type memory, including a matrix of hardwired connections that could only be read, not written. Read-only memory (ROM) then expanded to include semiconductors that could be written exactly once, Programmable Read-Only Memory or PROM. Some PROMS could be erased by exposure to UV light and then rewritten, which should have turned them back into RAM, but because of the way they were written they were called Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory or EPROM. Later some EPROMS were erasable by an electric pulse instead of exposure to light, so they were Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memories or EEPROMS.

To make it even more fun, some RAMs can hold their memory without refreshing, which makes them Static Random-Access Memories or SRAM. By the original distinction, SRAMs should be called ROMs and EEPROMS should be called RAMs, but by then the chain of drab dull expansion was stuck. Never return to the original, always tack on more letters.

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The auto industry used vastly more imagination and metaphor, often brazenly sexual.

GM had creative names for EVERYTHING, down to a new system of valve adjustments. Many of the names became famous:

Most people called the Buffer Bombs Dagmars, but this was not the official name.

Even frugal Nash enjoyed metaphorical names. The lovely and generous Miss America revealed the ’54 Metropolitan:

And the Met’s distinctive door dips were also called Reveals.

And in case you still didn’t get the points….

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Science and technology were explicitly magical before 1900. Science was a form of entertainment, not a holocaust of tyranny and torture.


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