Skip to main content

COMPUTER USAGE

COMPUTER USAGE, sometimes Computer English. The REGISTER of English associated with computer technology and electronic communication, for both professional and other purposes, such as: the creation, use, and maintenance of equipment; recreation, such as video games and electronic bulletin boards; the writing and transmission of electronic mail; the promotion of products; word processing, desktop publishing and electronic publishing; and informal usage, including slang. Such usage has both lexical and syntactic aspects, including word-formation, semantic change, and distinctive prose styles.

Word-formation

(1) Compounds, such as database an organized store of information, light pen a light-sensitive rod for ‘drawing’ on screens or for reading data. (2) Fixed phrases such as high-level language an algebraic code with elements of natural language for operating computers, mainframe a very large computer system. (3) Abbreviations such as ASCII (pronounced ‘Askee’) for ‘American Standard Code for Information Interchange’, CD-ROM for ‘compact disk read-only memory’, GIGO for ‘garbage in, garbage out’, WYSIWYG or wysiwyg for ‘what you see is what you get’ (that is, a precise correspondence between what is on screen and what is printed out). (4) Blends, such as the programming languages FORTRAN, fusing ‘formula’ and ‘translator’, and LISP, fusing ‘list’ and ‘processing’. (5) Eponyms, such as non Von Neumann architecture, any architecture basically different from the style of computer specified by the US mathematician John von Neumann, and Turing machine, an imaginary computer with characteristics as stated by the UK computing pioneer Alan Turing.

Semantic change

The adaptation of meanings and uses from the language at large into computer usage (new uses for old words), from computer usage to the language at large (public uses for private ‘jargon’), and from one register to another (such as from medicine to computer usage):

Specialization.

New uses for old words: architecture the arrangement of complex hardware and software, chip a tiny wafer of silicon on which is engraved a minute circuit, compiler a program which translates computer languages into machine language, document as a verb, meaning ‘write’, interface (noun) a connection between devices which cannot otherwise communicate with each other, (verb) to provide or have such a connection, library a set of programs for common tasks, mouse (plural sometimes mouses) an electrical pointing device like a remote control used to move elements on the screen of a personal computer.

Generalization.

Extended uses for ‘computer jargon’: input and output as nouns, as in I didn't like his input to the meeting, and verbs, as in Can you input that again?—I didn't understand; bug as in directions for home brewing have been debugged so thoroughly they are foolproof; interface as in the interface between government bureaucracy and the average citizen; mode as in I attended the meeting in sponge mode (I listened but said nothing); and network as in to network (to call around one's friends and colleagues).

Transfer.

The term virus has been transferred from medical to computer usage, to mean a planted program that copies itself from machine to machine, causing trouble along the way by using up memory or corrupting or deleting files. Before this term became established, such a program was briefly known as a Trojan horse or Trojan.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"COMPUTER USAGE." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"COMPUTER USAGE." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 29, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/computer-usage

"COMPUTER USAGE." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved August 29, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/computer-usage

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.