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When did people start using the corporate jargon "let's take it offline" (let's discuss that after this meeting in private)?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of online is from 1950:

online in ref. to computers, "directly connected to a peripheral device," is attested from 1950 (originally as on-line).

If the word offline in the jargon is the antonym of online as defined above, then the jargon cannot be interpreted literally. It is often used in meetings where people are all physically in the same room.

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I, for one, have never heard “take it offline” used in this context. Around me, I don't think “offline” is widely used figuratively, if at all. –  F'x Feb 18 '11 at 13:06
    
The dictionary I have lists delay as one of the meaning of offline, in a specific context. I cannot find when offline has been first used with that meaning, though. –  kiamlaluno Feb 18 '11 at 13:11
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@FX: well, I hear it very often in scrum standups –  vartec Feb 18 '11 at 14:23

8 Answers 8

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Warning: pure speculation.

It used to be that time spent connected to the network was very expensive. Back then, dealing with information to be processed offline was to use cheaper cycles to deal with that information. I most commonly hear this phrase in meetings, where a great deal of expensive engineer time is being wasted by details that only relate to 2 of the participants. Thus, taking the conversation offline is a metaphor for having the conversation on cheaper time.

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I believe I started hearing it (or more often "let's take this offline") around 2000, and a Google search confirms that.

I'd say its fairly common, and when used between people in a meeting no one thinks it's supposed to refer to the internet-related meaning of "offline".

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My guess would be, that it comes from "offline" meaning as in "offline processing".

http://www.answers.com/topic/off-line-processing

(computer science) Any processing which takes place independently of the central processing unit.

Thus "discuss it offline" as "discuss it independently of main discussion".

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I've heard this used in conference calls, where it actually has nearly the literal meaning. Rather than tie up everyone on the phone, a smaller group can discuss the topic at another time.

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When you are in a group meeting and someone says to "take it off-line", this simply means "shut-up, move on, and forget about it", because I hear this often, but the conversation never continues off-line.

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This is not entirely accurate. It just means that the discussion is detracting from the overall meeting. For example, when a minor detail is bogging down a larger concept, the meeting leader might say, let's take this off line. It doesn't inherently imply to forget about it. –  David M Feb 26 at 16:15
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This comment on a possible euphemistic usage doesn’t attempt to answer the question, which is about the origin of the phrase. –  Tyler James Young Oct 9 at 18:52

"off-line" may have an order reference; i.e. to assembly lines in manufacturing. For example, one of several lines assembling toasters may be shut down when orders fall below a certain number.

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I don't see how this corresponds to the meaning that's being discussed here. –  Scott Oct 7 at 0:33

I'm fairly sure that offline in the expression "let's take it offline" arises from the sense that offline has in the context of company data networks. From Dan Balter, Managing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Environment (2003):

You can mount and dismount volumes from the command line with the mountvol.exe command. On basic disks, if you type mountvol x: /p, where x: represents the volume's drive letter, you can dismount a volume and take it offline. ... By removing the drive letter and any other paths (mount points) for the volume, you take the volume offline.

But in addition to taking server volumes offline (that is, off the shared network), you can (if you have the necessary level of administrative rights) take a specific file offline (by transferring the file to a specific hard drive and then deleting it from the shared network). Taking a conversation offline is metaphorically very similar to taking a file that was begun "online" (that is, on the shared network) and moving it offline (that is, to a more private destination).

The earliest mention of "take [it] offline" that I've been able to find is in Eric Raymond, The New Hacker's Dictionary (1996):

offline adv. Not now or not here. "Let's take this discussion offline." Specifically used on Usenet to suggest that a discussion be moved off a public newsgroup to email.

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I think the real meaning of this phrase is to divert a relevant but non-critical discussion from the current place and time to another. However, as one mentioned, in reality, it is used interchangeably with "Shut up and let's move on". The reason is that usually there is no further discussion.

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