Merriam Webster does not have "stateful" listed as a word. Within the computer science field, stateful is used as the opposite of stateless:

Stateful means the computer or program keeps track of the state of interaction, usually by setting values in a storage field designated for that purpose. Stateless means there is no record of previous interactions and each interaction request has to be handled based entirely on information that comes with it.

Is there an alternative word or phrase that communicates the concept of something having state? An analogous concept would be software controlling colors of a traffic light, for example, the traffic light software has a state where "the light is green."

  • 2
    If this is the established usage in the computer science field, why do you want an alternative? – Peter Shor Oct 28 '15 at 1:35
  • @PeterShor, for communication of concepts to an audience outside the CS field. – bn01 Oct 28 '15 at 1:39
  • I don't think there's a single word that most people outside the computer science field will understand. (Otherwise, why would physicists say black holes have no hair rather than black holes are <non-existent synonym of stateless>?) You'll just have to use several words to express the concept. – Peter Shor Oct 28 '15 at 1:47
  • "Is there an alternative word that communicates the concept of something lacking state?" Stateful means something that has state. Stateless is something that lacks state. (And I would wager that stateless is in several dictionaries, though with a different meaning.) – Hot Licks Oct 28 '15 at 2:26
  • (Stateful is a perfectly valid word to use when talking to anyone who understands what "state" means in a computer context. If the listener doesn't know what "state" means then it doesn't really matter, does it?) – Hot Licks Oct 28 '15 at 2:27

In this example, Merriam Webster is decidedly not the definitive reference. As with many "tech" concepts, it will take a bit of time for these terms to become accepted common usage.

If you were casting about for an alternate word (being a pedantic sort) one might land upon "persistent."

  • 3
    In comp sci persistent is not the same as stateful. – DJClayworth Oct 28 '15 at 3:50
  • @DJClayworth: So what? OP already knows what the term in CS is; he is looking for a translation into English. – Tim Lymington Dec 27 '15 at 16:53
  • @TimLymington, methinks DJClayworth makes a very worthy point. He reinforces my own trepidation about the suggestion, which is quite close but still only almost an ideal synonym. – dwoz Dec 28 '15 at 15:06
  • @DJClayworth, I'd just note that statefulness and persistence are two different tiers in the same stack, in that the abstract notion of state requires some form of persistence mechanism. – dwoz Dec 28 '15 at 15:10

I think that when communicating to IT laymen, you want to take a moment to educate them on terms/concepts and then use the correct term rather than find linguistic work-arounds. So you explain the difference between the types of interactions in a way they will immediately grasp a high-level understanding of.

Stateful means that it retains memory of who was talking to it and what it was talking about. Stateless is an amnesiac who doesn't remember who you are or what you just talked about from one interaction to the next. If it is a central point to your presentation, explain it like the difference between two friends having a phone conversation versus an old-school operator waiting for a light to pop up for a momentary interaction.

Then use the industry-correct terms therafter. If nothing else, they will have learned that concept which may benefit them for future interactions with you or other IT professionals.

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