Questions tagged [computing]

Questions about language and terminology related to computers, programming, and IT.

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155 votes
9 answers
98k views

"Username", "user name" or "user-name"

In computer science, you should have a username or a user name or a user-name and a password to be able to log into the system. Which one is the correct spelling?
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81 votes
3 answers
28k views

Is it "falsy" or "falsey"?

I have seen both spellings of this word, falsy and falsey. It can mean "something that is equivalent to false" in computer science, such as "The only two falsy values in the Ruby Language are false ...
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74 votes
9 answers
10k views

Why do we refer to computers and other machines as being up or down?

Generally when a machine is working we refer to it as "up" and when it's not we say the machine is "down." What is the origin of this?
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46 votes
3 answers
4k views

How "macro" in computer programming came about

The prefix macro- is normally used for large things like macroeconomics and macroscopic. How did it come to be used to describe text macros in the programming world?
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45 votes
8 answers
58k views

Difference between "computation" and "calculation"

If the words computation and calculation are not perfect synonyms what is the difference between them? Which one describes more accurately what is done by a person computing or calculating something ...
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  • 711
44 votes
4 answers
36k views

What is the correct pronunciation of “regex”?

The term regular expression is often shortened to regex. What is the correct pronunciation of the g in regex? Is it like the g1 in gallium, or is it like the g2 in giraffe? I’ve heard it said both ...
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36 votes
3 answers
6k views

Why is a "splash screen" so called?

Wikipedia describes a "splash screen" as such... "A splash screen is an image that appears while a game or program is loading." and its purpose... [Splash screens] are typically used by ...
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  • 15.3k
32 votes
8 answers
11k views

"On" hard drive versus "in" memory

Why do American English speakers typically say something is "on the hard drive" when referring to data stored with a hard drive (or other permanent storage device) but when referring to something ...
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31 votes
2 answers
28k views

Origin of the term "wizard" in computing

In computer user interfaces a "wizard" is a set of screens that guide the user through a process. Does anyone know the origin of this term? I personally associate wizards with magic more than a ...
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30 votes
6 answers
5k views

What is the noun to refer to the 64- or 32-bit -ness of an operating system

I know that "processor architecture" can be used to refer to whether the processor is 32-bit or 64-bit (or something else), but what word can be used for the operating system? Note that it's not ...
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  • 431
30 votes
8 answers
7k views

What do you call a computer window when it is not maximized or minimized?

What do you call a computer window when it is not maximized or minimized? I have been using unmaximized, but I feel there is a more precise way.
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  • 501
27 votes
3 answers
12k views

Origin of the term "driver" in computer science

According to Wikipedia: … a device driver or software driver is a computer program allowing higher-level computer programs to interact with a hardware device. What is the origin of the term driver ...
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26 votes
8 answers
7k views

Opposite of "nesting" a structure

Generally, if some object is nested, it is in a hierarchy level below another object. For example: * Layer 1 - Layer2 "Layer 2 is nested in Layer 1". What do I call it, if I would "de-nest" Layer ...
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  • 371
25 votes
3 answers
17k views

How do you pronounce "cURL," the computer utility? [closed]

Are there programmers here? I'd like to know how you guys pronounce cURL. Because I don't live in a country that uses English, I haven't heard it yet.
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23 votes
4 answers
59k views

Is there a word meaning "append", but at the beginning, not the end? [closed]

In computer programming, when you append a "string" to another, you add it to the end of the former string. E.g. String string1 = "abcd"; String string2 = "efgh"; Appending the two strings would ...
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  • 887
22 votes
8 answers
13k views

What is "embarrassing" about an embarrassingly parallel problem?

In computer science, a problem that is obviously decomposable into many identical but separate subtasks is called embarrassingly parallel. An example is a cryptographic brute force attack, in which ...
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22 votes
3 answers
6k views

What is the noun for either a file or folder?

We have files, we have directories; what is the noun that we could use to generically describe either of these? For instance, an apple or a pear can generically be described as fruit. Is there such a ...
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  • 437
22 votes
2 answers
28k views

"Filepath" or "file path"? [closed]

A path, the general form of the name of a file or directory, specifies a unique location in a file system. "Filename" is a compound, but how about "filepath"/"file path"? "Filepath" seems incorrect ...
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21 votes
9 answers
6k views

If a picture of a screen is a screenshot, what is a video of a screen?

I'm looking for a catchy and nice-sounding word. A really nice sounding phrase would although be better than nothing. I record my computer screen a lot and never really found a nice word to describe ...
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19 votes
3 answers
6k views

What do you call the phenomenon where a rectangle □ is shown because a font lacks a glyph?

Is there a name to describe the situation where a particular character is shown on a computer screen in a particular font, but this font does not have a glyph for this particular character? Usually, ...
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19 votes
3 answers
24k views

What is the difference between obsolete and deprecate in computer science?

Given the two terms "obsolete" and "deprecate" in computer science, what is the difference between them? What I understand, Deprecated means still available for use but will no longer be developed ...
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  • 927
17 votes
10 answers
4k views

What is a verb that means "to be said by a computer/machine"?

I have an app that allows users to type some text. When the user presses a button, the text the user just typed will be synthesised into speech. It's like a "text-to-speech" thingy. I always run into ...
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  • 416
17 votes
3 answers
22k views

Why "motherboard" is used to refer to main board of computer

Why is motherboard used to refer to the main board of a computer? What is the relationship with the word mother here?
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  • 319
17 votes
8 answers
1k views

Is there a word for the action of lifting the mouse to go further?

Using a computer mouse to point to a far away target and running out of table surface (or hand range), one typically lifts the mouse, moves it in the opposite direction, puts it back down, and ...
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16 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why does XLAT mean 'translate'? [duplicate]

It is said that XLAT is an abbr of translate. But I don't understand how come it ends up like that? There is no site on internet would explain it but they're all agree that XLAT is shorten of ...
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14 votes
3 answers
1k views

What is the proper term for a ternary digit?

A binary digit is a bit. Is there an equivalent term for a three-state digit? (e.g., a digit representing true, false, or unknown)
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  • 291
13 votes
3 answers
5k views

Does code run in or on a thread?

Any programmers around? Which of the following is correct, or more common: The code runs in a background thread. The code runs on a background thread. That's it. Just a simple word different. As an ...
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  • 315
12 votes
4 answers
3k views

What is a term for an operator/function in which the order of parameters makes no difference?

I'm trying to recall the term for an operator/function where f(a, b) = f(b, a). For example, a + b = b + a for all values of a and b. However a - b != b - a unless a = b.
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12 votes
2 answers
23k views

Difference between ‘"folder" and "directory"

What is the difference between folder and directory in the context of computer science?
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12 votes
3 answers
5k views

Does a recursive procedure "recur"?

In programming, a recursive procedure is defined as a procedure which refers to itself in the code. The question is, is "recur" the corresponding verb to the adjective "recursive"? Can I say that a ...
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  • 1,697
11 votes
5 answers
22k views

What’s the difference between “tool” and “utility”?

I find these two words appear together often, especially mentioned as tool and utility for the Unix operating system. So I am wondering about the difference between them.
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11 votes
3 answers
5k views

Why is an application called an application?

Sometimes it's nice to know where the words we use everyday as programmers actually come from. For example, I can explain how a computer screen relates to a flat material onto which diaporamas used to ...
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  • 227
10 votes
5 answers
13k views

"Concatenate" vs. "merge" vs. "join" in scientific text

I wonder what the difference is between concatenate, merge and join from the lexical point of view. These words are often used in scientific or programming text. It seems to me that different authors ...
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  • 213
10 votes
4 answers
5k views

Capitalization of User Interface Buttons

Being an amateur programmer and a bit of a perfectionist, I often find myself wondering about capitalization in user interfaces. If you look towards the top of this very website, you'll notice the ...
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  • 1,935
10 votes
3 answers
3k views

When did "Easter egg" begin to mean "hidden feature"?

Can anybody trace the origins of 'Easter egg' for this meaning?
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  • 139
10 votes
3 answers
12k views

Etymology of "ping"

According to Wikipedia ping, the IP network utility, was named after the sonar "ping", which is apparently onomatopoeic. However, "ping" is now used in the vernacular in the sense of "pinging" ...
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10 votes
2 answers
5k views

call vs invoke - informatics context

Particularly in computer science and informatics, when should one use them? Is call the preferred form? For instance, call function invoke method Googling for "call operation" returns +300 000 ...
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9 votes
8 answers
2k views

Alternative for "descend" in the context of computer file systems

I was wondering if there's an alternative for the word descend (maybe something better than simply go), in the context of computer file systems, that doesn't imply going down. When we talk about file ...
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  • 322
9 votes
4 answers
2k views

Origin and scope of "cruft"

I just had to look up "cruft" (jargon for software or hardware that is of poor quality), as used in a comment to an earlier question. But I can't find any details of etymology, and I don't know how ...
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9 votes
3 answers
57k views

What is the origin of != in the meaning "not equal to"?

As a programmer I have always assumed that using != as meaning not equal to when writing text (usually on the internet) came from programming languages. Is this true or is the origin different?
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  • 209
9 votes
3 answers
14k views

"Intended" vs. "intentional"

I'm reading an article about intention recognition in computing areas and somehow robotics. I came across this sentence: This problem has been discussed as the difference between “intended and ...
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  • 205
8 votes
8 answers
6k views

What is a word that means truncate from the beginning?

I am creating some software that has the concept of truncating a one-dimensional array from either the left or right end. I'm happy using the word truncate to describe lopping off the rightmost end of ...
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  • 579
8 votes
4 answers
2k views

What is the etymology of "[computer] terminal"?

I suspect it's something to do with the fact that back in the Olden Days of computing, a terminal was connected to a mainframe computer system, and thus a user would be sat at the terminal end of the ...
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8 votes
3 answers
2k views

Hypernym for "radio button" and "checkbox"? [closed]

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Since I'm coding a shared css class for radio buttons and checkboxes, I would like to word it with the appropriate hypernym. Kind regards
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8 votes
5 answers
948 views

Etymology of "compiler" (computer term)

A friend and I were debating on the origin of the word "compiler". A quick google search led me to discover that Grace Hopper coined the term. But I'm not sure how or on what basis did she coin the ...
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  • 231
8 votes
3 answers
11k views

Is there a word that includes laptops, desktops, Macs and PCs, but not mobile devices

I want to write the sentence "I am creating an app which is intended for use on laptops, desktops, for both MAC and PC". Is there a single word I can use in place of what I have bolded? They are all ...
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  • 89
8 votes
1 answer
1k views

Is "catenate" used in IT parlance?

When I was doing my IT degree in the 80s we learned that, in programming terms, concatenation was the act of joining two strings together. Recently I was reading a technical manual and came across ...
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  • 483
7 votes
8 answers
2k views

What is the opposite of decoupled (computer science)

The image of decoupled (two train cars separated) is clear. In computer science, writing "decoupled" code is a Good Thing, it implies breaking code into discrete pieces that can be tested ...
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7 votes
4 answers
5k views

What's the origin of "beta" to describe a "user-testing" phase of computer development?

It occurred to me that I use the term "beta" to describe a "release candidate" of a computer product that has passed all expectations of the development team, and is now being given limited exposure ...
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  • 10.8k
7 votes
2 answers
369 views

Definitions of the word "delete" vs. public understanding of the word?

I just asked a question on User Experience SE, involving the word delete. This English question is based on that UX question, so its motive can be understood better by reading both questions. It ...
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