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9/12/2014
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Jeff Bertolucci
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10 Tech Terms Millennials Don't Know

Some revered tech terms prompt nothing but puzzled looks from today's young professionals. Hint: Clones belong in Star Wars.
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(Image: Pew Research Center report)
(Image: Pew Research Center report)

"Hey, Grandpa, what's a baud?"

It's no secret that technology advances rapidly. A product, service, or spec that seemed cutting-edge a decade or two ago may appear quaint or even laughably outdated today.

Two examples: The first commercially successful portable computer -- the term "laptop" didn't apply yet -- was the 24.5-pound Osborne 1, which debuted in 1981 for $1,795, or roughly $4,700 in today's dollars. And the Apple Newton, one of the first handheld computers (or PDAs, if you prefer), had a then-impressive 336-by-240-pixel reflective LCD and (unreliable) handwriting recognition. It cost $700 when it began shipping in 1993.

Given the rapid pace of change, it's easy to see how quickly common tech terms -- words and phrases that a reasonably computer-literate person might use on a daily basis -- could be largely forgotten or obsolete within a generation. It's also reasonable to assume that many Millennials -- the generation born after 1980 but with no set chronological endpoint, according to Pew Research -- haven't heard of, or perhaps are only vaguely familiar with, tech terms from the 1980s or 90s.

(Other researchers place the Millennial Generation's end point in the early 2000s, but these start and stop dates are arbitrary. And there may very well be significant differences in the beliefs and attitudes of people born in the early 1980s and those born two decades later. Of course, we're discussing tech terms here, not whether an entire generation believes in God, supports same-sex marriage, or thinks gluten is inherently evil.)

Whatever their knowledge of bygone tech, Millennials are embracing today's social-oriented technologies. A March 2014 Pew Research study found that Millennials are eagerly adopting new technologies, including mobile devices and social media, and placing themselves at the epicenter of their own "self-created digital networks."

"Fully 55% have posted a 'selfie' on a social media site; no other generation is nearly as inclined to do this," the report states.

But despite their enthusiasm for social and mobile tech, 9 in 10 Millennials say people share too much of themselves online, a view that older generations hold with "similarly lopsided proportions," the report adds.

It's always perilous to stereotype an entire generation of people, of course, and it's likely that many tech-savvy Millennials who read InformationWeek are quite familiar with technologies and products that many of their peers don't know about.

Now explore 10 tech terms largely unknown to Millennials. Did we miss an example you have bumped up against? Add it in the comments section.

Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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dw_ship
IW Pick
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dw_ship,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2014 | 10:32:24 AM
Some of my recollections
While reading this article, several terms and things quickly sprang to mind that Millennials may not know (or be sketchy) about:

-Daisy-wheel printer
-Line printer
-Printer Ribbon
-DEC (paper) terminal
-"Dumb" terminal
-Acoustic modem
-Disk packs
-Spelling debate over: disc and disk
-Raster graphics
-EGA/VGA
-MS-DOS
-Bulletin Boards
-Vampire clamps (for coax ethernet)
-Token ring
-Hand-shaking
-Game port
-CRT - do they know what it means (Cathode Ray Tube)?
-tubes, transisters and ICs

-Certain programming languages: Pascal, Fortran, Ada, Cobol, ...
-Programs with line numbers
-Gorp, Adventure, Star Trek and other text base games


-"Building a computer" use to include soldering and wiring components
Number 6
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Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
9/12/2014 | 10:38:34 AM
Re: Some of my recollections
Yes, daisy wheel printer was one that popped into my head, too, having done some programming to drive them in the early (pre-Word, pre-PC) word processor days.

Remember to use the oiled yellow tape only in the ASR33 TTY. Don't run it through the high-speed optical paper tape reader on the DEC PDP... it'll smudge the glass.

DECtape... and mag tapes in general

Time sharing

Flashing lights on consoles... and consoles themselves

CP/M, OS/2

TRS-80, PET

CR/LF

Blink (or flash) emphasis on CRT text
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2014 | 11:24:06 AM
Re: Some of my recollections
I'll go with my personal favorite -- a command that never seems to mean much and takes forever to run

 

>> CHKDSK

 

 
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 1:13:40 PM
Re: Some of my recollections
One of my favourite commands! Very useful including the /f switch.
LUFU
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LUFU,
User Rank: Strategist
9/15/2014 | 5:55:29 PM
Re: Some of my recollections
@jastroff - I love >>CHKDSK - always a good excuse to take a long break.

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/12/2014 | 4:35:42 PM
Re: Some of my recollections
"Bulletin Boards"

Or BBS.

Now I feel old. The only technology I never encountered was punch cards. 
Hevans1944
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Hevans1944,
User Rank: Guru
9/18/2014 | 7:36:01 PM
Re: Some of my recollections
I was recently watching the sci-fi movie Solyent Green, in one scene of which is a kiosk game called Computer Space. I remember feeding this game hundreds of quarters at the Dayton Mall before moving on to things like the Atari game console for home use. Before EGA and VGA there were CGA graphics adapter cards for PC clones, and CGA color monitors with four displayable colors from a pallate of sixteen. The one big advantage of CGA graphics adapters was they suppplied NTSC video that could be displayed on an appropriately equipped home color television using simple coaxial cables with RCA connectors, hooked up about the same way as a VHS video tape player but without a sound channel. No, I never did buy into the BetaMax format that was so popular with the "professional" crowd.

I may be getting old. I remember (and used) ten out of ten of the things mentioned. I have especially fond memories of the ASR33 teletype with paper punch and reader. The electronics lab where I worked full-time from 1967 to 1978 while attending school part-time had an ASR33 hardwired to a time-sharing port on the University's brand new RCA Spectra 70 "mainframe". Oh the wonders of BASIC at 110 baud on a hardcopy terminal!

That fall I registered for my first undergraduate computer course, a requirement for a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree. It was FORTRAN and we were supposed to submit hand-punched Hollerith card decks with our programming assignments. I quickly discovered that I could compose programs "on line" with the ASR33, save them as a file on the SPECTRA 70, then submit the programs as a job to the BIGFOR background compiler. A couple iterations of this and my programs compiled and ran perfectly. But what to do about the card deck? I discovered I could also submit the program to be punched, but the resulting card deck output had no alpha-numerics printed across the top edge. Surely the teacher would notice and object to this! So, after retrieving the punched card deck from the computer center, I immediately re-submitted it for reading and printing (there was a technical name for this process which I have forgotten) on their IBM-360/25. I could usually talk the computer room priests into submitting the deck to the 360 card reader/punch and delivering the printed results in the same while-you-wait visit. My program decks were hardly a strain, being usually less than fifty cards for each classroom assignment, taking less than two seconds to process the whole deck.

Eventually I did get bit by the computer bug and built my own IBM-compatible PC, sometime in the 1980s after I graduated and moved on to another job. Before that, I purchased a Commodore VIC-20 for my young son, pointing him in the direction of an engineering career. Meanwhile, in the electronics lab of my employer I eventually talked managemnt into allowing me to purchase an Intel Microprocessor Development System( Intellec MDS-80), complete with a full boat (64 kbytes) of memory and two 8" floppy disk drives. This satisfied by "personal computer" cravings until I graduated in 1978 and led to many embedded Intel 8080/8085 designs.

Dot-matrix printers were a must for hardcopy in the 1980s, although I later purchased an HP laser printer for professional quality letters and documents. At my new job the computer priests had chain printers and very high speed electrostatic-based line printers using a black toner suspended in kerosine. A horizontal row of tiny needles charged up a specially-coated rapidly moving paper to attract the toner particles.

Acoustic modems and later Hayes direct-connect to the phone line modems (thanks to the Carterfone decision) provided access to Bulletin Board Services and a brief flirtation with Compunet. I just knew in my heart that AOL was not the way to go and eventually signed on with a "broadband" ADSL provider. It was many later that our neighborhood was finally offered broadband cable service, but by then both my wife and I had upgraded PCs and she was heavily involved with social networking.

I really don't give a fig if so-called millenials know where I've been and what I've done. Let them re-invent the wheel if that is their wont. It's been a fun fifty or so years and I look forward to a few more.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/12/2014 | 10:59:44 AM
Does it matter?
I can't think of anything on this list that it would be important for millenials to know. For what purpose? (Other than communicating with geezers)
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2014 | 11:30:15 AM
Re: Does it matter?
If a millennial was an investor  and needed to know the course of technology, then knowing where and how things were may help understand the trend of where things are going in terms of what to invest in. Ditto if the millennial was an artist, graphic designer, writer, bringing past images into new ideas can be a rich experience. Also throw in people who study the history of work, everyday life, etc. It's not for everyone, the past, that is, but it does help for some to know what came before.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
9/12/2014 | 3:24:57 PM
6 for 10
Millennial here: I've heard about (or used) 6/10 of these. Don't discount us all!
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/12/2014 | 4:28:01 PM
Re: 6 for 10
Also a millenial (just barely). Also got 6/10!
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
9/13/2014 | 12:07:33 PM
Re: 6 for 10
I got 4 /10.  I guess I'm barely a millenial as well.  I remember a time when beeper was the fashionable device to have and MTV was a channel that actually played music.  Don't forget VHS,  I do remember a dial TV with no remote control, I really had to make an effort each time I wanted to watch a new show. 
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2014 | 4:03:15 PM
S0C7 ABEND
Once upon a time the infamous S0C7 (sock 7) ABEND engendered the same feeling as a Java NullPointerException or perhaps a JavaScript "undefined" exception.

A few other things that haven't been mentioned yet:

Compuserve

Prodigy

FidoNet (although apparenty still active)

Lynx (although still actively maintained)
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
9/13/2014 | 10:56:37 PM
Back to the Stone Age
How about Network TV, vacuum tube, resistor, variable capacitor and inductor?

 
anon7497560627
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anon7497560627,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/15/2014 | 9:52:53 AM
cro-magnonTech terms
I started with mainframes before there were hand calculators. Disk packs (system hard drives) held as little as an 8" floppy. My smaert phone is vastly more powerfull than an entire IBM 360 mainframe. In college, you had to wait in line to punch your cards with a hand punch- no keyboards, terminals, or screens. I made some of the very first IBM clones (solder included).  The first PC networks (before Microsoft or Novell) used RS-422a interfaces and a 5 MB shared hard drive (Corvus).  

Thanks for making me feel totally irrelevant.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 1:20:43 PM
PDA
I remember the Newton. That was really ahead of its time and a precursor to the "PDA" which did NOT mean public display of affection. In the mid to late 90's you had some really interesting devices come out like the Palm. That was really a great device especially when it was able to download info from webistes that you could carry with you and read later. Eventually all that morphed into smart phones but back then it was really cool. It was also expensive. I remember the Palm V's going for about $500 when they first came out which was a lot of money back then.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 2:16:31 PM
8 out of 10
I'm familiar with 8 terms out of 10. No idea about Teletype and  Wang. I feel so old right now.
gnxman
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gnxman,
User Rank: Guru
9/15/2014 | 3:11:34 PM
9 out of 10. I guess I'm old...
I got 9 out of 10. The only device I hadn't used was the teletype. They were mostly in newsrooms and police stations. The BBS (bulletin board system) was the pre-world wide web connection system for techies to link to each other. Also long gone.
geektechTX
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geektechTX,
User Rank: Guru
9/18/2014 | 1:23:31 PM
Re: 9 out of 10. I guess I'm old...
I stil login into BBS telnet boards still i download Telnet or OS feature upgrades on Windows 8 Pro to get into Telnet/BBS i am not that old but i remember TechTV BBS boards i think every dork that channel surfed accident found TechTV/ZDTV 10 years ago learned so much ..ZDTV/TechTV was a way of ahead of the curb.. i had calls from Cisco sale person found me on BBS board wanted me partner with them i was omg Cisco called i didnt have to call them i left in my voicemail on Google Voice .. i am just small business indie tech/media company .. 

I remember Commadore64 and more IBM computers i still have copies of Windows 95 /SE /ME others lol tons of early distros of Linux dating back a decade . we had Juno as ISP as kid no American Online was inferor to me . once AOL went free on chatrooms i coudl talk down AOLers finally tell them get off AOL lol it was epic telling AOL is making all lazy and stupid look what happen American Online as ISP
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/15/2014 | 5:35:03 PM
more ancient tech terms
CompuServe is a great example of a term that will prompt blank stares. We didn't even get into classic electronic games here: I felt really old the day I mentioned Simon and Merlin and one of the reporters on our team had never heard of either one.
Bob Beliveau
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Bob Beliveau,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/19/2014 | 12:16:12 PM
Whatnet?
Before Ethernet became "the network", there were Token Ring, FDDI, ArcNet.

Ethernet even had to try a couple of physical options before settling on twisted pair. Remember Thinnet and Thicknet?

Then there were other LAN protocols: Appletalk, Microsoft Lan Manager, Novell IPX

I remmeber connecting to the "internet" first using SLIP with SLIPNet.

 
dried_squid
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dried_squid,
User Rank: Moderator
9/24/2014 | 2:32:59 PM
wordprocessing
It's my opinion many millenials confuse wordprocessing with desktop publishing. To me, using styles is not technical, it's just writing.


It's not the millenials fault. I blame the baby boomers. I'm a boomer. I learned styles in DOS WordPerfect. The concepts remain intelligent and utilitarian on the web and in simple programming.

 

I introduced the notion of styles in rudimentary HTML, Word, and Excel, to my Gen Y, nephew and niece. No comments. I assume they were never taught to use it in middle or high school, and at university, formatting flourish was more important than semantics and structure.

 

I assume the see using styles as too technical, as compared to savvy across both digital and print.

 

Happy Wednesday.
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