Weekly Classic Computer Trivia Question (20150105)

js at cimmeri.com js at cimmeri.com
Tue Jan 6 17:24:51 CST 2015

On 1/6/2015 2:40 PM, Rich Alderson wrote:
> NB: I have moved js's top-posted 
> comment to its correct place in the 
> conversation.
>> Noel, those overly concerned with semantics will *always* jump at the chance
>> to demonstrate their superior knowledge.  Their knowledge is indeed superior,
>> but their inate need to demonstrate it is just as great.
> Let me make an analogy that you will perhaps understand.
> Were Noel and I writing on a linguistics mailing list (say LINGUIST or ArcLing)
> and in a post I referred to a 2716 as a microprocessor, would Noel be "overly
> concerned with semantics" if he corrected me?

There's a subtle difference here, 
though.   The difference is that I (at 
least) understood what Noel was saying 
in his context, with almost zero 
knowledge of Japanese and *without* 
further elaboration, whereas I'm not 
sure someone with zero knowledge of 
computers would know what a "2716" even 
referred to, moreso in comparison to a 

I hear these same kinds of mistakes 
resulting from very loose (and improper) 
use of language all the time, especially 
in movies when someone with no knowledge 
of computers has written the script, and 
the script happens to refer to some 
technical aspect of computers.  They 
almost always get the lingo wrong, but I 
doubt that the audience ever notices.  
The improper language works on the 
audience because the audience is just as 
clueless as the writer was.

Same holds here.  Because I'm clueless 
on Japanese, Noel's language worked for 
me, despite not being 100% accurate.

So, in your example, if both parties are 
clueless re 2716 eproms and 
microprocessors, the language might 
*still* work for them... because in 
their context, accuracy is not 
inherently important to the message.

> And if I stated to a non-computer expert audience that germanium transistors
> were used to build computers, might Noel be forgiven for noting that that was
> in the 1960s, to give them an idea of time scale?
Different type of example, and here, I 
concur with you 100%.

> I've spent 45+ years studying and working with computers.  I've also spent 45+
> years in linguistics, studying and working with languages and language.  Rather
> than pandering to the misinformed by misusing terminology from either field, I
> use the correct terminologies in both and expect the same from others, and if
> there is a lapse somewhere, I expect it to be corrected.  You will have seen me
> thanking others for correcting my own errors, as well, rather than defending
> them.

To each his own, and you are certainly 
entitled to it.   I just happen to be in 
perhaps the minority that finds 
tangential or off-subject elaborations 
to be tiresome.

- J.

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