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Those delectable devices and their names

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A whole new vocabulary emerged with the arrival of the computer. The dictionary has been turned on its head, and so has been the English language. It is interesting the way one uses some words now.

When did an apple suddenly become a computer? When Steve Jobs decided to name his computer an apple! He took the first letter of the alphabet A, and maybe since A was for apple he used the fruit to good advantage for his first computer which did many new things. It was a wonderful name — and how it stuck. When computer buffs spoke of apple they meant the apple computer. If a new apple product arrived it was accompanied by great fanfare; people even went to sleep outside the premises or wherever they could get a place, in order to be the first buyers of the device, no matter the cost.

Now to computer people the apple may be a computer but to us ordinary people an apple is still an apple — a lovely fruit, so lovely to behold with its own inimitable feel and taste! And hence the idiom, ‘apple of the eye’.

Now to the many devices that have descended in the market. The iPad, the many mobile phones, the smart computer — goodness, the things they can do is mind-boggling — things outsmarting one another! The name Android puts me off, but young people may love it, for it sounds like a robot of science fiction. Like aircraft or humans, the computers can crash. Now what?

Not to worry. We ourselves love the many new devices that have wonderful and lip-smacking names which have simply tumbled out of the larder — my kingdom. Names like gingerbread, cookies, ice cream sandwich and jellybeans can conjure up the most wonderful pictures that make them good enough to eat and possess. I am reminded of the Gingerbread House in a fairy tale where one could eat off the very walls.

Now, another perennial favourite is the potato chip. But the computer changed that too. Now when the computer people say chips, it means computer chips — those tiny components vital for them.

For us chips are very real. Once we made them at home using a chip-cutter. That was a lot of hard work. But everybody loved it and it was a rare dish served once in a blue moon. Now machine-made, they come in a number of varieties and flavours. Kids and adults have had so much access to this stuff that now it is called ‘junk’ and dumped from the diet chart. But not to worry. People are still having a go at it, albeit on the sly. What can compete with their taste and crunch?

Words like bytes, geeks and nerds have descended on us, and we wonder how many more words will be tagged on.

Very soon, with our boys inventing many things, we can also have a go at our Indian goodies: laddu, samosa, mysore pak, gulab jamun, the works. A complicated device with lots of new features can be named ‘murukku’ — the south Indian savoury that involves using the fingers, twisting the rice dough, going round in circles literally and figuratively to produce one perfect piece. Every region of India and the world has its favourite snacks and sweets, so you can imagine what fun it is going to be for many innovators to be producing such luscious stuff.

‘Windows’ keep updating their features to find new buyers. I say, have a heart for them. When we oldies are trying so hard to learn and grasp things, bang come these new features, getting our goat! I asked a computer chap who came to fix a problem, “Why do they keep changing things? Suppose you make a dish in a certain way and have become adept at it, comes a new way of doing it, would you change and ruin your dish with new experiment?” That man laughed and said: “That’s the way it is, ma’am. If you don’t master the new technique then you can’t open an attachment.”

As the world steals a march over us, I guess it leaves us like dinosaurs with our own ‘devices!’

prema_ramakrishnan@hotmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 11:23:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/those-delectable-devices-and-their-names/article6689636.ece

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