[SIGCIS-Members] History of gendered terms, e.g., "motherboard"
Brian L. Stuart
blstuart at bellsouth.net
Wed May 24 08:09:00 PDT 2017
I'll add a cautionary, yet amusing, anecdote related to the use of
the parent/child metaphor with OS processes. Of course, the terms
are indeed very descriptive and naturally follow their use in the
hierarchical relationship in trees. However, even in an office full
of engineers, exclaiming "My children are dying in the wrong order"
will get you some pretty concerned and questioning looks. It's
even worse when you talk about killing them...
Yes, I did learn to use less dramatic phrasing after that.
On Wed, 5/24/17, Paul N. Edwards <pne at umich.edu> wrote:
Interesting discussion. OED does not speculate on this connection; first
use of “motherboard” it lists is 1965.
It’s worth noting that some of the gendered terms in engineering are
very clear and literal metaphors, not specifically human though definitely
“Mother ship,” like “motherboard,” refers to a larger thing from which
smaller, but similar dependent units (smaller ships, subsidiary circuit boards)
are launched, to which they are attached, and from which they draw sustenance
“Female” and “male” connectors refer to sockets and plugs respectively, also
quite literal, also not particularly human but mammalian.
This is not to say that such metaphors aren’t sometimes
deployed in objectionable, human-oriented ways, but it would
be silly to ignore their value as readily understood descriptors of
physical structure and/or relationships.
On May 24, 2017, at 9:43 , mike willegal <mike at willegal.net> wrote:
My guess is that the term, Motherboard, was derived from the term
Mothership, which is still in common usage by the general population, and
according to several online dictionaries originated in the
19th century. Note that when techs and engineers refer to
Motherboards, they normally use the gender neutral pronoun, "it".
On May 23, 2017, at 1:51 PM, Mark Priestley <m.priestley at gmail.com> wrote:
I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you're looking for, but some CS pioneers
were rather keen to use the master-slave metaphor to talk
about human-computer relations. Eg:
Jack Good reported
that: "Turing used to refer jocularly to people who are
forced to do
mechanical operations as
Engelbart: "Think ahead to the day when computer
technology might provide for your very own use the full-time
services of a completely attentive, very patient, very fast
symbol-manipulating slave who has an IQ adequate for 95% of
your today's mental tasks."
And there's this
unfortunate Newsweek caption about Harry Huskey.
think probably links back to earlier tropes about robots: eg
in Capek's RUR, the rebellious robots are precisely
slaves. I've got an unpublished conference paper I wrote
a few years back about this which I could dig out if
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