Every time I watch bio/medRxiv’s Richard Sever patiently respond on Twitter to someone complaining about how the term “preprint” is nonsensical for an online-only journal article which will never be printed, I’m reminded of a video we hosted a few years back, where young children were shown a first generation iPod, and every single one of them referred to it as a “phone” — a word which used here means the portable computer you carry around in your pocket.
Thinking about the evolution of language, it’s worth noting that we still “hang up” at the end of calls on our portable computers, even if they no longer hang on the wall. And of course, we still “dial” a number, which brings us to today’s video, a tutorial from 1936 for the major user-interface shift from requesting an operator connect you to dialing the number yourself (using an actual dial). When was the last time you (have you ever?) dialed a phone number? The video also introduces the “busy signal”, which in an age of call waiting and ubiquitous voice mail, is also soon to become a more figurative term rather than something we actually encounter.