Cookies, Trolls and Bugs: Computer Words and Their Origins

“Web 2.0” invites interesting names and references for technology-based entities, both digital and physically based. For example, the “mouse” has existed for some time yet “wiki” pages are recent conjurations of the computer age.


Gadzooks! Consider the image of a fierce warrior guarding the entrance to his village via battle-axe and wall of fire. Yet, firewall security vendors are not medieval instrument-wielding types but more like those who lend computer owners the ability to protect machines from viruses and impending hacks.

Firewalls are great inventions of the computer age, providing the same protection from ‘evil’ as flamed walls of the past.


Virus first appears (academically and relating to computers) in 1984 by Fred Cohen. A computer virus adopts its name from a biological virus, acting in the same manner regarding a host. Once infecting a host, a virus reproduces, rendering the host degenerated or incapacitated. Whether you are opening an email attachment or downloading a file from an internet site, it is your job to ensure the downloaded content is free of viruses.


We have all heard of a torrent of water. Images conjure of a violent stream of water or a heavy downpour of rain, as in a torrential rain or torrential flooding. But have you heard of a torrent file? It is important to keep such images in line when considering data streams converting into one stream, forming a torrent. This will help you visualize how this term entered the technological vernacular. More specifically it is a file that stores information that allows bittorrent clients like Vuze to download files from other connected users, otherwise known as seeders and peers.


“Trolling” is a fishing term, a supplemental method of trailing bait behind or to the side of a moving vessel. The term is transcribed in digital terms as regarding the method of attracting attention by initial (usually outlandish or inflammatory) remarks, hoping to gain greater attention with a reply.

Moreover, incorporating another term, “noob,” seasoned users of a chat room or online community would sometimes “bait” or troll newcomers with elementary questions or terms, ultimately unearthing the responder’s naiveté.


In dormitories and college fraternity houses across America, “ping” is inevitably associated with ping-pong, the game of back and forth table tennis action. However, in digital arenas, a ping regards the sentiment of sending signals of information (such as in an email or DDoS attack) to a particular IP address, testing its ability to receive.

Pings, as mentioned, are associated to hacks or attacks on a computer system, which could temporarily render it unable to remain online.


The Hawaiian term, “wiki wiki” means fast or quick. Many are acquainted with Wikipedia, the unofficial encyclopedia of the Internet. Emulating the age-old reference tool of an encyclopedia, Wikipedia entries focus on just about any topic imaginable, continuously expanding.

Short, concise reference tools remain popular with browsers. Therefore, a number of brands copy the ‘wiki’ like structure regarding reference and non-fiction material.


“Cookies” are bytes (pun intended) of information, uniting respective sites, a browser and a user. For example, a user operating Google Chrome and revisiting Facebook, may find their password information already stored.

Apparently, the term comes from the Chinese dessert cookie hosting information inside. Others believe the cookies are related to advertising ‘sweeteners’ or information used to retarget online browsers.


Grace Hopper, working on the Harvard Mark II, finally found the glitch leaving peers dumbfounded – a trapped moth. The story became so famous the bug is displayed within the Smithsonian. Today, a computer virus or degenerative machine behavior is often referred to as a “bug.”

Now, you’re schooled on a number of tech terms, helping you relate to coworkers and the average tech-wielding teen. Get out there and use Web 2.0 slang responsibly.

Leonor McGowan is obsessed with technology. From the history of trends to basic terms and functions, she greatly enjoys blogging about the basics of computers and the web for the everyday person.


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