• Computer Tech Explained! (well…sort of)

    Have you ever wondered why it’s called a mouse? What about the reason the nickname for junk e-mail is the same as a pre-cooked meat substitute created by the Hormel Foods Corporation? What exactly is the purpose of naming browser cookies after one of the world’s most classic (and delicious) treats? Read on for some facts (and theories) behind some of the most common computer technologies.


    According to the Computer History Museum, Doug Engelbart created the mouse during a conference lecture in 1961. The first design used rolling wheels inspired by devices called planimeters (engineers in Germany also invented a version of the mouse in the mid-1960s. Their version used the rolling ball that became the standard for decades).
    When Engelbart was asked who coined the term “mouse”, his reply was simply, “no one can remember. It just looked like a mouse with a tail, and we all called it that.”

    Fun fact: In the beginning, the wire “tail” came out under the user’s wrist instead of above the fingers like it does today.


    The notorious nickname for junk e-mail is a little more complicated. There is actually more than one theory floating around as to when and why the term “spam” was coined. There are two main theories out there, but they both come down to being named after the well-known lunch meat.
    The first theory is that students in a computer lab at the University of Southern California coined the term. They believed that junk mail had the same characteristics as the lunch meat.
    The more popular theory is that the term was derived from a skit from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, where a restaurant’s only menu item is Spam. When a woman wants a "Spam-free" meal, Vikings begin to sing a song where the only lyric is “Spam.” After a while, you can barely hear or understand any of the woman’s complaints due to the drone of the word Spam by the Vikings. Its excessiveness, monotony and annoyance encompassed the widely shared opinion of junk e-mail.

    Fun fact: The Government of Canada approved the world’s toughest anti-spam legislation. Corporations can get fines up to $10 million and individuals up to $1 million for anti-spam law violation.

    The theories on browser cookies are a little more abundant than the other two. Below are three theories that are commonly referred to.
    Some believe the term was coined from the children’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. The children were able to find their way home by following bread crumbs (or cookie crumbs in some cases) behind them, which is, in essence, what a browser cookie does.
    According to Wikipedia, “the term was derived from ‘magic cookie’, which is the packet of data a program receives and sends again unchanged.”
    Another theory is that a large corporate mainframe was looked after by a programmer. After he left the company, the computers would occasionally stop working and display the message, “gimme a cookie.” The system would not resume operation until it was “fed” a “cookie”. The administrators couldn’t fix the code without rewriting an entire (massive) program. Instead, they trained the users to give the machine a cookie whenever it asked! This theory is referred to as “The Cookie Monster Easter Egg” theory.

    Fun Fact: While there are many different types of cookies, there is such a thing as a “zombie” cookie. This type of cookie is automatically recreated after a user has deleted it.

    Want to know more about technology? Dive into Windstream’s High-Speed Internet options and discover (or create) your own theories about the Internet!