What We Call Technology

Through the 20th century the suffix “tron” was slapped on anything technologically advanced.  It really started in 1904 when the first vacuum tube was dubbed the kenotron but popped up in words like cyclotron.  And why not.  “tron” means tool. If something was sufficiently advanced, or you wanted people to think it was advanced, you slapped “tron” on the end.  My fifth grade teacher had in her classroom an educational game from the 1950’s called the Encyclotron.  I would love to show you a picture but several Google searches turned up nothing.  The Encyclotron is lost to the world.

Growing up in the 1980’s it felt like the word “cyber” was a prefix to everything.  As a teen I yearned to shrug off my “meat suit” and escape to cyberspace and have lots of risk free cybersex while my body sat in a cybercafe, perhaps getting a message from a cyborg.

Then came the “i” craze started with the iPod in 2001 when everything new and advanced had to be linked to the Internet.  How did you tell if something was on the Internet?  Well you put an “i” in front.  Followed shortly after with using “Me” and “My” as a prefix to indicate things that could be personalized.  Oh, and some where before the “i” craze was the “e” for electronic.  You went to the eStore, for example.

Virtual has bounced around a good deal. Virtual, which in the middle-ages meant manly, has come to mean not physical.  Virtual reality has replaced cyberspace.  I now dream of shrugging off my “meat suit” and having virtual sex in virtual reality.  Not much has changed, just the word.

All these are signals, to let people know how fancy, new, and advanced things are.  I’m writing this on a website so perhaps it is a Virtual iLiterarytron or an eCyberjournal.  You hardly notice the silliness of the trends until they are nearly gone and it pops up in an unexpected place.  Cyber-Monday has stuck, like Cyberpunk, but cybersex has slipped away like my youth.