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Semantic Change and Broadening of Tech Terms

Last modified on Wednesday, May 8, 2024

2 minute read

TLS Certificates are still called SSL Certificates

As technology advances, so does the language we use to describe it. Many terms that were once specific have undergone semantic broadening, encompassing a wider array of concepts than their original definitions intended. Whether you're a tech enthusiast, a casual user, or someone navigating the digital landscape for professional purposes, understanding the concept of broading terms is crucial.

  • Secure Socket Layers SSL Certificate: The term "SSL certificate" is still commonly used, but it has become technically inaccurate due to the evolution of encryption protocols. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is an outdated cryptographic protocol that has been replaced by TLS (Transport Layer Security). TLS is a more secure and robust protocol for ensuring secure communication over a computer network, most commonly the internet. However, despite the widespread adoption of TLS, people and organizations often still refer to TLS certificates as "SSL certificates." This is because SSL was the precursor to TLS, and the term has persisted in common usage. Nowadays, when someone says "SSL certificate," they are usually referring to a digital certificate that uses TLS encryption to secure data transmitted between a web server and a user's web browser, even though TLS is the correct term for the modern encryption protocol being used.
  • Texting: Texting now encompasses a lot more than just text, with images, videos, voice notes, and other multimedia comment, but "voicing" or "multimeding" someone doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
  • Hard Drive: While we still refer to modern data storage devices as hard drives, many of them, including mobile phones, now use solid-state drives (SSDs), which have no moving parts and differ significantly from traditional spinning hard drives. This explains why phones seem to survive even after being dropped.
  • Radio: While the term "radio" is still used to describe broadcast transmissions, many radio stations now primarily transmit digitally rather than through traditional analog signals.
  • "Desktop" in Virtual Computing: In virtual desktop environments, we talk about "desktops" even though the user interface doesn't involve a physical desk.
  • MP3 Player: The term "MP3 player" is often used to describe devices that play various digital audio formats, not just MP3 files.
  • Computer "Mouse": The term "mouse" is still used to describe pointing devices, even though many people use touchpads, trackballs, or touchscreens instead of traditional mice.
  • Carbon Copy (CC): In email, "CC" is still used to send copies of messages to additional recipients, even though no actual carbon paper is involved.
  • Digital Clock: Clocks with digital displays are still called "digital clocks" even though analog clocks with physical hands are technically also digital (representing discrete units of time).
  • "Hanging Up" a Phone Call: We still use the term "hang up" to end a call, even though we're not physically hanging up a handset. These terms have become ingrained in our language and culture, even if they no longer accurately reflect the underlying technology or concepts they originally referred to.]

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