Changing language: Program, programme, application, app

Posted on by Mike Evans

I have always been fascinated by language and, in particular, by the evolution of the English language. I am old enough to remember when the merest mention of geeky "hardware" or "software" would prompt gales of laughter from the technically challenged. Yet these two words are now respectable and fully understood concepts. No longer is there the slightest titter when they are used.

Ever since computers were first told what to do, we have had the (American) word Program. I've always had the view that Program is a computer programme, while the English spelling is reserved for radio and television output. Now, though, thanks again to Apple, it looks like program as a term for a computer application is on the wane--if it has not already fully waned. 

Now it is "app" or "application", with app becoming more acceptable even in the broadsheet press. No self-respecting mobile platform is now complete without its own app store. Now, also, we talk routinely about PC or Mac apps instead of programs. 

I also find it fascinating the way English (or should I say American?) computer terms are dragged into foreign languages and, probably, carry a frisson of sophistication that is missing in the local equivalent. Germans now talk about downloading as just one instance; they even use the charming past tense version downgeloadet

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