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What is the origin of the term “Developer” in the context of software?

What is the origin of the term “Developer” in the context of software?



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The term "software developer" is a popular term for those who create software. The processes of writing software is often called "software development".

What is the origin of that term? How did the verb "develop" come to be how we talk about creating/writing software?


The word "develop" has applied to projects longer than we've had computers. Merriam-Webster has the definition "to create or produce especially by deliberate effort over time". Computer programs require this kind of work, so the word fit.

Google Ngrams shows a huge spike in the use of the term "research and development" around WWII. I'm having trouble linking it, but you can easily reproduce the search.

The earliest example I found of the term applied to computer programming is a chapter called "The Program Development Cycle" in Spencer's "Introduction to Information Processing" of 1974. The chapter is full of italicized key terms (instructions, program, flowchart), but "development" is not given this treatment. It wasn't yet a term of art, just the word for a process of creation.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "developer" (in any context) dates back as far back as 1772:

A late excellent developer of the human heart…
Letters Several Eminent Persons Deceased

There have been a lot of other things and people called "developers" since then. In particular, it has been used to describe "[a] person, organization, etc., that develops a new product or technology" (OED) since 1905:

[O]ur chairman, the reinventor and the leading developer of the spectroheliograph…
Popular Science

As for in the software sense, the earliest example given in the OED is from 1961:

Roderick D. McIver, program developer for the GE computer group will be host.
Phoenix Republic (Arizona)


Automation

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Automation, application of machines to tasks once performed by human beings or, increasingly, to tasks that would otherwise be impossible. Although the term mechanization is often used to refer to the simple replacement of human labour by machines, automation generally implies the integration of machines into a self-governing system. Automation has revolutionized those areas in which it has been introduced, and there is scarcely an aspect of modern life that has been unaffected by it.

The term automation was coined in the automobile industry about 1946 to describe the increased use of automatic devices and controls in mechanized production lines. The origin of the word is attributed to D.S. Harder, an engineering manager at the Ford Motor Company at the time. The term is used widely in a manufacturing context, but it is also applied outside manufacturing in connection with a variety of systems in which there is a significant substitution of mechanical, electrical, or computerized action for human effort and intelligence.

In general usage, automation can be defined as a technology concerned with performing a process by means of programmed commands combined with automatic feedback control to ensure proper execution of the instructions. The resulting system is capable of operating without human intervention. The development of this technology has become increasingly dependent on the use of computers and computer-related technologies. Consequently, automated systems have become increasingly sophisticated and complex. Advanced systems represent a level of capability and performance that surpass in many ways the abilities of humans to accomplish the same activities.

Automation technology has matured to a point where a number of other technologies have developed from it and have achieved a recognition and status of their own. Robotics is one of these technologies it is a specialized branch of automation in which the automated machine possesses certain anthropomorphic, or humanlike, characteristics. The most typical humanlike characteristic of a modern industrial robot is its powered mechanical arm. The robot’s arm can be programmed to move through a sequence of motions to perform useful tasks, such as loading and unloading parts at a production machine or making a sequence of spot-welds on the sheet-metal parts of an automobile body during assembly. As these examples suggest, industrial robots are typically used to replace human workers in factory operations.

This article covers the fundamentals of automation, including its historical development, principles and theory of operation, applications in manufacturing and in some of the services and industries important in daily life, and impact on the individual as well as society in general. The article also reviews the development and technology of robotics as a significant topic within automation. For related topics, see computer science and information processing.


Attributes

This element includes the global attributes.

allow Specifies a feature policy for the <iframe> . The policy defines what features are available to the <iframe> based on the origin of the request (e.g. access to the microphone, camera, battery, web-share API, etc.).

For more information and examples see: Using Feature Policy > The iframe allow attribute. allowfullscreen Set to true if the <iframe> can activate fullscreen mode by calling the requestFullscreen() method.

  • eager : Load the iframe immediately, regardless if it is outside the visible viewport (this is the default value).
  • lazy : Defer loading of the iframe until it reaches a calculated distance from the viewport, as defined by the browser.
  • no-referrer : The Referer header will not be sent.
  • no-referrer-when-downgrade (default): The Referer header will not be sent to origins without TLS (HTTPS).
  • origin : The sent referrer will be limited to the origin of the referring page: its scheme, host, and port.
  • origin-when-cross-origin : The referrer sent to other origins will be limited to the scheme, the host, and the port. Navigations on the same origin will still include the path.
  • same-origin : A referrer will be sent for same origin, but cross-origin requests will contain no referrer information.
  • strict-origin : Only send the origin of the document as the referrer when the protocol security level stays the same (HTTPS→HTTPS), but don't send it to a less secure destination (HTTPS→HTTP).
  • strict-origin-when-cross-origin : Send a full URL when performing a same-origin request, only send the origin when the protocol security level stays the same (HTTPS→HTTPS), and send no header to a less secure destination (HTTPS→HTTP).
  • unsafe-url : The referrer will include the origin and the path (but not the fragment, password, or username). This value is unsafe, because it leaks origins and paths from TLS-protected resources to insecure origins.
  • allow-downloads-without-user-activation : Allows for downloads to occur without a gesture from the user.
  • allow-downloads : Allows for downloads to occur with a gesture from the user.
  • allow-forms : Allows the resource to submit forms. If this keyword is not used, form submission is blocked.
  • allow-modals : Lets the resource open modal windows.
  • allow-orientation-lock : Lets the resource lock the screen orientation.
  • allow-pointer-lock : Lets the resource use the Pointer Lock API.
  • allow-popups : Allows popups (such as window.open() , target="_blank" , or showModalDialog() ). If this keyword is not used, the popup will silently fail to open.
  • allow-popups-to-escape-sandbox : Lets the sandboxed document open new windows without those windows inheriting the sandboxing. For example, this can safely sandbox an advertisement without forcing the same restrictions upon the page the ad links to.
  • allow-presentation : Lets the resource start a presentation session.
  • allow-same-origin : If this token is not used, the resource is treated as being from a special origin that always fails the same-origin policy (potentially preventing access to data storage/cookies and some JavaScript APIs).
  • allow-scripts : Lets the resource run scripts (but not create popup windows).
  • allow-storage-access-by-user-activation : Lets the resource request access to the parent's storage capabilities with the Storage Access API.
  • allow-top-navigation : Lets the resource navigate the top-level browsing context (the one named _top ).
  • allow-top-navigation-by-user-activation : Lets the resource navigate the top-level browsing context, but only if initiated by a user gesture.
  • When the embedded document has the same origin as the embedding page, it is strongly discouraged to use both allow-scripts and allow-same-origin , as that lets the embedded document remove the sandbox attribute — making it no more secure than not using the sandbox attribute at all.
  • Sandboxing is useless if the attacker can display content outside a sandboxed iframe — such as if the viewer opens the frame in a new tab. Such content should be also served from a separate origin to limit potential damage.
  • The sandbox attribute is unsupported in Internet Explorer 9 and earlier.

Deprecated attributes

These attributes are deprecated and may no longer be supported by all user agents. You should not use them in new content, and try to remove them from existing content.

  • auto : Only when the frame's content is larger than its dimensions.
  • yes : Always show a scrollbar.
  • no : Never show a scrollbar.

Non-standard attributes


Here are important strategies in software engineering:

Unit Testing: This software testing approach is followed by the programmer to test the unit of the program. It helps developers to know whether the individual unit of the code is working properly or not.

Integration testing: It focuses on the construction and design of the software. You need to see that the integrated units are working without errors or not.

System testing: In this method, your software is compiled as a whole and then tested as a whole. This testing strategy checks the functionality, security, portability, amongst others.


Who Coined ɼloud Computing'?

Cloud computing is one of the hottest buzzwords in technology. It appears 48 million times on the Internet. But amidst all the chatter, there is one question about cloud computing that has never been answered: Who said it first?

Proof of concept: George Favaloro poses with a 1996 Compaq business plan. The document is the earliest known use of the term “cloud computing” in print (click here to view).

Some accounts trace the birth of the term to 2006, when large companies such as Google and Amazon began using “cloud computing” to describe the new paradigm in which people are increasingly accessing software, computer power, and files over the Web instead of on their desktops.

But Technology Review tracked the coinage of the term back a decade earlier, to late 1996, and to an office park outside Houston. At the time, Netscape’s Web browser was the technology to be excited about and the Yankees were playing Atlanta in the World Series. Inside the offices of Compaq Computer, a small group of technology executives was plotting the future of the Internet business and calling it “cloud computing.”

Their vision was detailed and prescient. Not only would all business software move to the Web, but what they termed “cloud computing-enabled applications” like consumer file storage would become common. For two men in the room, a Compaq marketing executive named George Favaloro and a young technologist named Sean O’Sullivan, cloud computing would have dramatically different outcomes. For Compaq, it was the start of a $2-billion-a-year business selling servers to Internet providers. For O’Sullivan’s startup venture, it was a step toward disenchantment and insolvency.

See the rest of our Business Impact report on Business in the Cloud.

Cloud computing still doesn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary. But its use is spreading rapidly because it captures a historic shift in the IT industry as more computer memory, processing power, and apps are hosted in remote data centers, or the “cloud.” With billions of dollars of IT spending in play, the term itself has become a disputed prize. In 2008, Dell drew outrage from programmers after attempting to win a trademark on “cloud computing.” Other technology vendors, such as IBM and Oracle, have been accused of “cloud washing,” or misusing the phrase to describe older product lines.

Like “Web 2.0,” cloud computing has become a ubiquitous piece of jargon that many tech executives find annoying, but also hard to avoid. “I hated it, but I finally gave in,” says Carl Bass, president and CEO of Autodesk, whose company unveiled a cloud-computing marketing campaign in September. “I didn’t think the term helped explain anything to people who didn’t already know what it is.”

The U.S. government has also had trouble with the term. After the country’s former IT czar, Vivek Kundra, pushed agencies to move to cheaper cloud services, procurement officials faced the question of what, exactly, counted as cloud computing. The government asked the National Institutes of Standards and Technology to come up with a definition. Its final draft, released this month, begins by cautioning that “cloud computing can and does mean different things to different people.”

“The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. It’s a rebranding of the Internet,” says Reuven Cohen, cofounder of Cloud Camp, a course for programmers. “That is why there is a raging debate. By virtue of being a metaphor, it’s open to different interpretations.” And, he adds, “it’s worth money.”

Part of the debate is who should get credit for inventing the idea. The notion of network-based computing dates to the 1960s, but many believe the first use of “cloud computing” in its modern context occurred on August 9, 2006, when then Google CEO Eric Schmidt introduced the term to an industry conference. “What’s interesting [now] is that there is an emergent new model,” Schmidt said, “I don’t think people have really understood how big this opportunity really is. It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing—they should be in a “cloud” somewhere.”

The term began to see wider use the following year, after companies including Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM started to tout cloud-computing efforts as well. That was also when it first appeared in newspaper articles, such as a New York Times report from November 15, 2007, that carried the headline “I.B.M. to Push ‘Cloud Computing,’ Using Data From Afar.” It described vague plans for “Internet-based supercomputing.”

Sam Johnston, director of cloud and IT services at Equinix, says cloud computing took hold among techies because it described something important. “We now had a common handle for a number of trends that we had been observing, such as the consumerization and commoditization of IT,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Johnston says it’s never been clear who coined the term. As an editor of the Wikipedia entry for cloud computing, Johnston keeps a close eye on any attempts at misappropriation. He was first to raise alarms about Dell’s trademark application and this summer he removed a citation from Wikipedia saying a professor at Emory had coined the phrase in the late 1990s. There have been “many attempts to coopt the term, as well as various claims of invention,” says Johnston.

That may explain why cloud watchers have generally disregarded or never learned of one unusually early usage—a May 1997 trademark application for “cloud computing” from a now-defunct company called NetCentric. The trademark application was for “educational services” such as “classes and seminars” and was never approved. But the use of the phrase was not coincidental. When Technology Review tracked down NetCentric’s founder, O’Sullivan, he agreed to help dig up paper copies of 15-year-old business plans from NetCentric and Compaq. The documents, written in late 1996, not only extensively use the phrase “cloud computing,” but also describe in accurate terms many of the ideas sweeping the Internet today.

Cloud 1.0: Entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan filed a trademark on “cloud computing” in 1997. He poses at the offices of NetCentric, in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the late 1990s.

At the time, O’Sullivan’s startup was negotiating a $5 million investment from Compaq, where Favaloro had recently been chosen to lead a new Internet services group. The group was a kind of internal “insurgency,” recalls Favaloro, that aimed to get Compaq into the business of selling servers to Internet service providers, or ISPs, like AOL. NetCentric was a young company developing software that could help make that happen.

In their plans, the duo predicted technology trends that would take more than a decade to unfold. Copies of NetCentric’s business plan contain an imaginary bill for “the total e-purchases” of one “George Favaloro,” including $18.50 for 37 minutes of video conferencing and $4.95 for 253 megabytes of Internet storage (as well as $3.95 to view a Mike Tyson fight). Today, file storage and video are among the most used cloud-based applications, according to consultancy CDW. Back then, such services didn’t exist. NetCentric’s software platform was meant to allow ISPs to implement and bill for dozens, and ultimately thousands, of “cloud computing-enabled applications,” according to the plan.

Exactly which of the men—Favaloro or O’Sullivan—came up with the term cloud computing remains uncertain. Neither recalls precisely when the phrase was conceived. Hard drives that would hold e-mails and other electronic clues from those precloud days are long gone.

Favaloro believes he coined the term. From a storage unit, he dug out a paper copy of a 50-page internal Compaq analysis titled “Internet Solutions Division Strategy for Cloud Computing” dated November 14, 1996. The document accurately predicts that enterprise software would give way to Web-enabled services, and that in the future, “application software is no longer a feature of the hardware—but of the Internet.”

O’Sullivan thinks it could have been his idea—after all, why else would he later try to trademark it? He was also a constant presence at Compaq’s Texas headquarters at the time. O’Sullivan located a daily planner, dated October 29, 1996, in which he had jotted down the phrase “Cloud Computing: The Cloud has no Borders” following a meeting with Favaloro that day. That handwritten note and the Compaq business plan, separated by two weeks, are the earliest documented references to the phrase “cloud computing” that Technology Review was able to locate.

“There are only two people who could have come up with the term: me, at NetCentric, or George Favaloro, at Compaq … or both of us together, brainstorming,” says O’Sullivan.

Both agree that “cloud computing” was born as a marketing term. At the time, telecom networks were already referred to as the cloud in engineering drawings, a cloud represented the network. What they were hunting for was a slogan to link the fast-developing Internet opportunity to businesses Compaq knew about. “Computing was bedrock for Compaq, but now this messy cloud was happening,” says Favaloro. “And we needed a handle to bring those things together.”

Their new marketing term didn’t catch fire, however—and it’s possible others independently coined the term at a later date. Consider the draft version of a January 1997 Compaq press release, announcing its investment in NetCentric, which described the deal as part of “a strategic initiative to provide ‘Cloud Computing’ to businesses.” That phrase was destined to be ages ahead of its time, had not Compaq’s internal PR team objected and changed it to “Internet computing” in the final version of the release.

In fact, Compaq eventually dropped the term entirely, along with its plans for Internet software. That didn’t matter to Favaloro. He’d managed to point Compaq (which later merged with HP) toward what became a huge business selling servers to early Internet providers and Web-page hosters, like UUNet. “It’s ridiculous now, but the big realization we had was that there was going to be an explosion of people using servers not on their premises,” says Favaloro. “I went from being a heretic inside Compaq to being treated like a prophet.”

For NetCentric, the cloud-computing concept ended in disappointment. O’Sullivan gave up using the term as he struggled to market an Internet fax service—one app the spotty network “cloud” of the day could handle. Eventually, the company went belly up and closed its doors. “We got drawn down a rathole, and we didn’t end up launching a raft of cloud computing apps … that’s something that sticks with me,” says O’Sullivan, who later took a sabbatical from the tech world to attend film school and start a nonprofit to help with the reconstruction of Iraq.

Favaloro now heads an environmental consulting firm in Waltham, Massachussetts. What is remarkable, he says, is that the cloud he and O’Sullivan imagined 15 years ago has become a reality. “I now run a 15-person company and, in terms of making us productive, our systems are far better than those of any of big company. We bring up and roll out new apps in a matter of hours. If we like them, we keep them, if not, we abandon them. We self-administer, everything meshes, we have access everywhere, it’s safe, it’s got great uptime, it’s all backed up, and our costs are tiny,” says Favaloro. “The vision came true.”


What Kind of Ecommerce Business Can You Start?

There are plenty of different ways to start your own ecommerce business.

The most traditional option is to sell products online that you store and package yourself. However, that’s not the only choice anymore. Today, you can take credit card payments online for services that you deliver over the internet. There’s even an option to develop retail sales through products that are delivered by other people through dropshipping.

Here are some ways to classify the different kinds of ecommerce stores available:

  • Stores with physical goods: These are the typical online retailers that you see everywhere. Shoppers can buy their products through smartphones or desktop computers. If you run a store with physical goods, then you can either store and send the items yourself, or you can have someone else deal with the products for you. If you choose an alternative fulfillment method, like dropshipping, someone else will handle the packaging and shipping. Examples of physical product stores include everything from Warby Parker to Zappos.
  • Service retailers: You can also sell services online in the form of everything from advertising support, to graphic design. Thanks to the digital landscape, services have become increasingly popular as a sales solution. There’s no limit to the talents that you can deliver to your customers in exchange for cash. Just look at companies like Craigslist and Fiverr, which act as a platform for service delivery for freelancers. There are also service-based companies that deliver whatever they offer on a quote basis and build in-depth relationships with clients.
  • Digital products: Ecommerce transactions are handled via the internet, this means that as well as providing physical products and services to customers, you can also provide digital products that they can download online. These types of products often include things like online courses, software, or even graphics to use on a website. Digital products might also come in the form of guides or eBooks.

Aside from classifying online businesses by what they sell, you can also separate your options based on the parties that are involved. For instance, the Business to Consumer model represents a transaction between individuals in the general community, and a business. There are tons of examples of companies who make online sales through the B2C model. Throughout the United States, you’ll recognize B2C companies like IKEA, Nike, and even Macy’s.

Alternatively, you can also look into making money through something called B2B. This refers to when you make business transactions with another company. For instance, Slack sells collaboration tools to other companies that want to facilitate better teamwork. Trello makes it easier to manage products for companies, and so on. There are a lot of examples of B2B software companies on the web today after the dot-com bubble.

There’s also a couple of other kinds of business model that are gaining more traction lately. For instance, the Consumer to Business, or C2B model represents transactions where individuals make value for businesses. For instance, freelancer platforms like People Per Hour are good examples of this.

Other options include Consumer to Consumer, when two consumers trade online using tools like Craigslist and eBay. Some companies also include Etsy selling in this landscape, although Etsy companies are closer to a standard B2C business in a lot of ways.

Government to business, where the government provides organizations with services and goods is another option. What’s more, there’s also business to government for companies that focus specifically on serving their government.

Obviously, the majority of these options won’t apply to most business owners. The most common strategy will involve using B2C or B2B selling. However, it’s good to have an overview of the kind of services and ecommerce models that you can explore. With electronic data exchange, virtually anything is possible.

In theory everything about ecommerce sounds impressive, however, like most things, there are a few challenges you'll need to overcome when launching your own e-commerce on your own.

What Are the Challenges of Ecommerce?

In the interest of balance, we thought we'd present the potential pitfalls you may encounter during the infancy of your ecommerce journey.

Trust: Trust is a big word in ecommerce and comes in many different forms.

      • Can your potential customers trust you as a company?
      • Can they trust your chosen payment gateway won’t fail them?
      • Can they trust your products are of good quality?

    A trusted payment solution such as PayPal can help instill confidence in people visiting your website. Using a review system such as Trustpilot or registering your site as a Google trust store are just a few ways you can conquer these potential barriers.

    Technical issues: If you aren’t technologically minded, and let’s be honest- you don’t have to be to start an online store, you may run into the following issues:

        • What happens if your payment solution stops working?
        • Do you have knowledge of HTML, CSS or Javascript to fix coding issues?
        • If you wanted to design a banner or adjust a graphic on your website, do you have any web design experience?

      If you can’t fix these issues yourself, you may need to outsource. Fortunately, ecommerce solutions such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce have dedicated services to help you out if these issues arise.

      Competitors: As the initial set up costs associated with starting an ecommerce business are so small, this makes it a saturated market. Therefore it’s vitally important you do your research before you launch, and find your niche.

      No physical presence: Although this is improving with time, the fact that visitors can't see or feel any of your products can be a downfall.

      Here are a few ways to get around this issue:

          • Offer free returns
          • Add high-resolution images
          • Show customers using your products
          • Include videos of your products being used
          • Include a very detailed description of your products
          • Put an FAQ section on each product page

        Initial spend: The biggest challenge with electronic commerce is getting started and achieving that all-important first sale.

        To do that you may need to spend a bit of money to make some. Some cost-effective ways to get you started, include:

            • Running a Google Shopping campaign
            • Using website pop-ups for data collection
            • Utilizing abandoned cart emails
            • Publishing an upsell/upgrade bar on your website
            • Giving products away to influencers for publicity (you can identify these with tools like Buzzsumo)

          What are Some Examples of Ecommerce Stores?

          Ecommerce websites are popping up all around us. Are all of them successful? No. Most fail. But why?

          In addition to all the above reasons, more often than not, the business owner doesn’t put the needs of the user before their business idea.

          User Experience is Vital for Ecommerce

          Providing an excellent user experience is a critical feature of any successful ecommerce store. Without taking care of this one aspect, you'll face an uphill battle when it comes to driving sales.

          So, how do you provide an excellent user experience? Primarily, this comes down to your website design.

          If you’re looking for inspiration, check out this post on great ecommerce website designs The 50 Top Ecommerce Websites – 2019 Edition.

          These examples of good ecommerce website designs should give you an idea of what elements to focus on. They should also provide pointers on how to provide a rich user experience through additional website features and functional themes.

          What Makes an Ecommerce Store Successful?

          What secret formula do you use to increas sales?

          We teamed up with Ecommerce Design and selected 60 examples of e commerce sites for their flawless design, fabulous customer service, and unique ideas. The majority of these stores deliver an unforgettable experience to their visitors.

          Check out our post on the Top 60 Best Online Shops and learn some key marketing tactics from each one.

          Making a good first impression is vital – how many poorly designed websites did you revisit after landing on them the first time?

          Take this example from gatesnfences.com, would you revisit this website? I certainly wouldn’t.


          Definition

          According to Prof. L.H. Haney, “Company is an artificial person created by law having separated entity with a perpetual succession and common seal”. According to Justice Lindley a company means association of persons who contribute in shape of money or money’s worth to a common stock and employ it for some specific purpose.

          There are three main activities of a business

          1. Merchandising activities. This involve activities deal with goods in a ready to sell condition.
          2. Manufacturing Activities. This involve from purchase to raw material and put labor and factory overhead on the raw material and produce a product.
          3. Services Activities. This involve banking, education, insurance and training activities.

          Social Constructionism vs. Other Theories

          Social constructionism is often placed in contrast with biological determinism. Biological determinism suggests that an individual's traits and behavior are determined exclusively by biological factors. Social constructionism, on the other hand, emphasizes the influence of environmental factors on human behavior and suggests that relationships among people create reality.

          In addition, social constructionism should not be confused with constructivism. Social constructivism is the idea that an individual's interactions with her environment create the cognitive structures that enable her to understand the world. This idea is often traced back to developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. While the two terms spring from different scholarly traditions, they are increasingly used interchangeably.


          The Secret History Of The Word 'Cracker'

          As you might have gathered from our blog's title, the Code Switch team is kind of obsessed with the ways we speak to each other. Every Monday in "Word Watch," we'll dig into language that tells us something about the way race is lived in America today. (Interested in contributing? Holler at this form.)

          Last week, Rachel Jeantel took the stand in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin after an altercation. Jeantel was on the phone with Martin moments before the fateful encounter.

          Jeantel said that Martin told her that a "creepy-ass cracker" was following him. She told Don West, George Zimmerman's attorney, that she didn't think the phrase was racist West argued that it was.

          Hold up a second. Cracker? In 2013? It struck my ears as dated, like ofay or honky, the kind of slur an old head like Richard Pryor might have uttered. Jeantel and Martin, of course, were millennials. Could cracker be a regional thing?

          I asked Jelani Cobb, a historian at the University of Connecticut and a contributor to The New Yorker, if he might know. (Full disclosure: Cobb is a friend.) He'd written about the etymology of some anti-white slurs: peckerwood, Miss Anne and Mister Charlie, and buckra, a term that was once widely used throughout the black diaspora, in the Americas, the Caribbean and in West Africa.

          "Cracker," the old standby of Anglo insults was first noted in the mid 18th century, making it older than the United States itself. It was used to refer to poor whites, particularly those inhabiting the frontier regions of Maryland, Virginia and Georgia. It is suspected that it was a shortened version of "whip-cracker," since the manual labor they did involved driving livestock with a whip (not to mention the other brutal arenas where those skills were employed.) Over the course of time it came to represent a person of lower caste or criminal disposition, (in some instances, was used in reference to bandits and other lawless folk.)

          But it turns out cracker's roots go back even further than the 17th century. All the way back to the age of Shakespeare, at least.

          "The meaning of the word has changed a lot over the last four centuries," said Dana Ste. Claire, a Florida historian and anthropologist who studies, er, crackers. (He literally wrote the book on them.)

          Ste. Claire pointed me to King John, published sometime in the 1590s. One character refers to another as a craker — a common insult for an obnoxious bloviator.

          What craker is this same that deafs our ears with this abundance of superfluous breath?

          "It's a beautiful quote, but it was a character trait that was used to describe a group of Celtic immigrants — Scots-Irish people who came to the Americas who were running from political circumstances in the old world," Ste. Claire said. Those Scots-Irish folks started settling the Carolinas, and later moved deeper South and into Florida and Georgia.

          But the disparaging term followed these immigrants, who were thought by local officials to be unruly and ill-mannered.

          "In official documents, the governor of Florida said, 'We don't know what to do with these crackers — we tell them to settle this area and they don't we tell them not to settle this area and they do," Ste. Claire said. "They lived off the land. They were rogues."

          By the early 1800s, those immigrants to the South started to refer to themselves that way as a badge of honor and a term of endearment. (I'm pretty sure this process of reappropriating a disparaging term sounds familiar to a lot of y'all.)

          The crackers had their distinctive time-intensive cuisine — swamp cabbage, hoppin' john, corn pone — and favored architectural styles meant to make cooking in the brutal Southern summers more bearable. There were baseball teams called the Crackers. According to Ste. Claire, we've even had a cracker president.

          "Jimmy Carter is a cracker," Ste. Claire said. "He's an Oglethorpe, from Celtic-English cracker stock. I don't know if he knows, but I think Jimmy Carter would proudly call himself one. "

          It was in the late 1800s when writers from the North started referring to the hayseed faction of Southern homesteaders as crackers. "[Those writers] decided that they were called that because of the cracking of the whip when they drove slaves," Ste. Claire said. But he said that few crackers would have owned slaves they were generally too poor. (That of course, doesn't mean they weren't participants in the South's slave economy in other ways.)

          Ste. Claire said that by the 1940s, the term began to take on yet another meaning in American inner cities in particular: as an epithet for bigoted white folks. But he wasn't sure how it happened. (I'm hazarding a guess here, but this would have been during the height of the Great Migration, as millions of black people from the South were moving to the North and West and fleeing Southern racism. They might have carried cracker with them as a shorthand for whites back in the Jim Crow South.)

          In the 1990s, some officials in Highlands County, Fla., decided to name a new school the Cracker Trail Elementary school. Their hope was to honor the area's history the school sat near the Florida Cracker Trail. But many in the county weren't having it.

          "African-Americans protested because they thought it was racist and whites protested because they thought it was racist," Ste. Claire said. (The school kept the name.)

          For many Southern whites, though, cracker has remained uncomplicated, a source of cultural pride. "There are people who will claim that there's a diff between Georgia cracker and a Florida cracker, but that's really just a difference of football teams," Ste. Claire said.

          But Ste. Claire said that cracker is a way of life.

          And as much as Ste. Claire studies and celebrates cracker culture — he and several friends run a traveling event called The Great Southern Cracker Roadshow — he technically doesn't count as one.

          "Just because you lived in the South doesn't mean you're a cracker," Ste. Claire said. "To really call yourself a cracker you have to live the cracker way — you have to start your kitchen at 4 in the morning," he said.

          Just like all those touristy, overpriced soul food joints, Ste. Claire said that you can find fancified cracker cuisine for sale at restaurants all over the South. "You can spend $40 on cracker food," he said. "I call that the revenge of the crackers. I'm sure a lot of crackers are rolling over in their graves at that."

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