"chad" newspaper article
gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Nov 17 22:47:17 UTC 2000
A few days ago a reporter tried to contact me to find out the etymology of
"chad." We missed connections, although I could not have helped him much
anyway. He then kindly sent me an e-mail containing his article, which I
now share with ADS-L.
> Published Thursday, Nov. 16, 2000, in
> the San Jose Mercury News
> Finding the
> origin of `chad'
> is as difficult
> as naming a
> BY MIKE ANTONUCCI
> Mercury News
> Well, there's Chad Everett, the love-beaded Dr. Joe
> Gannon on the CBS hit ``Medical Center'' 30 years ago.
> There's also Chad Stuart of Chad & Jeremy, the English
> singers from the mid-1960s British Invasion.
> Both Chads are people -- and as far as we know,
> Then there's ballot chad. You know: the indented,
> corner-dangling or completely punched-out bits of
> paper that are part of the low-tech argument over
> whether George W. Bush or Al Gore is winning the
> Florida version of presidential bingo.
> But where did that specific word come from?
> ``Wouldn't we all like to know?'' said Audrey Fischer, a
> public affairs specialist for the Library of Congress.
> There are theories, informed guesses and trails of
> informational bread crumbs that are no neater than all
> this confetti-like chad.
> If someone has the indisputable answer, would that
> person please share it soon?
> The bulk of the speculation about the derivation of
> ``chad'' involves a piece of equipment known as the
> Chadless keypunch.
> According to an online dictionary of computing terms
> (http://burks.bton.ac.uk/burks/foldoc/index.htm), the
> equipment cut U-shapes in punch cards, rather than
> punching out circular or rectangular bits. So, ``it was
> clear that if the Chadless keypunch didn't make them,
> the stuff that other keypunches made'' would, by a sort
> of backward designation, be ``chad.''
> That keypunch was named after its inventor, the site
> notes, although there's no mention of that individual's
> full name.
> Some dictionaries and other reference sources trace the
> word ``chad'' to the late 1940s or strongly associate it
> with computing and data processing. Others relate the
> word to the Teletypesetter -- a keyboard apparatus that
> produced perforated tapes.
> There are other suggested origins as well.
> The 1993 version of Webster's Third New International
> Dictionary suggested that chad is Scottish for gravel.
> Another possible root word is chaff, whose definitions
> include ``seed coverings and other debris'' and
> ``anything worthless.''
> And in the category of theories for which there is no
> evidence: Chad is an acronym for Card Hole Aggregate
> Debris -- though that's possibly just a ``backronym''
> devised after chad was in use.
> One Web site definition
> incorporates the idea that the word acquired
> ``mainstream'' status in 1993 when used in directions
> a card-based voting machine in California.
> But Tony Miller, who became chief legal counsel for the
> California secretary of state in 1976 and later served
> acting secretary, said the word was well-known much
> ``I remember chad being used back in the late 1970s,
> and it was a common term at that point,'' said Miller.
> Some Web sites imply that the word is venerable
> enough to be a museum term.
> For example, the ``computer museum'' page on the Web
> site for the University of Virginia's department of
> computer science
> illustrates a section on keypunch cards with photos of
> an old IBM punch spindle and a jar full of chad.
> Like the election, it's not what you'd call pretty.
> Contact Mike Antonucci at
> mantonucci at sjmercury.com or (408) 920-5690.
gcohen at umr.edu
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