farewell to cyber-

A couple of weeks ago I visited a website I occasionally use, CyberHymnal and reflected that you hear a lot less of the cyber- prefix these days.  It’s essentially a 1990s usage (CyberHymnal was started in 1996), and has dated in the new millennium.  For many the term ‘Internet’ has taken over the semantic area that ‘cyberspace’ used to denote, and the prefix has not thrived independently of the word which gave it birth.

As a classicist, I’m not terribly sorry about the loss of this, as it was always annoying that the root kubern- meaning ‘to guide’ had lost its final letter.  Perhaps we just don’t think of computer-mediated activity as being purposive and directed any more, or more likely the prefix has just fallen out of fashion.

I will leave this subject with fond memories of another ‘cyber-‘ institution of the 1990s (and still in existence), Cybersitter, a package for censoring undesirable content from computer screens.  When implemented at one public library, it caused much merriment as it zealously ignored word boundaries in its eagerness to obliterate the rude words on its list.  I was told that a phrase on one of my pages now read ‘StockporX XXXelf’, for example.  Cybersitter was discontinued after one enquirer found themselves looking at the page of Her Majesty’s CustomX & XXcise …

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