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Widgets and the Geek that Coined Them
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
It seems at every blink, a new widget hits the web. But where did the word "widget" come from, and how has it taken on today's meaning? There are widget engines, GUI widgets, web widgets and mobile widgets. Newsweek, this last December, suggested that 2007 would be the Year of the Widget. Perhaps they were right, I just received three requests by clients to design widgets. If I could get pass the ugly sound of the word, I might.

It appears that Arlo Rose, creator of desktop widget platform Konfabulator, is the grandfather of the widget. In his early days at Apple, the term "widget" was thrown around to describe controls in windows and control strip modules on the desktop. Now, this geek speak is nearly a household word. This makes my head hurt!

I found an older reference to the word as well. It stems from the 1924 play Beggar on Horseback, by George Kaufman and Marc Connelly.
(Father-in-law): Yes, sir! Big business!
Yes. Big business. What business are we in?
Widgets. We're in the widget business.
The widget business?
Yes, sir! I suppose I'm the biggest manufacturer in the world of overhead and underground aerial widgets.
In the play, we never learn what widgets are. But is this also not the point of today's widgets? Most are rather pointless. Technology widgets are fighting an uphill battle. Can widget developers actually create ones that are useful? I recently ran across an interesting article: 50 Great Widgets for your Blog. There are some good widgets out there, though they tend not to work as nicely as promised.

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