On meaning of words: console

I am not a native English speaker. I’ve learned most of my English in high shool. A big part of my vocabulary also comes from my Computer Science education. Somehow, many words in computer terminology come with the only true meaning to me and I don’t even bother checking them in the dictionary. Sometimes, years later after I have learned the word I see it in a different context. Looking it up in the dictionary and thesaurus never stops to amaze me.

Until today, the word “console” was only a noun to me. It meant the command line interface to a computer program. I never suspected it that it had any other meaning. But today I saw it used differently in the sentense:

I tried to console the old man.

This sentense was used in a rather sad story about the victims of Asian tsunami at the end of the last year. The story is as far from the computers as it can get. So I looked it up in the dictionary.

console – To allay the sorrow or grief of. See Synonyms at comfort.

Not only I saw the synonyms at comfort, but I’ve also checked the thesaurus for console. And it is exactle where I started to get really amazed.

Several words that thesaurus suggests for console (as a verb) sustitution are: calm, cheer, encourage, and untrouble. The amazing part here is that very often experienced computer users would switch from slow, limiting, and complicated graphical user interface to text mode console to solve some problem. And what console will do to them is: calm them down, cheer them up, encourage them and untrouble.

I really the connection now between console verb and console noun. But wht I find interesting is that text mode consoles were among the first user-to-computer interfaces. They were definetely before slow, limiting, and complicated graphical user interfaces. This leads me to believe that user interfaces that were before consoles were a real mess.

Now, can anyone remind me what were these interfaces? My memory doesn’t go beyond punch cards. And these were really ugly if you ask me…

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