Well-meaning, harmless drudge…

… was how the Oxford Dictionary of Computing defined a system administrator. Or at least it did in the second-hand copy of the first edition, I used to own in my university days, 20 years ago (ouch). While I loved the self-effacing humour, only today did I discover it was also a hat-tip to Dr Johnson, whose dictionary, first published in 1755, defined a lexicographer as:

“A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and signification of words.”

In these hyperbolic days of IT, perhaps it is right to wonder whether one day the role of the administrator can once more be distilled to that of a lexicographer, be it no less useful or rewarding a position nonetheless.

Well-meaning, harmless drudge…

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