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Discuss word origins and meanings.

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Post by Bobinwales » Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:11 pm

I Googled the word “avatar”, and found somebody trying to sell them. What are they and do I need one?
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Post by russcable » Fri Feb 25, 2005 4:31 pm

The original meaning of avatar was the incarnation of a deity in a human body. Then, the representation of some ideal or virtue in human form. And now, it's the representation of a human being in virtual form.
This use of the word was popularized in Neal Stephenson's cyber-punk novel "Snow Crash" (cyber-punk is a sub-genre of science fiction where a good deal of the action takes place in cyber-space, i.e. virtual reality). While Stephenson's vision of an avatar is still in the future (most cyber-punk involves a hardware connection to the wetware (brain)), the term is now used for everything from a simple icon representing "you" in a chat program to the characters in MMORPG's (massively-multiplayer online role playing games).
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Post by dalehileman » Fri Feb 25, 2005 6:16 pm

Bob and Russ, thank you for that. May I assume that the virtual characters in the movie "Matrix", for instance, could correctly be called "avatars"
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Feb 25, 2005 6:24 pm

Dale, I think your label for the 'Matrix' characters is accurate.

Bob, the reason that there is a genuine market in computer gaming avatars is that it takes such a lot of effort and playing time to create an avatar with the most desirable attributes. The best ones can reputedly fetch hundreds of dollars.
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Post by Bobinwales » Fri Feb 25, 2005 11:02 pm

I take it that I can keep my plastic in my wallet and not bother to buy one. It's just as well really, I don't think I would have known what to do with it anyway.
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Post by haro » Sat Feb 26, 2005 1:52 am

Since this is an etymology forum, I'd like to point out that 'avatar' is one of the few Sanskrit words in English. For those who are interested, there's quite a good list at http://darlkuhn.com/hindi/hinwords.txt .
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Signature: Hans Joerg Rothenberger
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Post by John Barton » Mon Feb 28, 2005 8:15 pm

Without disagreeing with what has been said, the idea that 'Avatar' has become a plastic toy is akin to equating Queen Elizabeth with a chess-piece. And would be nonsensical in eastern nations. Two fairly distinct forms of avatar exist: that of the constantly incarnating deity of a particular religion, such as a line of Buddhas - and the original one which recognizes different religions as in no way in conflict or contradiction. If it is believed that the Almighty incarnates repeatedly to give the same message in forms adapted to the comprehension of different races in different ages, and that the identity of that Almighty does not differ except outwardly, in the way prophets do, then there is a single Avatar with varying names - Krishna, Buddha, Christ, etc, without any conflict as to there being only one 'Son of God'. This - as I see it - is the concept of the word.
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Mar 01, 2005 9:02 pm

Dale .. avatars .. or avs as they are better known .. are part and parcel of the chatroom scene .. they are also the bane of many chatrooms as they slow down the loading process and take up huge amounts of room .. they originally started out as small icons such as smilies and other simple symbols .. the idea being to some way represent your inner personality or feeling .. lots of chat sites had their own av library that you could choose from .. however this developed and members wanted something that was more personal and reflected more closely the true "them" (can there be such a thing in chat ??) .. and so avs became more complex and more personal and began to include chatnames .. more complex led to bigger led to even more complex and even bigger .. to the point where some chatrooms now limit the size of avs and include a button to turn off avs so they don't appear in the chat scroll .. some chatters became very good at making avs, including 3D and moving avs, and found that they could make a small living by selling them ..

.. so do you need one ??? .. your call chatter .. if you want to see some avs on a grand scale in use log-on to Chatropolis and go to their chatrooms ..

WoZ of Aus 02/03/05
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Post by dalehileman » Thu Mar 03, 2005 11:56 pm

Woz thank you. Vy instructive
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Post by Forum Admin » Fri Mar 04, 2005 9:29 am

On which note, WoZ, this forum software supports both avatars and smilies, and a lot more besides. When we made the move from the previous system, it was decided to disable support for several of the functions of this sort in order to keep the speed of the forum up as high as possible (an issue I shall be addressing in the next few months anyway).
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Post by haro » Tue Mar 08, 2005 2:07 am

WoZ, did I get that right? Sounds like avs where there first, whereas chat names (aka nicks) came later. That was not the case. I wrote a chat program that went on line in 1987, a year before Jarkko Oikarinen's IRC, which is now said to have been the first Internet chat program. My modest program, used for many years by a crazy bunch of software developers scattered all over the planet, used nicknames from the very beginning, but avs came much later.
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Mar 08, 2005 12:23 pm

.. I reread it Hans and no it is not meant to be taken that way .. I meant that when avs first appeared they were only a small icon, like a smilie or a can of Coke .. as the avs developed into more complex pics they came to include the person's chatname as part of that pic .. naturally nics preceeded avs .. so how come you aren't a millionaire ??? .. *grin* ..
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Post by Phil White » Tue Mar 08, 2005 6:16 pm

I'd always assumed he is...
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Post by haro » Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:25 pm

WoZ - good question. Shall throw a roaring party for y'all as soon as I hit my first million. I have been ahead of times pretty often, always in the wrong places. For instance, I wrote sound synthesis programs for computers when Walter Carlos (Switched On Bach) and Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) still did their sweaty workout sessions plugging and unplugging cables like mad telephone operators. No one thought computers would ever be cheap enough for a band to produce digital sound synthesis on stage. I used digitized x-ray techniques at my practice for oral surgery ten years before they got marketed by the very same companies who had told me no ordinary doctor would ever be able to handle a computer. I built my own computers in the early 'eighties and wrote an operating system for them. That's how I got in touch with those computer geeks mentioned above. Those computers still are in daily use and never crash. Never! I wrote a computer encyclopedia program in 1985, using exactly what now is known as hypertext / hyperlinks, the stuff that made the WWW possible. But that was five years before Tim Berners Lee developed HTML (also in Switzerland, by the way), so no one outside of our inner circle was interested.

Never mind. William Henry Gates III purchased QDOS for 50 grand, called it M$-DOS and made a fortune out of it. I'm still waiting for a chance to prove that money doesn't make me happy, but I don't care. There are more important things in life. I'm not complaining.
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Post by dalehileman » Sun Mar 13, 2005 1:59 am

Would it be correct, then, to say that "bot" is a synonym for "avatar"
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