Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


Andrew Sabl offers an etymological eulogy: 

The “infinite loop” metaphor is dying, almost dead. At 41, I’m almost certainly one of the youngest people to use (in middle school, when it was already almost obsolete) a reel-to-reel tape player on which one could actually splice the tape containing some music or words into a loop for the machine to play ceaselessly. Granted, “infinite loop” is also programming talk for a subroutine from which there’s no exit — hence Apple Computer’s corporate address — but that’s hardly common knowledge. I suspect most younger people have no idea what an infinite loop is, nor should they.

Seriously? I’ve never heard of the tape-player version of “infinite loop” being used as a general conversational metaphor. Is/was that common back in the day? Granted, I’m a nerd, but it’s never even occurred to me that there was ever any other origin of the phrase aside from programming lingo. That’s always seemed like the “common knowledge” version to me. From old-school BASIC, for example:

10 Print “I am in an infinite loop.”

20 Goto 10

Dictionary.com offers only the programming origin, not the tape player origin. What’s the deal, hive mind?

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.