The use of this word was transformed between the publication of the original OED entry in 1901 and that of the updated entry in OED2 in 1989. To the earlier editors it meant simply ‘a surface lying between two portions of matter or space, and forming their common boundary’. In the 1960s, two disciplines adopted it for their own special use and effectively rivalled each other in their efforts to propel it into vogue use: the computer industry and that special branch of sociology known as communications theory, represented especially by the Canadian critic and theorist Marshall MacLuhan (The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962). Now, an interface was, on the one hand, ‘an apparatus designed to connect two scientific instruments, devices, etc., so that they can be operated jointly’ and, on the other, ‘a point where interaction occurs between two systems, processes, subjects, etc’. Its vogue status was assured when it was applied ever more widely to the relations between business development and marketing systems, lecturers and students, unions and management, and other areas of public life:

• The issue of insanity as a defense in criminal cases…is at the interface of medicine, law and ethics —Scientific American, 1972.

McLuhan was also responsible for the first use of interface as a verb, meaning ‘to come into interaction with’, first recorded in 1967, and a corresponding use in computing and electronic technology soon followed. There are signs that the onslaught from this word has abated somewhat, leaving it to be used more effectively in technical domains. This is fortunate, when more familiar (and usually more precise) alternatives, such as (for the noun) boundary, contact, link, liaison, meeting point, interaction, and (for the verb) communicate, have contact with, interact, are readily available to cater for the general meanings. The popular press, however, still embraces the word when writing about gadgets:

• The principle might work well on the current generation of ‘smart’ mobile phones, but interfacing with the interface is much easier when you're walking down the street than flying down the motorway —Hull Daily Mail, 2007.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • interface — [ ɛ̃tɛrfas ] n. f. • v. 1960; mot angl. d o. lat.→ face 1 ♦ Phys., chim. Surface de séparation entre deux états distincts de la matière. 2 ♦ Techn. Limite commune à deux ensembles ou appareils. Spécialt Inform. Jonction permettant un transfert d… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Interface — may refer to:in computer science: * Interface (computer science), an abstraction of a software component. * Interface (Java), an abstract type which is used to specify an interface that classes must implement * Network interface, a point of… …   Wikipedia

  • interface — n. 1. a surface forming a common boundary between two things, especially between two fluids. [WordNet sense 1] [WordNet 1.5] 2. (Computers) hardware that links one device with another (especially a computer). [WordNet sense 2] [WordNet 1.5] 3.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • interface — ► NOUN 1) a point where two things meet and interact. 2) chiefly Physics a surface forming a boundary between two portions of matter or space. 3) a device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer, or for connecting two items of… …   English terms dictionary

  • interface — (del inglés; pronunciamos interféis ) sustantivo masculino 1. Dispositivo que conecta dos aparatos o circuitos y zona en la que se realiza esta conexión: Para usar el fax con el ordenador necesitas un interface …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • Interface — Interface. См. Поверхность раздела. (Источник: «Металлы и сплавы. Справочник.» Под редакцией Ю.П. Солнцева; НПО Профессионал , НПО Мир и семья ; Санкт Петербург, 2003 г.) …   Словарь металлургических терминов

  • interface — The way in which separate computer systems or computer programs interact with each other, or the way in which a computer user interacts with computer software or hardware. Practical Law Dictionary. Glossary of UK, US and international legal terms …   Law dictionary

  • interface — interface, ⊕ interfase → interfaz …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • interface — 1882 (n.), 1967 (v.), from INTER (Cf. inter ) + FACE (Cf. face). Related: Interfaced; interfacing …   Etymology dictionary

  • interface — s. f. 1.  [Informática] Dispositivo (material e lógico) graças ao qual se efetuam as trocas de informações entre dois sistemas. 2.  [Didático] Limite comum a dois sistemas ou duas unidades que permite troca de informações. 3.  [Por extensão]… …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

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