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Reply: Fri Feb 26 2016 23:42:42 GMT-0500 (EST)
Reply To: Design as Participation
Peter Merholz 1 Contributor
February 27, 20161 Version
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@article{ReplyFriFeb22016, title={Reply: Fri Feb 26 2016 23:42:42 GMT-0500 (EST)}, author={Peter Merholz}, year={2016}, note={version: 57a22cd95a4037b8e01aea5c}, publisher={PubPub}, }

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Peter Merholz. (2016). Reply: Fri Feb 26 2016 23:42:42 GMT-0500 (EST). PubPub, [https://www.pubpub.org/pub/56d12942288a1532000c683f] version: 57a22cd95a4037b8e01aea5c

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Peter Merholz. "Reply: Fri Feb 26 2016 23:42:42 GMT-0500 (EST)". PubPub, (2016). [https://www.pubpub.org/pub/56d12942288a1532000c683f] version: 57a22cd95a4037b8e01aea5c

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Peter Merholz. "Reply: Fri Feb 26 2016 23:42:42 GMT-0500 (EST)". PubPub, (2016). [https://www.pubpub.org/pub/56d12942288a1532000c683f] version: 57a22cd95a4037b8e01aea5c
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the user was born
Oh hai!
As you point out later, Don uses "user" in The Design of Everyday Things (orig "The Psychology of Everyday Things") in 1986, but even earlier than that was a book he edited, User Centered System Design (http://www.amazon.com/User-Centered-System-Design-Human-computer/dp/0898598729), a title which is also meant to be funny, because Don was teaching at UCSD at the time.
M-W has "user-friendly" debuting in 1977 (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/user%E2%80%93friendly), which suggests "user" must predate that.
Great piece!
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oh! thx for this and all the subsequent references, I'm looking at them now... I'm interested to find the actual roots, but I'm always most interested in colloquial adoption, rather than historical precedent. I want to know when the idea of the user became, you know, a thing.
Looking to cultural critic Raymond Williams, a rise in the use and purchase of goods (and therefore users) can also be traced within the etymology of the word consumer. By his account, expounded upon in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), “In almost all its early English uses, consume had an unfavourable sense; it meant to destroy, to use up, to waste, to exhaust. It was from the middle 18th century that consumer began to emerge in a neutral sense in descriptions of bourgeois political economy.”
And the OED goes back to 1959: E. M. McCormick in Digital Computer Primer "The number of instructions which can be executed by a computer represents a compromise between the designer's and user's requirements."
A quick hop into Google Ngram returns a 1937 Highway User Tax Guide from a Highway Users Conference. The term took off around 1960.