What Does Blinkenlights Mean?

Blinkenlights (in some variations, “blinkenlichten”) is a unique and interesting IT term
referring to a series of small readout lights on a piece of hardware. Many
older computers had blinkenlights, but now, in the modern computing era, these
features are most often seen on certain pieces of auxiliary hardware such as
modems, wireless routers and network switches.


Techopedia Explains Blinkenlights

The term blinkenlights derives from an old traditional set of common computer room posters that emerged in the World War II era and in following years, prominently, in IBM artifacts from 1955. These posters, written in a type of made-up German/English hybrid, tell neophyte users to keep their hands off of the machinery. The text ends with a phrase that, properly translated, would paraphrase – “relax, sit back and watch the blinking lights” – using the term blinkenlights.

Historians point out that in the age of “blinkenlights,” the Americans saw the Germans as renowned for officious and technical statements and messages, which is where these early posters came from.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…