For triggers, gates, clocks, and sociopaths alike, "Master/Slave" faces retirement

I’ve always viewed “master” devices as “time-keepers”.

This is an example of a master that is a time keeper :wink:


Power relationships are everywhere, especially in different cultural situations and especially in languages. Was just thinking of the whole Master/Slave terminology after getting a drum machine myself recently.

“Machines aren’t human and visa versa”. This was the reductive language used by the critics when the 808 was first introduced. We have to look back to the 80’s and how some African American musicians took the bad idea of the drum machine and the turntable machine and the audio mixing machine and turned these into musical instruments - a human machine.

All musical instruments are mechanical, perhaps including the voice if you consider your body a machine that keeps your consciousness alive.

I love this discussion where people are trying to find the right language to reconcile our linguistic/ power relationships to our electronic machines, our biological machines, our desire machines and our drum machines.

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Also. The presupposition here is that electronics is an English language and that drum machines and recording machines are likewise. I’d love to know what the Japanese and German words are for control and triggered inputs and outputs.

I would like that as well, although I personally think it is far less offensive and also less technically misleading than master/slave and whitelist/blacklist. But I know it bothers some people and is off-putting to many newcomers to the field, which is reason enough to change it.

Yep, not to mention the heterosexism.

I agree so much on this. I remember being confused at the overt description of a phone jack (standard guitar plug) being a male jack and a female input. I’d be very interested in the history of this phrasing. Makes so much more sense to just call it ‘plug’ and ‘input’.

Small joke, If inputs have genders, this “male-to-male coupler” must be a really stressful photo for some phobic individuals:


Or even worse, look what THIS ONE DOES!



If only it were so simple.

“Input” doesn’t work because sometimes the signal goes from socket to plug - in the case of a 1/4” audio cable, both ends of the cable plug into identical sockets, one of which is an input and the other is an output.

“plug” and “socket” are closer but still not a perfect universal replacement for “male” and “female” for connectors. For 1/4” connectors, “plug” and “socket” work fine, but consider XLR (the standard connector for professional microphones). With XLR, there are two types of plugs and two types of sockets. Audio sources have “male” sockets and sinks have “female” sockets, and cables typically have a different type of plug on either end.

I don’t think the sex metaphor will disappear unless another, more inclusive metaphor which clearly communicates that distinction arises to take its place. “Source-type” and “sink-type” might work, but takes a bit more explanation and learning to understand.

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Excellent points, all of them @nodolra! You know, I’m sitting here in a room full of modular equipment and stupidly didn’t even consider how much of the room is an output for many of the open jacks, or “female” connections. Man that sounds grimy even to write, though. You’re totally correct about XLR, too! You’re very correct that many of these open jacks are outputs and the 1/4" cable serves merely as a bridge between two sources.

I like the simple reduction to call things i/o for “Input/Output” in this way. But it certainly makes buying cables more confusing. I agree simply calling something “female to male” etc is a good way to know what you’re buying in terms of a cable and it’s connectors. Not sure of a good solution, except to go back to lampooning the original sex-metaphor in the first place. If we need human examples, ‘ball and socket’ with bones works just as comparably.

It’s a shame there’s no clinical term for what a lego brick is for the holes and the bricks. I think the common slang phrase is “studs and tubes” for those separate components, which isn’t exactly an improvement. Still, I’d be fine with us going to the Lego standard! Always have enjoyed the original patent art:


Let’s thesaurus!



Where do we submit these for consideration?

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Into the ears of friends and fam?

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So let’s talk about male fennel and fema fennel, when fennels aren’t a sexuated plant. an their fruits are considered seeds.
Stinging nettles are male and females, so are kiwis plants.

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