The ‚Tron‘ Suffix and the Promise of Future Technology

The suffix -tron, along with -matic and -stat, are what the historian Robert Proctor at Stanford University calls “embodied symbols.” Like the heraldic shields of ancient knights, these morphemes were painted onto the names of scientific technologies to proclaim one’s history and achievements to friends and enemies alike. Stat signaled something measurable, while matic advertised free labor; but tron, above all, indicated control. To gain the suffix was to acquire a proud and optimistic emblem of the electronic and atomic age. It was a totem of high modernism, the intellectual and cultural mode that decreed no process or phenomenon was too complex to be grasped, managed, and optimized. The suffix emblazoned the banners of nuclear physics’ Cosmotron, modern biology’s Climatron, and early AI’s perceptron—displaying to all our mastery over matter, life, and information.

The ‚Tron‘ Suffix and the Promise of Future Technology – The Atlantic