Accorduing to Wikipedia, a legacy system is one "that continues to be used, typically because it still functions for the users' needs, even though newer technology or more efficient methods of performing a task are now available. A legacy system may include procedures or terminology which are no longer relevant in the current context, and may hinder or confuse understanding of the methods or technologies used."
Sounds about right.
Call me a romantic, but I always thought that legacy had an aura of something different than old computer systems and procedure manuals. The more I think about the word, though, the less can I pin it down. I guess I think of legacy in relation to inheritance, to what is passed down, or what is left. It seems to have something to do with law, as in legitimate or legislation. Am I wrong about this as I've been about so many things in the past?
We shall see.
Okay, so a legacy is a gift of property through a will; a more generalized sense of what's been passed down from the past to the present day; a student or potential student to a school that was attended by that student's parent; or having the office or function of a legate (obsolete). What's a legate? We'll get to that.
BUT, as a modern day adjective, it does indeed refer to old and outmoded computer hardware, software or data. It's interesting how in computer terms, legacy becomes not so much a gift as a curse. Or at best an irrelevance. Ewaste in the current parlance.
|papal legate of Boniface VIII|
If we know the word at all, we probably connect legate with "papal legate", a papal emissary, discharged on some mission to do the pope's will. But this comes from the more general Latin legatus, an ambassador or envoy, someone sent as a deputy or sent with a commission. And it does have to do with Latin law, or lex , in one of its cases (legis). In the late fourteenth century, then, a legacy was body of persons sent on a mission--I assume a legal mission rather than a religious one. It apparently wasn't until about the middle of the 15th century that the sense of "property left in a will" took root in Scotland.