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to begin using a different system, or to move information from one system or format to another
'Microsoft is extending support for its products from seven to a minimum of 10 years to allow users time to migrate to new products.'The Guardian 3rd June 2004
'As part of a Aus$312m (£122m) infrastructure refresh project, the Australian government's job agency Centrelink will migrate at least 450 Windows servers over to Linux …'ComputerWeekly.com 7th September 2004
'Last month BT announced the start of major new trials of its so-called 21st Century Network, testing a dedicated VoIP as a precursor to a massive migration of its existing network from 2006.'The Guardian 2nd September 2004
In the 1980s, many music lovers were repurchasing their favourite vinyl records in compact disc format, in order to enjoy the benefits of durability and improved sound quality. In the noughties, those same individuals are likely to be converting their CD collections into computerised formats such as MP3. It is in this and similar contexts relating to the transfer of information between systems, that a new sense of the verb migrate has emerged, a sense which established learner and native-speaker dictionaries of English are only just beginning to acknowledge. People can be said, for example, to have migrated from vinyl to CD, or to be migrating to MP3 files.
consumers are migrating their CD collections to computer music files
Like its predecessor relating to birds and people, common collocates of the new sense of migrate are the prepositions from and to, so we talk about migrating from one format or system to another. Unlike its predecessor, the new migrate has a transitive realisation, for example consumers are migrating their CD collections to computer music files. In Internet and computing domains, migrate is also used with a direct object to refer, for example, to the transfer of data from one database to another, or the movement of a website from one server to another. This process can be referred to by the derived noun migration, and the noun migrator is often used to refer to software that manages or facilitates the transfer process.
The verb migrate came into the English language in the early 17th century, from the Latin verb migrare, with the general sense 'move from one place to another'. The more specific meanings of birds moving with the seasons, or people moving from one place to settle in another, did not appear until the 18th century, though they subsequently became established as the primary senses of the verb. Although the transitive use of migrate seems to be a new invention restricted largely to technical and computing domains, the adoption of the verb as a synonym for move or transfer is, in fact, just a return to the verb's original meaning.
This article was first published on 15th November 2004.