In Real Time: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 17, 2023

The phrase "in real time" means that something is happening, shown, or communicated simultaneously as it occurs, without any delay or interruption. In other words, what you see or hear is precisely what is happening at that moment.

In short:

  • It refers to the actual time during which a process or event occurs.
  • It is often used to describe situations where speed, accuracy, and immediacy are important.

What Does "In Real Time" Mean?

The idiom "in real time" means you can see or hear it exactly as it is happening, without any lag or pause. It is like being present at the scene of the event. It exists due to the development of media and communication technologies that allow people to watch or listen to events as they happen.

Where Does "In Real Time" Come From?

The origin of the phrase "in real time" is unclear, but it seems to have emerged in the 20th century, especially in logic, philosophy, and computer science. Through the years, it became more common in computer systems that could process data as it came in without storing it or waiting for a later analysis. Subsequently, it also developed in the communication and media field. For example, in 1969, millions worldwide watched the first moon landing "in real time" on television.

Historical Example

According to some sources, the earliest recorded use of the term "real time" was in 1953, in a book by the philosopher Bertrand Russell. He wrote:

"It will be assumed that the occurrence of an event at a certain place and time can be decided in real-time."

10 Examples of "In Real Time" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how to use this idiom in sentences:

  • No diggity. Flight tracking websites show the location of planes in real time.
  • Yaas! Fitness trackers monitor your heart rate and activity levels in real time.
  • Video streaming services offer the ability to watch live events in real time. Great job!
  • Online multiplayer games enable players to compete with others worldwide in real time.
  • The scientists used satellite imagery to observe the effects of climate change in real time.
  • Way to go. Online chat support allows customers to get immediate assistance in real time.
  • Just the facts, ma'am. Social media platforms display notifications and updates in real time.
  • Good work. The journalist reported on the election results in real time from the polling station.
  • The police used facial recognition software to identify suspects in real time from CCTV footage.
  • No mean feat. The artist created a stunning painting in real time using only his fingers and an iPad.

Examples of "In Real Time" in Pop Culture

Here are some examples of how this idiom has been used in various forms of pop culture:

  • 24: A popular TV series from 2001 to 2010, starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, a counter-terrorism agent who had to deal with various threats and crises. Each season consisted of 24 episodes covering 24 hours of Bauer's life, each showing one hour of events "in real time."
  • Real Time with Bill Maher: A weekly talk show that premiered in 2003 on HBO, hosted by comedian and political commentator Bill Maher. The show features Maher and his guests discussing current events and issues "in real time," often with humor and satire.
  • Real Time: A comedy film that was released in 2008, starring Randy Quaid and Jay Baruchel. The plot revolves around Andy, a compulsive gambler who owes money to a mobster named Reuben. Reuban hires a hitman, Kelly, to kill Andy but gives him one hour to live. The film follows Andy and Kelly as they spend the hour together, discussing life, death, and fate "in real time."

Other Ways to Say "In Real Time"

Here are some synonyms for this idiom:

  • Live
  • Directly
  • Instantly
  • On-screen
  • Straightaway

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "In Real Time"

Here are some frequently asked questions about this idiom:

  • What does "in real time" mean?

The phrase "in real time" means that something is happening, shown, or communicated simultaneously as it occurs, without any delay or interruption. In other words, what you see or hear is precisely what is happening at that moment.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "in real time"?

The origin of the phrase "in real time" is unclear, but it seems to have emerged in the 20th century, especially in logic, philosophy, and computer science. Through the years, it became more common in computer systems that could process data as it came in without storing it or waiting for a later analysis.

  • What are some synonyms for "in real time"?

Some synonyms for "in real time" are "live," "directly," "instantly," "on-screen," and "straightaway."

  • Is "in real time" hyphenated?

No, it is not hyphenated. The phrase "in real time" is written as three separate words, without any punctuation marks.

  • Is "in real time" one word?

No, it is not one word. The phrase "in real time" is written as three separate words, not as a single word like "realtime" or "real-time."

  • Is "in real time" an adjective?

No, it is not an adjective. The phrase "in real time" is an adverbial phrase that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

  • Is "in real time" a noun?

No, it is not a noun. The phrase "in real time" is an adverbial phrase that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. It is not a noun that can be used as a subject or an object of a sentence.

  • What are some examples of things that happen "in real time"?

Some examples of things that happen "in real time" are live broadcasts of sports games, news events, concerts, etc.; online games; video calls; GPS navigation; facial recognition; etc.

  • What are some benefits of doing things "in real time"?

Some benefits of doing things "in real time" are speed, accuracy, immediacy, interactivity, and engagement.

  • What are some challenges of doing things "in real time"?

Some challenges of doing things in real time are bandwidth, latency, security, reliability, and quality.

Final Thoughts About "In Real Time"

The idiom "in real time" is a common and helpful expression that describes something that happens, shows, or communicates at the same time as it occurs. It is often used when speed, accuracy, and immediacy are essential.

Some key points about this idiom:

  • It can have different meanings depending on the context and situation.
  • It has synonyms and related expressions that can be used interchangeably.
  • It can be used in various sentences to demonstrate different contexts and situations.
  • It originated in the 20th century, especially in logic, philosophy, and computer science.
  • It became more common in everyday language with the development of media and communication.

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