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"In WWII, they had a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. I think the modern equivalent of that is that there are no jaded, bored people in the high-tech industry, in the land of really good hardcore geeks."
- Neal Stephenson

Translation Program  
  A computer program that translates speech from one language to another, in real time, to aid in conversation.  

The Continental gentleman in the next beanbag offered “Zigaretten?”

“What’s in it?” Deep Eddy asked. The gray-haired gentleman murmured something: polysyllabic medical German. Eddy’s translation program crashed at once.

Eddy gently declined. 'The gentleman shook a zigarette from the pack, twisted its tip, and huffed at it. A sharp perfume arose, like coffee struck by lightning.

The elderly European brightened swiftly. He flipped open a newspad, tapped through its menu, and began alertly scanning a German business zine.

Deep Eddy killed his translation program, switched spexware, and scanned the man. The gentleman was broadcasting a business bio.

Technovelgy from Deep Eddy, by Bruce Sterling.
Published by Asimov's Science Fiction in 1993
Additional resources -

As far as I know, this is the earliest use of the phrase in this modern context. You can find it earlier still in The Messenger, a clever 1969 short story by George Scithers published in If:

“Aerial craft approaching, non-Terran, non-Federation.” The Scoutcraft’s computer shifted from its flash-message to its emergency tone of voice...

“Unknown is apparently computer-directed,” the Scoutcraft computer went on in its priority-message tone of voice. “Programming includes a Ianguage-learning-and-translation program of Extraordinary adaptability...”

Sterling also adds the translation of text:

They were out of the airport now, walking south. Silent steady flow of electric traffic down Flughafenstrasse. The twilight air smelled of little white roses. They crossed at a traffic light. The German semiotics of ads and street-signs began to press with gentle culture-shock at the surface of Deep Eddy’s brain. Garagenhof Spezialist fur Mobil-Telefon. Burohausem. He put on some character-recognition ware to do translation, but the instant doubling of the words all around him only made him feel schizophrenic.

Compare to translatophone (1901) by Frank Stockton, the Language Rectifier from Ralph 124c 41 + (1911) by Hugo Gernsback, the Babel fish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by Douglas Adams, the menslator from Troubled Star (1952) by George O. Smith and the computer translator from Idoru (1996) by William Gibson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Deep Eddy
  More Ideas and Technology by Bruce Sterling
  Tech news articles related to Deep Eddy
  Tech news articles related to works by Bruce Sterling

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