Tech Terms You Ought to Know
Gain a better understanding of the world of technology by familiarizing yourself with these tech terms.
Norman Rockwell’s nostalgic vision of the American Dream calls for the nuclear family and a roast chicken on every Sunday dinner table. Turns out it wasn’t Rockwell, but Orwell who was correct in predicting the future, with a device in every pocket that transforms our intimate lives into bits of data to be analyzed. Technological literacy is no longer just an achievement listed on resumes; today, knowing how to email, text, and connect on social media is required for nearly every job. The LOLs and BRBs of the early 2000s have entered into the public domain of common knowledge.
Read on for a few other tech terms you ought to know.
PC Load Letter
Okay, this might be relatively well-known given the cult popularity of "Office Space," but the way in which this is used is no longer as specific as complaining about a jammed printer. The term is used more generically now, often in the context of unintuitive or buggy software. This term describes any sort of roadblock that stymies progress, or at least challenges patience beyond a few seconds.
BSOD/____ ____ of Death
The famed “Blue Screen of Death” from Windows OSs has been applied to other hardware platforms. Slap “of death” to the end of whatever failure has occurred, and the context is clear. Even the shortened term “blue screened” is a general way to refer to any crashed program or failed device.
Rooting (Android) & Jailbreaking (iOS)
Rooting and jailbreaking are fancy terms for gaining superuser access to a smartphone’s native software. In other words, really smart people reverse-engineer the software code so a user can customize all sorts of features. The tradeoff is that many of these features are unsupported by the manufacturers, are prone to crashing, and require the user to be a bit of a hobbyist with the platforms and software (at least relative to most other users).
About 90% of visitors to a collaborative website (Reddit or Wikipedia, for example) will read content, 9% of users will edit existing content, and about 1% will create new content. This means the vast majority of users are voyeuristically called lurkers. A practical explanation is that lots of people are busy working, raising families, and otherwise interacting with the real world between casual browsing sessions.
This one has been around for decades, and applies now more than ever. The law itself reads “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler or the Nazis approaches 1.” It makes sense if you think about it: discussions (and disagreements by their very nature) tend to be divisive, and humans in general are known for their confirmation biases (we tend to seek out information that supports our existing worldviews). As conversations get heated, arguments gradually become more and more extreme, and who better to use as the epitome of evil than Adolf and his swastika-bannered party? Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong may be responsible for greater atrocities, but Indiana Jones didn’t fight against them.
A large smartphone, big enough to function as a small tablet computer. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, phablets are too weird to live, too rare to die, and too large to hold against your head without feeling awkward.
Oftentimes, a newly purchased smartphone or computer will have native software programs that cannot be uninstalled. For many users, bloatware takes up memory and are inferior/redundant/not useful/not favored over other apps. This is frustrating for the end user in that 1) unwanted software is taking up valuable space, and 2) they don’t want to adjust their online behaviors just to avoid pesky native programs.
Crappy, buggy software, usually games. Quantity over quality is the name of the game here. For every successful "Clash of Clans" or "Fruit Ninja," there are countless shovelware knockoffs that imitate just enough to score an easy profit without providing any decent content.
“You’ll never believe what this global leader ate for breakfast this morning!” Clickbait seeks to drive up advertisement revenue via site visits with sensational headlines. A short essay about how the president had eggs and toast would not generate as many clicks because – and this should go without saying – clickbait content isn’t interesting.
Hug of Death
Content goes viral on the Internet through many channels and for a variety of reasons. If, for example, an advertisement campaign for a small business takes off faster than anticipated (often for unintended reasons – see the Streisand Effect), proportionally small servers get quickly overloaded and crash. But as the adage goes, all press is good press … right?
This refers to the phenomenon where efforts to censor or hide any particular piece of content has the opposite effect of drawing added attention to that content. The term was coined in 2003, when Barbara Streisand attempted to remove an image of her mansion from the public photographs taken for the California Coastal Records Project, and filed a lawsuit for what she claimed to be an invasion of privacy. The result was a heightened interest in, and viewing of, those photos. Web users seem to naturally gravitate to content that is perceived as private or hidden. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is not about unintended consequences, but rather about how humans have an insatiable hunger for forbidden information, especially in regards to celebs.
With a basic working knowledge of these tech terms, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the complex world of the Web. Got any to add to the list? Leave them in the comments!