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HTML is a sexually transmitted disease, say many Americans

Shock revelation as ordinary punters found not to understand tech acronyms

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The Personal Computer Memory Card International Association's eponymous 1990 PCMCIA card standard used to jokingly be decoded as People Can't Memorise Computer Industry Acronyms.

Nearly a quarter of a century later that jape has been proven anew, after an online coupons outfit called Vouchercloud let The Los Angeles Times publish the “results” of a “study” of “2,392 men and women 18 years of age or older” who were asked to decode some more recent technology terms.

The headline finding is that 11 per cent thought “HTML” is a sexually transmitted disease.

Other jaw-droppers for Reg-reading digerati include:

  • Gigabyte being identified as “an insect commonly found in South America” by 27 per cent of respondents
  • 42 per cent saying motherboards are "the deck of a cruise ship"
  • MP3 is thought to be a cousin of R2D2, after 23 per cent thought the audio file format is a "Star Wars" robot
  • USB was thought to be shorthand for a European country by 12 per cent of respondents

Blu-Ray was held to be a marine animal by 18 per cent of respondents, while software was defined as comfortable clothes by 15 per cent.

The Reg has asked Vouchercloud to provide a detailed version of the study so we can understand its methodology. We're keen, for example, to know if sexually-transmitted disease was offered as a multiple choice response or spontaneously volunteered by respondents. At the time of writing we've had no reply.

What can we learn from this study? The Reg has distilled three inisghts:

  • Civilians who don't need to know about technology will, when presented with plausible-sounding descriptions for acronyms, get stuff amusingly wrong;
  • There's a fair chance there will be a character called MP3 in a future Star Wars film;
  • Those PCMCIA people were amazingly prescient.

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