Ten new tech terms I learnt this summer: Do you know them all?
Let's assume you've already heard of 'clickbait headline'
Something for the Weekend, Sir? I'll never forget the day I found my children looking at Spam for the first time. My son was particularly perplexed, asking: "Is that what I think it is?"
It was my own fault. I had left the tin on the kitchen counter.
Even in his tender years, my tech-friendly tweenager was perfectly familiar with spam. But not Spam.
He'd heard that unsolicited emails inviting us to purchase Viagra and slimming pills were named after a Monty Python reference but he hadn't fully appreciated that Spam was a thing that came in square tins with rounded edges.
After I'd de-canned, sliced and fried it, the sensory act of experiencing its full pork luncheon reality on a plate with baked beans and hash browns, according to my daughter, was "very meta".
Every industry has its jargon, whether serious, satirical or sarcastic, and some of it inevitably spills into common parlance. The trick is not to allow the public at large, let alone your own kids, learn more of it than you know yourself. Even better, stay a step ahead by maintaining a mastery of IT jargon etymology so you can win gold at the Tedium Olympics for boring everyone shitless explaining where these terms came from – all very meta indeed.
However, it can be challenging to keep up: the pace of tech development is such that the buzz terms proliferate faster than a Tech City hipster's beard lice.
So allow me to help. Here are ten tech expressions that I learnt earlier this summer. Be warned: some may seem familiar but their meanings have changed.
You know what an ebook is, right? Well, in the dimwit information age, millennials have been struggling to describe what a book might look like if the text was printed with analogue ink on both sides of multiple sheets of paper that have been bound together in such a way to allow a continuous reading experience by progressively turning the sheets in sequential order.
A pbook is a printed book.
Our forefathers called it a codex. It was a revolutionary invention that helped accelerate the proliferation of literacy throughout the world. Before then, people had to scroll up and down interminably if they wanted to read anything – just imagine!
This is an adaptation of outsourcing, applying the principles of offshore manufacturing and blue-collar globalisation to white-collar workers.
Our computing devices are built abroad because it's cheaper; call centres have also moved abroad in order to keep customers entertained with a variety of accents. Now, thanks to improved global telecoms, engineers, designers, accountants, lawyers, publishers, educators and media professionals can deliver their services direct from the subcontinent sweatshop.
Virtual offshoring, yay! We're all going to lose our jobs!
This term isn't terribly new, I admit, but its meaning has changed. Initially, it had something to do with using both push and pull techniques to involve targeted customers more closely in the development of broadcasting content.
Today, crowdcasting is being used to describe a tech-enhanced method of coaching, fooling or all-out bribing people into becoming unwitting customers for aggressive selling.
There's even an app for it. Surkus pays you a few dollars to turn up to "fun" events that you wouldn't have otherwise dreamed of attending, thereby allowing the event funder to gather your information and generally own your arse for the withering remainder of your sad little life.
Here's another expression that has changed meaning this year. In telecoms, it used to refer to fibre optic cables that would bring about a revolution in super-fast digital communications.
However, according to the unsolicited phone calls I receive from BT every three weeks, fibre means broadband to my home via copper cable.
Er, so where's the fibre? Well, apparently there are loads of fibre optics in the main system. Fibre optic cable broadband all the way to my home, then? Er, no, the bit that connects the fibre infrastructure to my home would be POTS.
It's a bit like claiming that my local postman can deliver air mail letters to my front door directly from his 737 jet plane.
The star attraction of the Rubik's Nations Cup, held earlier this month in Paris, speedcubing is the challenge of cracking (i.e. solving) classic Rubik's cube puzzles in relay teams of three.
No, it's all quite serious, actually. The winning team from Germany, no doubt all proudly sporting regulation bad haircuts and Blauer Peter badges, were among 42 countries competing for the honour. Ernő Rubik himself handed over the prizes, so hopefully he's at last making a bob or two out of his much ripped-off invention.
Why is speedcubing a tech industry expression? Well, who else would be fascinated, let alone take part, in such shit?
It has been widely reported that privacy-invading apps have apparently been tracking consumers through the use of ultrasonic sounds.
The word is ultrasound or ultrasonics, you dicks. Oh but no, let's invent a new, grammatically wonky and convoluted way of saying the same thing as a single, simpler, existing word.
Please let's file this tautology in the literacy shredder along with the likes of completely surrounded, pre-booked and free gift.
I used to think this was a contraction of modulator-demodulator. Apparently it is now a centrist political party in France. It's not even a good one, either: all the MoDem government ministers that French president Emmanuel Macron appointed a few weeks ago have since resigned.
It was only to be expected. How can you discuss policy with a minister whose only means of expression is to scream at you "Eeeeeeeeeeeee-oooooooo buh-doyngg buh-doyngg eeeeee-AAAAAAHHH!" before promptly hanging himself?
This infuriating company name won't get out of my head. Liquid Voice develops real-time speech translation solutions, which is clever and all that but oh lordy do I hate the name.
It's like a partial title for a Phil K Dick story that the author dismissed at first draft for being just a little too meaningless, even for him. Hug the Liquid Voice Mashed or whatever.
I confidently expect a raft of startups to enter the IT market alongside Liquid Voice with similarly rankling monikers. Gird your loins now for the likes of Sublimated Ear and Gaseous Elbow.
I bet you never expected those two words to abut in your lifetime. Another annoyingly named company, Fabrikk, is manufacturing ladies' handbags lined with LED luminescent materials, thereby "solving the struggle and frustration of rummaging around trying to find things in the dark".
Fibre optic threads – not copper cable, BT please note – have been weaved into the lining, illuminated by a single LED source (white, red, blue or green) that is powered by a "small" battery pack.
There you go: innovative handbag. It doesn't quite beat smart toilet paper for sheer batshit unlikelihood but is curiously more intriguing while being less interesting at the same time.
No, I'm not making it up. This er... buzz term was used by one of the panel members at a General Assembly Tech Talk on sex and dating this very week.
Coincidentally – and somewhat hauntingly – harking back to my prescient last column, teledildonics is the act of operating sex toys remotely, typically within an adult erotica VR environment.
Ha, stick that in your pipe and smoke it. Or rather, keep it where you can find it easily in your innovative handbag.
That's my list. Got any more?