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Is Computing Riddled with Too Many Acronyms?

Is Computing Riddled with Too Many Acronyms?

An acronym occurs when the first letters of a phrase are combined into a shortened form that becomes an abbreviated way of describing the original. In science, they are often used to take a fairly verbose and complex concept, such as Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, and create a more concise and catchy noun LASER. The computing world is full of acronyms: Joint Photographic Experts Group becoming JPEG, or Graphics Interchange Format shortening to GIF. In these cases someone has done something difficult and complex such as invent a laser or an algorithm for compressing pictures for data transmission, and they earn the right to have a colloquial acronym named after their solution. What worries me is the vast number of acronyms that plague our profession that seemingly serve no real purpose.

Bandwagon by Association, or BBA
Most people in, or even outside, computing, know what a GUI is. It's a Graphical User Interface, first coined as part of the legendary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC - good acronym, smart people), and the subject of the excellent book Dealers of Lightning that should be mandatory reading for anyone working in software. Recently, I was at a presentation where someone was showing a fairly simple browser application that they kept calling WUI (pronounced WOOEY). I learned that this was a compact way of describing their "Web User Interface." After the WUI presentation had finished, a colleague and I tried to engage the room with a vision of how we wanted to build an Eclipse Rich Client application that offered basically the same set of scenarios that the WUI supported. Before the meeting was over it had been decided that we were building an EUI. At a future meeting, my colleague is thinking of presenting his vision for his new and wonderful "Pointing User Interface" (PUI), pronounced POOEY.

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

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