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Weird Acronyms & Tech Term Oddities

Zombies, smurfs and wolfpacks ... oh my! In our never-ending quest to gather terms and information for Webopedia, we have indeed stumbled across quite a few acronyms and terms that strike us as being rather odd. Some acronyms we have found are better off classified as tongue-twisters, while other terms are words we use in every day language and can't figure out for the life of us why the word was chosen to represent an aspect of technology - a term like BLOB, for example.

Even though it is April 1st, here at  Webopedia we're avoiding the traditional jokes and pranks and bringing you a fun, but totally legit, "Did You Know..." article comprised of some of the weird acronyms and odd tech terms we've come across while filling the database.  Seriously, we didn't make these up...

In the tech world BLOB is not used to describe a green oozing spatter of who-knows-what, it's actually the abbreviation for binary large object, a collection of binary data stored as a single entity in a database management system.

If you've ever seen a picture of a blowfish then I am sure you too are wondering why in 1993 Bruce Schneier decided to call his symmetric encryption algorithm "Blowfish". We still haven't found an answer to that one...

Webopedia Definitions for the Acronyms & Tech Terms Found In This Article

choke packet

color super-twist nematic
Cuckoo Egg

jitter buffer
jitter buster


Do you know a really odd tech term or weird acronym not in our database? Send it in!

choke packet
One can't help but to picture an irate system administrator trying to choke their router when you see this term. While we think this should be used in reference anger management seminars for network administrators, unfortunately the term choke packet is already taken and being used to describe a specialized packet that is used for flow control along a network.

color super-twist nematic
Is nematic even a word? If it is a word, what is it, and how does one super twist a nematic anyway? I guess we can ask Sharp Electronics to explain this LCD technology which is seen more commonly in its abbreviated form, CSTN.

Cuckoo Egg
Not only is the term itself odd but so is the definition in the case of a Cuckoo Egg. For those who download copy protected songs, one day you may come across Cuckoo Egg yourself. As you sit back to enjoy the tune, within the first thirty seconds you may hear something other than the initial song; usually cuckoo clock sound effects or or a series of random sounds and noises which are free of any copyright ownerships. Cuckoo on you for not buying the CD in the first place!

When programmers and administrators are overheard talking about a dummy, they really aren't cracking jokes about the newest addition to the staff. Instead, they most likely are discussing a placeholder. A dummy variable, for example, is a variable that doesn't contain any useful data, but it does reserve space that a real variable will use later.

We all know what Google is, but why would you want to whack it around? Let's face it, even techie folk need a break every now and then and GoogleWhacking is a fun way to take a few minutes out of your wired day to play. The goal of a Googlewhack is to perform search queries that will produce only one single search result in the Google search engine. Imagine &$151; if it catches on in a big way we just might end up with a whole new Internet sporting event!

When your system administrator is overheard talking about a honeypot, they are not referring to the latest Winnie-the-Pooh tale. A honeypot is another name for an Internet-attached server that acts as a decoy  that lures in potential hackers in order to study their activities and monitor how they are able to break into a system.

The "jitters"
We all know that drinking copious amounts of coffee and staying up into the wee hours of the morning fixing a computer problem or playing shoot 'em up games can cause one to have the jitters. While that is somewhat of a workable term definition, jitter buffers (and jitter filters) in tech terminology refer to a hardware device or software process that eliminates jitter caused by transmission delays in an Internet telephony (VoIP) network. We also have jitter busters, which is a device that aims to suppress jitters. It brings the age old saying of "having the jitters" whole new meaning.

Any child will tell you they are cute, blue and only three apples high, but a system administrator might cower at the mere mention of the word since a smurf is actually a very nasty thing! Of course, we are referring to a smurf as being a type of  denial of service attack in which a network connected to the Internet is swamped with replies to ICMP echo (PING) requests.

While a tarball may sound like a road paving job gone bad, a tarball is an archive of files created with the Unix tar utility. While tarballs have been around since the mid 1980's, the actual term tarball did not become commonplace until the late '90s. I wonder if that has anything to do with UNIX admins not wanting to have to say that term out loud in the office?

While visions of past editors and people scouring Web sites just waiting for the chance to e-mail a Webmaster a "typo" note comes to mind, the definition of typosquatting is somewhat expected. Typosquatting alludes to individuals or companies who purchased a domain name that is a variation on a popular domain name with the expectation that the site will get traffic off of the original site because of a user's misspelling of the name. For example, registering the domain names or in the hopes that someone making a typo will get to that site unexpectedly. The fact that I get to write typos that won't get edited out has nothing to do with it ... honest!

VoWiFi is one of those weird acronym type words &$151; made up of a combination of abbreviation and acronym. Just when you thought you had VoIP and Wi-Fi figured out, along comes VoWiFi to make things even more muddled. VoWiFi is used to reference a Wi-Fi-based VoIP service. We happen to think that just because you can merge technologies that doesn't mean you should merge acronyms and abbreviations. None the less, it is fun to say!

The term Wi-Fi5 was created by the Wi-Fi Alliance to refer to wireless LAN products based on the IEEE 802.11a specification that operates in the 5GHz radio frequency band. The use of the term has been officially discontinued to avoid confusion. All 802.11-based products, whether 802.11a, 802.11b or otherwise, are now supposed to be generically referred to as Wi-Fi.

This term definitely falls into the tongue-twister category. We think the term was discontinued because it was, quite frankly, too difficult to say more than once per sentence.

While visions of wild, unpredictable, possibly unstable and menacing animals may dance through your head, a Wolfpack is also the codename used for Microsoft's clustering solution &$151; interesting comparison don't you think? Wolfpack was released in September, 1997 as part of Windows NT 4.0, enterprise Edition. Its official name is Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS).

While many think the term zombie is in reference to one of the many 3D PC games out there, a zombie is actually a bit more serious than that. In the world of UNIX, a zombie refers to a "child" program that was started by a "parent" program but then abandoned by the parent.  Zombie is also used to describe a computer that has been implanted with a daemon that puts it under the control of a malicious hacker without the knowledge of the computer owner. No matter what definition you choose for the word zombie, it is still pretty scary stuff!


Did You Know...
That the measurement for the speed and movement direction of a computer mouse is called a mickey? One mickey (mouse) is approximately 1/200th of an inch.

Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: April 01, 2005

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