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Jargon and TLAs

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14 Jan 2001

Jargon is one of the biggest drawbacks in the presentation of a technical subject to ordinary people. Why is it that you hardly ever see someone with a computing/engineering background being interviewed on the TV about their attitude on current or future trends? It's because every second word that they say is jargon. It's Ethernet this, and scuz-zee that (SCSI), and object-oriented objects, and its TCP/IP all the way. To the normal person this is another language. The main point, though, is that none of this is difficult, but jargon makes it sound really difficult. Often the in the first lecture to a new class I tell them that if there is any term that they cannot understand, they should immediately put their hand up and ask me what is really mean, but of course very few people do this because they think it is a sign of a lack of intelligence. BUT IT ISN'T. In fact it is a sign of intelligence to ask someone what something means. This has been shown in writing in the last few years, where plain writing is rated much more highly than writing which uses a create deal of large, and relatively unknown, words. It just isn't acceptable, and it is perfectly acceptable these days to ask someone what a certain word actually means. The new rule is often to find a simple word to replace a difficult word.

So what's a TLA? Well it's a three-letter acronym, and it's something that is very typical in computing and engineering. So here a few to test your knowledge:

TLA

Choices

Note

RFC

In Scotland this would be known as Rangers Football Club.

FTP

I would really like to say what this is sometimes known as in the West of Scotland, but it not very nice.

MAC

Often a common name for a Scots person abroad.

PAM

A Scottish name for someone named Pamila.

PAL

A Scottish name for a friend.

RIP

A tear in your jeans.

HAL

This is one of my favouriates and is used in NT to define the little program that defines the interface to the hardware. I like it because it's the name of the computer that is used in Space Odyssey 2001, but the weird thing is that each of the letters is one letter removed from IBM (i->h, b->a and m->l). Was Arthur C.Clarke try to tell us something? Maybe it should have been HMSDK, LHBNRNES or BHRBN, who probably will take over a space ship one day (but don't tell them I said so!).

 

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It's strange moving from an electronics department to a computing department, as everything that relates to your subject area changes. At one time I had to worry about falling numbers on modules, and now the biggest worry is the increase in numbers in modules. With Computing, things are just so much easier, and you don't have to justify the reasons that you are studying a certain area. For example this year I initiated a new module in Network Operating Systems. I was told there would be between 5 and 15 studying the module, which I was quite happy with as I could setup a laboratory with PCs would could be setup to run a basic network using LINUX and NT. It would be a great experiment, where the students could do as they pleased and setup the machines and install the operating system. But one week I had 15, the next it was 30, and the next again it had grown to over 50, and then students started to join it for interest. This was fine, but it is very difficult to make plans when the number of students grows by a factor of near four.

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