When it comes to acronyms, no industry has mastered the art of cryptic references like Information technology (or IT). You’re reading this because you typed a URL into a browser, but try explaining what a Uniform Resource Locator even means in lay terms.
Some acronyms and abbreviations have worn out their welcome. A few date all the way back to the early 1990s, before we even had easy access to the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW). Here are seven that should be retired before we forget what they mean altogether.
The acronym for Database Activity Monitoring is, in part, a security technique that looks for open databases on your network. Like many tech acronyms, it’s too hard to remember and could also stand for many other technologies — Direct-access Memory, say, or Digital Asset Management. Plus, it’s a tough one to explain at the water cooler when the boss walks by and hears you ask, “Did you get your DAM fixed?”
Introduced in 1993, the New Technology File System isn’t exactly new anymore. Like many tech acronyms, it has lost its meaning, as Microsoft has developed new variants with different maximum file size limitations. The casual reference to Windows NT doesn’t make any sense, either, considering that that operating system also came out 21 years ago.
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You might think this acronym stands for Business Value Dashboard, metrics-driven software that helps executives understand business drivers. Unfortunately, the Bradley, Voorhees & Day company — founded in 1876 and acquired by Fruit of the Loom 100 years later — has claimed the abbreviation as its own. Plus, BVD underwear is a much more established use. Let’s just stick with BI, even if it could be Business Intelligence or Business Informatics.
There was a time when the term POS had more meaning: The Point of Sale systems located at the front of many a retail store. Today, you might be as likely to see someone walking around with a Square reader and an iPhone. Is that a POS? Also, the acronym has taken on more of a common understanding as a way to describe something that’s not worthwhile: A piece of, well, you know.
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Rapid Application Development certainly has a technical definition: A process that tends to focus more on coding as soon as possible and less on planning. Apart from the fact that the term “rad” went out of style a few decades ago, there are now just so many development techniques, from coding a quick website to building entire apps, that the term has lost its meaning.
This unwieldy acronym is actually quite new, referring to Broadcom’s application developer framework: Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices. The person who came up with the term was probably tired of boring old acronyms like URL or DOS (Disk Operating System). Still, naming your technology with an alternative spelling, but same pronunciation, as “wicked” seems like a stretch.
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Back in the early days of computing, the acronym for What You See Is What You Get certainly made sense. Display technology remained in an early stage. Even basic fonts and graphics on the screen sometimes didn’t print out quite right. We’ve been living in an age of high-resolution graphics for more than a decade now. Short of using a color calibration system to make sure colors print correctly, we usually get what we see on the screen.
John Brandon is a former IT manager at a Fortune 100 company who now writes about technology. He has written more than 2,500 articles in the past 10 years. You can follow him on Twitter @jmbrandonbb. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.