By Kelsey Casselbury 2013-12-24 13:07:22
A short glossary to help demystify the jargon behind unfamiliar words creeping into everyday vocabulary. When did “the cloud” stop being a fluffy white mass drifting across the sky? And when did “Android” start meaning a popular computer operating system instead of a robot? Even if you consider yourself an early adopter of the latest technology, some of the terms being carelessly exchanged in the media and casual conversation might make your head spin. School Nutrition has put together a brief glossary of some of the more common—yet still-confusing—terms. Soon, you’ll have the confidence to converse with the techiest of them! 3G/4G/LTE: These numbers and acronyms refer to the speed of data transmission sent over wireless networks—in other words, how fast your Internet and other data usage travels when you’re browsing, texting or sending photos on your cell phone or tablet. The “G” stands for generation; the higher the number, the newer and faster the network. LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution, is the latest incarnation, but you can expect 5G to arrive by 2020, experts say. Android: While some people carry iPhones, other say they own a “Droid.” But this comparison isn’t truly accurate—while the iPhone is the brand of phone you’re using, an Android (often shortened to “Droid”) is the operating system, similar to how your PC desktop computer runs Windows as its operating system (and how iPhones use iOS technology; see right). The Android operating system isn’t limited to smartphones; it also is used to run Nook eReaders, the Samsung Galaxy Tablet and Google TV. App: The abbreviation for “application” is a self-contained software program that has a very specific purpose and can be downloaded to your phone, computer or other device. With the rise of smartphones and tablets (see right), the market for apps has exploded. They are designed to run on different operating systems, so your device may require you to purchase them specifically from sites run by Apple, Google or Windows. Big Data: Sometimes referred to as the next “scary” thing to watch, the concept of Big Data can be really confusing to the average person. It refers to a truly massive amount of data that is collected over time, called “big” because it’s too large to process via traditional methods. Big Data can reveal new trends and patterns, enabling businesses to tailor products and experiences directly to consumers, among other uses. The data comes from a variety of sources, including business transactions, e-mail messages, photos, social media comments and more, raising concerns about privacy and security. Bitcoin: This digital currency, which doesn’t belong to any one country or central monetary authority like traditional currency, has appeared in the news a lot lately, as authorities in the United States and other nations debate if and how it can or should be regulated. You exchange standard currency, such as dollars, for Bitcoins at a shifting rate—similar to how the exchange rate between dollars and Euros or other currencies fluctuate. The Bitcoin currency is then used for transactions made on the Internet, but the rates at this stage do not vary in value across nations. Bitcoin can be used by nearly anyone. However, some are concerned that, if left unregulated, Bitcoin could become a standard for illegal transactions, such as trafficking drugs and weapons or laundering money. Cloud: When you save documents, photos or other files on your computer, you’re storing them on your hard drive. At work, you might store them on the school or district’s server. The latest trend in file storage, though, is Internet-based and known as the Cloud. It means you can access your files anywhere, from any device—as long as you have an Internet connection. Popular options for consumers for cloud computer storage and access include Google Drive and Dropbox. Emoji: Consider this the younger, most fashionable brother of the old-style emoticon— you know, where a colon plus a closed parentheses symbol creates a smiley face. The Japanese word emoji literally means “picture” plus “letter” and looks like little cartoon faces or icons that you send via e-mail or text message. You may have a computer system that converts the emoticon into an emoji once you hit send. But if the person receiving your message does not have the same system installed on his or her device, the emoji may turn into a series of indecipherable symbols. iOS: Much like Android, iOS is the operating system created by Apple for its lines of computer, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch products. It’s been updated multiple times since it first launched; its current incarnation is iOS 7. ISP: Even though ISPs have been around for a long time, it’s still an acronym that can puzzle some. It stands for Internet Service Provider, which is the company that supplies you with Internet. It might be bundled with your TV or phone line at home. When you’re on the road, you might purchase or piggyback on an Internet connection from a different ISP, such as when you’re at the airport. MOOC: Have you ever wanted to learn more about nutrition, public speaking, data analysis or informational theory? You don’t have to enroll in a pricey college course—MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are free web-based courses, often offered by well-known universities such as Princeton, University of Washington and Duke. They don’t offer credit, but you can earn a certificate of completion. Websites offering MOOCs include Coursera and EdX. No-Touch Interface: When touchscreens came around, they revolutionized how we interact with technology. You probably first started using a touchscreen as a replacement to the old-style cash register in the school cafeteria and now use one regularly on your smartphone. Well, the latest revolution removes touch entirely! Examples of no-touch interfaces include Xbox Kinect, which recognizes movements and gestures, and Apple’s Siri, which follows voice commands. Expect no-touch interfaces to become more common as sensors and cameras become more sophisticated. Open Source: Typically, when someone creates a piece of software or an app (see left), it’s considered proprietary—meaning that even if you purchase or are granted a license to use that software, you’re limited in how you can use it. If there’s a bug in how it works, you can’t do much to fix it besides alert the developer of the software. Open source software, on the other hand, is free and its inner workings (the code that created it) are available to everyone. If there’s a bug in the code, your tech-oriented friends and family can fix that bug and re-share the software so other people can download the newest, bug-free version. Some users simply might make improvements to the software and share it far and wide. Examples of open-source software include the Internet browser Mozilla Firefox and the Linux operating system. Tablet: Short for “tablet computer,” a tablet is a touchscreen mobile computer that contains the display, circuitry and battery in one unit. You might already have one of these in the form of an Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy or Amazon Kindle Fire. Tablets are at least 7 inches or larger, making them bigger than smartphones, and they typically have greater functionality than a simple e-reader. Hybrid tablets have detachable keyboards. Kelsey Casselbury is associate editor of School Nutrition. Photography by jiunlimited.com.
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