Technology is about making and using cool new things that enrich our lives. But technology is also about using idiotic, tired words that mean next to nothing, designed to confuse us into wasting money. Here are the year's stupidest offenders.
Buzzwords are usually the rotten eggs laid by some marketing goon. Sometimes we popularize them ourselves. Sometimes a real word takes on new, dumb meaning because of some tech event. Sometimes it's a mix. All of the time, we're sick of hearing and reading and saying them.
As soon as the iPhone 5 launched, Apple started beating its chest about how impossibly perfect each and every single one is. In particular, Jonny Ive was giddy that the manufacturing process was so precise, it matched all the others on the assembly line within a few dozen microns. A micron is an extremely small unit of measurement: one micron is half the length of an E. coli bacterium. In other words, imperceptible. The iPhone 5 is an engineering feat, sure, but the company is now leaning on standards of excellence that the human eye (and brain, more importantly) couldn't care less about. It also might have something to do with why the people building the phones are more miserable than ever.
The first dumb number competition was the MHz wars in computers. Then came megapixels in cameras. And now, we're at pixel density with phones, the latest in diminishing return. When a new mega-phone launches, its high pixel density—the number of pixels crammed into its screen—is touted about most other specs. What's not mentioned is that unless you have electron microscopes for eyeballs, you physically cannot tell the difference between one screen with really high pixel density and another with really, really high pixel density. Once you can't see the pixels anymore, that's enough—going beyond that is pointless. And yet, here we go.
Obese phones aren't exclusive to 2012, but this is the year they hit mainstream acceptance. Now, people no longer feel shame in using a phone so large they can barely palm it. The only thing that can compare with the idiocy of a phone bigger than five inches? The word bandied about along with it: Phablet. It's a phone! It's a tablet! It's a stupid idea that's making a ton of money and isn't going away any time soon.
There are hackers. Hackers do things like take down websites, release personal information, and deface homepages. Activists do things like fight for marriage equality, protest carbon emissions, and try to create change through legislation. Although Anonymous at times has a tenuous agenda or some sort of set of values—usually boiled down to "FUCK [insert thing, person, place, government]." Hacking with a poorly-organized cause, at best. But "hacktivism" is not only off the mark, it's an annoying neologism. We get it. It rhymes with activism, and there are hackers involved. Enough.
OK, our bad. We're a big part of the problem here. We tried agreeing on a strict definition, but that lasted all of two weeks or so. Language gets away from you. Sexting now basically means touching a keyboard when you're horny. And that's fine! It's fun! But its meaning is becoming so diluted that we don't really need a punny word to describe it anymore. And in a few years, it's going to look as corny as "cyber."
Speaking of which, everyone needs to stop saying cyber, unless you're being facetious. There was a lot of hacking in 2012, and of course, a lot of public figures talking about how vulnerable we are, and how we need to prepare for—this was a real claim from the former head of the NSA—a "cyber 9/11." Cyber-war, cyber-attack, cyber-security, cyber-weapon, cyber-defense. Enough. It's unclear how this 90s-tastic term jumped out of the grave and into headlines once more, but let's put it back. Just say online. It means the same thing, and you won't sound like an asshole.
There's a reason we banned Kickstarter, and only use Indiegogo for lunch money. Crowdfunding is lazy. Crowdfunding leads to hundreds of stupid ideas by stupid people who think their stupid idea will become real because strangers will shovel them money. Kickstarter has all the cleverness of Skymall with all the realism of a unicorn farm. Indiegogo is like getting a pitch on a "hot stock" from your uncle at Thanksgiving. The system doesn't work.
There was a time when almost all software engineers had serious social disorders and walked around in oversized anime tees. Now, programmers are normal people who like to do normal things. Fun things! Like listen to music, drink beer, and make jokes. The radical change has lead terrified onlookers to label them "brogrammers," as if they're going to snap your bra and force you to do a kegstand at work if you aren't careful. This is silly. just because programmers aren't losers anymore—and sometimes even cool!—doesn't make them bros.
For the first half of last year, plenty of people believed the Facebook IPO was going to be a money train. Free money! Nevermind that most people don't understand what an IPO is, or how it works, or how incredibly risky and complex it is. Finance dorks have been dealing with IPOs forever, but in 2012, Facebook fever made it spread across the hot keyboards of regular Internet dorks who thought their streets would be lined with gold. IPO means...money! And it also means a lot of people can lose a lot of their money.
BONUS: The one buzzword we love. Chamfer.
Chamfer. Chamfer. Say it again. It floats out of the mouth like opium smoke. It's a beautiful word—and one that describes something that's actually quite nice. It's a tiny detail on the iPhone 5 that makes it such a gorgeous piece of hardware, and proof that Apple still does sweat the tiny things—a 45-degree angle on the phone's edges that make it look like a jewel. But Jonny Ive could also say, "I've been sleeping with your aunt," and it'd sound lovely, so that could have something to do with it.