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#30894 - 08/21/14 12:42 PM Computer World Nomenclature
deniro Offline

Registered: 09/09/09
My use of computers goes back to my Apple II in 1980. In those days we used the word "program."

A few years ago, or so, I started hearing the word "app." Of course, I easily figured out what was meant by "app." But aren't "app," "application," "program," and "software." the same?

An old friend of mine works for Nvidia. Years ago, I called him a "programmer." Miffed, he corrected me, saying the term was "software engineer." At first, I thought he was kidding. I also used the term "coding" and "code" to refer to what he writes all day. Well, he didn't like that either. Odd, because I thought I got the word "code" from him. I don't see why that word is wrong. I saw his screen. C++ is not exactly everyday English.

I did agree with him, years before, about the disappointing transformation of the word "hacker." It meant, in my time, someone who does something illegal or at least unethical, like the Chinese breaking into Pentagon computers. They were hackers. Or when my fellow high-school students somehow copied store-bought games onto blank floppies without paying for them. It was also called pirating, a good word which is still around in various forms. Getting software free trough torrents, if I'm using the word correctly, sounds like piracy to me. As does using Handbrake to copy a DVD rental. Or posting songs, and even entire albums, to YouTube, where they are then downloaded. Maybe, now, it's both hacking and piracy, aside from being the social norm that doesn't seem to bother many people.

I hear the word "hacker" used all kinds of ways, usually as a synonym for "programmer" or even anyone proficient in the use of a computer. Think of a parent saying proudly, "My son's a hacker."

Some time ago, I heard the word "Hackintosh" to refer to a homemade Mac.

A hack sometimes means a work-around, a DIY method of doing something, whether legal or illegal, which the original program (hardware, software) could not do or was not intended to do. I saw a site for a "special" router firmware that could be loaded into various routers to speed it up, and I believe that was called a hack.

Then there's the Lifehacker web site, which uses the term similarly, as a DIY clever way of doing something, improvement, workaround, something not included in the original function or equipment. But by calling the site Lifehacker, and using the content they do, they have added meanings, like a hack is a skill, an improvement in productivity, something to make your life better. Is jogging a "heart hack"?

Don't get me started on "geek" and "nerd."
OS X 10.11.6
iMac 21.5", Mid 2011
2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, 24 GB
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
Using Apple computers since 1980

#30899 - 08/21/14 03:00 PM Re: Computer World Nomenclature [Re: deniro]
tacit Offline

Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
An app (or application) is usually a specific type of program: namely, a program designed to be used by an end user to perform a specific task of some sort.

For example, Mac OS X is a program (or more properly, a large collection of interrelated programs), but it's not an application. Similarly, the firmware in your Mac's ROM is a program, but not an application.

All of it can be thought of as "software." But there are a lot of different kinds of software: system software, utility software, applications, embedded software (the software that runs devices like your microwave oven or your car), malicious software (malware), driver software, shared libraries, and so on.

"Software engineer" is something a lot of programmers like to call themselves because it sounds more prestigious than "programmer." Me, I prefer to use the word "engineer" to describe people who make things they sign their names to, so they can be held responsible when people die. I'd call the folks who make the programs that run a spacecraft or the life support equipment at a hospital "engineers." If the license agreement has a disclaimer saying the people who made it aren't responsible for bugs or failures, they aren't engineers. But that's just me. smile

"Coders" can be used to describe anyone who works with code in any way. Programmers look down on "coders" as people who do things like copy-paste bits of code they find on the Internet, or do simple tasks like modifying someone else's programs in small, sometimes trivial, ways. There's definitely a hierarchy, and a lot of egos on the line, when it comes to computer programming. It's very much a male-dominated, dudebro, ego-posturing, dick-waving industry.

Back when I got into computers in 1977, a "hacker" was someone who did anything remarkable or amazing, usually by pushing a system past what other people thought it was capable of. The term actually predates computers; the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT in the 1960s birthed the first hackers. They devised ways to use telephone switching equipment to run enormous, elaborate electric train setups, relaying signals around different parts of the track so many trains could be operated on the same tracks without colliding with each other. It was a brilliant repurposing of technology.

Software hackers were people who came up with clever ideas to make a computer do something that was interesting and useful in a novel way.

It wasn't until the 80s and 90s that "hacker" became synonymous with people who trespass onto other people's systems. A lot of self-described "hackers" are trying very hard to reclaim the word back to its original meaning. Describing things like rewriting the firmware of a router to give it new capabilities is actually closer to the original meaning of the word "hacker."
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#30902 - 08/21/14 05:14 PM Re: Computer World Nomenclature [Re: deniro]
joemikeb Online

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
You have only scratched the surface of software development taxonomies. Where I worked we had hardware engineers, computer engineers, software engineers, software design engineers, software technicians, software process designers, software process engineers, but no coders. Coders were clerical types who read hand written programming sheets prepared by programmers (we didn't have any of those either) and keyed the instructions into Hollerith cards for business applications. Each of the job title/description approximated a specific level of software development ranging from very low level instructions literally binary ones and zeros burned into ROM in the processor itself, all the way up the scale of abstraction to symbolic logic expressed in graphic images. No matter what your title or what you were working on at one time or another we all wrote code in any one of dozens of programming languages many of which we had to design and build, because the tools for what we wanted to do simply did not exist and in many cases the tasks were too complex to be "hand coded". In a properly executed project coding accounted for less than 10% of the total effort. The rest of the time was spent describing the project in English text, graphic representations, and various programming and design languages including Ada, C, C++, object C, Lisp, Jovial, Java, Forth, Fortran, Smalltalk, and others — not to mention our own in house created languages. If we were really good at our jobs all of that would be fed to the computers and the actual code would automatically be generated and translated into the machine language the various processors understood. We might not even see the intervening textual programming language.

Yes we produced "code" as an intermediate product but we were never, ever, coders. Had you been so foolish as to describe us as "coders" or even "hackers" I hate to think what the consequences to your health and welfare might have been. grin
joemikeb • moderator

#30906 - 08/22/14 05:08 AM Re: Computer World Nomenclature [Re: tacit]
grelber Offline

Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
Applications on my iMac end with the extension .app (eg,, Time,, Microsoft and don't necessarily connect to the outside world unless I want them to.

I was under the impression that apps for iPhones, iPads, et al (none of which I have or intend to have) functioned similarly: Once acquired (either free or at a cost), they were self-contained and did not connect to the outside world unless they were designed to and, if they did, that information was not shared outside the purview of the app.
Now I've been given to understand that, for example, an app which monitors one's vital signs sends that information back to the manufacturer/creator/supplier, who can then use it for other purposes (which might be inimical to the user).

This is very disturbing on a number of levels and a major infringement on one's privacy. One wonders if such concerns involve financial transaction apps and those which might involve equally sensitive personal information.


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