Tongue-tied tech

Is "4G" the same as "LTE"? What's the verb form of "Twitter"? And how do you pronounce "GIF"? <p> Technology is full of odd terms that often are arbitrary. And though new technologies quickly emerge, grammar and syntax rules for such terms can be slower to emerge. <p> Here are 10 of the most awkward and confusing terms in modern tech and the best advice on how to use them.

Verb form of 'Twitter'

Tech cognoscenti may sneer when they hear old folks say that someone was "twittering." Bah, they say, the correct verb form is "tweet." <p> That depends on what you are doing, said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in a March 2013 interview. He uses "twitter" to mean simply reading posts and "tweet" to mean posting something. "You can … use Twitter and never tweet," he said, as more than 40 percent of Twitter's core, active users already do. Costolo expects the majority of Twitter users to soon be "consumers" who read (i.e. "twitter"), but never tweet.

Login vs. log in vs. logon vs. log on

This is a doozy. <p> "Login" (noun) means your username and password — say, what you type in to access Facebook. "Log in" (verb) is the act of entering the username and password. For example, "I log in to Facebook with my login." <p> "Log on" is essentially the same as "log in." People often say they "log on" to a website. But unless that site requires a username and password (a login),they aren't really logging on — just visiting. The noun "logon" is a less-common way of saying "login."

Pronouncing "GIF"

The graphical interchange format (GIF) image file, invented in 1987, has gained new fame as a way to publish short, looping videos (known as animated GIFs). Tumblr blogs have led an explosion of animated GIFs, for everything from silly clips at celebrity award ceremonies to videos on the White House's official Tumblr. <p> That White House blog specifies "Animated GIFs (hard 'G')." The leader of the free world is a high authority. But even higher is the creator of the format, Steve Wilhite, who takes umbrage with anyone using the hard "G" sound, including the Oxford English Dictionary. In a 2013 interview with The New York Times, Wilhite said "The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations … They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of story.'

What does meme mean?

This is easy. It's an animated GIF ("jif"), or something with a cat. Something that goes "viral," right? <p> Viral is the key part. In his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene," evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins proposed that, just as an actual virus can infect a host, replicate and spread to other hosts, so can an idea spread from mind to mind. On the micro level, this is gossip among friends. On the macro level, it's everything from religious beliefs to "Call Me Maybe" parodies. Take, for example, the "dog shaming" meme — photos of dogs wearing signs describing their misdeeds, such as "0 days since I ate the cat litter." <p> Despite some people ignoring the final "e" and saying "mem," meme is pronounced with a long "e" as in "meem."


It's in the air, everywhere. But what does it mean, and what's with the spelling? <p> In 1999, a nonprofit industry group was set up to test and certify devices using a new wireless technology called 802.11 to insure that they could interoperate with each other. These devices carried a badge proclaiming their faithfulness to the wireless standard, i.e. wireless fidelity, and carried the trademarked badge"Wi-Fi Certified." That nonprofit is called the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Mini SLRs

There used to be two kinds of digital cameras: little point-and-shoots and big SLR (single-lens reflex) models with detachable lenses. Then in 2008, Panasonic came out with a small, detachable-lens camera — but didn't call it an SLR. <p> A key aspect of an SLR is the ability to look through the lens using a mirror that bounces the image into a viewfinder. Panasonic (and later, other camera makers) have created models without the mirror to make the camera smaller. Instead of a viewfinder, you use the screen on the back of the camera. <p> But what to call these cameras? Panasonic and Olympus chose the term "micro four-thirds," which is too esoteric to get into. Sony simply says "compact." Nikon says "advanced" and Canon use "single-lens non-reflex." None of those are very catchy, though. <p> If you say "mini SLR," you'd be wrong, technically, but perhaps most easily understood.

Bits vs. bytes

A bit is the smallest, well, bit of data: a one or a zero. So it's a good way of describing how much data comes through an Internet connection — for example, a 5-megabit-per-second (5 Mbps) download speed. <p> But a bit doesn't say much. So computer scientists created a byte, consisting of eight bits, enabling 256 different 0/1 combinations. The byte became the basic unit of data in computers. <p> But there is some funny math. Computers use a binary or "base two" system (meaning that there are two possible values for each digit: 0 and 1). So a kilobyte (2 to the 10th power) comes out to 1,024, rather than 1,000, bytes. Likewise, a megabyte is 1,024 kilobytes, and a gigabyte is 1,024 megabytes. But storage makers use 1,000 instead of 1,024. So, for example, a "32GB" iPhone has about 28GB of actual storage — measured the way a computer can utilize it.

Is '4G' the same as 'LTE'?

Nowhere is the alphabet soup thicker than with mobile devices. <p> The "G" in 4G stands for the generation of technology. The first generation was analog and for voice. 2G marked the transition to all-digital signals. 3G provides tolerable data speeds. And 4G can be superfast, with a theoretical capacity up to 100 megabits per second, though it currently maxes out around 40 Mbps. <p> Sprint initially used a technology called Wi-Max to achieve 4G. AT&T and Verizon waited for a technology called LTE (for the vapid phrase "long-term evolution"). For a while, T-Mobile used a technology that it called "4G." Though it was not capable of reaching 100 Mbps, it was as fast or faster than real-world Wi-Max and LTE. <p> Sprint and T-Mobile are now moving to LTE, as is the world. So, in practice, 4G and LTE will be the same thing.

Computer memory

You could have a laptop with a 500GB hard drive, but that number says nothing about how much memory it has. <p> Storage is where data is archived. Memory, often called RAM, is a place where a computer manipulates a copy of the data. After you make changes to the document in memory, for example, you can save them back to storage. <p> Now forget all that when it comes to smartphones, as mobile phone companies have taken to calling their storage "memory."

What iPad are we up to?

Apple debuted its iPad tablet computer in April 2010. The following year, it released a version called iPad 2. Two more iPad generations of the full-sized iPad have followed, but the latest is not called "iPad 4." <p> In March 2012, Apple introduced an iPad called simply "the new iPad." Its key feature was a screen of the same size (9.7 inches), but four times the resolution, called a retina display. <p> When the fourth full-sized tablet came out, Apple called it "iPad with retina display." The fifth version will probably have the exact same name. And if the next iPad mini gets a retina display, it may follow suit.

10 Most Awkward Technology Terms