Blog Post: Abbr., Acronyms & Terms

DSCF1797Ever wonder where some of the various terms we use in the library come from?  More specifically computer related terms?  Since I am part of Team Geek here in library land I thought I’d share some of the more common acronyms, abbreviations & terms we use and try to give you a background as to where they come from.

A simple one what many patrons use each day is the OPAC.  These are computers located throughout the library that anyone can use to look for books or other material in the library or the library system. The term OPAC actually stands for Online Public Access Catalog.  The OPAC contacts WYLD to search for the requested material.  WYLD is our own Wyoming Library Database.  Knowing just these two new facts could be considered a full day for some.  Read on.  We’ve got you covered for a week.

Another example in the computer realm.  Have you heard the term ‘boot’ related to computers?  Ever wonder what it means or where it came from?  Common folklore suggests that when computers were first around and filled up rooms, in order to start them on occasion the operator would have to boot them.  Much like one does with an aggravating appliance such as a washing machine, French fry cutter, or a big screen TV.  If it’s not working right just give it a boot.  Car won’t start, kick it.  Computer won’t start, kick that too!  NOOO!!  That’s not what boot means.  Don’t be kickin’ computers.

According to and, the term boot related to computers goes back to the old saying, “To pull one up by one’s own boot straps.”  In the early days of computing the phrase was actually boot strapping the computer.  It meant essentially to start from the ground up, with the basics and build from there.  Load the basic systems first, then more complicated software later. Think of when you’ve been trying to ride your son’s snowboard and wind up on your keister. I, uh, you need to then pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get going.  See how fun this stuff is?

So it follows that to “reboot” means to start all over again from the basics.  We in IT (that’s Information Technology) do a lot of this with technology.  If you’re a home user, that’d be my number one tip for you if your confuser is acting goofy.  First, reboot. If that doesn’t work then kick it.  NOOOO!  Just kidding on kickin’ it.

Bug (Debug) is another term we hear often, which has a great legend around it, and while the legend is partly true, the term bug was in use long before the legend was born. As the story goes US Naval Officer Grace Hopper was working on the supercomputer at Harvard.  When the computer did not work as it should she and/or her team searched through the computer and found a moth in a relay that was preventing the computer from operating.  When the “bug” was removed the system worked, so it had been debugged.  According to and a few other sources though, the term bug had been around for quite some time before that.  The earliest known written account of “bugs” was actually Thomas Edison in 1878, though the origin of the word used in this fashion goes back further still.

RAM.  No, don’t hit your head against the wall.  RAM, as an abbreviation, stands for Random Access Memory.  This is the memory inside a computer where your digital information is actively worked with. Think of it like a big desk covered with paper, except the computer generally knows where every piece of paper is located how to access it at your request, and put it back.  Much unlike my desk.  Also unlike my desk, at the end of the day when the computer is shutdown the RAM is cleared out.  My desk seldom gets cleared out.

Another type of memory with a similar name is ROM, or, Read Only Memory.  This is memory that is written to one time and then just gives its instruction when called on.  Kind of like a mother-in-law.  Just giving instruction.  And giving instruction…

There are tons of other acronyms too.  CPU-Central Processing Unit, VGA-Video Graphics Array, HDMI-High Definition Multimedia Interface, HMADQ-Hand Me A Dollar Quickly, CD-Compact Disc, DVD-Digital Versatile Disc, and hundreds more.

That’s it for now.   Hope it was worth your time. TTYL (talk to you later).

~Court S.