What is an ‘app,’ anyway? | Business

Computer nerds and IT wonks often throw around tech acronyms, abbreviations and terminology like they actually know what they’re talking about, and only dummies don’t understand their jibber-jabber.

This situation has been one of my longstanding pet peeves.

How can you communicate if nobody knows what you’re talking about?

I often tell IT and cybersecurity types that, in order to teach classes on internet safety, like I do, to the general public, they need to stop with the tech buzzword nonsense.

If you are always saying things like “threat actor,” “nation state,” “exploit” and “security posture,” there’s a good chance that most people won’t be able to understand you.

Case in point: the word “app.” I’m not sure it’s actually a word, though; I think it’s more of an abbreviation.

Even so, what does it mean?

What is an “app?”

If you want to play “confuse-a-kid,” ask an age 20 and under-something what an “app” is.

More educated computer users will know what an “app” is. It’s short for “application.”

Score one for the smart guys, but, what is an “application?”

Something you fill out to get a passport, or a job at the local car wash?

In the present context, an “app” (application) is a computer program, like a word processor or browser.

An example of a “word processor” would be something like Microsoft Word, or Corel WordPerfect, “programs” that let you create letters, documents, messages and books.

Browser examples would be Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Apple Safari, “programs” that let you look at and interact with websites.

OK, so “apps” are Applications, and Applications are Programs. Why call Programs “apps?” That’s a very good question. Why, indeed?

One sort-of explanation is Applications are programs that you “apply” to computers.

That doesn’t really make much sense to me, not enough to switch from calling programs “programs” to calling them “applications.” I can live with it, though, although it seems silly.

A two-syllable word seems a more logical choice than a four syllable word, but, that’s OK.

But still, “app?”

What’s the reason for that?

Most of the explanations I’ve come across simply brush aside the question, saying that the term “app” is newer, and more “modern,” as if modern equated to “better.”

If it’s modern, it’s better, right?

Other explanations are more intellectual, stating that Applications are Programs we “apply” to a particular activity.

Those explanations don’t work, either.

Maybe it’s because one syllable is easier than two, or four.

Maybe because, unless everything is easy, then something is wrong.

I do know, however, what a Program is, especially a “computer” program; it is a set of instructions, presented in a “language” that a computer can use to achieve a desired result.

Since the advent of widely-available microprocessors in the 1970’s, we have been “programming” all sorts of digital devices to achieve a desired result; Clocks, televisions, computers, automobiles, microwave ovens, cell phones, and even the humble VCR (video-cassette recorder, for you young ‘uns).

All in all, it’s worked out quite well. It’s why I have a job.

It all begs the question: can I get that App in a Program version?


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