The 9 Worst Tech Buzzwords Of 2012

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 popularise 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.

Pixel Density

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 taunted 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 home pages. 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 "F**K [insert thing, person, place, government]." Hacking with a poorly organised 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-defence. 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 idiot.


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.


    I would add 'skeuomorphism/skeuomorphic" to the list. As a few recent articles have pointed out, it's an extremely broad term meaning something designed to resemble a real-world analogue, but seems to have been narrowed down to mean dodgy fake wood and felt textures. A Save icon that looks like a floppy disk, or a camera icon that looks like a camera, that's skeuomorphism, and it makes sense. The problem with iOS's faux-textures is not that they employ skeuomorphism but that they're just plain naff.

    Apple's use of "Magical" in some of their advertisements is a pet peeve of mine.

      "And we have added magical pixie dust to our last MacBook."

        The pretentious way this guy talks sums it up

          Sorry I couldn't sit through all that. The incremental update thing annoyed me.

      Apple 'Genius'.

      You know what peeves me? Tim Cook and his lost nerdy boyfriends telling us the same things in their conferences every five seconds:

      They're all douchebags.

      "It really is the GREATEST phone that's ever been made"

      "So as you can see, we have made a phone that once again blows EVERYTHING out of the water"


    "Innovate" gets tossed around so much it's lost all meaning.

    A chat room with smileys? How innovative!

      Thanks to all the litigation going on and people throwing "innovation" as a basis of premise, it has really begun to get on my nerves. "DIS LACKA INNOVATION 2/10"

    How the fuck is a phone with a screen bigger than 5 inches, idiocy?

      Because Apple doesn't make them. Biddle is like that.

    #1 on my list, but probably pre-dates 2012 - "Cloud"

      I'm sick of 'the olds' asking "Is that on... the cloud" every time they do something 'new' online.

      definately. "Cloud" is basically a buzzword to redefine a concept that has been around for decades.

    Retina display.

      ESPECIALLY in phone comparisons.
      "This phone has a 300ppi, however the iPhone 5 has a retina display" -_-

    Is it just me, or is the red in that girl's eyes a little sexy?

      If you're into the whole demonic look thing, then I guess so lol.

    Great job on the insult there! Good to see that the mass media still likes to put down groups of people!

    "There was a time when almost all software engineers had serious social disorders and walked around in oversized anime tees. "
    "This is silly. just because programmers aren’t losers anymore — and sometimes even cool! — doesn’t make them bros. "

      Nothing wrong with social disorders or oversized anime tees. I fail to see your point, but that could also be the Aspergers.

    I spent a very large part of 2012 dealing with people who used cyber as a noun, not a prefix or adjective. The context was cyber-security (mostly) but they'd just say 'cyber'. In the early part of the year I asked for a definition to be sure I knew what we were all talking about, but it was never forthcoming.

    Also, I was taught to spell champher, but I suspect that your spelling reflects the dead hand of American cultural imperialism, as do all the words above, come to think of it.

    Poor Sam, he/she/it really can't help him/her/itself, can he/she/it? If we want to talk chamfer, why not talk Surface's 22 degree chamfer that actually serves some purpose beyond making the device look cooler than it otherwise might? Oh, and for the record, I think the iPhone 5 is incredibly bland. The iPhone 4/4S was the sexiest phone around but the new one has completely lost it.

    Last edited 09/12/12 10:40 am

    Sext doesn't seem like much of a 2012 buzz word to me. It's being used widely for a long time. Previous years have had some celebrity scandals that saw the word used a lot more than I can recall it being cited in the past 12 months.

    Pixel Density too is a bit of an old one, and as far as phones go probably hit its stride with the iPhone 4's release. As it is, there are devices still released with crappy displays so I think it's still very relevant. Maybe not when you are comparing 320 vs 310dpi, but certainly something when a device has a quite low DPI, it's relevant to mention.

    Why not "I’ve been Chamfering your aunt"?

    Can I please get in early and nominate "selfie" for 2013?

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