Hack a Day’s Dictionary of Questionable Utility™

We frequently receive inquiries from eager readers asking how they can best get started in electronics and computer projects. Countless great books have been written on these subjects, and of course now there’s our answers.hackaday.com site. But there’s a difference between being “book smart” and being “street smart.” What are the terms that you really need to know to get ahead in this field? We’ve collected a few of our favorites here.

Have any terms or definitions to add? Leave a note in the comments!

Amp-hour: n. The short interval after the morning Starbucks has kicked in, during which one gets all their actual work done for the day.

Antimony: n. A chemical element frequently used in electronics. Explodes on contact with money.

Bandwidth: n. A measurement inversely proportional to the cumulative physical fitness of a musical ensemble.

Butterworth filter: n. A kitchen utensil for removing the crystalized bits from maple syrup.

Duty cycle: n. A washing machine setting thats particularly effective for getting skid marks out of underwear.

ELF binary: n. A program that mysteriously appears on your computer while you’re asleep.

Ferret chloride: n. A foul-smelling chemical solution used for etching printed circuit boards really really quickly.

Flux: n. Expletive that usually follows soldering iron mishaps. See Hertz.

Hertz: v. What a soldering iron does when you touch the wrong end. See flux.

Hysteresis: n. The state of panic when one’s circuit does not work as planned.

N-type semiconductor: n. The “n-type” sticker adds 5 horsepower.

Negative feedback: n. Something one should attempt to minimize on eBay.

Noise: n. That so-called “music” you kids listen to these days. Get off my lawn!

Open source: n. Wounds that have not been properly cleaned and dressed.

Passive-aggressive component: n. A electronic part (e.g. resistor, capacitor, etc.) that suddenly decides to burn, stab or explode in your face.

PWMED! v. To have kicked someones ass with subtly-shaded LEDs.

Rectifier: n. A tool for lodging things into one’s backside. Two rectifiers back-to-back form a butt connector.

Resistance: n. Futile. You will be assimilated.

RMS: n. A feature of better quality voltmeters; makes them into raving proponents of open-source software.

Square wave: n. A secret greeting used by nerds.

1ED: n. Acronym for 1337-emitting diode (pronounced leet, not one-three-three-seven). Any light (but almost invariably a blue LED) on or within a computer that exists solely for posturing and conveys no diagnostic or status information.

Comments

  1. TheFish says:

    Ohm: The amount of resistance someone gives you when you pwn them at something, and take there score.

  2. Gary says:

    Ardwieners: People who insist on using an Arduino in every project.

    Ardwhiners: People who vehemently oppose any project based on an Arduino being highlighted on Hack-a-Day.

  3. Stpq says:

    Hack: n. What ever the hell the HackADay editors feel like posting.

  4. anon says:

    You guys actually had me for a second -.-

  5. bluewraith says:

    Gravity Boot: A last resort method of starting a machine. Usually a freefall from a distance of 5 to 6 feet, but may also be used as part of a walls lateral strength test.

  6. Don't Panic says:

    Microcontroller: n. Derogatory term usually directed at IT managers.

  7. charper says:

    Oh my god…

    That doesn’t really so “Ferret Chloride” does it?

    *facepalm*

  8. charper says:

    “really say*:, sorry changed the sentence before I sent it and didn’t proof

  9. Jtaylor says:

    1/4 wave: n. form of greeting used for those you don’t like well.

    1/2 wave: n. form of greeting used for those you have to wave to, but don’t want to.

    Full Wave: n. usually reserved for close friends or those we are trying to flag down.

    Ultra High Frequency: adj. the rate at which a teenager texts or responds to messages on Facebook.

    Low Frequency: adj. the rate at which a teenager will do what their parents tell them.

  10. Phi1618 says:

    Transister – used to be your brother

  11. ArgleBlarg says:

    LED matrix: Lo-fi prequel to The Matrix.
    Monome: a metronome that only works on a single frequency.
    Sine wave: Used by traffic officers to direct traffic.
    Toy hack: The process of turning a child’s toy into an adult-child’s toy.
    Bluetooth: The horrible result of intensely concentrating while sucking a pen.

  12. lefty says:

    coefficient – getting someone else to do your work

  13. Phil Burgess says:

    @charper: this is why some folks recommend buffing the surface of copper-clad board with a Scotch-Brite pad before applying the resist and etching. Ferrets have a natural affinity for shiny things, so this helps draw them out of the solution and to the surface being etched.

  14. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    Diode – Conclusion of life for electronic parts.

    Doping – Why kids are dropping out of school.

    RGB – Fantasy video games kids play after doping.

    LED poisoning – Meggy Jr.

    Resister – Female sibling coming to visit for Christmas even though she was just there for Thanksgiving.

    Resister-in-law – God have mercy.

    And, may I point everyone to:

    http://www.pcmedixwebs.com/redneck.htm

  15. Icarus says:

    simplex : adj someone with a dull brain
    half duplex : n apartment that you have to share with someone
    full duplex : n full fledged owner of a home

    bit : very small piece of something
    byte : eight of them bits
    kilobyte : eight heavy bits

    alternative current : currency that changes a lot
    direct current : act of speaking very frankly and fluently

    coil : oil with copper additive
    integrated circuit : very small race track
    sobering iron : shackles to help a detox person
    multimeter : more than one meter long

  16. Frogz says:

    hp pc
    gasoline powered computer!

  17. Haku says:

    Percussive Maintenance: The fine art of bludgeoning an electronic device in order to encourage it to work properly.

    eg.

  18. tantris says:

    arduino: what you glue to your project, so it get’s posted
    pic18: something like an arduino, but different.
    arm: arduino’s stupid big brother, cheaper and less cool
    ne555: preprogrammed arduino that can blink incredibly fast
    led: blinky part. some take more than 20mA, which isn’t very useful, since you can’t drive them from an i/o-port
    ft232: what you bye to hookup your arduino, so you don’t have to admit, that your computer still has serial and parallel ports.
    openwrt-router: what poor people use, who can’t afford an ethershield and zigbee module.

  19. therian says:

    “We frequently receive inquiries from eager readers asking how they can best get started in electronics and computer projects”

    why don’t they ask you about ballet dancing…

  20. tinkermonkey says:

    Triangle wave n. A secret greeting used by nerds not directly facing each other. see square wave

  21. Jtaylor says:

    rectifier: n. severe burning sensation that accompanies hemorrhoids and butt chewings by the boss.

    line regulator: n. person officially in charge of country music dances.

    flyback transformer: n. piece of exercise equipment that makes you look good from the rear.

    trimmer resistor: n. a resistor that has been using a flyback transformer

  22. grammar nazi says:

    I’m sure you meant to write ‘enquiries’, not ‘inquiries’.

    Unless people really are sending you the results of their own investigations into the matter.

  23. Weiss says:

    Arduino shields: Copy paste hardware

  24. lodewijkadlp says:

    Not a hack!!1!!twelve!!!

  25. Marek says:

    OLED: Kinda like the 1ED but more like a ufo

  26. Roee says:

    logic analyzer- n. a student trying to understand an article.
    source code- n. the speedial number for the gossip guy in the neighborhood.
    build log- n. a piece of wood for building a cabin.
    breakout board- n. a sheet of wood for martial arts masters to show their breaking skills.
    MIDI- n. a size of a skirt

  27. TheFish says:

    the only thing you can do with Windows is open and close your windows, and you can’t go through the windows because there is a screen in the way.

  28. Ivan says:

    Watt: this measure is inversely proportional to your ear’s sensibility.
    Power supply: makes the magic smoke o come out of your components.
    Impedance: electrical ability for making the magic smoke to come out of the adjacent components.
    Darlington: John Darlington’s last name (duh!)
    Capacitor: (not to be confused with Fireworks) component used for creating hoge explosions. Older models are used for drinking electrolyte (similar to Gatorade).
    RAM: Randomly Adquired Mammal

  29. Ivan says:

    CRT: beige box used to give hedaches to users.
    Voltage: directly proportional to the shock people receive when discharcing a capacitor with their hands.
    AAA: battery designed for quick discharge, that way users have to replace them frequently.
    SMD: technology designed for avoiding quick hacks, needing a magnifier glass and a $200 hot air station.

  30. Brian says:

    dipole: the corner post of the high voltage fence.
    transformer: a piece of (usually) a power supply that can turn into a car or truck.
    ham radio: a radio that one can eat.
    Whetstone Bridge: a stone used to sharpen knives.
    coaxial: having a second axle.
    line driver: a car without a steering wheel.
    token ring: guys sitting around a bong.

    service manual: That’s a good one. I don’t know either.

  31. Haku says:

    Transistor: Cross dressing resistor.
    Breadboard: Where you make your lunch.
    Byte: How you eat your lunch.
    Nibble: What you do when lunch wasn’t enough.
    Firewire: What happens when you exceed the amps rating of wire by several magnitudes.
    Accumulator: Hoarder.
    LCD: Dyslexic LSD.

  32. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    Full-wave bridge rectifier – friendly guy mooning you from an overpass

  33. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    Pass band filter – Earplugs worn while attending a parade

  34. Jac Goudsmit says:

    I once heard someone refer to “Transformers” as some kind of robots that turn into vehicles or something? Seriously! How did they get that idea? Sheesh! :-)

  35. SamSam says:

    Magnet: A tool used to fish pornos out from under the bed.

    Solid state relay: A really well put-together state relay race. The Massachusetts’ State Relay is one such example.

    OLED: One’s state after a Spaniard has said hello to them.

    Transistor: A former brother who has changed sex.

    Halogen lamp: A lamp that generates a halo-effect around one’s head.

  36. DarkFader says:

    test clip: a media clip that is subject to testing.
    current driver: the driver that is currently trying to stay on the circuit.
    low drop regulator: limits the movement of a falling object.
    tweezer-attack: a method for destructing electronic devices.
    ground bounce: the effect when a subwoofer is set too loud.
    ground loop: the fundamental closing path in a circuit.

  37. wegfhykjyt says:

    bipolar transistor: depressive transistor

    mosfet: if you don’t like resistors

    chips IC: usually made with silicon potato

    T0-220: package designed to test the burn resistance of your fingers.

    heatsink: used when most of your finger are burned

    zener:the most peaceful diode.

  38. polymath says:

    modem: a southern expression used to indicate that an individual would like more of a particular item. usually a food stuff

    ex:”I would like some modem green beans”

  39. hairbysubaru says:

    Relaxation Oscillator: n, A Hammock.
    Stud diode: n, One with cohones.
    Super-conductor: n, finishes the performance twenty minutes before the orchestra.
    flux-capacitor: n, one that just arced, exploded and stabbed you in the eye.
    Variable regulator: n, one open to kickbacks.
    Ferrite beads; n pl, what pot-cores sweat.
    Embedded CPU: One reason not to go bare-foot in the workshop. What was it doing on the floor anyway?
    Bus-driver: n, Sam on route 723.
    Algorithm: n, a lucky guess.
    Surge-protection: n, the output stage of your $3000 amplifier.
    Hardware interrupt: n, ***NO CARRIER***

  40. me says:

    im still looping between Flux and Hertz

  41. Tray says:

    I love it! Great work!

  42. Anthony says:

    I swear, the first thing that confused the hell out of me was caps=capacitor.

  43. SoundwaveHi says:

    Trouble Shooting- When the CUT(circuit under test) pisses u off, u bust out the handy handgun and shoot it until it acts right…

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