Technological Prevarication

Neologisms are a dime a dozen in our world of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), but a new one keeps springing to my mind: Technological Prevarication or TP. TP denotes any false or misleading excuse, claim, or cause attributed to some less well understood technological source. Two recent examples are the Chase ATM ad campaign and the termination of the World Trade Center webcam.

In the first case, a Chase TV ad claims the company's ATMs are speedier than ever. The hook is an acquisitive teen jumping from a car at a stop light, punching in his codes into a Chase ATM, and then bounding back into said vehicle–cash in hand–before the light changes. Now traffic lights in New York City are long, but not that long. Indeed, anyone who has used a new Chase ATM within the confines of Manhattan knows that they rank as the slowest in the city–and certainly slower than the old Chase ATM system. The ad announcer, of course, spouts a TP to the contrary. Maybe they should hand the IT chores over to another party….

The second case of TP I noticed this week was when the Lower Manhattan Development site plugged the plug on its webcam overlooking construction of the Freedom Tower downtown. According to reports, the company's purported reason for taking the webcam down was that traffic at the web site was so low that it didn't justify the cost of the webcam. This is TP in the extreme because it costs the company next to nothing to operate a web cam (witness the countless cat and hamster webcams online) and indeed the opposite is true: The more traffic, the higher the bandwidth, the higher the cost.

So why the TP? There are two good candidates: a) the company doesn't want us to see just how little progress is actually being made at the site (not too surprising), or b) it finally occurred to someone that broadcasting the innermost construction details of the Freedom Tower, the site of one of the worst terrorist attrocities ever, probably, maybe, possibly wasn't such a good idea.

It's cases like this that remind one that "the server must be down" excuse is today's equivalent of "the dog ate my homework."  Unless, of course, it's MY excuse for not getting a story in on deadline.

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About jquain

Technology reporter, writer, and television correspondent, JQ has been covering the computer, communications, and consumer electronics industries for more than 25 years.A contributor to The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, PC Magazine, U.S. News & World Report and many other publications, JQ appears on CBS News television program Up to the Minute and on Fox Business.
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