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Discover the Origins of Texas Sayings

Term /
Symbol /
Acronym                         Description / Explanation / Implications

Δ     Mathematicians use Greek capital letter Delta to mean "difference" and engineers will throw the word "delta" into a sentence to mean "difference" too, because they just think that way. See: delta

θ     Mathematicians use Greek letter theta to designate an angle. In electronics θ is also used to signify a thermal characteristic.

λ     Scientists use Greek lower-case lambda to mean "wavelength", often associated with light or radio spectrums.

µ     The Greek lower-case mu indicates one-millionth, 10-6 and substitutes for the prefix "micro-". One million µF would total one Farad, a measure of capacitance. For convenience, the lower-case "u" is often substituted for μ. Separate from the mathematics, µ alongside a P (µP) is used to indicate microprocessor, while µC indicates microcontroller. See: Numbers, micro 2)

Σ     Mathematicians use Greek capital letter Sigma to mean "summation", often an iterative, repeated accumulation of terms.

Φ     The Greek letter Phi can mean "phase", as in 3Φ for three-phase.

Ω     The Greek capital letter Omega represents an "ohm", a measure of electrical resistance. See: ampere

° '  "  The small raised circle (°) indicates a "degree" which is a fraction of a larger measurement depending upon usage. In angular measures (an arc), 360° marks out the entire circle (in two dimensions) or one complete rotation. Such degrees are further divided into 60 minutes (') per degree and seconds (") which are 1/60 of the minute. Longitude and latitude marking locations on the face of the Earth use this system in three dimensions, though often using decimal parts of the degree and requiring an altitude to determine a precise position (might be in a hole, cave, or mine, or in the atmosphere or orbit in space).

When measuring temperature, the degree (°) is either 1/100th or 1/180th (for °F) of the difference between the temperature of water boiling and freezing. See: C, F, K

*     asterisk, often used in writing to direct to a footnote and in mathematics to signify multiplication. See: splat

#     See: hash mark

~     The tilde is often used to indicate an approximation, e.g. ~$10 = about $10, but it can also be used to indicate "cycles" (Hertz) because the symbol's shape resembles a wave. See: hertz

.     The tiny dot signals the end of a sentence, and is called a "period" (in American English) or a "full stop" (in British English). It is also called a "decimal point" (mathematics), a "dot" (computing, URLs, network addresses), or joined with two others as an "ellipsis" (indicating the list goes on)…  Humans and computers must fuss over whether it is followed by a number, a single space, a double space, no space (end of a printed line), and whether to allow a break for wrapping a line for a display or printer output.

0     Zero has a very special meaning in logic and computers, and therefore electronics, beyond the mathematical wonders of zero, the origin on number lines and a representation of no count at all. Zero (0) represents one of two states of digital logic; the other state is 1.  0 often represents the "off" condition for a function. 0 and 1 are the only two characters in the binary number system. In most computer uses, all zeroes are significant and leading or trailing zeroes can rarely be ignored without serious consequences.

When logic is translated into electronic circuits,
0 is considered the low state and may not only define the quantity of no voltage (the reference from which all other voltage is measured, "ground", "earth" - to the English, "zero volts") but also something near zero volts. In fact, the generally accepted voltage level to represent a logical 0 is usually –0.3V to +0.7V; which has its origin in TTL semiconductor logic.

Zero should not be confused with the letter "O" which comes between N and P in the alphabet and usually has a rounder shape in most fonts. When labeling items with letters, the O is often skipped to avoid such mistakes. Germans and some other European cultures (and others) often emphasize and distinguish the zero by striking a slash through it so it resembles a Greek Phi (Ø). Since historically the telephone dial uses the zero also to signal a human operator (a word written on the dial and starting with O), when reading telephone numbers or other long sequences of numbers, people often say "oh" (O) rather than zero (0), so systems that try to interpret human voice inputs must accommodate this common mis-use.
1, binary, bit, hexadecimal, ASCII, Numbers

1     One is not just a number, unity, with unique characteristics in mathematics. But one has a very special meaning in logic and computers, and therefore electronics. One (1) represents the second of two states of digital logic; the other state is 0.  1 often represents the "on" condition for a function.  0 and 1 are the only two characters in the binary number system.

When logic is translated into electronic circuits,
1 is considered the high state. Exactly what voltage is indicative of this high state (1) depends largely on the overall voltage levels appropriate for the semiconductor process technology being used. The logical 1 can have a fairly wide range in actual voltage. Representative voltages are given in the table below.

logic state         input                        output    
 TTL standard:
  0    low             VIL < +0.4V                  VOL < +0.8V
  1   high     +2.0V < VIH                 +2.4V  < VOH
 other CMOS ranges:
  0    low     -0.3V < VIL < +0.8V                  VOL < +0.5V
  1   high     +2.0V < VIH < Vdd + 0.3V    +2.4V  < VOH
       ...where V=voltage or volts, I=input, O=output, L=low, H=high, dd=drain, ss=source  

One (
1) should not be confused with the capital letter "I" which comes between H and J in the English alphabet or lower-case "l" which comes between k and m in the alphabet. When labeling items with letters, the I and sometimes even the l is skipped to avoid such mistakes. Note that original manual typewriters had no 1 key (illustration from an early patent can be seen in this glossary under QWERTY); instead the lower-case "l" was typed for the numeral 1 (looking more like "l" in traditional Courier font). But programming computers with a manual typewriter would have been ridiculous.

German mathematicians, scientists, and engineers usually distinguish a hand-written
1 with a pronounced upper stroke preceding the downward stroke of the one, almost resembling a flipped/rotated check-mark (with the 7 and 0 confirmed with a slash through the handwritten numeral).
In this glossary, when 0 or 1 represent logic states or binary numbers, they should appear in the Courier font with uniform character spacing favored by programmers, and will rarely be spelled out in text (contrary to the teachings of grammar and English professors, even when starting a sentence; see: Style). However, your browser settings or capabilities may not allow the text to be presented in this manner.
0, binary, bit, hexadecimal, ASCII, QWERTY, Numbers

101     101 is often used to indicate very fundamental information about the topic. The source of the term comes from college life where courses are numbered according to their level of difficulty (and credit hours), thus, the '01 indicates the first course. Really, this glossary should be rated much higher than 101 since it is based on decades of experience in semiconductors, electronics, engineering, marketing, business, and professional speaking and writing.

10K pricing     The price each for at least 10,000 units shipped over a year. Since semiconductor manufacturing is a capital-intensive industry, vendors are most interested in extremely high-volume production rates over long periods of time. Pricing for semiconductor chips is therefore structured to drop by 10-20% for every ten times the volume purchased. New price points may begin when volume hits 25K, 50K, and 100KU (roughly doubling). Similar forms and connotations: 10,000 piece pricing, 10K quantity, 1K pricing...

2     Because the number 2 sounds like the preposition "to", it has become popular to use 2 in acronyms as a cute shorthand for "to". Examples include B2B (business-to-business), M2M (machine-to-machine), and P2P (peer-to-peer).
In earlier and somewhat more appropriate uses within acronyms, the "2" refers to the mathematical "squared" or doubling of the previous character, as in I2C (Inter-Integrated circuit Communications)

-30-     Signifies the end of a story in journalism, now rarely seen

3D, 3-D     Three Dimensions add a distance or depth component (z) to the width (x) and height (y) dimensions of a scene. Since one human eye collects light about 3" from the other eye, the brain interClick to study the complete, full size image...  "Stereoscopic" photography popular through the 1920's uses slightly different views from the left and right eye positions to give true 3D depth perception. Note the slight shift of the woman & flag which are behind the horse (dark object).prets differences in the two received images to determine distance or depth and, by inference, size and maybe texture. 3D refers to true stereo-imaging, typically presenting each eye with a slightly different view of a scene from which the brain perceives depth and realism. 3-D shading to give depth
However, the term 3D is often used loosely to simply refer to object lighting and shading effects which give a static realism to objects, when the term "2.5D" might be more appropriate for the implication of the third dimension.
See extended discussion: Images in 3D

3D can also be less-accurately applied to audio where the listener can determine a distance, richness, or third dimension to the source (location) of a sound, often through interpretation in the brain of how the sound is altered, attenuated, delayed, and shadowed by near objects like the head, hair, and ears.

3D semiconductor packaging refers to the stacking of chips within a package, making additional use of the 3rd dimension for very dense circuits. See: package, SIP

3G, 4G, 5G     Third-Generation, Fourth-Generation, Fifth-, ... is often applied to wireless cellular phones, but appropriate for nearly any system. Fractions such as 2.5G and 2.75G are sometimes used to indicate partial steps or bridges to the next full generation technology. In all cases it is wise to establish exactly what a mentioned generation (or dimension) really refers to in a given usage. Precise definitions vary widely between different users. Additionally, in cellular wireless terminology, a predominant feature (LTE) is often referenced along with/instead of the 4G designation.

42     The ultimate answer to everything, according to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

8051     The 8051 is a well-known 8-bit microcontroller architecture that Intel extended from its earlier 8080 microprocessor, circa 1980. 8051-compatible MCUs are still offered by many other companies. Also: 80C51; simpler: 8031.

86     To get rid of, eliminate.  Used in night clubs to say "throw this guy out".  Used in restaurants where "86-O" means "no onions".

Å     Angstrom: 10-10 meters; perhaps the smallest unit of measure, originally to measure the wavelength of light (electromagnetic radiation), but also used to measure atoms, molecules, and other ridiculously small items.

A     An Ampere. Sometimes, a lower-case "a". See: amp 1)

A-to-D, ADC, A/D     Analog-to-Digital Converters (sometimes just: A-to-D converters) take a voltage reading on its input, which may come from a temperature sensor, pressure gauge, or other real-world continuous signal, and translates it into a digital representation for use by a processor. ADCs are judged by the speed (1 Msps –million samples per second) and the resolution and accuracy (8-, 10-, 12-bit with ±1/2 bit) of their conversion. Methods of conversion include successive approximation (SAR) and sum-of-difference (delta-sigma - sometimes sigma-delta.)

Because analog circuitry is best manufactured in a different manner than digital circuitry, the best A-to-D converters are typically designed on an analog semiconductor process technology (and referred to as mixed-signal – analog mixed with digital). To run fast and be built cheaply, most digital processors are built on a digital technology, and so it can be very difficult to integrate the best A-to-D converters on the same chip with a digital processor. However, A-to-D converters are found on numerous MCUs, DSPs, and integrated MPUs to enable more dense circuit boards, although the speed or resolution of such A-to-D’s may be less than standalone A-to-D’s. See: digital

The D-to-A converter (or DAC) performs the reverse function by producing an analog output voltage that is proportional to its digital data input. The output voltage can drive a motor, display, or control device.

2) Refrigerator designers are using microprocessors (on solid state circuit boards) to adapt defrost intervals and durations to compensate for differences and changes in operating conditions. Such techniques are called Adaptive Defrost Control, commonly abbreviated as ADC.

AAC     High-efficiency Advanced Audio Coding version 2 is a lossy data compression scheme for digital audio. It is an extension of Low Complexity AAC (AAC LC) optimized for low bit-rate applications such as streaming audio. HE-AAC version 1 (HE-AAC v1) uses Spectral Band Replication (SBR) to enhance the compression efficiency in the frequency domain. HE-AAC version 2 (HE-AAC v2) couples SBR with Parametric Stereo (PS) to enhance the compression efficiency of stereo signals. (description originally from If that jumble isn't enough for you there is also a "Plus" version of AAC.

aaS      …as a Service. See: SaaS

ABI      Application Binary Interface, a software term

ABS     An Anti-skid Braking System uses a microcontroller to optimize braking on vehicles by rapidly pulsing the brakes (on-off-on-off…) when a wheel starts skidding on the road surface. ABS even allows steering to be effective under lock-up conditions.

AC         Alternating Current (as opposed to Direct Current - DC). See: DC, A/C

A/C       air conditioning equipment. Sometimes without the "/" See: HVAC

ACIM     Alternating Current Induction Motor (nearly 90% of industrial motors by units) See: motors

ACK     ACKnowledgement (positive acknowledgement). See: ARQ, NAK, CRC

ADAS   Advanced Driver Assistance Systems is a category of transportation safety systems that warn drivers of potentially hazardous situations, often warning without fully taking automated action. Cameras and digital vision are common elements of these systems. Examples include on-board electronics for the purpose of: sleeping/sobriety/attention assessment, near- and far-object detection, collision avoidance, lane change control, parking assistance, etc.

ADC     1) Analog-to-Digital Converter. See: A-to-D

ADC     2) Application Delivery Controllers can be advanced versions of load balancers at the front end of server farms and data centers.

     3) In refrigerators, electronic Adaptive Defrost Controls adjust the defrost cycle intervals and durations based on operating conditions.

ADPCM  Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation

ADSL     Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line provides higher download bandwidth than upstream flow.

AED     An Automated ­External ­Defibrillator is a handheld emergency medical product designed so that untrained users can follow a few simple actions to restore the natural sequence of electrical pulses to the human heart after apparent (or not) cardiac arrest.

AES      The Advanced Encryption Standard algorithm was blessed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to be more secure than versions of the Data Encryption Standard (DES), and uses 128-, 192-, or 256-bit key lengths. See: DES, SHA

AFE      Analog Front-End, the analog portion of a circuit, often the first part of the electronics that interfaces to the outside world.

AHB     Advanced High-Performance Bus, an on-chip bus specified by ARM, Ltd.

ALU     Arithmetic and Logic Unit. The width of the primary integer ALU in a processor is the truest measure of the "size" (bit-size, or word-width) of a processor. If two 16-bit pieces of data can be added in a single pass through the ALU, then the device is a 16-bit processor. See: processor, FPU, CPU, word

AM      Amplitude Modulation

AMI     Advanced/Automated Metering Infrastructure. See: AMR

AMIS     Advanced Metering Information System

AMOLED     Active Matrix Organic LED (light-emitting diode)

amp     1) An ampere, a measure of electrical current. See: ampere

amp     2) An amplifier is an electronic circuit that greatly increases (amplifies) an input signal, hopefully without adding significant noise, distortion, or delay.

AMP     3) Asymmetric MultiProcessing. See: homogeneous, heterogeneous, multi-core, SMP (symmetric)

ampere     An ampere is a measure of electrical current such that V=IR where V is voltage in volts, I is current in amperes, and R is resistance in ohms(Ω). Similarly, electrical power measured in watts is P=VI or P=I2R or P=V2/R

AMPS     Advanced Mobile Phone Service

AMR     1) Advanced/Automated Meter Reader/Reading. See AMI which is slightly broader

AMR-NB     2) Adaptive Multi Rate - Narrow Band vocoding (encoding voice) compression techniqueDiscover the Origins of Texas Sayings

AMS      Automated Metering System. See: AMI

analog  See discussion at A-to-D, digital

ANSI     American National Standards Institute

AP        The Access Point is where wireless communications first touch a larger, usually wired, network. Management, security, and control of the radio and digital protocol take place in the access point which is generally seen to be more the master. Sometimes called the Wireless Access Point (WAP).

APAC, A/P, Asia/Pac     The geographical market / economy making up the Asia-Pacific region, usually excluding Japan. See: EMEA, ROW, WW, extended discussion - regions

API     Application Program Interface, a software term

APON  †     ATM Passive Optical Network. See: Networks

AR      Augmented Reality

area code    Long distance (toll) telephone call routing in the United States and Canada is steered by a three-digit Area Code that tells the switching office the geographic area in which to find the desired telephone. The original area codes for the United States were not randomly assigned, but were selected to minimize wear and tear on equipment. A few of the locations contained within the early area codes are given below.
 212 - New York City
  213 - Los Angeles         312 - Chicago
  214 - Dallas              412 -
  215 - Philadelphia        512 - Austin, TX
In other countries, these might be referred to as "city codes" but have various lengths. See enhanced discussion at: telephone dialing

architecture    Sometimes short for Instruction Set Architecture (ISA); See: processor

ARM  †     1) A processor architecture: ARM refers to the RISC processor cores that execute the ARMv1, v2, … Thumb, or Thumb2 instruction set which were developed by the company that became today's ARM Ltd. Common ARM processor cores include the ARM7TDMI, ARM9, ARM11, Cortex A8, Cortex R4, and Cortex M3. [Other popular multi-vendor architectures include: MIPS, Power/PowerPC, x86]

ARM  †     2) A corporation: ARM also refers to the company ARM Limited, the operating company of ARM Holdings, plc (LSE: ARM, Nasdaq: ARMH), which designs, maintains, markets, and ultimately licenses the popular ARM processor architecture as intellectual property (IP) to customers who build the processor into a semiconductor chip. ARM is short for Advanced RISC Machines, and once perhaps the Acorn RISC Machine.

ARPU  †     The Average Revenue Per User is frequently used by cellular service providers to measure the viability of a new service. Spoken as ar'-poo.

ARQ     In an Automatic Repeat Request scheme, the receiver uses an error-detecting code like Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC), to detect if the received packet is in error or not. If no error is detected in the received data packet, the received data is declared error-free and the transmitter is notified by sending a positive acknowledgment (ACK). On the other hand, if an error is detected, the receiver discards the received data and notifies the transmitter via a return channel by sending a negative acknowledgment (NAK). In response to a NAK, the transmitter retransmits the same information. Forward Error Correction (FEC) introduces forms of parity bits into the data stream, which can be supplemented with CRC for secondary checking. [This description from Erik Dahlman‘s book "3G evolution: HSPA and LTE for mobile broadband"]

ASAP  †     As Soon As Possible (there is nothing technical about ASAP).

ASCII  †     American Standard Code for Information Interchange – a jumble of words that signifies the coding for the American-English alphabet, numbers and some special characters into a binary code that computers use, although originally designed for serial communications. ASCII is still the basis for most character-based computer codings, since expanded to include many other languages. Font characteristics overlay ASCII codes for the basic character. Shown here is a sample of ASCII coding in hexadecimal, and then in binary at the far right:
         0 = 30   1 = 31   2 = 32   3 = 33 = 0011 0011
                  A = 41   B = 42   C = 43 = 0100 0011
                  a = 61   b = 62   c = 63 = 0110 0011 ...
Spoken as ass'-kee.

ASIC  †     Application-Specific Integrated Circuit. The acronym is a bit of an inadequate description because there are many ICs dedicated to a specific application. To fully distinguish an ASIC properly, think of it as a customer-specific or OEM-specific IC. An ASIC is really designed for only one OEM, and is not sold to any other customer (unless they explicitly license the chip from the OEM).

The ASIC is generally designed using customer-owned tools (COTS). However, there are numerous examples where a chip vendor lays out the chip, either because the ASIC is really a special alteration of a standard commercially-sold circuit, or because the chip is designed from the ground up for that one customer. ASSPs are similar to ASICs except they are sold on the merchant market and are fully described with a traditional publically-available data sheet. Further, important explanation is given at ASSP and SoC.

ASP     The Average Selling Price is a common but broad pricing measure of a category of products; total revenue generated in a product category divided by the number of units shipped. 50,000 $100 processors and 250,000 $20 processors might sell in a year resulting in a $33 ASP. Note no individual chips need to sell for $33. See: KU

ASSP     The Application-Specific Standard Product is sold to the merchant market to address the needs of perform a specified function needed in a stated application. The chip is described in a traditional publically-available data sheet. However, many MCUs, MPUs, DSPs can be mistaken for ASICs and ASSPs. The only real way to distinguish these chips is to apply a rigorous definition of "application-specific". A little history also may determine the proper designation.

Whether a chip is a standard processor or an ASIC or ASSP really should be based on three things.

i) How much of the on-chip circuitry must be specific to the application? If 20% of the circuitry by area is unique to the application, is that A-S? If it's only 5%, it is likely that other applications can make good use of the 95% non-specific circuits and buy the chip for completely different end-equipment.

ii) How narrow must the use of the term "application" be? If the "application" is as broad as "wired communications" is that "application-specific" or would it have to be as narrow as "VoIP-specific"?

iii) An ASIC differs from an ASSP because an ASIC has no public data sheet and is sold to only one customer.

This analyst deems a chip to be application-specific if "only a fool" would use the chip for an application other than the one specified, and requires the application to be very narrowly defined, such as VoIP or laser printer. More than 20% of the chip should be "specific" lest it will attract many other users. "Industrial" and "Wired Communication" are application segments, too broad for a good ASSP classification. Also see: SoC and MCU.

Note that many MCUs are customer-unique when programs are coded into mask ROM on-chip. However, this is understood in the definition of an MCU and thus an insufficient qualifier to designate the chip an ASIC. Also, many MCUs are designed targeting an application or application segment yet are not considered to be ASICs or ASSPs.

ATE / ATS     Automated Test Equipment/Systems

ATM     Data transmissions in Asynchronous Transfer Mode utilize a 53-byte cell consisting of a 5 byte header in front of 48 bytes of payload data. The header consists of information used for switching, packet priority, flow control, and header error control.

ATSC     Advanced Television Systems Committee standards for high-definition TV (HDTV) - used in the United States. See: NTSC

AUTOSAR  †    Automotive Open Systems Architecture

A/V     Audio and Video, often used as A/V receiver which not only tunes in and receives over-the-air broadcast radio but can take a multitude of other audio inputs, separate channels, perform audio enhancements, and distribute the audio signals through integrated amplifiers to an array (6, 8, ...) of speakers. Video is often switched and/or separated as well, and routed to a selected display (i.e. TV, monitor, projector...). Some parts may be digital, parts analog, and the amps heavy in linear and power circuits. In the old days, these might have been called just "stereos", an oversimplified, misused term.

b     1) Lower-case "b" stands for bit

B     2) Upper-case "B" stands for byte

B     3) B can also stand for billion (109). See Numbers

B2B     Business to Business services may require a fairly sophisticated user, possibly professionally trained, and are not intended for consumers to use. See: book-to-bill

back end     In the back end of semiconductor manufacturing a fully-fabricated integrated circuit is assembled into a protective package. There are numerous types of these packages which are familiar as the rectangular often-black objects soldered down to a printed circuit board. In the back end, electrical connections are made between the bond pads on the die and the lead frame within the package using bonding wires in a process often referred to as assembly. The leads (pins) or pads protruding from the package provide rugged points for connecting to the circuit board while the package protects the delicate die and may help dissipate the heat it generates. After chips are packaged they go through final test where innumerable environmental, functional, and electrical tests determine the success of the entire process. See: front end, binning, package

backlog     Orders placed for delivery in the future are considered to be "backlog". Backlog is good because it means the customers have placed orders before they are needed in-hand and the supplier can build the product at an optimum time, using materials and labor that are not on "rush" or maybe can be purchased when prices are low. Exact terms and conditions (T's & C's) will spell out what happens if orders are cancelled, and orders may be "brought in" (asked to be shipped earlier than the original agreed date) or "pushed out" (asked to be shipped later). However, once they are on the backlog, orders are a mutual commitment by supplier to build and ship on time and customer to pay for the product when designated - and thus a very reliable indicator of upcoming business and revenues. See: billings, bookings, book-to-bill, inventory, turns

bang     an off-hand term sometimes used among programmers to refer to the exclamation point: !  Note that the exclamation point was not found on manual typewriters of yore. A person used to have to type a period, then backspace and type an apostrophe over it to make an exclamation point. Some hackers refer to the ! as a "shriek". See: 1

BASIC     Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code is an early, straightforward higher-level programming language, not as specific as FORTRAN or intricate as C.

BCD  BCD and hexadecimal converted to binary and decimal   Binary Coded Decimal is simply individual (decimal) digits represented by their 4-bit binary equivalent. As illustrated in the table, a noticeable portion of the matrix is wasted compared to very dense binary. This is highlighted by realizing that a byte (8-bits) can represent 256 values in binary (28), but only 100 BCD values (0-99). Adding or subtracting BCD in a binary processor is a difficult task since the normal carry between 4-bit "nibbles" and 8-bit bytes must be padded to cover the 6 unused higher values. However, BCD is extremely convenient to translate to human-readable form. It was popular in the early computing days, but now is only used in calculators and certain financial applications. See: ASCII, hexadecimal

BGA     A fairly dense package for semiconductors uses a regular pattern of spheres of conducting material. Advantages of the Ball Grid Array are that it utilizes nearly all of the package area, including the space directly underneath the die (chip) in the package. Heat from the die can be transferred to the underlying circuit board to which the package is attached, benefiting today's larger high-power (10+ watt) chips. BGA packages take special abilities to solder to the PCB and solder joints athe business side of a ball grid array packagere more difficult to repair. The BGA was one of the earliest packages that took advantage of all of the under side of the package for connectivity, whereas before the BGA, the perimeter of the package was the only place the leads connected. As with many packaging technologies, the ceramic version of the BGA (CBGA) handles heat well but is also fairly expensive.

billings     After an order is shipped to the customer, the customer is billed for the order with an invoice. The billings of an company or product is the sum of the revenue billed (not necessarily collected) for that company or product. See: backlog, bookings, book-to-bill, inventory, turns

binary     A number system based on mathematical powers of 2, the simplest possible number system, the basis for all digital computers. See: Numbers

binning     Binning is a casual term for a test procedure used to grade semiconductor chips by selecting the best chips from many in a manner not unlike choosing players for a sports team. Each of a batch of chips are tested to the most-stringent criteria - high clock rate, wide temperature range, functional operation, etc. Parts that pass the most severe criteria are put in the first "bin" and later sold for the highest prices. All remaining parts are then tested to the second-most stringent criteria, seeking the parts that pass those slightly-reduced speed/temp/function tests to be sold to the less-constrained applications at a slightly-reduced price. The cycle is repeated until all chips are graded or deemed non-functional. The grades may sort out 100 MHz, 125 MHz, 150 MHz, plus 0 to 70°C, -40 to 85°C, -55 to 125°C, plus whether the A-to-D or CAN interface is pinned out (connected). A glance at the ordering options for a given part show the grades that will be tested.

The grading statistics of every batch of chips produced is carefully tracked by process and test engineers to provide forensic evidence of the impact of changes made up and down the fabrication (and packaging) line, or shifts in output due to yet-unidentified reasons.  Such "yields" ultimately determine the profitability of the manufacturing. See: temperature range.

BIOS  †     Basic Input/Output System software

BIST     Built-In Self-Test circuitry in a semiconductor

bit     The smallest representation of a binary state, 1 (on) or 0 (off) used by a computer and the binary number system. Note that bit is usually abbreviated as a lower-case "b". See: byte

BitBLT   In the BLock Transfer of bits, a rectangular image is copied to another location, shifting across horizontal and vertical offsets at the bit level (pixel), not just whole bytes, must be accommodated. Clipping (hiding by over-writing) bits that are already at the destination can be an issue. A Raster OPeration (ROP)(RasterOp) is essentially a boolean formula. The most obvious ROP overwrites the destination with the source. Other ROPs may involve AND, OR, XOR, and NOT operations  Pronounced bit-blit

black box     A black box is the physical expression of a function, that is, it produces outputs based on a given specification of a sequence of inputs and time. The term "black box" is used to denote that it doesn't matter how the outputs are determined – they might be created by logic or by a processor, some combination thereof, or it may be a simple or complex formulation. For instance, the braking of an automobile could be the function of a black box: it doesn't matter whether hydraulics press on pads or electric motors drive calipers or if a traction-control system intervenes, when the driver steps on the pedal then the car must slow down.

BLDC     BrushLess DC motor. See: motors

bldg       An off-hand shortening of "building"

block diagram     The block diagramclick to look closer illustrates the major components of a system and how they are generally connected. Many details are left out and orientation is not intended to be accurate. Related: die photograph

blog     A Web log; a dialog maintained on the World Wide Web

blue wires    In the day when printed circuit boards were fairly easily modified to correct design errors by soldering a wire between two points, blue-colored wire was often used. A quick glance at the number of these blue wires on a PCB would show how many small changes were needed on this version of the board. Ultimately the term "blue wire" became synonymous with correction and a board with "no blue wires" is a sign of a solid design. As multilayer PCBs, very small traces, and traces hidden below large chips, practical use of soldered wires to correct design flaws has become far more difficult. See: workaround, ECN

BOD, BOR     Brown-Out Detection or Reset. Brown-out is the term used to describe the condition when the power (voltage and current) applied to an operating circuit drops near the minimum tolerable level for reliable operation.  Even a quick drop below minimums may push a chip into an unstable state from which it can not recover until power is completely removed. Detection of a possible brown-out condition allows the circuit to notify the rest of the system or the user, initiate protective measures such as saving state, and/or begin an organized shut-down and power-on reset. Sometimes referred to as low-voltage detect (LVD). See: POR

BOM  †    The Bill Of Materials lists all of the components and materials needed to build the product. Assembly labor, software, testing, royalties, shipping, tariffs, overhead, and cost of sales must be added to the cost of the BOM to arrive at the final product's total cost. In speech, BOM is pronounced the same as bomb rather than spelling it out. See: TCO

2) Some software files contain a Byte Order Mark.

book-to-bill ratio     A popular measure for the semiconductor business has been the "book-to-bill ratio". This fairly simply is a comparison of the orders on the books to the orders that were shipped and billed. A book-to-bill ratio greater than 1.0 (one) is deemed very good. The implications of a B/B>1 might be that customers are confident they will need the product in the near future and have placed more orders than they may have taken delivery of in the recent past. Also more customers could be placing orders resulting in a larger total order base - also good. And the new orders may be for higher prices which is typically good for the vendor.

Book-to-bill less than 1.0 (sometimes mis-called "negative") is not so good, and indicates fewer orders are being placed than in the recent past, prices are declining faster than new orders or volume increases are making up the difference, or the customer perceives there will be an oversupply and so there is no need to make the commitment associated with placing orders so far out (in the future). Thus, while it may be a simple calculation, interpretation of the book-to-bill ratio requires a detailed understanding of what is happening just below the surface. This measurement stopped being used publicly in the 1990's when the figures became particularly hard to gather from the vendors, although companies may still assess the ratio within their own sales and manufacturing operations. See: backlog, billings, bookings, inventory, turns

bookings     The bookings of a business are a measure of the orders placed (on the books) for a product, usually looked at by revenue, though occasionally by units, and/or further split by product type, geographic regions or categories as desired. See: backlog, billings, book-to-bill, inventory, turns

bps     1) bits per second, typically in a serial communication channel (often in lower-case to distinguish "bit"). Referring to "Bytes per second" (Bps) in communications is trickier because it may or may not include the start, header, routing, parity, correction, padding, stop, and other overhead bits needed for transmission. Bits per second is a raw number, more realistic to consider. Also: b/s

2) In financial commentary, "bps" is sometimes used to indicate basis points. Basis points are an absolute change of 1/100 of a percent change (0.0001). Thus, a change of +50 bps would make the old 5% number become 5.5% (0.055) or the old 15% number 15.5%. One occasionally sees a symbol to represent basis points which looks a lot like the standard percent symbol with a couple extra zeroes tacked to the end:

BRAS     Broadband Remote Access Server

brick      to render as useful as a brick; a casual term used as a verb to indicate that some sophisticated electronics such as a cell phone has been rendered completely non-functional, often irrecoverably, often after a firmware update, and now is useful only as a brick, maybe as a doorstop. Sometimes there is an "unbrick" procedure that may return functionality to the electronic device, although it may require special equipment.

BRICS   A peculiar market grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa

BS       Base Station (see: BTS, RBS)

BTB     Branch Target Buffer

BTS     Base Transceiver Station. The cellular basestation

BTU     British Thermal Unit, a measure of heat usually associated with furnaces, rarely used in electronics but sometimes used off-handedly to refer to emphasize lots of heat (as HP is for power). 1 BTU = 1.054 kJ (kiloJoules) See: W, watt

BYOD   Bring Your Own Device refers to the practice of allowing a customer to bring the cell phone (or tablet or other hardware) of their choosing, purchased elsewhere, to the service provider and obtaining wireless service. A specially-configured SIM card often provides the interface for identification, isolation, protection, and security. The BYOD arrangement may shift the burden of working out difficulties in making the end-to-end connection work or device functionality to the customer. BYOD gives more choice to the customer mixing and matching handsets with service plans and may break the bond between the service provider and customer. But BYOB also exposes the bare cost of service from the amortization of the handset or other hardware that has been a staple of the early cellular industry.

The term BYOD was popularized around 2013, borrowing from the common phrase Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) which means that soft drinks and mixers will be provided but a person wanting to drink wine, beer, and certainly hard liquor and mixed drinks needs and is given permission to bring their own alcohol to the party, club, or restaurant.

byte     A convenient, most-popular grouping of a number of bits. 8 bits make one byte, e.g. 10100111, which can represent 256 different values, from 0 through 255 or -128 through +127. Note that byte is usually abbreviated as an upper-case "B" to distinguish it from "bit". See: bit, Numbers

c     1) centi-, one-hundredth, 10-2, as in centimeter. The smallest division of the United States dollar is called a "cent", designated ¢, and is one-hundredth of a dollar.

C     2) The programming language C is probably the most-used high-level language for writing software for microprocessors. C is considered to be very portable because there is a C compiler supporting nearly every processor architecture. This allows C code to be ported to nearly any underlying hardware architecture by running the master code through a C compiler for that hardware. Dennis Ritchie of Bell Labs is credited with developing the original language for use with Unix operating system, now extremely popular in its derivative form Linux.

C     3) In electrical circuits, C represents capacitance, one of the fundamental properties of electricity, the capacity of two plates to hold opposite charges before arcing. Capacitors are passive components that are also used to help filter transients of noise. See: L (inductor), R (resistor), F (farad)

C     4) Celsius, centigrade, °C. The measurement of temperature where one degree (°) equals one-hundredth of the difference in temperature of water (H2O) at freezing and at boiling in one atmosphere of pressure, with 0°C (degrees C) being the temperature at which water freezes. See: K 2)

C     5) sometimes used to denote hundreds, 102, as in CCF for hundred cubic feet. Origins perhaps from Roman numerals where C counts as 100. This use is rare in electronics. See: M 4)

C-level     The executives in a corporation, such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), etc.

cache     Cache memory is intended to provide instant memory access to the processor when most of the memory system is slower or more distant. Caches keep a copy of data that is in more-distant memory. Management of cache is a science to maximize efficient use of the no-wait memory accesses. Cache is usually identified by the intent of its content: data cache, instruction cache, or unified cache (that can be either/both).

Cache memory benefits from the observation that subsequent memory accesses have a high probability of being very near, often in the very next location, to the most recent memory access. This "locality of reference" is especially true of program instructions which are normally sequential with occasional branches back to recently-used instructions.

Data is more problematic in a cache. Since only 10% of memory accesses are seeking data rather than instructions, any data caching will have a much smaller benefit. While some data can come from memory near a recent data access, it is almost as likely to come from a very different location. Some data accesses actually come from peripheral and I/O locations that are expected to change dramatically with each access, and must be "live" rather than an old, saved copy. Data accesses can also intend to write results out into memory, and management of the changes in the cache versus the original or "stale" data in farther memory can be complex.

"I-cache" and "D-cache", sometimes greatly abbreviated as I$ and D$ by playing off the dollar sign to indicate cash (sic), refer to instruction and data cache, respectively. A unified cache leaves it to a proper memory management scheme to partition instructions and data in a large memory array. The concept of cache memory is often layered or nested with similar principles applied to Level 3 cache that may serve multiple processors as to Level 1 cache available to only a single processor. There can be multiple levels of cache, but increasingly less-effective benefits of speed, cost, and management tradeoffs usually limit practicality to two, and maybe three levels of semiconductor cache. Spoken as: cash.  See: I-cache, D-cache

CAD  †     Computer-Aided Design, although the word "aided" is quite an understatement

CAES     Compressed Air Energy Storage (for electric utility grid) - not really a widespread acronym, but the technique is in use

CAFE     Corporate Average Fuel Economy (for automobiles)

CAGR  †    Compound Annual Growth Rate is a straightforward means of evaluating the outlook for a market that results in a single number expressed as a percentage and representing a period of time, usually 5 years.  It is determined by the formula:
     ((endYearValue/startYearValue) ^ (1/(endYear - startYear)) - 1

If revenue in 2010 is $1M and expected to grow to $2M in 2015, then the CAGR would round to 14.87%. Sometimes spoken as: kay'-grrr   See: Q

CAN  †    The Controller Area Network is a standard driven initially by the Robert Bosch GmbH as a low-level network suitable for the harsh environment of an automobile. It has evolved in the marketplace to be used in industrial applications as well.

CAT     1) A Computed Axial Tomography scan gives a three-dimensional look at bones and organs in the human body, built up from a stack of x-ray images — each a subsequent slice. Also referred to as a CT scan.

    2) CATegory of Unshielded Twisted Pair (
UTP) cable used for digital networks, such as CAT-3 cable for 10 Mbps Ethernet, CAT-5 for 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, and CAT-6 for gigabit Ethernet. Often terminated with an RJ-45 plug or jack, the cable is effective up to 100 meters length.

CATV     CAble TeleVision. A nice reference of broadcast frequencies in the US can be found at

CB     Citizen’s Band radio - popular in the USA through the early '80's and heralded in the C.W. McCoy 1976 hit song "Convoy"

CD     Compact Disc (circa 1979)

CDMA     Code-Division Multiple Access (IS-96), a cellular technology.  Derived from the older, more-generic Code Division Multiplexing (CDM)

CDRS     Common Digital Radio System

CE         Consumer Electronics

CEE       The market and political region of Central and Eastern Europe; Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was created in December 1991. See: APAC, EMEA, ROW, WW, extended discussion - regions

CELP     Code Excited Linear Predictive

chip     A microchip; a semiconductor die, rarely larger than a fingernail but more usually somewhat rectangular, maybe 5mm x 4mm and only half a mm thick, that is the active, electronic essence of modern electronic equipment. Usually these chips are encased in a protective "package" with only electrically-conductive leads protruding, but in the most space-constrained applications the bare die is visibly mounted on the circuit board. See: die, PCB, wafer

chip set     Two or more chips that are designed to work together extremely well to accomplish a greater function than possible with just a single chip.

chip off the old block     A son with many characteristics of his father may be referred to a "chip off the old block" either proudly or sarcastically in casual conversation, the same way a piece of wood (chip) chopped off a large block of wood would be essentially the same as the original tree.

CISC  †     Complex Instruction Set Computer: processing operation, addressing mode, register, and data size designations are encoded into very compact instructions that might find their data in external memory. The Motorola 68000 (morphed today into Freescale's ColdFire), Intel's x86, and most traditional microcontroller cores are typical CISC architectures. See: RISC

clk     clock

CMOS  †    Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductors pair a P-channel transistor with an N-channel transistor which performs a sort of push-pull effect that very quickly switches the silicon-based transistor from ON to OFF or back, saving power dramatically. Thus, CMOS became known as the low-power low-cost semiconductor technology. In the mid-1970's PMOS was largely left behind in favor of faster NMOS. By 1980, CMOS had become the technology of choice for most semiconductors. Alternative technologies today are in the bipolar category with SiGe (silicon-germanium) being the most significant today. Bipolar transistors switch much faster but consume more power doing so.

CMP     Chemical-Mechanical Polishing / Planarization

CO     The Central Office is the "telephone company" facility where cabling to the subscriber connects to line cards which handle the interfaces, now including data transmissions over the circuit switched network.  See: CPE.
2) CO also stands for Carbon monOxide.

COB     Close-Of-Business, generally 5:00 pm (17:00) of the mentioned day.
But who is really to say when business is closed? In many companies, certainly multi-national ones, in which time zone? The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) closes at 3:00 pm. Most retail stores close at 9:00 pm. Gas stations might dispense gasoline (petrol) 24 hours a day with a credit card. The Internet is never closed.

CODEC  †    COder/DECoder. See: transcoder, AAC, JPEG, MP3, MPEG, h.264, HEVC

COFDM     Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex

compatible     Compatible does not mean precisely identical. It means that one technology can work with another. "Compatible" is one of those words that marketers (and engineers) apply liberally. Even if I'm compatible with my wife, we may have a lot of issues to work out – even after 20 years.

Upward compatible generally means the latter or greater product will operate the same as the earlier or lesser product. Backward-compatible is the view from the lesser side. For a hardware interface like a serial or parallel bus it means the updated bus will accept signals from a product designed to run on the original bus. USB 2.0 hosts are backward compatible with USB 1.1 signals because the 2.0 systems can handle the slower 1.1 transmissions.

Some semiconductor chips can be pin-compatible which means the two parts can be interchanged and still operate. A 100-pin part can even be compatible with a 64-pin part if all the signals on the 64-pin part are in similar positions on the 100-pin part.

Some semiconductors may have I/O lines that are 5 volt tolerant. These pins may normally drive (generate) 3.3 volt levels, but can read inputs and, importantly, are not harmed by the 5 volt inputs that other parts generate.

For processors, compatibility can mean that programs written for the old processor will run on the new, upward-compatible processor. But there are different levels of compatibility in this sense.

Binary or machine code is the
1's and 0's a processor reads to get its instructions. Machine code compatible processors are the most compatible, with one being able to execute the 1's and 0's programs written for the other. For Processor B to be upward-machine-code-compatible with Processor A, all machine-code instructions that can be executed by Processor A must run identically on Processor B. The memory patterns found in ROM and DRAM should perform the same whether run on Processor A or B. However, Processor B will usually have some new, improved instructions that Processor A does not recognize – thus the use of the word "upward".

Slightly less compatible are assembly-code-compatible processors. Assembly language is abbreviated but generally human readable instructions that may look like
LDA #35 which means load register A with the number 35. This may "assemble" into machine code resulting in 86 35 or 10000110 00110101. On Processor B this assembly code might turn into 4086 0035 and so not be compatible at the machine level while being compatible at the assembly level.

To say processors are compatible in high-level language is marketing nonsense. High-level languages can be compiled to any processor instructions including DSPs, so all are HLL compatible.

component     A component is a part which is not complete in itself, requiring proper combination with other parts to form something greater and more complete. In electronics, at the lowest level, active components often refer to semiconductor chips, while passive components refer to resistors, capacitors, inductors, and the like. Built-up circuit boards, sub-assemblies, or sub-systems might be considered components at the next level, possibly needing to be combined with other components, input subsystems, output devices, power supplies, etc. to complete a full system.

connectivity     Connectivity is the ability to communicate over a serial link with another device, rather loosely and at close range. Connectivity is an increasingly important characteristic of many electronic products today, making it easier for numbers of them to work in unison, often without express human intervention. Personal Area Networks (PAN) like USB and the wireless Bluetooth and ZigBee are often utilized in "connected" devices.

There is no hard definition distinguishing connected devices from those which otherwise communicate over a serial link, but characteristics of connected devices usually include:
     • simple communications protocols
     • low bandwidth and/or brief transmissions
     • wireless rather than wired links
     • mesh rather than point-to-point networks with possibly hundreds of direct contacts
     • communication is only one, perhaps minor, function of the device

core     A photo of the original core memoryCore processor, usually licensed, that is a part of a highly-integrated ASIC, ASSP, or OEM-designed custom chip, sometimes combined with other processors. See: processor, instantiation

core     2) One of the earliest uses of the term "core" associated with electronics is for core memory. Here, core refers to the donut-shaped (toroid) magnetic core used to store and detect a "bit" of memory for a computer. Image shown from IEEE Spectrum magazine, October 2013, "Electronic Treasures of The Sarnoff Collection"

COTS  †     1) Commercial Off-The-Shelf products are sometimes specified in aerospace, defense, military, or other high-reliability applications where it is believed that the product will be in a less severe environment such that traditional high-reliability (hi-rel) products can not be justified against the lower cost expectation of COTS products.

COTS  †     2) Customer-Owned Tools generally refers to computer-aided design (CAD) tools that are owned and substantially designed or modified by a chip vendor, contract design house, or OEM. The tools are used to design semiconductor circuits, for sale on the open market (vendors) or as proprietary chips like ASICs or custom chips.  Sometimes, COTS does not have the connotation of "substantially designed or modified by...".

CPE     Customer Premise Equipment is the equipment at the terminating end of a communications network, and typically located on the end-user's premises. In some ways, CPE is to communications what "client" is to the distributed computer. CPE is distinguished from the head end of the system, the central office (CO) (the "server" or "host"). User Equipment (UE) is sometimes substituted for CPE when referring to mobile communications, because there may not be a fixed "premise" involved at the customer end.

CPR    Chip Rate Processing. Used in cellular phone technology. Also consider: Symbol Rate Processing

CPU     The Central Processor Unit is the main processor in a system, often the MPU in a mainframe, PC, or embedded system (the processor within an MCU can also be the CPU of a more compact embedded system). This can be more difficult to pin down now that homogeneous MultiCore processors are sometimes used, but in these cases the primary "processor complex" is considered the CPU. [the "U" of CPU stands for unit, a remnant of the days when many individual components on a board, and later a single chip, comprised this function. In speech, "unit" is often dropped.] See: MPU, RISC, CISC, processor.

CQ       Calendar Quarter; See: Q

CR     Carriage Return. ASCII 0Dh. From the old typewriters/teletypes, returning the carriage to the far right position so typing can continue at the leftmost position. Note that in the electronic sense, a CR does not strictly include the line feed operation, thus CR-LF is often used. See: LF

CRC     Cyclic Redundancy Checking uses algorithms to verify received data is not corrupted. CRC does not facilitate correction, but only detection of errors. Most often used in serial transmissions, sometimes in large blocks of data (for memory). See: ARQ, ECC, EDAC

CRM     Customer Relationship Management

crowd sourcing     Letting the great unwashed masses, some who are possibly qualified, to directly create a product for a company. Heavy use of games, challenges, or contests, social networks, blogs, and other mass media interaction is often utilized. Crowd sourcing is often cited, somewhat sarcastically, as the origins of questionable company or brand names, logos, tag lines, song lyrics, videos, advertisements, etc. The idea is that the "crowd" (the public) originates ("sources") the ideas, artwork, writing, or concepts that become part of the finished product. Professional writers, graphics designers, and artists scoff at such development techniques as the originators are given little or no credit or payment for their contribution. The result is usually poor quality as well.
As venture capital and commercial credit became hard to obtain around 2012, small and start-up companies have used a form of crowd sourcing to get funding for their projects.

CRT     The Cathode Ray Tube is the familiar, long-standing, last-remaining widespread use of the old vacuum tube, now being largely supplanted by LCD panels.

CSMA/CA, CSMA/CD    Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance, or …/Collision Detection

Cu     copper, a widely available, cheap metal; an excellent conductor of heat and free electrons

curly brace     one of the symbols { or }

customer     To the semiconductor vendor, the customer is designer of a piece of electronic equipment, often an OEM. The engineer at the OEM decides which components to use in putting together the cell phone, television, or network switch being designed based on the needs of the end-user of the equipment and within criteria for the equipment like features, upgradeability, quality, cost, size, power consumption, etc.

Since year 2000, more semiconductor customers have been a middleman, the contracted ODM who does the design of the end-equipment but then turns the design over to the OEM to either manufacture the product or have it manufactured.

The customer might also be the designer of a board-level product that may not be a fully-finished product but will end up being sold to an assembler who finishes the product, or perhaps will be combined with other boards and software to run a piece of mechanical equipment or shop floor. See: design-win, FAE

CY     Calendar Year; See: Q

D-cache     Cache memory set up to contain data. Sometimes D$ is used as a short-hand. See: cache, I-cache

DAA     The Data Access Arrangement is a physical interface used in telephony to delineate and protect telephone company facilities from customer-owned equipment.

DAB     Digital Audio Broadcasting. See: Digital radio, circa 1995

DAC †, D/A, D-to-A    Digital-to-Analog Converter. See: A-to-D

         2) Design Automation Conference (

DARPA     Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

dashboard     Perhaps originally a term referring to the instrument panel in an automobile where various operations could be monitored, after 2005 the term started being applied in numerous other applications to similarly describe the one place where the highest-level information regarding the operation of a system can be seen at a glance.  From this initial part of a user interface (UI) the user can often start digging in deeper to get more detailed information or get to controls with which to modify operation.

DAT     Digital Audio Tape developed by Sony around 1987 gained limited acceptance in audio with its high cost, but did have success as a computer data recording technology. Because it is a long linear tape it can have long initial access times.

date code     A date code is often one of the markings on the package of a semiconductor chip that indicates when the chip was manufactured. The format is usually YYWW indicating the year and work week in which the assembly of the package took place. "1004" is the fourth week of the year 2010. Sometimes the date relates to the time the die was fabricated or that could be a second coding on the package. Often an identification of the mask set of the die is also part of the markings printed on the package, possibly a combination of letters and numbers, generally used publicly to correlate errata to the part, but ultimately only meaningful to the manufacturer.

dB     A decibel is a base-10 logarithmic comparison of two signal levels. With origins in telephony, decibels (bel as in Bell Telephone) still are most used to measure audio (acoustic) energy or loudness, although many other forms of power are described in decibels. Because dB (stet: lower-case d with an upper-case B) is logarithmic, the numbers represent exponential increases in power. Thus, +3dB is about a doubling of the sound energy (generally, the level of human perception) and 10dB is 10x increase in power. (Note, technically a bel is 10 times more energy, and deci- means 1/10th, so 10dB is one order of magnitude - multiplying by 10x.) But 20dB is a 100-times increase while 30dB is 1000-times. The Richter Scale for measuring earthquake intensity (energy) is likewise exponential. See: order of magnitude, SNR

DC       Direct Current holds steady, as opposed to Alternating Current (AC) which fluctuates back and forth periodically maybe 50 or 60 cycles per second (Hz).

DCC     Digital Compact Cassette, created by Philips and Matsushita in the early 1990's as the follower of the extremely popular audio cassette

DECT    Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telephone is generally a technology used in Europe

delta     Engineers learned from mathematicians to use the Greek capital letter delta (Δ) as a symbol to mean "difference" or "change". Also, the capital sigma (Σ) indicates a summation of terms (often a long string or accumulation over time.) See: Δ

deep sub-micron     Deep sub-micron refers to semiconductor fabrication technologies that with key feature sizes smaller than 100nm; often considered process nodes like 90nm, 65nm, 45nm, 35/32nm, 22/20nm... (submicron may no hyphen)

DES  †   The Data Encryption Standard is a mathematical cryptographic algorithm applied to data to make it essentially unreadable by a receiver that does not have the security key. DES is a symmetric-key block cipher. The later Triple Data Encryption Algorithm Standard (TDEA, TDES, or most commonly 3DES or "triple DES"†) is more secure, utilizing three passes with separate 56-bit keys rather than the original DES' single key. DES and 3DES work on block sizes of 64 bits. The more recent AES improves security beyond that afforded by 3DES, operating in a different manner on 128-bit blocks using keys of 128-, 192-, or 256-bits. Other encryption/decryption techniques: SHA, AES

design-win     The effort to sell a semiconductor to a customer may start months before any chips are sold. The vendor often must provide technical documentation to demonstrate how its product will function in the customer's application. When the customer decides to design the vendor's product into the application, it is considered a "design win" or a "design-in" and is "designed in". This is also referred to as "winning the socket", because parts may be (historically might have been) mounted in a socket for easy replacement.

Unseating the competition by convincing the customer to replace a competitor's part with yours can be especially sweet, and referred to as "stealing the socket." It may still be 6 to 12 months before any real volume of chips is shipped, but the design win is the point at which the vendor gains confidence there will be dependable volume shipping soon. See: customer, OEM, FAE

device     A word frequently used in electronics, with many meanings depending on its use. Generally it is merely an item, a single thing, a piece of equipment, perhaps not well-described or specific, but with certain characteristics. A semiconductor device might be a single transistor, a simple logic circuit, or any number of categories of chips. When considering larger circuits, applications, and equipment, a device can be any one of many systems. A frequent, more current use of the term "device" refers to some form of an electronic platform with assumed given characteristics. Those characteristics might be USB connectability, Wi-Fi, storage capability, processing intelligence, or simply access to higher- (or lower-) level systems. It could be a PC, a tablet, a PDA, a cell phone / smartphone, a network adaptor, a hub, a digital still camera, or NAS storage.

DFM     Design For Manufacturing / Manufacturability – The practice of design techniques focused on manufacturability of the final system as the primary criteria. In semiconductors, this goal might be measured by improved yield (good, shippable product divided by total product started through the process). May be at odds with other design-for-X initiatives.

DFT     Design For Test – The practice of design techniques focused on testability of the final system as the primary criteria. May be at odds with other design-for-X initiatives. See: BIST

DHCP     Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol

die     One of the last steps in click to look closersemiconductor wafer fabrication is scribing and breaking the wafer in a grid pattern to isolate each circuit into an individual die. This is mounted into a special protective package and its electrical connections are brought to the extremities for easy solderability to a printed circuit board (PCB). At least one major chip vendor uses the term "bar" rather than "die". Engineers find microphotographs of die (a "die photo") to be fascinating, especially if major circuit functions are marked on it. Most people might think they look like a satellite photograph of New York City, with Donald Trump's properties identified - not an inaccurate analogy. See: wafer

digital     Discrete quantities, such as either 0 or 1 but nothing in between, are considered digital. Digital is often contrasted with "analog" which has infinitely variable quantities, such as 73.14159 degrees. "Fuzzy Logic" was, in some ways, an attempt to bridge analog and digital by using less defined concepts like "more" or "hot" which are only relative and mean different things to different users and situations.

Digital computers and, by extension, digital equipment built from them are more precise in that from a given set of inputs and time sequences, the results can be predictably identical for all similar machines. Analog electronics is more sensitive to temperature, drift (changes in component specifications over time), and part-to-part variation.

Digital equipment has been marketed as "better than" analog. The "real world" is actually very analog – a tree branch bends in an infinite variety of ways, sound can be at any frequency, and blue is a band of light frequencies.  The analog of real life must be changed to digital with analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters so computers can interface with it, analyze it, and control it. See: ADC, analog

digital signal processor    See: DSP

dime    A small silver coin in the USA worth ten cents or one-tenth of a US dollar. The term probably originates from the Roman deci- (as in decimal). See: USD

DIMM  †     Dual In-line Memory Module

DIP switch    A DIP is a Dual In-line Package, an early packaging style for semiconductors, still in use. It generally consists of two rows of leads (sometimes called "pins") that can be soldered down to a PCB while the delicate semiconductor chip is physically protected in the plastic (P or N) or ceramic (L) body (package). The leads in each row are spaced on 1/10" centers, and the rows are 300 or 600 mils (0.3" or 0.6") apart.

The DIP switch is fashioned after these DIP packages, fitting into the same "footprint" (lead spacing & pattern), but contains 8 or any number of switches that connect or open contacts between opposing leads on the body. A pencil tip can change the mechanical rocker, slide, or piano switch. DIP switches are popular for setting codes and variables that will rarely need to be altered. See: package

disc, disk     Disc (with a "c") is often used to designate an optical disc like a CD or DVD, while disk (with a "k") is used for a magnetic disk media like a hard drive or an old floppy disk, but the two spellings are also used less distinctively.

distributor     The distributor (more casually, "disty") is a reseller of semiconductor products that is independent of the chip, tool, and software vendors, representing their product lines and providing support to vast quantities of lower-volume users. Distributors buffer the vendor from an onslaught of smaller designers, allowing the primary vendor to service the highest-volume customers that are so vital to their business and product evolution.

However, services that distributors provide such as programming flash memory and managing inventory are important enough to customers that even the largest volume users also use distributors. Like any retailer, distributors carry many product lines and can offer alternatives to their customers, may be swayed by incentive programs from energetic vendors, and absorb 20-25% of the value of the products they sell.

Disties (plural) have their own sales force including the very valuable field applications engineer that helps get the sophisticated parts "designed in" at potential customers. Avnet and Arrow are the two largest chip distributors, certainly in the United States. Also, distribution, disty. See: FAE, design win.

DIY     Do-It-Yourself refers to better informed, more resourceful, more able, self-sufficient consumers who can build, assemble, install, load, debug, and persevere through difficulties and poor instructions. The term was probably originally applied to home repair and remodeling and is now applied to electronics and office equipment, in many ways deferring inadequate instructions to the user to figure out rather than expecting the vendor or service provider to provide more natural use models, more explicit and thorough instructions, or an actual service person to set up the equipment. A DIYer is a person who can Do It Yourself (himself/herself).

DK       Developer Kit. See: EVM

DL       DownLink, often used in WAN communications

DLP     Digital Light Processing is a Texas Instruments technology that uses an array of micromirrors to reflect intense beams of light to a screen under precise electronic control to form a color moving picture image for television and digital film projection. DLP is an alternative display technology to plasma, LCD, and LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon) panels, usually for HDTV, although its use is in relative decline.

The highly-reflective rectangular micromirror within the packaged TI DLP reflects the lens of the camera that captured the photo at right.

DMA    Direct Memory Access controllers transfer large blocks of data from a peripheral or memory to another peripheral or memory location without requiring attention from the main processor after it's initial setup.

DNA     DeoxyriboNucleic Acid is a biological term for the material that supposedly determines all the characteristics of every living organism. The long chain forms a double-helix structure (like a twisted ladder). The term DNA is often used in an off-hand, marketing way to indicate fundamental qualities at the very core of something.

DNS     Domain Name System of the Internet

DOD     United States Department of Defense

DOE     United States Department of Energy

DOJ     United States Department of Justice

DOT     United States Department of Transportation (many states also have DOTs, e.g. TxDOT in Texas)

DPD     Digital Pre-Distortion

DPI     1) Dots Per Inch resolution of an output (e.g. display screen, printer...) or an input (e.g. touch screen, mouse...). While technically DPI is a density measurement, the inverse of the size of the dot/pixel/sense, whether the dot/pixel/sense point is black, a color, or a pressure reading is another factor.

DPI     2) Deep Packet Inspection, a networking operation

DPW     The number of good Die Per Wafer is measure of the quality and therefore effectiveness of the semiconductor manufacturing process. See: die

DR    Demand Response refers methods to manage (reduce) the demand for electricity by turning off or turning down equipment, appliances, or facilities that are consuming electricity to shed the load. DR is used to lessen the need to bring on additional generation capacity or to enact (wider-spread) "rolling black-outs". DR may be forced through the smart meter or a switch in response to a signal. Less dramatic means of shedding load is through the use of dynamically variable pricing in the form of incentives, rebates, or just plain price-hike-disincentives to encourage consumers and industry to shift electricity consumption away from periods of high demand to times of low demand such as nighttime. The effectiveness of dynamically variable pricing in shedding load is unproven, but it does increase revenues for the utility. DR is often a Demand Side Management (DSM) feature of the Smart Grid.

DRAM  †     Dynamic RAM requires frequent refreshing to retain data.
Spoken as: dee'-ram. See: memory

DRE    During a Digital Rectal Exam, a medical doctor inserts a gloved finger inside the rectum, feeling for possible abnormalities of the rectum, colon, and prostate. Remember that digits originally referred to fingers on the hand.

DRM     Digital Rights Management is the process by which content (text, audio, music, photographs, moving pictures, video, etc.) that is in a digital format is controlled. This involves protection of the copyright of the content authors, distribution of the content over various mediums (compact discs, DVDs, memory chips (ROM, Flash), USB drives, streaming (serial) media like networks, the Internet), encoding/decoding, certification, user rights, reproduction rights / restrictions, and numerous legal constraints. DRM is usually associated with consumer products like music, photos, and movies, though the concepts and techniques work in a multitude of industries securing intellectual property.

In the late 1990's, DRMs became a significant sore spot for consumers as the company Napster provided PC software that allowed peer-to-peer sharing of music among unknown people, seemingly against the desires of the music publishers. DRM techniques came into play to control rampant sharing, with numerous fits and starts.

DSC     1) The Digital Still Camera virtually replaced the century-old film camera, offering instantaneous results, increasingly-better resolution, and far more sophisticated yet automated focusing and exposure.

However, the life of the point-and-shoot digital still camera as a standalone device is also being threatened by the smart phone. As the iPhone and other multi-function all-in-one mobile devices like tablets have exploded onto the market with better optics, more memory, and greater abilities in processing, editing, and formatting, the need for certain standalone product categories are no longer critical. These include DSCs - once the 5-8 megapixel point was reached, camcorders - once people accepted the fairly poor quality videos of YouTube or smart phones and tablets could capture 720p or HD video, personal navigation systems - once mapping and fast Internet access became prevalent, and digital voice recorders. Even Apple found that putting music on iPhones and iPads severely impacted the market for iPods, a few short years after iPod's style, slick marketing, and iTunes convenience swept dozens of MP3 players off the market.

2) A Digital Signal Controller is a hybrid DSP-MCU that readily performs signal processing operations as well as the decision and control operations typical in an MCU. Most DSCs are based on a microcontroller architecture, but some are based on a digital signal processor making them a little stronger in signal processing, often due to the bus structure. This term is now in limited usage.

DSL     Digital Subscriber Line modems are the terminating device at the home/office that transfer data between the CO and home/office over traditional (single-pair 22 gauge copper) telephone wire, originally to a distance of about 15,000 meters. Most DSLs today are actually ADSLs - Asynchronous DSLs - that take advantage of the fact that most users of Internet service bring data and files down to them (Web pages and downloads) and only infrequently push data and files up to the other people or machines (send and upload). ADSLs can download 10 times as fast as they can upload so they maximize the most-noticeable download transfer rate. See: DSLAM

DSLAM  †     The DSL Access Multiplexer is on the other end of the wire that connects to a DSL and is in the telephone company central office (CO) or possibly in a remote neighborhood cabinet. The DSLAM concentrates and controls many DSL lines onto one very high-speed network cable (a "fat pipe") which then connects to the greater Internet or other network. See: DSL

DSLR     The Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera is the modern version of the long-time favorite "professional" camera, the SLR.  Film cameras like Rolleiflex and Yashica were popular with their twin-lens designs. One lens directed light to the viewfinder while a second lens sent light to the film. Numerous simpler cameras may have used a cheap lens or even just a rectangular hole as the viewfinder. But parallax issues could cause the framing of the expected image and the captured to be off slightly, especially for closer subjects - a modest inconvenience.

The single-lens reflex design was more compact and assured the viewfinder precisely framed the image that would end up on the film. However, a bit of a delay and a little shaking was introduced while the mirror that directed the light to the viewfinder was flipped aside so the light would go directly to the film. The ability to readily switch out lenses for higher-quality or telephoto or close-up work really gave the SLR its boost.

The DSLR is everything the mechanical SLR was, coupled with an LCD screen for the viewfinder with numerous electronic enhancements like exotic focusing mechanisms, improved exposure, image processing, and stabilization.

DSO     Device Software Optimization

DSP     The Digital Signal Processor excels at running algorithms such as FFTs, FIR filters, and others that are often used for processing data representing signals, often after being sampled and converted to digital. While the MAC operation is the most common sign of a DSP, it alone does not define one. DSPs utilize separate instruction and (sometimes two) data buses (a "Harvard bus architecture") to maximize throughput of the constant stream of signal data and constants that typify signal processing.

Early standalone DSPs were dependent upon a host processor, a GPP, to set them up. More recent DSPs are more self-sufficient, or are on-chip with a RISC processor that works with it. Signal processing also makes use of extremely tight instruction loops that require no extra clock cycles be used.

DSP data size is typically 16-bits for voice and lower quality audio with 20 and 24 bits used for the best audio. These data are referred to as "fixed-point". 32 bits are used for floating-point data in a DSP giving vast dynamic range. A DSP data word is organized uniquely for maximum mathematical effectiveness so special normalization and error accumulation operations are important. See: DSC, MAC 1), processor, MPU, MCU

DSSS     Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum, alternative to FHSS

DTP      DeskTop Publishing refers to the ability to produce professional-looking documents using convenient, generic computers.  The term became popular as workstations and personal computers, like the Apple Lisa and especially the Macintosh, came with application software that allowed the user to choose font sizes and typefaces associated with text, format tables, utilize graphics and charts, and even add an image into a document file which would let it look like and even print like a document, report, brochure, book, or presentation slides. A graphical WYSIWYG display is key to DTP. While not critical, the availability of high-quality desktop printers such as laser printers enhanced the convenience of DTP. Before DTP, dedicated electronic machines used by specially trained operators were needed to produce professional publications. DTP essentially put companies like Wang - which made word processors - out of business, as well as dozens of typewriter manufacturers. The professional publishing industry had to go through changes as a result as well.  On the other hand, besides adding momentum to personal computer sales, DTP also greatly bolstered a new business for Canon which successfully advanced low-cost laser printer development.

DUT      The Device Under Test is the semiconductor chip that is being inspected.

DVB     Digital Video Broadcasting with Cable, Handheld, Satellite, and Terrestrial subsegments (digital television, circa 1995)

DVD     Digital Versatile Disc (circa 1997), originally Digital Video Disc. The BluRay disc of similar compact disc (CD) form factor but holding five times (25GB+) the data began replacing the DVD starting around 2007.

DVI     Digital Visual Interface; alternative to HDMI

DVR     TiVo and ReplayTV simultaneously introduced Digital Video Recorders to the world (both originally based on PowerPC processors) but TiVo became so successful that its name became synonymous with the product, even being turned into a verb describing the act of recording a TV program onto a hard disc. DVRs, also known as personal video recorders (PVR), completely overran the VCR market. A hard drive as the recording media eliminated the shuffling of video tapes and an integrated program guide simplified set-up and playback of recorded TV programs. Eventually, STB's evolved to include hard drives for video recording functionality. The DVR is a consumer electronics product that takes the programs broadcast over-the-air (OTA), down cable, from satellite, or off the Internet, captures that program, compresses it in a digital format, and stores it locally on a hard disk drive. Later, the program can be viewed on a TV set at the consumer's leisure, time and time again. This "time-shifting" process (captured when the broadcaster sent it out, viewed when the user wanted to watch it) coupled with the ease of use and immediacy of the hard drive led the DVR to great popularity. See: VoD

DWDM     Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing

e    1) Mathematically, "e" is used to indicate the base of a natural logarithm, ln(x), and is an irrational number approximating 2.71828..., the "e" honoring Leonhard Euler.

2) The letter used most frequently in the English language is "e" (followed by "t"), making it a good choice for the shortest symbol in Morse Code (a single dot) and the best first guess for a letter in a word-guessing game show. However, in written passages, spaces between words are often more common than an "e". Such letter-frequency varies greatly by language, and also by topic and even writer.

3) Since the 1990's, it has been popular to use the lower-case "e" preceding other words to indicate an electronic or digital form of the subject; as in email, ebook, and countless product and service names.

E1, E2, E3     2.048, 8.448, and 34.368 Mbps data transmissions for Europe and outside North America See: T1

EBCDIC     IBM used an 8-bit coding it called the Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code on the early System/360 while the rest of the world as adapting ASCII. See: ASCII

EBITDA      Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization, a financial mouthful

ECC     Error-Correcting Code uses algorithms to verify that data is uncorrupted. "Check bits" are appended to the original data, which allow minor errors in the eventual data to be detected when read or received. Single-bit error correction and double-bit detection is common. There is a "cost" associated with ECC: some logic and time is needed to perform the checking/correcting and additional memory is needed to maintain the check bits. The original Hamming codes require 4 extra bits to correct errors in 8 bits of data, 5 bits in 16, 6 bits in 32, and 7 bits in 64. One additional bit is required to detect double-bit errors (without correction). See: CRC, EDAC

ECN     An Engineering Change Notice is a record and notification to users of explicit changes made to a product between production runs.  2) For a long time, ECN was the popular trade magazine Electronic Component News.

ECO     An Engineering Change Order comes from the design or redesign team and describes a change to the original system that will be made to correct a defect, enhance functionality, add a feature, or improve manufacturing costs. ECOs usually have a start date and possibly model/serial numbers associated with them. ECOs typically describe the change very specifically and technically and are used by manufacturing or software revision control, plus are often sent to major customers and distributors for evaluation of the ramifications to use of the end-equipment.

ECU     In automotive applications, ECU can refer to an Engine Control Unit and more loosely to an Electronic Control Unit – in either case it consists of a microcontroller or microprocessor that reads various sensors as inputs and determines the proper action to control its assigned subsystem, from the engine to the climate control to the window lift.

EDA     Electronic Design Automation refers to the advanced tools used by engineers to develop integrated circuits and electronic systems.

EDAC      Error Detection and Correction (also EDC). See: CRC, ECC

EDGE      Enhanced Data rates for Global (or GSM) Evolution, a cellular technology

EEMBC      EDN Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium Spoken as though it was the word "embassy"

EEPROM / E2PROM / EAROM      Electrically Erasable/Alterable Programmable ROM (Read-Only Memory), E2PROM; sometimes spoken as "double-E prom", sometimes simply referred to as "e-squared". These technologies are different than Flash memory technology, although the concept that the memory is non-volatile and can be re-written electrically is common. Individual bytes of these (E2 & EA) can usually be erased and re-written, while the nature of Flash makes bulk-erasing and re-writing of large blocks of the memory more practical. See: memory

elevator speech     The quick, one-paragraph, description of a product, service, company, or goal that can be given to a listener by the time the elevator (in Europe/English "the lift") gets to the floor where someone gets off. The description should fully capture the essence of the product, service, company, or goal, leaving the listener satisfied yet impressed. More than a simple tag-line or jingle, it is often used as the opening salvo in a presentation to convince the listener to agree to the point of view or to buy the product or service. A good elevator speech is thorough and specific, devoid of broad claims, cliche's, jargon, and generalities.

embedded     An embedded processor is a processor which is embedded in a piece of equipment that is not considered to be a computer. This entails most uses of processor chips. On the other hand, when a PC, server, workstation, or mainframe is purchased, it is bought as a general-purpose computer with the expectation that added software will direct the machine to perform computational tasks. These are computers and not considered embedded systems.

In today's digital world, digital processors are also at the heart of almost anything electronic and these are called embedded processors. Applications like cell phones, printers, hard drives, monitors, automotive components, navigation systems, set-top boxes, network switches, routers, VoIP phones, MP3 players, digital still cameras, HDTVs, video games, remote controls, power supplies, and security systems are designed and purchased to perform the named function. There is likely to be a processor embedded in the electronics managing and performing the named function. The user has no direct control over the processor and has no need to even know of its existence.

After the "dedicated purpose" of the embedded system, if there is a second distinguishing characteristic of traditional embedded processors and embedded systems, it is the requirement of performing in "real-time." This is a function of the operating system running on the processor and a number of other behaviors, but to operate in real-time also requires efficient handling of interrupts by the processor. However, real-time operation is not a requirement of embedded processors or systems.

Many PC and server chip vendors apply the term "embedded" in a business sense, primarily promising to continue selling products it deems "embedded" for a period of 5 years or more. This manufacturing longevity is something that cannot be counted on for traditional PC and server processors, but is vital for industrial, medical, automotive, communications, and consumer products.

These embedded processors can be standard off-the-shelf MPUs, MCUs, and DSPs, or network and other specialty processors, or they may be core processors that are "deeply embedded" within another electronic chip such as an ASIC, ASSP, or purely custom integrated circuit.

Embedded Systems are considered to be electronic equipment containing an embedded processor – that is, electronic products like those given in the long list above – which is not expressly a computer.

The problem with embedded systems and embedded processors is only that they are unseen. While the world has been fixated on the PC and the predominance of Intel's x86 microprocessors, only 250 million PC-like products are shipped a year. Meantime, literally billions of embedded processors (MPUs, MCUs, DSP, and core-based products) quietly go into a variety of equipment every year and are used daily in the modern world. PC-processors may sell for $200 each while embedded processors sell for one-tenth or one-hundredth that amount.

Consider the automobile. 50 million cars are sold every year and may average 30 processors in each, mostly MCUs, metering fuel, air and spark to the engine, managing the transmission and vehicle stability, monitoring the heat/air conditioning, instrument panel and windshield wipers, operating antiskid braking and firing airbags, and stopping the window lift when Johnny's finger is in the way. Plus "topside" electronics like the stereo, DVD, cellular, and navigation systems in cars are full of processors – yet most people only see this complex system on wheels as a fine automobile. Think of electronics the next time you click the MCU in your key FOB to unlock your doors. You stimulated at least two MCU with that motion (the other one is at the receiver.)

The term "embedded" is often used in an improper manner in speech and writing in the electronics industry, mostly because it is used like it is a standalone noun. Usually the simple addition of the word "system", "design", "application", "control", or "software" will improve usage. Think of "embedded" as an adjective. See: processor, real-time, IRQ, EOL

EMC     ElectroMagnetic Compatibility, a high concern in automotive environments, is the "ability of an electronic device (or a module, printed circuit board, or integrated circuit) to operate in an electromagnetically distorted environment while keeping its own distortions below certain thresholds so that other devices do not suffer any serious adverse effects."  This was well stated in an article by Juergen Strohal, of Atmel. Also see THIS.

EMEA     The geographic market region / economy made up of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, although this is essentially Europe. See: APAC, ROW, WW, extended discussion - regions

EMF, EMI     ElectroMagnetic Field radiation or Interference is good if you're making use of the radiation or bad if it interferes with the EMF signals you're trying to use. Antennae radiate EMF but cables must be shielded from EMI. EMF can also refer to ElectroMotive Force which describes the electrical energy potential across the terminals of a battery or similar source.

endian     The sequence in which data is placed in memory, sometimes referred to as "byte sex". Big Endian data organization places the most significant part of the data in the lowest-numbered memory address; so the "big end" comes first. Little endian format matches the least significant byte with the lowest memory address. (Memory addresses are always assumed to start at zero.) Intel's x86 architecture is little endian, while Motorola/Freescale's 68000 architecture, PowerPC, and even Java Virtual Machine uses big endian form.
Serial transmissions are similarly subject to byte-ordering sequences. TCP/IP defines its network byte order as big endian - most-significant byte first. Even graphics files have byte orders (JPEG - big; GIF - little.)
"Endianness" is an acceptable term within the computing community.
Illustration of Little Endian Addressing of Memory Space

English     Regarding the language, George Bernard Shaw once said with a smile that "England and America are two countries separated by a common language". Of course, even that is wrong because neither England nor America are countries ("America" is one huge land mass in the western hemisphere). More correct would have been to say "Great Britain and the United States ..." People who learned "the Queen's English" spell many words differently (like "colour" versus the American "color"), pronounce words differently (the letter Z is pronounced "zed" versus the American "zee"), use c, s, and z in words where Americans use one of the other similarly-sounded letters, and even punctuate differently (proper English places the period ("full stop") after a quote mark or parenthesis, while American-English puts the question mark or period inside the quote or parenthesis.) Purists relish in the differences.

2) "English" is also a spin put onto the cue ball in a billiard game by hitting it off-center/centre which can cause the ball to curve while rolling rather than traveling in a straight line. This spin can be transferred to the object ball for similar motion control. The term "English" is sometimes used in other contexts to draw on this seemingly-mystical power to manipulate the obvious path.

EOL     The End Of Life of a product is a kind of "last call" for purchase orders. A vendor will often issue an End-of-Life announcement to existing customers giving a deadline six months away during which it will accept orders for a given part. Customers will have that long to assess their expected long-term needs for the part and place orders (that often may be shipped for as long as 12 additional months) - or plead with the vendor to keep the chip in production.

As a business driven by high-volume production and the need to stay ahead by constantly pushing to the latest technology, semiconductor production may have limited runs. Products that have limited success in the market may not last two to three years in production. Some very successful products may not require much longer a production run because a year later a better, faster, more-dense replacement chip was designed, rendering the former part obsolete. However, many applications of the chips have long product cycles, extended life spans, or extensive test and qualification time frames that require the parts used to be available for periods of 5, 7, 10, and more years. Typical industries with special concerns for a product's life cycle are embedded, automotive, industrial, and military/aerospace applications (in that order).

It is an undesirable situation, but when the vendor issues an EOL they have determined that inadequate demand exists for the part to justify maintaining the masks, packaging, test routines, documentation, and all the production equipment needed for the part. Even the building (the fab) where the part is fabricated may be scheduled for re-purposing. Old-technology equipment may need to be decommissioned and sold because the floorspace it occupies and maintenance it requires can no longer be justified in light of prospects for newer, more profitable products. There are strategies and businesses to serve EOL'd products, and in some cases companies that purchase the rights to continue manufacturing otherwise-EOL'd products (..."one man's trash is another man's treasure").

A precursor to the EOL is often the "Not Recommended for New Design" (
NRND) designation for components for which the vendor is considering terminating production, or EOL'ing. See: embedded

EOM     End Of Message, an off-hand term; however, similar to the -30- traditionally used by journalists to indicate the end of a story. Though not precisely the same, ASCII 30h is the code for End of TeXt (ETX). See: -30-

EOT     End Of Transmission, ASCII 04h

EPA     United States Environmental Protection Agency

EPROM      Erasable Programmable ROM can be bulk-erased many times by exposure of the semiconductor to ultraviolet light. EPROM was very popular from the 1970's through the 1990's until Flash memory became more cost-effective. Sometimes called UV-EPROM. See: memory

eqpt     equipment; a short-hand, not a universal abbreviation

EPA     United States Environmental Protection Agency

ERP     Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems help manage the materials purchasing supply chains

errata     Errata are errors, mistakes, or unintended operations that have been identified in software, a chip, or piece of equipment. Errata are usually documented so the problems can be identified, prioritized, scheduled for correction, or deemed inconsequential. Conditions under which the problems exist are carefully delineated and sometimes certain conditions are identified where the problem abates. Temporary fixes or "workarounds" may be developed until a permanent solution can be implemented (in software updates or subsequent production of hardware).  Users or customers may or may not be made aware of errata.  See: workaround

ERCOT     Electric Reliability Council Of Texas

ESC     escape. ASCII 1Bh. Often used to drop a serial transmission into another mode, perhaps to change the normal use of the next character.

       2) Electronic Stability Control for vehicles

       3) the Embedded Systems Conference, which, after 25 years, has morphed to various other names (

ESD     Electro-Static Discharge

ESL     Electronic System Level design goes beyond just the design of a single semiconductor chip to comprehend multiple chips and many factors of the entire system.

ETA     Estimated Time of Arrival

etc.     et cetera. Two Latin words meaning "and the rest" or "and so on". This is an abbreviation used in common English, often mis-spoken as though it was "eck cetera" or "ex cetera". A similar abbreviation is "et al.", short for the Latin "et alii", meaning "and others", typically referring to other people, as in Jones, Smith, et al.
In normal use, the words etc. and et al. should be preceded with a comma but not the word "and", and the period follows to indicate an abbreviation. Other common Latin phrases used commonly in English and shortened include:
e.g.     -exempli gratia (for sake of example, for example)
[always follow e.g. with a comma]
i.e.      -id est (that is)
vs.      -versus (towards) usually used in English to mean "against" or "as opposed to".
           In legal usage versus is often just

Ethernet     Today's baseline LAN protocol, the IEEE 802.3 standard, originally operating at 10 Mbit/s using 10baseT PHYs, now extended to 100 Mbit/s (called Fast Ethernet) using 100baseT PHYs, 1000 Mbit/s (Gigabit Ethernet, or GigE), and 10 Gbit/s (10 Gig Ethernet). CAT5 cables are the physical medium over which Ethernet is transmitted (CAT6 for 10G).

EU ETS     European Union Emissions Trading Scheme relates to the tradeoff of pollution emissions as a result of energy generation or consumption against tax or other financial credits or penalties.

EULA     End-User License Agreement. See: DRM

EV     Electric Vehicles: Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV), Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV)

EV-DO     Evolution-Data Optimized, a cellular technology

EVM, EVB, EVK, eval board, eval kit     An EValuation Module is usually a board-level product (PCB) that allows a prospective designer to evaluate a semiconductor chip in a working environment. Easily a hundred pins would normally need to be properly connected to a chip just to get it operational, and then a great deal of program code would need to be run just to begin seeing how the chip and the processor inside operate. EVMs today are often designed so they only need to be provided with proper voltage and a connection to a PC (both might be achieved using a USB port) and the chip can begin to be evaluated.

An EVM should be fairly inexpensive but should give ready access to many points in a chip or system that might normally be much less accessible. Often LEDs confirm connections or can be used for signal verification, LCD screens and buttons can provide input and output, and numerous connection points allow additional circuitry to be attached or test leads to monitor electrical operation. EVMs typically have at least beginning software support and might include trial versions of software tools or they may interact nicely with full-scale external code generating and debugging systems. An EVM is often the first stage of a system design, used to evaluate the capabilities of the processor and electronics for the desired task.

Software Developer Kit (SDK) is more sophisticated than an evaluation module, offering at least first-level tools to help an OEM or designer develop an application for a chip. The SDK places additional emphasis on the software to be developed, often supplying example code, stacks, and drivers but also assemblers, compilers, and debuggers for use by the developer.

Eval boards and development kits (
DK) may be targeted to given applications, supplying demonstration software to show, say, an MCU running a motor or driving an LCD panel, including the motor, touch screen, Ethernet port, wireless radio, or whatever is appropriate - with the development software and tools included in the DK.

Reference Design Board, Kit (RDK), or System is more of a complete, working, system with highly functional software already developed, integrated, and in some cases certified to perform its job. A reference design can practically be encased in plastic, labeled, and shipped to end users. Development tools for customization may be an extra-cost item for a reference design. Vendors supply reference designs to seed targeted markets with essentially-finished product to make it easy for developers and even white-box manufacturers to use their chips in the target market to get a quick foothold there. Reference designs can be quite sophisticated, serving networking, video (cameras), motor control, smart phones, tablets, and automotive applications.

f     A lower-case f, sometimes italicized, is often used to indicate frequency in an equation or illustration.  More off-handedly, the tilde is sometimes used to indicate a periodic waveform, like alternating current, because the tilde symbol (~) resembles a wave. See: Hz

fab     The fabrication facility is the building, equipment, and personnel that manufacture a semiconductor chip from raw materials. Fabrication (or, the "front-end") usually refers to the making of the semiconductor chip but not the packaging, assembly, and test (or "back-end"). See: foundry, IDM

fabless     A fabless semiconductor company that designs and markets integrated circuits, but relies on a subcontracted foundry for the fab that implements the design and manufactures the chips. The fabless semiconductor company avoids the extreme costs of building, equipping, operating, and maintaining a fab (easily $1 billion) while taking advantage of nearly the latest manufacturing technology, but has less control over parameters in the manufacturing facility and its products' priority within the contracted fab. See: IDM

FAE     The Field Applications Engineer has a critical role in the process of selling complex semiconductors. Located in "the field" with the salesperson near the customer, the FAE must understand many technical aspects of the chip to help show the customer how to fit the chip into the customer's application. See: design-win, customer

FAQ     Frequently Asked Questions, hopefully with meaningful answers and not just marketing hype.

FCC     United States Federal Communications Commission

FCoE    Fibre Channel over Ethernet

FDM     Frequency Division Multiplexing used in traditional broadcast (FM) radio and television, cable television, and the earlier analog AMPS cellular transmissions. See: CATV

FDMA    Frequency Division Multiple Access

FERC     United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

FFT       Fast Fourier Transform is a fundamental signal processing algorithm often executed on a DSP.

FHSS     Frequency-Hopping Spread-Spectrum, alternative to DSSS

FIB      A Focused Ion Beam system can repair and somewhat "edit" circuits already etched into a semiconductor chip. Generally, the physical circuits on chips can not be changed at all once they are fabricated. If there is an error in the circuit design then the entire wafer, lot, and production run has the error and is worthless except for verifying circuits on the rest of the chip. This is extremely wasteful of time and money and can occur late in the chip development stages or just after an alteration is made to the circuits to enhance a feature. Sometimes individual chips have a flaw due to a contaminant in the manufacturing materials.

FIB machines can deposit and remove insulating and conductor material in a very precise fashion, to recover otherwise-wasted chips. FIB machines are expensive and rather slow to repair a chip, but can be very valuable in saving expensive mask layers and weeks of turnaround-time to run a new set of masks through the fab; all while engineers sit pensively wondering if the part of the chip that can't be tested will perform as expected.

FICA     The Federal Insurance Contributions Act establishes a payroll tax that pays into the United States Social Security retirement system

FIFO      First In-First Out is a sequence description where the first data to arrive is the data first to be driven out; a formal description of a memory buffer or queue. See: LIFO

FIR      Finite Impulse Response filter is a fundamental signal processing algorithm often executed on a DSP

Firewire     IEEE 1394

firmware     The physical components that make up the electrical part of a system is considered hardware: the processor, memory, display drivers, ASICs, analog and discrete components, among many others. The printed circuit board, chassis, keyboard, and enclosure that make up a complete end-equipment may be considered hardware as well. Hardware is essentially unchangeable.

Software is the program that instructs the processor what to do. Software can be changed infinitely depending on the task it is assigned. Software is not something a person can touch but a printout of the instructions can be read and, for an electronic system, this software must be stored in the memory system so the processor can quickly read and execute the instructions.

Firmware is also software but is in memory that can not be changed every second. Firmware is saved in factory-programmed mask ROM or one of the non-volatile (NV) but changeable forms of memory like Flash or EEPROM. The contents of ROM, Flash, and EEPROM are often copied into RAM (which operates faster) so the processor can read its programs quickly. Flash and EEPROM can be updated while still mounted on the printed circuit board (PCB), but changing a mask ROM requires chip replacement.

A simple way to think of software is like the recipe in a cookbook. A recipe consists of a set of ingredients and instructions for preparing an edible dish. If the right ingredients are not available or the instructions are not followed in the prescribed order then the results may be very different than expected. Some substitution is possible (raspberries for blackberries) and chopping the carrots before the apples may not affect the outcome - similarly some programmers or processors can rearrange the order without affecting results. In this analogy the oven, stovetop, blender, and knives are hardware, the cookbook is like the memory, and the cook is the processor following instructions found in the cookbook.

fixed-function     The beauty of a programmable processor is that a readily-changeable program instructs the processor exactly what function to perform. However, it takes a while to sequence through the instruction strings and complete the task. A fixed-function accelerator uses dedicated hardware to scream through the specified function 10 to 100 times faster than a programmable processor, but has none of the flexibility of the processor. When the system doesn't need the function, this circuitry is completely idle. However, that has advantages because it can be turned off to save power. These are sometimes called FASICs – fixed-function ASICs.

Flash     Flash Memory is a non-volatile, electrically reprogrammable memory. Initial capitalization is optional. See: Memory

FLOPS      FLoating-point Operations Per Second is a measure of a processor's floating-point performance, often too simplistic for adequate comparisons. Also: megaFLOPS or MFLOPS for million FLOPS and gigaFLOPS or GFLOPS for billion FLOPS. See: MIPS

FM        Frequency Modulation

FN         A designation for a type of semiconductor package

FOMO        Fear Of Missing Out may be a modern (2018) version of "jumping on the bandwagon" or "onward, through the fog." People and companies may ignore negative warning signs and still participate and invest in activities and markets that are not yet proven to be successful, often while facing significant challenges, conditions, and unknown factors that have not yet been resolved. However, so many other people and companies seem to be enjoying attention, sales, and growth in these activities or markets, that excitement and emotion overtake traditional logic, conventional wisdom, and risk assessment that may indicate that it is not time to participate or invest in the activity or market, but do so anyway because they fear their analysis may be wrong and they'll miss the growth opportunities that eventually may materialize.

FORTRAN     A major computer programming language popular in the 1970's was named based on its emphasis on mathematics, or FORmula TRANsformation, a prime interest in the use of computers, largely mainframe, at the time. Rather than live real-time inputs, FORTRAN programs normally perform complex mathematical operations on a given set of numeric data with an output that is also numeric. Decision-making is modest, and control of external systems is not the intent of FORTRAN; mathematical evaluation is.  

FPGA    Field-Programmable Gate Array

FPU      A Floating Point Unit is a special processor that has unique logic to perform mathematical operations on data that represents floating point numbers, comprised of a mantissa and an exponent, such as 2.468 x 1013. An FPU often has a general-purpose processor as a host, feeding it data. See: processor, CPU, ALU

FQ       Fiscal (or Financial) Quarter; See: Q

front end     The front end of semiconductor manufacturing is generally considered to be the building of the semiconductor chip on the wafer. This all takes place in the fabrication facility (the fab), starting with a raw wafer (usually made of highly refined silicon and purchased from a separate supplier) that is put through numerous carefully controlled, very sophisticated process steps until it has a full electronic integrated circuit fabricated onto it, scribed and broken into individual die. Hopefully most of these die are electronically functional and they may be tested at least to some extent. These bare die might be sold essentially as they are or, more likely, sent to the "back end" for assembly into a more protective package. See: back end, die, AFE

FSK     Frequency Shift Keying

FTP     File Transfer Protocol

FUBAR  †   Military jargon for messed Up Beyond All Recognition. See the movie "Saving Private Ryan" for context. See: SNAFU

FUD      Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt are often spread by one vendor disparaging the products or services of his competitor. The information may be true or may be twisted but is highlighted to raise concerns about the viability of the competitor or technology, often unfairly. This practice is also performed daily by politicians.

FY     Fiscal (or Financial) Year; See: Q

G-     Giga-, one billion (109), or 230 in binary (powers-of-2) associations like memory size. Usually capitalized. See: Numbers     ITU specification G.9960 developed for the home network relying on existing home wiring like mains (power) and coaxial cable

GAAP      Generally-Accepted Accounting Principles, a financial term

GAO     United States Government Accountability Office

GDP     The Gross Domestic Product is an excellent indicator of the nation's economy, expressed as a top-line revenue.  The US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis defines the GDP as "the value of the goods and services produced by the nation... [minus] the value of the goods and services used up in production."  In 2016, the US GDP was estimated to be $18.5 trillion, 30% of the world's GDP (Gross Planet Product?), leading both "Europe" and China (each over $11 T), and Japan ($5 T).

general-purpose processor    See: GPP

GHz     A GigaHertz is one billion cycles per second (109). See: frequency, Hz

GigE     Gigabit Ethernet. See: Ethernet

glue logic    Circuits that perform logic operations, timing synchronizations, voltage level and current adjustments, and other interface-matching functions between two or more, major electronic components. Can be combinations of simple transistors, drivers, and TTL logic, or more sophisticated PLD, FPGA, and custom circuits. Glue logic may be omitted from block diagrams for visual simplicity, but glue logic should not be considered trivial as implied, so "direct connect" or fully compatible components make system design easier.

GMT     Greenwich Mean Time was the reference to an absolute time on our spinning earth for decades, but higher self-appointed authorities must have felt that honoring the town in England that hosted all things related to time was too colorful, so we are now directed to use the bland generic term Coordinated Universal Time (mixed up in abbreviation to UTC) as our global time reference. Time zones around the world are specified as an offset to the time at Greenwich, Great Britain.

gnd       Electrical ground (earth), zero volts.  See: Vss (Vcc)

GOPS    Giga-Operations Per Second, that is, billion operations per second. GigaFLOPS or GFLOPS is also used for floating point. See: FLOPS, MOPS, MIPS

GPIO     General-Purpose Input/Output. See: I/O

GPP    General-Purpose Processor is a good universal term for all RISC and CISC microprocessors, microcontrollers, central and core processors. GPPs are essentially the basis of all processor systems today, designed to perform a wide variety of arithmetic, control, and decision-making operations, typically based on integer arithmetic and Boolean logic. GPPs differ from more-focused specialty processors like DSPs, FPUs, GPUs, and network processors, which typically require a GPP as a host to set them up and perform overall system management. See: processor

GPR     General-Purpose Register

GPRS    General Packet Radio Service, a cellular technology

GPS     Global Positioning System

GPU     The Graphics Processor Unit is a processor chip or core, especially designed to handle the vector, image, fill, shading, and lighting data representations and calculations typical of graphical elements. GPUs typically require a "main" processor (CPU) to set up the system and handle general-purpose and numerous non-graphical processing tasks, possibly including setting up or feeding data to the GPU. Gfx is sometimes used as a short-hand for "graphics" or "graphic effects".

GSA     The United States General Services Administration

GSM     Global System for Mobile communications, a cellular technology (twisted and Anglicized from the original, Groupe Spécial Mobile)

GUI  †   The Macintosh computer was the first commercially successful example of a Graphical User Interface which presented more natural graphical components like icons and used actions such as drag-and-drop in the human-machine interface, replacing the far simpler text-based screens that had existed before. This required more complex interaction between the display (monitor) and the input device, now including a two-degrees-of-freedom mouse as well as a keyboard. GUIs have advanced significantly since 1984 in terms of resolution, color, size, and the variety of input devices available. See: WYSIWYG, HMI

H.264     H.264 compresses video streams utilizing block-oriented motion-compensating techniques resulting in about half the bits required represent the same video as MPEG-2, MPEG-4 part 2, or H.263 video. This high efficiency comes at a cost, requiring nearly double the processing performance to handle the more complex decoding involved. H.264 is used for Blu-ray discs and iTunes video.

HAN  †    The Home Area Network is really just a LAN but identifying it as being located in the home or a residence may imply ease-of-use, ownership, and standards characteristics that ease discussion of home appliance and home energy control, consumer electronics products, and audio/video data stream transmission. See: Networks,

hard core     An electronic circuit intellectual property that is licensed in a form that is fully committed to a specific process technology node is usually considered a hard core, e.g., hardened to a specific semiconductor process. The word "core" often means a processor but can refer to any major function. A soft core may provide the same functionality but is still described in a hardware description language that can then be compiled to the desired process node to be used. Thus it is still soft, in software. Hard cores can be faster because they have been highly optimized to the process node. A soft core is not "fully baked" and its final implementation might better take other system features into consideration during the compilation, possibly giving more flexibility in "floor planning" - the arrangement of major features to fit optimally in a die.

hash mark, hash tag, pound sign     The little tic-tac-toe symbol (#) found above the "3" on the US typewriter/computer keyboard or the lower-right of a 3x4 telephone touch keypad has numerous uses and names. In the USA, the # symbol is usually called the "pound sign" and most frequently indicates a number (as in "page #3"), although sometimes # stands for the measure of weight, pound (as in "5# bag"). However, in the United Kingdom where the currency is called pound Sterling and indicated as £ (called the "pound sign" and also found on the keyboard by shift-3), the # is simply called the "hash" (sometimes "square"), and "lb." would be the shorthand for the weight pound (also common in America). In computer technology # can denote many different things from position anchors in URLs to topics in Twitter ("hash tag") to comments and many other things in various programming languages.

HDLC     High-level Data Link Control along with SDLC (Synchronous) established the most basic synchronous (closely tied to a clock signal) serial point-to-point communications protocol while ADLC describes the Asynchronous method.

HDMI      High Definition Multimedia Interface - a trademarked standard. "The HDMI specification was developed by Hitachi, Panasonic, Philips Consumer Electronics International, Silicon Image, Sony, Technicolor, and Toshiba as the all-digital interface standard for the consumer electronics and personal computer markets. The HDMI specification combines uncompressed high-definition video, multi-channel audio, and data in a single digital interface to provide crystal-clear digital quality over a single cable."

HDTV     High-Definition Television

hello world     Getting a computer to output something to a screen is often the first proof point of successful operation. It is popular in computer circles to display the simple text greeting "hello world" on a screen or printer to demonstrate the computer's ability to successfully run a basic program. This may confirm that a compiler generated usable code, the computer booted properly, and the electrical connections were good. Note the underlying implication in the text that the computer is communicating with human beings, if not the programmer with the outside world. Sometimes used as the payload data in serial transmissions. May include a comma, exclamation point, and/or initial- or all-caps. Origins are reputed to be from a book on the C computer language.
        printf("hello, world")

heterogeneous     Heterogeneous processors perform a system's primary function using two or more different processors, variously tightly coupled. A good example is a RISC processor coupled with a DSP, as is traditional in a cellular phone design. Since they are not designed to run on their own, any system utilizing a DSP, network processor, or graphics processor is typically heterogeneous since there is a host GPP that sets up the specialty processor, runs the OS, and performs numerous applications functions. See: homogeneous, AMP, SMP

HEVC     The High Efficiency Video Coding (H.265) standard allows the high resolution of 4K video content to be encoded and transmitted with lower bandwidth than previous standards would allow.  See: codec

hex, hexadecimal     Base-16 hexadecimal numbers are a handy way to write the binary machine code patterns so that humans can recognize them more easily, since two hexadecimal characters can represent a byte. After 0 through 9, the characters A, B, C, D, E, and F are used to represent decimal 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. The term is often shortened to just "hex". For clarity, hex numbers are usually appended with an "h" or may be preceded by "$", and appear in pairs representing bytes of data, such as 04h. The most basic hexadecimal values are converted in the table at BCD.

HID     Human Interface Device is the electro-mechanical system through which a person inputs data, receives information, or manages the electronics. Common HIDs include the keyboard, keypad, mouse, touch-screen. The term is commonly used in USB environments. See: HMI

hi-rel     High Reliability; often referring to products for military/aerospace applications and extreme environmental conditions.  MIL-STD-883B

HKMG     High-K/Metal Gate (generally for very aggressive semiconductor manufacturing technologies like 32nm and below)

HLL     Writing a program in a High-Level Language like "C" and "C++" allows the programmer to structure algorithms and tasks in the most useful manner without regard to the peculiarities of the processor on which it will run. This is called abstracting (separating or removing) the algorithms and procedures from the details of the underlying hardware. HLL programs are considered portable because they can be compiled into machine code for a number of processors. Assembly language is cryptic but still human-readable and might be considered a low-level language, though the term is now rarely used. Machine code or binary code is just patterns of 1s and 0s and is what is represented within memory chips. The processor or "machine" performs its operations based on binary code, and any human that can read binary needs to get out and play soccer a lot more.

HMI     The Human-Machine Interface is the means by which the flesh-and-blood user manages, monitors, and controls the electronic or mechanical system. While this may be seen as the physical controls and display hardware, aided by significant underlying software to present conditions and interpret inputs, the most important feature of the HMI is how obvious, easy, natural, and intuitive its procedural operations are. Typing "raise the temperature 3 degrees" may not be as obvious or natural as raising a lever slightly, and searching through chained menus may not be as clear as an icon. A comprehensive understanding of many factors regarding the user at the controls is required for the design of a good human-machine interface. Another term, Natural User Interface (NUI) implies a more intuitive human interface, and gestures became the rage for input and control mechanisms after the Kinect box was added to the XboX 360 game console. But in reality there are few universally-accepted or obvious motions useful in machine interfaces (including two-finger pinching or widening to resize a window or image). Motions and gestures will still require instructions and learning. See: GUI, HID, WYSIWYG

homogeneous     Homogeneous processors perform a system's primary function using two or more identical processors, fairly tightly coupled. This may be two or four cores on one piece of silicon, or even arrays of 256 standalone processors. The most obvious examples of late are dual-core MIPS, PowerPC, or x86 processors, though most of these (certainly the x86) were doubled up to contain power consumption rather than the real goal of multiprocessing which is to quickly multiply the performance of a system. Homogeneous processors can be used in a symmetric manner (SMP) where a task runs on any available processor, or in an asymmetric manner (AMP) where the operating system and associated system functions run on one processor and applications programs run on the other processors. See: heterogeneous, AMP, SMP

HP     1) horsepower, more properly: brake horsepower. See: W, watt
   2) the corporation Hewlett-Packard

HPC       High Performance Computing is a relative term referring to very high, as opposed to low- or moderate-, performance computing systems. Last years' high performance may be next years' moderate performance systems considering the pace that technology advances. Such systems are designed to provide the highest performance, putting power consumption and cost at lower priorities.

HSDPA, HSUPA   High-Speed Downlink (or Uplink) Packet Access

HSPA     High Speed Packet Access; also: Dual-carrier High-Speed Packet Access Plus (DC-HSPA+)

HTML     HyperText Mark-up Language

https      HyperText Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS). The "s" following the "http" in a URL indicates that a form of security is being used in transmitting the information. HTTP defines how the most common form of documents (hypertext documents) will transmit over the Internet.

HVAC      Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems

Hz     Hertz is a measure of periodic frequency, cycles per second

i     The "i" is the common symbol representing electrical current. See: ampere

I/O     Input and Output, or I/O, are the signals that interface the real-world to a computer-based electronic system. Inputs can come from switches, keyboards, sensors, and microphones and outputs can drive LEDs, buzzers, speakers, and actuators. I/O signals are usually digital, although they may be converted from/to an analog form. See: A-to-D. The I/O line usually isolates the sometimes-harsh outside environment or shift the signal levels to be compatible with the processor. While the simplest form of I/O is a single on or off indication, I/O is often more useful when grouped in sets of 8 for convenience to be read and written as bytes. General-Purpose I/O (GPIO) implies a wide range of electrical compatibility is accommodated. Related: peripherals

I-cache     Cache memory set up to hold processor instructions. Sometimes I$ is used as a short-hand. See: cache, D-cache

IA     Intel steadfastly refers to the Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) that was initially implemented in the i8086 processor as Intel Architecture, or IA. From the broader industry perspective, the architecture is usually referred to as x86, for two reasons. At least two other vendors legally ship processors that are compatible with the architecture, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and VIA Technology. The original processor chips rolled out from Intel (and others) followed the sequence of 8086, 186, 286, 386, 486... although Pentium and everything since intentionally avoid the '86 reference.  See: x86

I2C, IIC, I2C     Inter-Integrated Circuit serial Communications bus standard. Spoken as "eye-squared-sea" See: SPI, SCI, IC

I2S, IIS, I2S     Inter-Integrated-circuit Sound; a serial bus definition for communicating audio between chips. Spoken as "eye-squared-ess"

IC     Integrated Circuit. Originally, electronic circuits were built using discreet components: transistors, resistors, and capacitors that could be seen separately on a board. Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments is credited with being the first to successfully integrate a number of circuits onto a single semiconductor substrate. This integrated circuit has all the good characteristics of a semiconductor — consistent mass production, low cost, low power, and long life. Almost the only real negative quality of an IC is its lack of flexibility - it is impossible to change its function once it is produced. But ICs were designed to serve the greatest number of applications, so the first digital ICs formed the most basic gate functions, and later flip-flops, soon adders and shift registers, and ultimately enough transistors were available to design the exotic graphics processors of today on single pieces of silicon.

The level of integration of electronic circuits onto a silicon substrate increases with each passing year. An approximation of the integration level used to be indicated by a stepping up of the terms used. Much of that has been abandoned for the present – until marketers see the need for adding a new word to the list. Following are terms from a more naïve time when VLSI had more than 1000 equivalent gates – in increasing order of complexity. See: die, PCB, SoC, SIP
SSI    Small Scale Integration
MSI   Medium Scale Integration
LSI    Large Scale Integration
VLSI  Very Large Scale Integration
SoC   System-on-a-Chip
From a 1976 Texas Instruments TTL Data Book: "Large-Scale Integration, LSI - A concept whereby a complete major subsystem or system function is fabricated as a single microcircuit.  In this context a major subsystem or system, whether digital or linear, is considered to be one that contains 100 or more equivalent gates or circuitry of similar complexity."  VLSI is described as containing at least 1000 gate equivalents, MSI as 12 gate equivalents, and SSI as "less."

ICE  †   An In-Circuit Emulator is a hardware development tool that helps system designers replicate the operation of a processor in a target system ("in-circuit") but with much better control to monitor and manipulate the system, looking to iron out problems.

IDE     1) Integrated Development Environment for electronic system design

IDE     2) Integrated Drive Electronics for a PC disk drive

IDM     Traditional semiconductor companies were Integrated Device Manufacturers because they conceptualized the logic and functionality ("system design"), designed and laid out the electronic circuits, utilized transistors and semiconductor technology they had largely researched and developed on their own, manufactured the chips in their own fabs, wrote their own test routines, and marketed the chips all themselves (packaging the silicon may have been done by outside companies). A very different form of company is the fabless semiconductor company that mostly designs and markets the integrated circuit, now often using large functional blocks that are designed elsewhere and licensed for use as IP, but relies on an outside foundry to implement the design or at least manufacture the chips.

IEEE     Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – a professional organization and a significant global standards body. See: ITU, ISO. Spoken as: eye-triple-ee

IGBT     Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor

IIC, IIS   See: I2C or I2S

IIR       Infinite Impulse Response filter is a fundamental signal processing algorithm often executed on a DSP.

infotainment    A word concocted by combining "information" with "entertainment" as though the two are both enjoyable. See: IVI

instantiation     Instance, copy. A term often used by chip designers to indicate an individual copy of a circuit which appears multiple times. "Each instantiation of the core will consume 120 milliwatts" indicates that if four copies (or instances) of the core are built in a chip, they will consume 480 milliwatts of power. Other versions of this word can be used, such as "instantiated".

Internet     Internet should always be capitalized; it is "the Internet".

inventory     Goods that are already manufactured but not yet sold to their end user or at least built into their ultimate product. There is a cost attributed to the holding of inventory. Management of inventory is a science, balancing the right level of inventory against the difficulties of running short of supplies. See: backlog, billings, bookings, book-to-bill, turns

IO     See: I/O, GPIO

IoT     The Internet of Things refers to the evolution of the Internet as a means to connect self-standing intelligent pieces of equipment to other equipment, transmitting and collecting data and information, largely without human intervention. This greatly expands the reach of the Internet beyond a few taps (connection points) per human being to unlimited numbers of devices attaching to the Internet, possibly to connect to high-performance computers or large storage facilities in "The Cloud". Similar terms include Internet of Everything (IoE). See: M2M

IP     1) Intellectual Property (subset: silicon IP - SIP)

IP     2) Internet Protocol

IPC   Instructions Per Cycle or Clock, a coarse manner of judging processor performance

IPR   Intellectual Property Rights

IPS LCD    In-Plane Switching liquid crystal display

IPTV     Television via Internet Protocol

IR, IrDA     InfraRed is electromagnetic radiation at the wavelengths just longer than visible red light (~>700 nm). IR is often used to transmit data without wires using LEDs (light-emitting diodes) in a serial form across a short distance (10 meters) but is generally limited to line-of-sight. IrDA (Infrared Data Association) is a standard method that computing equipment can use to transmit data via infrared light. Most television remote controls use IR to beam to the TV although radio transmissions like RF4CE (Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics) are gaining popularity for control from another room. See: UV

IRA     Individual Retirement Arrangement (previously, Account) for US citizens

IRQ     Interrupt ReQuest

IRS     United States Internal Revenue Service

ISA     In many ways, the Instruction-Set Architecture defines a processor, certainly its capabilities. The implementation may vary from chip to chip (usually generation to generation) but the ISA is kept constant or at least compatible (usually, upward-compatible). See: architecture, compatible, processor

ISM     While not a standardized acronym, Industrial, Scientific, and Medical markets are sometimes grouped together. See: STEM

ISO     International Standards Organization – what more need be said. See: ITU, IEEE

ISV     Independent Software Vendor – a provider of software that runs on a hardware platform built by a different company. This is in contrast to a hardware supplier that has in-house programmers developing software for its equipment. ISV simply refers to all the software suppliers outside the company that also write programs for the hardware.

IT      Information Technology is a vast modern-day term encompassing all things computer

ITS    Intelligent Transportation Systems

ITRS     International Technology Roadmap of Semiconductors

ITU    International Telecommunication Union - yet another standards body. See: ISO, IEEE

IVI     In-Vehicle Infotainment systems are usually centralized processor-based electronics that may provide many information and entertainment functions in the car for both driver and passengers (especially back-seat) such as: navigation (mapping), traffic and road conditions, weather, voice command-and-control, cell phone management (now often connected to an independent handset), audio ("stereo") systems, MP3 players, TV, DVD, video games, Web browsing, synchronization with home-based systems, with WAN, Bluetooth, USB, Wi-Fi, and CF/SD memory card interfaces. Sometimes management of, connections to, or display of non-critical car-operation functions are part of IVI such as: maintenance, HVAC, exterior cameras, and software updates. Term is now rarely used.

IVR     Interactive Voice Response

JIT     A food-chain and inventory management concept of components arriving Just-In-Time to be inserted in the assembly can lower inventory costs but requires a very tight relationship between vendor and production.

JPEG, .jpg     The Joint Photographic Experts Group defines standards for digital still images. See: MPEG

JTAG     Joint Test Automation Group, IEEE Standard 1149.1, Joint Test Action Group

k-     1) kilo-, one thousand (103), or 1024 in binary (powers-of-2) associations like memory size. Sometimes capitalized. See Numbers

K     2) Kelvin, °K. The measurement of temperature where one degree (°) equals one-hundredth the difference in temperature of water (H2O) at freezing and at boiling in one atmosphere of pressure (the same as Centigrade), with 0°K (degrees K) being "absolute zero", the point at which all chemical elements are frozen in the solid state, -273.14°C. Some materials when cooled to near absolute zero exhibit extremely peculiar behaviors such as superconductivity – conducting electricity with losses too small to measure. Cryogenics is the study and understanding of behavior of materials at extremely low temperatures. See: C 4)

K     3) A measure of capacitance, often heard in phrases such as "low-K dielectric" or "high-K metal gate" (HKMG). Less common but more proper is to use the Greek letter Kappa: κ

KGB     The old Soviet Union secret police, somewhat equivalent to the US's CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).

KGD     Known Good Die are semiconductor chips in the raw die form (unpackaged) which have met some high level of test to be sure they are fully functional, possibly over temperature, speed, and other grading criteria.  KGD are critical to assembly procedures such as multi-chip modules because adding expenses like additional chips, labor, and other materials to what turns out to be a failed chip can quadruple the cost of building a package or module, only to have the whole thing trashed by a failure in just one of the components inside.  Such advanced assemblies can almost never be repaired. See: package

KU     KU is a thousand Units. In market statistics, unit volume shipments are often stated in thousands while revenue is stated in millions of US dollars (USD), so: 150KU at $20.00 ASP feeds a $3M annual market. "MU" is also used to indicate a million units or even "BU" for billion units. Related: $M, ASP

kWh     A common measure of household electrical energy is the kiloWatt-hour, 1000 Watts used continuously for an hour. The "k" is typically in lower-case. See: watt, MW

L     In electrical circuits, L represents inductance, one of the fundamental properties of electricity, the measure of a resistance to change in an existing electromagnetic field, especially important in wires wrapped in a coil or inductor, critical when presented with an alternating current or build-up or decay of current.

LAN     Local Area Network. See: Networks

LCD     1) Liquid Crystal Display

           2) The number 20 is the Least Common Denominator (or Lowest...) of the fractions 1/4 and 3/5, since it is the smallest number that is a multiple of the denominators of each fraction (4 and 5). To add these two fractions easily, each is first converted to its equivalent fraction in 20-iths; thus 1/4 + 3/5 = 5/20 + 12/20 = 17/20

In more general discussions, "least common denominator" is often used to describe going to the lowest level tolerable by any party involved; thus to speak to a room of 6th-graders, 12th-graders, and adults, one would need to use language that the 6th-graders can understand with the assumption that the older listeners will also follow along without difficulty.

LED     Light-Emitting Diode

LF     vertical Line Feed, new line. ASCII 0Ah. From the old teletype machines. See: CR

LIFO  Last In-First Out is a sequence description where the last data to arrive is the data first to be driven out; a formal description of a typical memory stack. See: FIFO

LIN     Local Interconnect Network in automobiles

LNA     Low Noise Amplifier

LNG     Liquefied Natural Ggas

logic     NOT, OR, AND, and XOR (exclusive-OR) are the bases of logical operations and, in great combinations and chains, can represent virtually any decision-making process or mathematical function.

login, logoff, logon, logout     Logging in, out, on, or off of a system is registering and being granted permission to make use of the system based on the status of the registrant or user, usually involving authentication with passwords, encryption, physical and electronic means (card keys), and feature recognition (face, fingerprint, retina, voice). Unauthorized users are denied access. Logons trace back to the early days of computing and time-sharing. A hyphen is sometimes used, e.g. log-in, log-off, log-on, log-off

LSB, LSb     Least-Significant Byte or Least-Significant Bit (often with a lower-case "b" indicating bit). Contrarily, MSB or MSb means Most-Significant Byte/bit

LSI     Large Scale Integration. See: ICLSMFT

LTE     Long Term Evolution, a cellular communications technology often associated with 4G, complicated with Time-Division (TD-LTE) and Frequency-Division Duplexing(FDD-LTE) versions.

LUT     A Look-Up Table can be a quick and dirty shortcut to determining the correct output according to an input. For instance, a color look-up table (CLUT) can allow 256 symbols to represent a variety of 65,536 non-uniform colors for a display.

m-     1) milli- one-thousandth, 10-3. The lower-case distinguishes from "mega". See: micro, nano, Numbers

m      2) meter, a measure of length that is about the distance of a man's very-long stride, once described as 1/10,000,000th (one ten-millionth) the distance from the equator to the pole (but was off by about the thickness of two sheets of paper for every meter). 0.0254 meters = 1 inch. mm is a millimeter, one-thousandth (10-3) of a meter

M-     3) million, 106, mega-  The upper-case distinguishes from "milli". See: mega- under Numbers

M      4) thousand, 103. This upper-case use is rare/discouraged in electronics and science, but common in finance, with MM often used to denote millions (103x103, which adds to the confusion). Use of M to denote thousands seems to be more common as a count in Great Britain rather than the USA. The origins may be from Roman numerals (although MM represented 2,000 in old Rome). Roman Numeral "M"

M2M     Machine-to-Machine, implying one machine (electronic equipment) interacts or communicates directly with another machine without intervention of human or otherwise higher intelligence for major decision-making. See: IoT

mA     A milliamp is one-thousandth of an ampere, an electrical current measurement. See: milli-, amp

Ma Bell     The Bell System, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), the long-standing monopolistic telephone company in the USA until the early 1990's, was affectionately known as "Ma Bell", with "Ma" borrowed from a child's word for "mother". For further enlightenment, see the special section about: telephone dialing

MAC      1) Multiply ACcumulate is the most fundamental of digital signal processing operations. The MAC function multiplies two pieces of data and sums the result to a running total in 1 or 2 clocks. Coupled with a conditional-branch operation that takes no more than 1 additional clock (zero is better), the MAC is ideal for the frequent cumulative sum-of-products operations of many mathematical algorithms used in signal processing. Every DSP will have a MAC, but many standard MPUs and MCUs add in a MAC instruction to ease the execution of signal processing functions in those GPPs — it's a good start, but no substitute for a real DSP with a Harvard bus and memory structure. MAC can refer to either a processor instruction or to the hardware logic that implements the operation. See: DSP

MAC      2) Media Access Controller, part of the Data Link Layer, Layer 2 of the OSI communications model. The hardware circuit that implements this may be called the 3) Medium Access Controller, but the terms are used interchangeably.

Mac       3) A raincoat, a garment to keep the rain off a person.
The English sometimes have a funny way of shortening or playing games with words when they use them. The linguistic style known as Cockney may be the most famous of these, but numerous other short-hands are in common use. The weather is often rainy in Great Britain so rain gear is important there. The English also often gravitate toward using familiar company or brand names with generic intent.

Calf-high rubber boots that protect the feet from sloshing in mud or water and can be used working in the garden, are often called Wellingtons. The original design and use of this boot was for aristocrats like the Duke of Wellington to go sport hunting. A waterproof rain coat to protect the general body from wind and rain is often called a Macintosh, after the Scottish inventor of rubberized fabric used for such coats. To top off the ensemble, a hat and an umbrella would keep rain from the head and hair. These three items (boots, raincoat, and umbrella) are often referred to off-handedly and with a little humor as one's
Wellies, brelly, and Mac (sometimes spelled "Mack"). A glimpse of this use of Mac is oft-heard but perhaps not well-understood in much of the world in the following words of The Beatles' song Penny Lane:
"And the banker never wears a Mac in the pouring rain, very strange…"

many-core     Many-core is a special case of MultiCore processors. Many-core often refers to 100 or more identical cores integrated on a chip performing massively-parallel operations. The hyphen is appropriate in spelling, though capitalization is optional. See: MultiCore

mask, mask set     Semiconductors are manufactured using extremely sophisticated processes performed at almost unimaginably-small scales (with some parameters literally being only six atoms wide).  To look at it in a simplified manner, a chip is constructed by building layers of specially processed material on one another.  Some of those layers might be deposited, laid down the way sand, silt, vegetation, and coral skeletons settle to the bottom of sea beds over millennia (for semiconductors, such "deposition" takes mere seconds).

Certain layers may be bombarded with light or certain chemicals to alter the composition or characteristics of the layer, possibly making it more conducive [or more resistant] to attracting or emitting free electrons (semi-conducting).

Because this is a repetitive process where one layer is formed, then another layer on top of that (often in different thickness, chemical makeup, characteristics, doping, etc., often exposing or masking in a different pattern)

Semiconductor chips are manufactured using a layering process: depositing a layer of material on a base material (the silicon wafer), altering characteristics of that material, often using masks to produce precise patterns on the layer, and then repeating many times to build up the entire chip.  Some of the process is like the (old, 19th- &20th-century) photographic process of quickly exposing light-sensitive material to different amounts of light to leave an image or pattern on the material.  In photography, the film from the camera provided the "negative" which filtered or masked where the light was to fall on the paper.  Semiconductors (try to) cut very precise edges to the "images" that are put on the layer and a uniquely-designed mask is used to create the desired pattern on the layer.  

Because it is a repeating process, performed one step at a time, many masks – each different – (and many other processes) are used to create conductors, insulators, transistors, and electronic sensitive features that ultimately make up the semiconductor chip.  From six to 20 and more layers may be built up.  Because they so specifically create the circuitry of each semiconductor component, the masks are often called "mask sets" or "steppings" (from step-and-repeat).

Vendors assign four or five alphanumeric characters to their mask sets (largely for internal use) such as "3K85K", and may simplify those to single or double-letters, such as "the B stepping", for more casual discussions.  These are usually marked on the outside of the chip's protective package for traceability.  Mask set and stepping designations only specify what was used to build the electronics but have no reference to the package.  

A mask set may be changed over time to correct circuit errors, enhance performance or reliability, or to add/change functions and features. Mask "shrinks" are not a linear or optical shrink, but very sophisticated "scaling" of certain characteristics to allow the same functionality to be built on a smaller scale (say, 14nm rather than 20nm), consuming less wafer area per die, with the goal of lowering cost and increasing production volume.

MCA     The Multicore Association

MCAPI      The purpose of the Multicore Communications API, a message-passing API (Application Program Interface), is to capture the basic elements of communication and synchronization that are required for closely distributed (multiple cores on a chip and/or chips on a board) embedded systems. The MCA also calls out a Multicore Resource Management API (MRAPI †) and a Multicore Task Management API (MTAPI †)

MCM     Multi-Chip Module. See: SIP, package

MCU     A Generic MCUmicrocontroller (MCU) contains a processor, I/O peripherals, and the memory system all on the chip. An MCU is primarily designed to perform control operations and has quick interrupt capability. On-chip program memory (mostly ROM and Flash) distinguishes the MCU from an MPU. While some MPUs have peripherals and cache memory on-chip, an MCU is expected to execute instructions entirely from its on-chip memory (although with 32-bit, this requirement is relaxing). MCUs run at much lower frequencies and are generally less-powerful than a standalone MPU. On-chip peripheral circuits may be the most critical part of an MCU, off-loading the processor from being bothered with too many rudimentary I/O operations. [the "U" of MCU stands for unit, rarely used now] See: MPU, DSP, processor

memory     There are many forms of semiconductor memory: RAM, SRAM, DRAM, SDRAM, ROM, EPROM, EEPROM/EAROM, OTP, NAND and NOR Flash | DIMM, NVM, USB drive, cards, Solid State Drive (SSD) | and many uses of memory: register, cache, buffer, stack, FIFO, LIFO

Mask ROM is programmed by the vendor with a metal mask layer and is unchangeable, although it is the highest density and lowest cost per chip non-volatile memory (NVM). Customers are assessed NRE charges to cover the cost of making the unique masks and then it takes 4-6 weeks to produce the chips.

Programmable ROM (PROM) eliminates the turnaround time (TAT, in one vendor's lingo) of producing mask ROMs and the expense of NRE. But the customer (or a service-provider) must program each chip, which can take time in a fast-moving production line. One benefit of PROM is that it is a generic memory that can be stocked and used for a wide range of different applications.

Ultra-violet light (UV) erasable programmable ROM (EPROM) lets the OEM or even the end-user erase the entire ROM and reprogram it with updated or corrected programs or data.

Electrically-erasable programmable ROM (EEPROM, E2PROM, or E2ROM, sometimes called electrically-alterable (EAROM), evolved to allow individual bytes of the memory to be changed while leaving the bulk of the ROM untouched which is safer and can be done on-the-run while the equipment is operating. Today EEPROM types of memory are popular for storing parameters and rarely-changed data (baud rates, IP addresses, home pages, etc.)

Flash memory is the holy grail of memory except that data access is not as fast as many others, especially volatile RAM. Flash is fairly dense, permanent, and can be changed in large sections using reasonable voltages while the total system is still operational. Contents are usually updated one section at a time, leaving much of the Flash unchanged. See: OTP

MEMS      Micro-ElectroMechanical System

mfr     manufacture, manufacturer, manufacturing (-g); a short-hand, not a universal abbreviation

MG&A     The Marketing, General, and Administrative expenses often grouped together in corporate financial accounting (no R&D, no direct manufacturing expenses included)

MHL    Mobile High-definition Link allows mirroring the images of a smart phone or tablet screen onto a larger monitor

MHz     One MegaHertz is one million (106) cycles per second (clock frequency). See: frequency, Hz

micro- (µ)     1) One-millionth (10-6) [the lower-case "u" is often substituted for the more-correct "mu", µ]  See: milli-, nano, Numbers

micro            2) Sometimes an offhand, shortened version of "microprocessor". Thirty years ago, "Micro-" prefixed many words such as processor to indicate the item was a semiconductor chip rather than a board-level product made up of many chips. A microcomputer would be a chip but a minicomputer was a board- or box-level computer.

microcontroller    See: MCU

micron     One-millionth (10-6) of a meter. Micron is a common way of measuring feature size (line widths) on semiconductor die. Around year 1980 most semiconductors used technology larger than 1 micron. By the year 2000, most advanced semiconductors had shrunk below 0.13 micron and 0.1 micron, ushering in the misnomer "sub-micron" as terminology shifted to sizes called "90 nanometer" and below. See: nanometer (nm), Numbers

microprocessor    See: MPU 1)

MID     Mobile Internet Device, a term sometimes used to refer to portable electronic equipment with significant computing power that are connected to the Internet, usually wirelessly - WAN or Wi-Fi - like tablets, slates, and ultimately smartphones. The term dropped from favor around 2010.

MIDI      Musical Instrument Digital Interface

mil,mils     One-thousandth of an inch (0.001"). The center-to-center lead spacing, or pitch, on the outside of the chip package is usually described in mils. These leads align with the spacing of signal traces on the PCB on which the chip is mounted. 100 mil spacing of the 1980's gave way to 80 mil and now 50 mil pitches.

milli-     One-thousandth (10-3). Also shortened to just "m". See: micro-, nano-, Numbers

MiniDisc     A recording medium developed by Sony, initially popular in Japan and Asia that mostly faded from the market, primarily for audio, that wrestled in the marketplace with DAT and DCC technologies  (circa 1991) (MD)

MIMO      Multiple Input/Multiple Output refers to an antenna technology, often associated with IEEE 802.11n and high-speed 3G & 4G cellular

MIPS      1) As a pure acronym, MIPS is short for "Million Instructions Per Second", a measure of a processor's performance, often too simplistic for adequate comparisons. DMIPS refers to measurements made using the Dhrystone benchmarks. See: FLOPS, GOPS, MOPS

MIPS      2) A processor architecture - MIPS also refers to the RISC processor cores that execute the MIPS-I, MIPS16, MIPS32, or MIPS64 instruction set which were developed by the company now known as MTI. Common MIPS processor cores include the MIPS 4K, 5K, 24K, 34K, and 74K. Originators pretend that MIPS stood for "microprocessor without interlocked pipeline stages". Lexra was a company that designed processors running an enhanced MIPS ISA but eventually succumbed to the wages of IP wars (one view can be found at  [Other popular multi-vendor architectures include: ARM, Power/PowerPC, x86]

MIPS      3) A corporation - MIPS also refers to the company MIPS Technologies Inc (MTI) which designs, maintains, markets, and ultimately licenses the popular MIPS processor architecture as intellectual property (IP) to customers who build the processor into a semiconductor chip. In 2013, MTI was acquired by the British IP design and licensing company, Imagination Technologies Group plc ( Previously the company was MIPS Computer Systems, and once a part of Silicon Graphics (SGI).

MIS     Minimally Invasive Surgery may use endoscopic or robotic techniques to perform medical surgery using smaller cuts and less-intrusive methods than surgeons can perform when their hands and eyes must directly contact the tissues and structures. While more training may be necessary for the surgeon to compensate for lack of direct vision, "hands-on" work, and less-natural touch feedback, the patient benefits greatly from smaller chance of infection, less body trauma, shorter hospital stays, and quicker healing.

MITI     Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry

mm     1) millimeter, one-thousandth (10-3) of a meter. See: m 1) and 2)

MM     2) million, 106, in some uses, often financial.  Some financial instruments shorten million to "mn" but this is not technical, scientific, mathematic, or engineering usage. For more context see m 4)

MMACS, MegaMACS   Million Multiply-ACcumulate operations per Second as a measure of a DSP's potential performance is sometimes too simplistic for adequate comparisons.

MMS     Multimedia Messaging Service transfers images, animation, video as well as text on a cell phone. See: SMS

MMU     The Memory Management Unit sits between the processor and the memory so it can map virtual memory addresses to physical memory locations while keeping programs from accessing improper sections of memory and I/O. MMUs must be designed carefully to avoid introducing excessive delay during accesses to memory and I/O. See: MPU 2)

modem     A modulator-demodulator encodes the desired analog signal onto a carrier wave for transmission, and pulls the signal off the carrier for reception (de-).

MOPS   Million Operations Per Second, a measure of a processor's performance, often too simplistic for adequate comparisons. "Operations" can be difficult to define consistently between vendors. This term is often associated with DSPs. See: MIPS, FLOPS, GOPS

MOS      Metal-Oxide Semiconductor

MOSFET      Metal-Oxide Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor

MOST      Media-Oriented Systems Transport - a network for automotive multimedia

motors     Categories of electric motors for either alternating or direct current include: AC Induction Motors (ACIM - nearly 90% of industrial motors by units), DC motors, BrushLess DC motors (BLDC), AC variable speed motors, DC variable speed motors, Switched Reluctance, 3-phase brushless Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors (PMSM), brushed DC servo motors, brushless AC servo motors, stepper motors, linear motors [some capitalization to show common acronyms].

MP3     Technically, an audio compression scheme for audio specified by the Motion Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3. See: PMP, MPEG. Think: iPod™

MPEG  .mpg     The Motion Picture Experts Group establishes compression standards for digital video and the associated audio, such as MPEG4. See: JPEG

MPU     1) A microprocessor (MPU) is a processor designed to perform data processing, operating primarily on numeric data. MPUs usually dedicate the most transistors to instruction execution, resulting in the highest performing processor. 32-bit and 64-bit MPUs are typical, implemented on a single chip, running at frequencies from 100 MHz to over 1 GHz. Cache memory on-chip is necessary to keep external memory, which is relatively slow, from impairing performance. The MPU is often considered the central processor unit (CPU) although CPU can be used in a more general sense, including multiple cores, co-processors, accelerators and so on.

An MPU is distinguished by its focus on data processing and its lack of significant memory on-chip, although many mainstream MPUs today devote large areas of the chip to multi-level cache. An MCU is usually self-contained, distinguished by its focus on control operations, its peripheral support, and execution of instructions primarily out of on-chip memory. Both MCUs and MPUs are considered to be general-purpose processors. See: processor, CPU, RISC, CISC, core, MCU, DSP, GPP

MPU     2) Many ARM-architecture processor cores make use of a Memory Protection Unit, which unfortunately abbreviates to the same letters normally used for a microprocessor. This confusion could have easily been avoided, but then the same boys in Cambridge also thought referring to their ARM Architecture Reference Manual document as the ARM ARM (sic) to be too cute to pass up.

Memory protection in this sense is the first stage of what many Memory Management Units (MMUs) perform. It allows special handling of apparently-improper access to memory such as when less-trusted User programs try to access memory assigned to operating systems (or "Supervisors"), attempts to write data to sections of memory intended to be read-only, or erasure of certain memory areas. See: MMU

MPW     The Multi-Project Wafer has become practical as high-density process technology met 300mm wafers. While most semiconductor manufacturing replicates the pattern for just one chip across the entire silicon wafer, in fact a set of wafers, MPW allows patterns for a number of chips onto a single wafer. Sharing a wafer this way reduces the quantity of die of any one chip pattern that are produced so test chips and low quantity runs are not overwhelmed with potentially un-sellable chips. Realize that a 300mm (approx 12" diameter) wafer might produce 2,500 die that are 5mm on a side.

MRI     Magnetic Resonance Imaging directs pulses of radio energy at the body with electromagnets to develop images of organic structures within the body.

ms     A millisecond is one-thousandth of a second

MSB, MSb     Most-Significant Byte or Most-Significant Bit (often with a lower-case "b" indicating "bit"). Contrarily, LSB or LSb means Least-Significant Byte/bit

MTD     Month-To-Date; See: YTD, Q

MultiCore     Multiple processing cores on a single chip, often thought of as homogeneous (identical) cores, but heterogeneous (different) cores can also constitute multicore chips. Many-core is frequently used to refer to a hundred or more identical cores. The word may be hyphenated: multi-core. Dual-core and quad-core are often heard. See: multiprocessor, many-core

multiprocessor     Multiprocessor refers to more than one processor; sometimes homogeneous such as a pair of MIPS 4K processors, other times heterogeneous such as an ARM7TDMI coupled with a DSP. Multiprocessor can refer to processors on individual chips or, in growing use starting about 2005, the processors all being on the same chip, in many cases to increase overall performance while not burning the chip up with internally-generated heat. Multiprocessing often refers to the logistics and management of computing by using multiple processors, usually homogeneous, and has been around for a long time. See: cores, multicore, AMP, SMP

multimedia     Let me count the ways. Once, multimedia meant a reel-to-reel tape recorder coordinated with a 35mm slide projector. Today, multimedia encompasses a vast array of visual, video, aural, audio, and possibly motion and olfactory (smell) storage, compression, transmission, synchronization, and reproduction in a numerous combinations using a seemingly endless assortment of standards and techniques. Today, multimedia primarily involves a highly-encoded digital bit-stream. Applications range from mobile phones to theatrical productions.

MUX  †   A multiplexer selects which of many input signals to use while a demultiplexer (DEMUX) selects the output line on which to put an individual signal. These signals are driven continuously. An alternative is to MUX signals in time, whereby different signals are placed on a wire sequentially. Time-based MUXing is the rudimentary basis of parallel-to-serial conversion or, ultimately, serial communications (SPI, I2C, UART, USART, ...).

mV     A millivolt is one-thousandth of a volt, an electrical voltage measurement. See: micro-, Numbers

mW    A milliwatt [lower-case m] is one-thousandth of a watt, an electrical power measurement. See: micro-, Numbers

MW    A MegaWatt [capital M] (one million watts) is often considered enough electrical power to supply 330 homes in a near worst-case scenario (air conditioning running.)

n-, nano-    one-billionth (10-9). See: milli-, micro-, Numbers

NAK, NACK     When it appears that communication was attempted but garbled, erroneous, or incomplete information was received, then a Negative AcKnowledgement is often sent back to the sender to spur a re-transmission. A failed communication. See: ACK, ARQ

nanometer, nm     One-billionth (10-9) of a meter. In 2010, the most advanced manufacturable semiconductors had line widths in the range of 32 to 45 nm.

NAN     1) Not A Number. 2) Neighborhood Area Network. See: Networks

NASA      United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NAT     Network Address Translation

NC     Indicating that a relay, switch or connection is Normally Closed and electricity can flow, with "normally" implying the un-energized or un-sprung state. The alternative is Normally Open (NO) which prevents electricity from flowing.

In the old relay days, at least in telephony, there might be an associated BBM or
MBB reference in an A-B switch relay (which transfers the current from one connector to another). BBM indicated that during a transition the original connection was broken (opened) before the new connection was made (closed), thus Break Before Make. An alternative was the Make Before Break which might connect to B before releasing A, which would cause some flow between A and B as well as from the common terminal. Today's electronic logic measures any transitions and overlaps in microseconds or nanoseconds with carefully illustrated timing diagrams often tied to a free-running digital clock signal.

NEC     The National Fire Protection Association, Inc. (NFPA) oversees the development of the National Electrical Code which sets the standard for electrical wiring and equipment in the USA.

NEMA     National Electrical Manufacturers Association (USA)

LAN, MAN, NAN, HAN, PAN, WAN, WLAN, WPAN = x Area Network
Local, Metropolitan, Neighborhood, Home, Personal, Wide, Wireless Local, Wireless Personal… Area Network
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, UWB (UltraWide Band), Zigbee wireless networks.

IEEE 802.15.1 underlies Bluetooth
IEEE 802.15.4 underlies ZigBee
IEEE 802.11 specifies what is known as Wi-Fi in its A, B, G, and N forms. specifies a home network

Cloud" refers to somewhere near the core of the Internet, or even a large network; generally just meaning "somewhere up there" without needing to know where.

NFC     Near Field Communication, a wireless communication technology

NFV/SDN     Network Function Virtualization / Software-Defined Network

NHTSA     United States' National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

nibble     In a similar way that a byte is 8 binary bits, a nibble is 4 binary bits and can represent up to 16 values. Two nibbles in succession comprise a byte. Nibble comes from the early computing years but is rarely used today. See: byte

NIC     The Network Interface Card performs the hardware and much of the software interface to the network, usually a form of Ethernet. As time has passed, cards became circuits which have even become integrated into multi-function system chip.

NIH     This is a common dismissal of an idea because it was Not Invented Here, that is, not thought of, developed, or promoted by the person or organization. Usually, the idea or concept is actually a good alternative, but the mind-set (frame-of-mind or attitude as a result of the experience base or history), pride, or stubbornness of the person or organization refuses to acknowledge or credit the alternative idea. There can be valid business reasons for the new idea not being a practical choice, but NIH is usually used to infer that logic and rational explanations are given more weight than they are due to cover that it was simply someone else's, but better, idea.

2)  United States National Institutes of Health

NIMBY      Not In My Back Yard reflects the sentiments most people have about the best place to locate a facility that is necessary and helps the community or is needed in the world but has negative characteristics that come with it such as danger, noise, radiation, smell, pollution, traffic, unsightly. Examples include a factory, garbage dump, nuclear power plant, homeless shelter, cell phone tower, power lines, natural gas line, highway, railroad, night club, prison.

NO     Normally Open. See: NC

NOx     Oxides of Nitrogen, which contribute to air pollution

NRE     A Non-Recurring Engineering charge is a fee charged to cover substantial up-front costs associated with starting a project with a vendor. NRE may cover equipment, labor, mask charges, or other one-off expenses, and are agreed upon ahead of time. NRE is in contrast to piece-prices that primarily cover the manufacturing costs of individual parts. See: OTP

NRND   Not Recommended for New Design. See: EOL

NRZ      Non Return to Zero

NTSB    United States National Transportation Safety Board

NTSC    National Television System Committee, sometimes jokingly referred to as Never Twice the Same Color, described the 525-line standard by which the United States and some other countries based the old analog color television (which was compatible with earlier black-and-white). Other major color TV standards include PAL (Phase Alternating Line - used in Australia and much of Europe) and SECAM (<long French phrase> - used in France and former Soviet countries). NTSC radio transmissions in the USA were turned off in early 2009 forcing broadcasters and consumers to digital TV on the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) standard.

NUI     Natural User Interface. See: HMI

NUMA     Non-Uniform Memory Architecture

numbers    Note: Extensive attention is given to Numbers on another page.

NVRAM     Non-Volatile RAM. See: memory

OBD, ODBII     On-Board Diagnostics in an automobile provide a port where a technician can interrogate the on-board computer for either stored fault codes or real-time data that can be interpreted to determine the health of various systems within the vehicle, from engine and drive train to sensors and networks. A persistent fault Check Engine Light (Malfunction Indicator Lamp - MIL)will often set the "check engine" light or icon (MIL - Malfunction Indicator Lamp; a pretty version of the earlier "idiot light" (spoken with love)) on the vehicle dashboard. Reading the OBD codes can narrow down problems quite readily, with simple handheld instruments getting gross codes that might only indicate the fuel-air mixture is rich. Very sophisticated equipment only available (or cost-effective) to dealers and high-end repair shops or very detailed databases should point to the specific component failing and corrective action for the particular vehicle. All new cars sold in the USA starting with model year 1996 had to provide the OBD-II (second standard version). Europe started requiring a similar OBD for 2001 cars. A central processor (MCU) drives the ODB codes from countless sensor readings often over time, compared to given limits. Interestingly, the sensors themselves are often in need of replacement.

OCR     Optical Character Recognition

ODM     Original Design Manufacturer. See: OEM

OEM     The Original Equipment Manufacturer is the company that makes and markets the end-equipment. Ford may be the OEM of a car, though Bosch may make some of the subassemblies that go into the car, while a Taiwanese company (the ODM) designed and built the circuits, and an Israeli company wrote the software that included a communications stack licensed from a British company. See: ODM, Regions

OFDMA     Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access, often associated with wireless technology

OMAP      Open Multimedia Application Platform (a Texas Instruments product name)

OMB     United States Office of Management and Budget

OOO     An Out-Of-Order scheduler can select any instructions in the microprocessor's pre-fetch buffer, bypassing those that cannot yet be issued (started) due to unresolved data dependencies or function-unit conflicts, thereby improving efficiency by making good use of otherwise idle time in parts of the processor.

OOP     Object-Oriented Programming

OPS     See: MOPS

order of magnitude     10x. Ten times. Mathematically, each order of magnitude (size) is ten times. Thus, 10,000 is an order of magnitude larger than 1,000. 100,000 is two orders of magnitude larger than 1,000. Order of magnitude is usually used to "wave a hand" at the actual size difference to give a general idea. For instance, to agree that "a horse is an order of magnitude bigger than a dog" doesn't require a set of scales. But if dogs can weigh 10 pounds to 125 pounds and horses weigh 1000-2000 pounds, then maybe horses weigh one to two orders of magnitude more than dogs. It is uncommon to use fractions in mention of orders of magnitude, so one does not often hear "two and a half orders of magnitude," partly because precision is not trying to be conveyed. Can be hyphenated for clarity.

OS     Operating System. Also see: RTOS

osc     oscillator

OSD     An On-Screen Display inserts a image locally at the monitor/display, usually to help select settings, overlaying what the computer thinks is displaying on the screen.

OSGi     Open Services Gateway Initiative

OSHA     The Occupational Safety and Health Administration operates under the US Department of Labor

OTA     Over The Air television is traditional broadcast television with radio signals transmitted and received using a terrestrial antenna.

OTG     On-The-Go USB (Universal Serial Bus) See: USB

OTP     One Time Programmable Read-Only Memory is non-volatile memory designed to be programmed only once and is essentially an EPROM packaged with no window, preventing ultraviolet light from ever erasing it. Packaging EPROM die so it can be erased noticeably raises costs of the memory or microcontroller. OTP solved the cost problem and in turn opened a new behavior in the MCU market. While OTP was more vision than invention, exploiting the extremely simple concept turned the microcontroller industry on its ear and put the company Microchip Technology (MCHP) on the map. The implication to MCUs of various memory technologies is the backbone of MCU evolution.

Mask-ROM-based MCUs are the least expensive MCUs because mask-ROM has very small die implications and because vendors require very high shipping volumes before they'll accept an order for a mask MCU. High volume means low cost. Offsetting the low unit cost is a mask charge (~$100,000) that is assessed each time the pattern (the program) is changed to correct errors or add features. The customer would amortize this non-recurring engineering (NRE) charge over the total production run of the MCU. The ideal situation is to have a 100% solid program committed to a mask-ROM-based MCU and run millions of the chips.

In the 1990's OTP MCUs took over as production MCUs for all but the highest-running end-equipment. Since 2000, Flash-memory-based MCUs have replaced OTP MCUs in all but the most cost-sensitive and most stable applications. See: memory

OTT     Over The Top services and content are delivered to the user over the Internet, wide area network (i.e. 3G, 4G cellular), or other medium. OTT indicates that the service provider of the medium (Internet) merely transmits the data yet has no specific control or management of the content, nor derives any additional revenue from it. VoIP, Netflix, and Skype are examples of OTT services. Access, Digital Rights Management, and collecting taxes are the responsibility of the OTT service provider.

overbar     Indicates "not", or the inverse. Electrical signals on schematic diagrams and chip pin-outs are usually labeled with a name indicating the function of the signal. These are often written in ALL CAPS because they are abbreviations or acronyms. For a signal that is active-low, that is, in the active or "on" logic state when it is at a ground (zero) voltage level, it will often have a horizontal line over the the signal label. That line is often referred to as an "overbar" or "overline", a word analogous to the much more common term "underline" which refers to a line underneath a word to add emphasis. Very few computer fonts display in overbar, so a prime (single quote) is sometimes used for the same purpose (Q'). In circuit diagrams, a "bubble" icon may reinforce the overbar name indicator for an active-low signal, but this can also cause confusion from a double negative.

2) In geometry and mathematics the overbar or overline is used to indicate a line segment.

P2P     Peer-to-Peer communication goes from endpoint to endpoint with no superior/inferior, server/client, master/slave relationship nor expectation of a hierarchy of intervening mediators.

PA     1) Hewlett-Packard once (late-1980's) designed a high-performance RISC processor architecture called "PA-RISC" for precision architecture. The HP PA had almost no business outside of Hewlett-Packard servers, with success not as strong as Sun’s similarly-inspired SPARC ISA (Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010). It is amazing how many companies thought the uniqueness of their own proprietary processor design, even when focused on just servers, could justify the great costs of originating, growing, and maintaining such a complex design. Ultimately, architectures shared by many OEMs and even many applications proved most viable. [Still popular multi-vendor architectures include: ARM, MIPS, Power/PowerPC, and x86]

PA     2) Power Amplifier     
   3) Public Address system (sometimes called a Tannoy™ - a brand - by Britons)

package     The packaging surrounding a semiconductor die protects the delicate circuitry inside from physical contact and damage while letting electrical connections to reach the die. The familiar black flat rectangular objects seen on a circuit board (see image at PCB) are the packaged electronic circuits (the black typical of the hard plastic molding). There are numerous package types for chips, each with attractive characteristics such as size, height, flexibility, lead (pin) spacing & density, heat dissipation (heat spreaders help in some packages), solderability, and, of course, cost.

Earlier packages were "through-hole" packages with pins that passed through the circuit board for mounting against a shoulder and soldered for electrical connection. Modern packages are more likely to be "surface-mount" where leads (notice the change in term) are soldered to traces on the top surface of the board, requiring slightly less space. The spacing of leads/pins on a package is called the pitch (measured center-to-center). Many packaged devices are shipped in bulk to customers using specially designed, static-free tubes, trays, and for high-speed placement tape-and-reel.

Two standards organizations are often associated with packaging: Joint Electron Devices Engineering Council (
JEDEC) and the Electronic Industries Association of Japan (EIAJ). Common packaging types include: Dual In-line Package (DIP)
– see illustration, Ceramic DIP (CDIP or CerDIP), Thin Small-Outline Package (TSOP), Pin Grid Array (PGA), Ball Grid Array (BGA), Plastic Leadless Chip Carrier (PLCC), Plastic Quad Flat Pack (PQFP), Low-profile Quad Flat Pack (LQFP), Thin Quad Flat Pack (TQFP), Quad Flat Non-lead (QFN) – see photo, Small Outline Integrated Circuit (SOIC), Small Outline Transistor (SOT), (with Ceramic (C) versions being available for many of the listed Plastic (P) types).

Not all semiconductors are shipped in proper packages but are shipped in "lead frames" or "carriers" which require delicate handling. Some are shipped simply as "bare die", typically to be soldered directly to a circuit board or module by the customer. Some terms for these technologies include: Chip on Board (
COB), Chip Scale Package (CSP), Direct Chip Attach (DCA), and flip chip.

Packages are marked with identifiers such as vendor logos, part numbers, date codes, mask set, country-of-origin/assembly, and advertising (usually IP content), though identification can be obscured through codes when desired. Most full part order numbers include indications of the package type, clock frequency (speed) (for clocked digital circuits), and operating temperature range. The package type code in the order number is rarely the same as the acronyms given here (there is some commonality but can vary by vendor.) See: BGA, back end, MCM, POP, SiP, TSV, date code

PAM     Pulse Amplitude Modulation

PAN      Bluetooth is an example of a wireless Personal Area Network designed to provide digital connectivity between devices like mobile PCs, printers, PDAs, cellular phones, and cameras over a range of about 3-10 yards. See: Networks

PBX     A Private Branch Exchange (or PABX, A for Automatic) is a telephone switch located at a customer premise (thus, the private) to provide local switching for a large number of office, hospital, factory, or hotel telephones. A PBX allows a small number of lines from the central office to service a large number of subscribers (telephone sets) on the assumption that only a small number of those subscribers will need to use a line at any point in time. Look for an extended discussion about telephony here.

PC     In 1981, IBM inadvertently yet dramatically changed the world forever by introducing the IBM-PC, a desktop Personal Computer. Numerous small "home computers" had already sprinkled the market from small fledgling companies like Apple Computer, Commodore, and Radio Shack, based on various processors like the 6502 and assorted operating systems like CP/M. (Control Program/Monitor or Control Program for Microcomputers) written by Digital Research, Inc. But the simple fact that the well-established business-oriented mainframe computer company IBM entered the market with such a small machine galvanized the industry while adding legitimacy to the category of computers.

Built by a renegade group of designers in Boca Raton, Florida, the PC was based on an Intel 8088 processor that used a 16-bit instruction set. The 8-bit data bus hampered performance but allowed a narrower, cheaper interface to a simpler memory system. A relatively unknown company named Microsoft wrote a disk operating system similar to CP/M for the computer and named it
MS-DOS (MicroSoft-Disk Operating System). The rest, as they say, is history.

PCB     Thethe familiar green Printed Circuit Board familiar green multi-layer fiberglass Printed Circuit Board is a mainstay of the electronics industry, usurped only by the integrated circuit that replicates part of the PCB's function of bringing together a myriad of circuits onto a piece of silicon rather than the PCB. See: SBC, IC, SoC, die

PCI     Peripheral Component Interconnect parallel bus for PCs

PCM     Pulse Code Modulation/Modulator

PCT     Programmable Communicating Thermostat associated with the Smart Grid where rate or quality data may be considered while making decisions

PDA     Personal Digital Assistant, a popular term for the handheld multi-purpose electronic device that provided more functionality than the simpler PIM in a similar form factor.  PDAs were data-oriented, dominated by a large (2½ x 4") color touch screen making them broader than a cell phone of the day, but without the wireless or telephone capability. Circa 1990's/2000's. Smarter cell phones (3G, +) eventually made PDAs superfluous. See: PIM

PGA     1) Pin Grid Array. See: package     2) Programmable Gain Amplifier

PHY      Physical layer interface, often to a serial communications cable like
CAT-5/RJ-45 for Ethernet

PIM      A Personal Information Manager is a handheld touchscreen device often made up of a calendar, address book, and notepad. PalmPilot was the best known example (Palm being the name of the company and the Operating System / software.) These devices were overtaken by the more sophisticated PDA in the early '90's. See PDA

PIN      Personal Identification Number

pixel     The picture element (pixel) is the smallest element of an image and may have a color and intensity value associated with it. The resolution of an image depends on the number and quality of pixels that comprise it. The quality is often referred to as "depth" which may determine which of 64K (16-bit), 16M (24-bit), or 4G (32-bit) colors is assigned to that pixel.

PLA     Programmable Logic Array

PLC     1) Programmable Logic Controller - a board- or box-level product often used in industrial control

2) Power Line Communications - where the "mains" power line (running 100 to 240V alternating current) is the physical medium that carries the communications data

PLD      Programmable Logic Device - a semiconductor category

PLL      Phase-Locked Loop oscillator (clock generator)

PMIC    Power Management Integrated Circuit

PMP     Personal or Portable Media Player, a more-encompassing term than just MP3 Player

PMSM   3-phase brushless Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor. See: motors

PND     Personal Navigation Device - a handheld GPS-based system

POE     Power Over Ethernet

POP     Package On Package (limited usage)

POP3      Post Office Protocol-3,

POR     A Power-On Reset circuit is specially designed to assure a semiconductor chip comes alive properly after initial application of power. This is more critical for chips with oscillators and clock circuits. More complex chips often require different parts of the circuit to become active in a specified sequence to eliminate the possibility of chip lock-up. Seriously intermittent and erratic power, perhaps due to transients and the starting of numerous chips almost simultaneously, has the potential of putting a less-carefully designed chip into an unstable condition that prevents chip operation without fully removing power and starting again. See: BOD, BOR

POS     1) The Point of Sale is the location at the retailer where the customer exchanges money for goods or services and often the terminating end of an electronic system to track and inventory goods and services. A POS terminal is an exotic electronic cash register.

2) Packet-over-SONET

3) Piece of Stink - loving description of a beat-up, ugly, barely-running old car - or other system

POTS      Plain Old Telephone Service - think: 1970 telephony; circuit-switched telephony

pound sign     # or £  See: hash

PowerPC, Power     A popular processor architecture managed by IBM and Freescale Semiconductor, with limited availability in IP form. PowerPC was a commercial version of the more robust POWER architecture IBM had established internally, and was developed and nurtured by a joint venture of IBM Microelectronics, Motorola Semiconductor Products, and Apple Computer. In 2004, much of IBM's moderate performance, merchant Power-based MPU business was sold to Applied Micro (then called AMCC), which has further developed the product line. Around 2006, after Apple abandoned the architecture in its Macintosh computers in favor of the Intel x86 architecture ("IA"), the "PC" portion of the name was suppressed. POWER was supposed to stand for the contrived "Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC", and while power-ful is attractive in high-performance computing, the more universally desirable quality low-power has never really been associated with the architecture. Advancements of the original IBM-only POWER processors are impressive and found in IBM's most-powerful servers. Sometimes "PA" is used to refer to Power Architecture. [Other popular multi-vendor architectures include: ARM, MIPS, and x86]

PPB, PPM    Parts Per Billion/Million, often used to indicate a concentration or error rate

PPP     Point-to-Point Protocol for networking

PQFP     Plastic Leaded Chip Carrier

PRML     Partial Response, Maximum Likelihood

process, process node, process technology     These terms associated with semiconductors refer to the set of characteristics, rules, steps, and techniques used in the fabrication (manufacture) of the semiconductor chip. In actuality these are complex, sophisticated, and very specific to a fab line. For simplicity and comparison, one or two terms are often used to categorize how advanced the process is. The first is a rough measure of the size of a prominent feature of the transistors, the gate length. More recently a second term is used to designate the goal of the process, often either in a high performance direction or to minimize power consumption. Perhaps other indications of the purpose of the process are indicated, such as analog or digital circuits. Some examples are given here, with more advancements being available as time passes.

1μ, 0.9μ, 0.65μ, ... 90nm, ...45nm, 32nm, 28mm, 22nm, 14nm...

processor     A digital processor executes a sequence of instructions (the program) to perform arithmetic and logical operations on data. The ability to branch to different parts of the program based on test conditions of the results gives particular intelligence to processors. A synchronizing clock determines how fast instructions are executed. The bit-size (or word-width) of the instructions determine the variety and intricacy of the operations and the bit-size of the data determines the resolution or range that the data can represent. Data might represent numeric information (typical for an MPU), I/O (input and output) representing switch, sensor, or control information (typical for an MCU), signal information like audio, video, or vibration (typical in a DSP), and other information (like graphic elements for a GPU or packets for a network processor).

The infinite programmability of the digital processor has made it an invaluable component of all modern electronics. This flexibility lets vendors supply one processor to hundreds of customers. Vendors can then spread the cost of the design (which is very high) and manufacturing of the processor across the cumulative volumes of all these customers. Numerous varieties of processors are available including MPU, MCU, DSP, graphical, network, vector, and core processors. The Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU) is the most basic component of a processor. See: MPU, MCU, DSP, ALU, core, MultiCore

PSTN     Public Switched Telephone Network; the traditional paired-wire telephone system

PTP     The IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol is a mechanism for permitting timing and synchronization of events within a microsecond across the normally-non-deterministic Ethernet.

PUC     The Public Utility Commission is often a government body overseeing electrical, gas, water, telephone and similar issues within a state or region. (common USA term)

PV     PhotoVoltaic electricity generation by conversion of photon energy (sunlight) directly to electricity, as with solar cells, excluding schemes of heating water to drive turbines

PWM     Pulse Width Modulation/Modulator

Q     Q stands for a three-month Quarter when measuring time by the calendar as is often done in financial summaries, production rates, or gross target dates. It is common to see 2Q18 which indicates the second quarter of the year 2018, but changing the order to Q2 is also acceptable, though difficult to integrate the year as concisely. CQ designates the Calendar Quarter (the default), while FQ refers to a Fiscal (financial) Quarter that is highlighted when it is not aligned with the calendar quarter. Many Japan-based companies end their fiscal year March 31. Sometimes an "E" or "P" is inserted to indicate an Estimate or Projection. The calendar quarters are:
    1Q: Jan 1 - Mar 31;
    2Q: Apr 1 - June 30;
    3Q: July 1 - Sep 30;
    4Q: Oct 1 - Dec 31.

Quarters are not all equal in length since April, June, September, and November have only 30 days, and February has 28 days (+1 on leap year.) Also, weekend alignments and local holidays can skew business conditions for each quarter. More generally, vacations/holidays in summer or year-end gift-giving and budget spending/tightening can have predictable impact on business from quarter to quarter.

The production or financial results of months or quarters are often compared in two ways, so it is important to indicate or understand exactly which quarter-pair is being compared.

a) Quarters might be compared to the previous sequential quarter, such as 3Q/2Q, often generically called Q/Q or quarter-over-quarter. Care must be exercised when interpreting this comparison due to "seasonality", the fact that some months and seasons have typically higher activity than others. For instance, 1Q results might be much lower than an end-of-year gift-giving / budget-spending 4CQ.  

b) More meaningful indications can often be obtained by comparing a quarter's production or results to the same quarter in the previous year, better referred to as quarter-over-year-ago-quarter, but commonly called year-over-year, such as 2Q19/2Q18. Comparing year-ago quarters should give a good indication of sustainable growth (or warn of a concerning decline.)

Similar annual designations: Y/Y. Any Fiscal Year (
FY) that starts on a date other than January 1, the beginning of the Calendar Year (CY), should be specified very clearly. See: Q/Q, CAGR, Y/Y

2) Q can represent the output in simple logic symbols like an S-R latch.

Q/Q     Quarter-over-Quarter, usually expressed as a percentage where a negative number indicates a decline from the other quarter. Formula = ( Qcurrent / Qprevious ) – 1
Similar full-year comparison: Y/Y. See discussion at: Q

QAM      Quadrature Amplitude Modulation

QED     The corporation Quantum Effects Design, later Quantum Effects Devices, developed designs and chips using the MIPS processor architecture with favorite markets of printers and networking. Acquired by PMC-Sierra in 2000.

QFP     Quad Flat Pack. See: package

QoS     Quality of Service is a measurement of the availability and timeliness of data packets being transmitted and received across a network, often hampered by noise, re-transmissions, routing and switch delays, bandwidth, traffic congestion, encryption, and security overhead.

QT     Quiet.  Hush-hush. Confidential. As in "on the QT". This is a very casual term.

QWERTY  †from the original patent of a typewriter with QUERTY layout
The standard English typewriter (and now computer) keyboard laid out with the letters on the keys starting in the upper-left corner in the order
Q-W-E-R-T-Y   See: 1

Big R

R     The letter R is often used to represent resistance, a fundamental electrical quality of materials. See: ampere, Ω

RADAR      The British effectively used the new RAdio Detection And Ranging technology to detect large metallic objects (aircraft and bombs) hurtling through the air at their country at the behest of a madman during World War II. Radar has advanced and is widely used in many other applications as well. SONAR (SOund Navigation And Ranging) similarly bounces sound waves under water rather than electromagnetic radio waves through air to reflect off of objects to locate them. Animals such as bats (through air) and whales use similar (audio) techniques for echo location. Doppler effects can now be analyzed to determine relative speed of objects as well.

RAID      The Redundant Array of Independent Disks combines multiple disk drives together to improve fault tolerance and performance. RAID level 5 RAID is a technique combining parity with three or more disks to add redundancy, enhance resiliency, and increase performance.

RAM      Random Access Memory is a fundamental memory type. Almost all semiconductor memories today can be randomly accessed (rather than reading the next piece of data quite close to the current piece of data) especially Flash and ROM, so the "random access" part of the name is almost meaningless now. The far more significant implication of RAM is the ability to constantly write fresh data into memory locations. The good thing about RAM is that it responds extremely quickly. Cache memories are implemented with RAM. The two primary forms of RAM are Static RAM (SRAM) and the much-higher-density Dynamic RAM (DRAM) which must dance around a clock and be "refreshed" to maintain the data in its cells. A negative of SRAM and DRAM is that when power is removed, the contents of the memory is lost, so that data is considered "volatile". See: memory

RBS     Radio Base Station (see: BTS)

RCH     An extremely small distance barely visible to the naked eye; used in phrases such as "we're only off by an RCH."  Popular term among mechanics and mechanical engineers even though few have ever seen the mythical RCH and no metric or Imperial standard has ever been established for the measure.

RDK     Reference Design Kit. See: EVM

RDS     Radio Data System (circa 1987)

read-modify-write     Processors need the ability to read a memory location, modify the contents, and write updated contents back to the location without delay or interruption caused especially from other bus-masters. This allows proper management of semaphores that are used for synchronization with the system and assuring only one master has access to a shared resource. This read-modify-write sequence must be atomic, that is, uninterruptible, in order to assure proper operation.

real estate     Because of some similarities to Earth-bound land, the term "real estate" is often used in association with semiconductor chips, even to the extent of referring to "nano-acres of silicon" (this makes engineers chuckle). Note the remarks under "die". Some concepts that are similar:
     • Cost increases fairly linearly with area (square feet or square millimeters)
     • Starting with the base silicon wafer, layers of material are built above, much like constructing a building on land, although each layer may be built very differently.
     • The same way allowance must be made for hallways and elevators to let people go quickly from one room or floor to another, traces, buses, and vias must be accommodated on chips to let electrical signals go from one part of the circuit to another, consuming valuable die area and requiring effective routing.

real-time     A simple description of real-time is "imperceptible delay." It is critical for many applications:
     • Audio processing
     • Video processing
     • Machine control
     • Motor control
     • Automotive safety – ABS, airbag, traction/stability control

Real-time is nice but not always required in some applications:
     • Network traffic (data can be re-sent)
     • Voice response (people take time to think)
     • User interfaces (human responses are relatively slow)

Real-time operation is critical in most situations. On a factory floor, stopping the drill must be done in real-time, before it cuts the material deeper than the set depth. However, reporting operating hours or even motor temperature to central maintenance is not time-critical. In an MP3 player it might not matter whether the audio program starts immediately (delay) when the play button is pushed, but it will be unacceptable if the audio stutters or skips during playback. The audio must be processed "in real time". If hitting a drum requires so much processing time that the drum sound during playback is delayed or skewed in relation to the rest of the instruments – or the original – then the processing is not "real-time" – and unacceptable.

A processor-based system might not be capable of real-time operation due to the slowness of many activities: interrupt response, instruction length, memory speed, register save and restore, processor clock frequency, loop or branch efficiency, instruction set effectiveness, operating system efficiency, algorithm complexity, and compiler effectiveness. The accumulation of all of these activities can prevent a system from attaining real-time operation.

The PC does not operate in real time - there are delays after hitting "enter" before the application appears to react, especially if there are other activities taking place. The Internet is not real-time – it may take seconds for a Web page to download. Even fluorescent light bulbs are not real-time – they may take a minute to come up to full brightness. Waiting for your printer to create a page is not real-time.

reference design     An essentially-complete end-application intended to be customized and finalized by an OEM, manufactured, and sold in volume. See: EVM

regions     The geographic regions which are used to partition the world wide markets generally embrace the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Asia-Pac. A clear understanding of the use of such regional splits, however, is complicated. Look for an extended discussion here to sort it out. See: APAC, EMEA, ROW, WW, extended discussion

REP       Retail Electricity Providers (electric utility industry)

resolution     The resolution of a display or screen is usually described by the number of pixels wide and high, although there are features such as pixel size and spacing as well as distance to the observer that impact the ability to resolve dots in an image. See: VGA

RF        Radio Frequency, "radio"

RFI       Radio Frequency Interference, electromagnetic noise  See: EMI

RFID     Radio Frequency IDentification

RFP, RFQ   Request For Proposal/Quote

RGB     Red, Green, and Blue are the three primary colors of light (source) that form white light when combined. Therefore, essentially any color can be created from just the right combinations of intensities of these three color lights. RGB is used to describe anything from colors in software graphics programs to cables leading to hardware displays (like the old RCA plug/jacks). The connectors on analog signal cables to monitors are sometimes called RGB connectors though more properly the physical connector is called a D-sub connector. 256 levels of intensity are typical for each of the three colors to describe a color in 24 bits.

RIP       The Raster Image Processor was probably first used on early laser printers to build the image/text to be printed in dedicated memory so it could be formed on the printed page in one continuous printing. The RIP engine is located in the printer (rather than the computer sending the image/text) and interprets PostScript and similar languages plus draws and scales the vector fonts used. The RIP uses a combination of software and hardware which typically lives in the printer to execute the character, line, and image description code (PostScript and PCL are two such languages), rendering it into dots on a page. Thus, a PostScript printer uses a RIP engine to read and interprets PostScript programs, producing graphical information that gets imaged to paper, film, or plate.

RISC      Reduced Instruction Set Computer - instructions that can execute in a single cycle with functionality limited to a 1) math or logical operation, 2) address pointer manipulation, 3) memory access (two cycle execution) or 4) conditional branch. RISC processors allow much higher clocking to be attained by keeping the operations simple compared to CISC processors and came into popularity in the mid-1980's. ARM, MIPS, SPARC, and PowerPC are well-known RISC architectures. See: processor, CISC

RJ-11, RJ-45     Registered Jack, a standard serial connector for 2 (RJ-11), 4, 6, or 8 (RJ-45) wires, expected in pairs. RJ-11 are usually used in telephony with green/red and black/yellow 22-gauge wire while RJ-45 are popular with CAT-5 (category-5) twisted pair network cable using blue, orange, green, and brown 24-gauge wire, each paired with a white-with-color wire. There is a lot of mis-use of the terminology but people usually understand. Technically, the RJ refers just to the jack, but is also casually used to refer to the plug. Similarly, CAT-5 is often called Ethernet cable.
Good layman wiring discussion at  

RKE     Remote Keyless Entry allows car doors to be locked or unlocked by pushing a button on a key fob radio transmitter rather than having to physically insert a key into the lock.

RMS     Root Mean Square - the most meaningful expression of power in a fluctuating (AC) electrical circuits (e.g. audio)

RNC     Radio Network Control

RNG     Random Number Generator (a casual abbreviation)

ROI     Return On Investment refers to what it takes to recoup (get back) all of the investment put into a project. This investment usually refers to finance but can be extended to include time, labor, heart, "sweat equity", and other efforts put into the project. The point at which one recovers one's entire sunk costs or investment is often referred to as the "break even" point. Pure finance and accounting procedures may establish specific definitions of ROI and related terms like Return On Net Assets (RONA), Return On Equity (ROE), etc.

RoHS    Restriction of Hazardous Substances (spoken: row’-hoss)

ROM      Read-Only Memory is a fundamental memory type. Once programmed, the data in ROM can be read out reliably time-after-time. ROM is used to hold programs (sequences of instructions) for microprocessors and microcontrollers, and because it is unchangeable (for the most part) those programs are referred to as "firmware" as opposed to "software" (which implies readily-changed.) Sometimes the term ROM is used where the term "program" would be more correct, often in the sense of ROM (which holds the program) and RAM (which holds the variable data).

ROM might also contain tables of fixed data which might be quicker for the processor to parse than executing a series of mathematical operations to arrive at the same result. Look-up tables (LUT, mentioned elsewhere) might also translate the color green to the computer value
33FF00h for use on a Web page, or the letter "A" pushed on a keyboard that comes in as 41h to a series of dots in multiple rows to form the character A on a screen.

ROM is programmed at the vendor's factory in a metal mask layer, and thus is called "mask ROM." Mask ROM is the most-dense form of non-volatile memory. The special mask layer is costly to make and takes time to run through the factory, and the resulting product can usually only be sold to one customer. The customer is usually charged an
NRE (non-recurring engineering) charge for each mask, and may have to wait 4 weeks to see the final parts.

The patterns in mask ROM can not be changed, and thus mistakes in the data are costly, requiring "work arounds" that use programming tricks to accommodate the errors or completely throwing away the chip and programming another (with NRE charges, etc). Over time, other forms of memory solved some ROM difficulties. See: OTP, memory

ROW     The Rest Of World is often used to describe geographic markets other than the United States, Europe, and Japan. Use of ROW is a little dated and varies somewhat with the United States sometimes being replaced by North America or The Americas (N & S). Also Europe is often expanded somewhat with the unification of former "Eastern Block" countries into a European Union culminating in 1993, or with Europe being replaced by EMEA - Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Sometimes A/P, Asia-Pac, or APAC are used in a similar, if less precise, fashion to ROW referring to the Asia and Pacific region (but usually excluding Japan). Four geographical regions might be described as the Americas, Europe, Japan, and ROW.

The significance of China in recent years may cause China to be pulled out separately from ROW or A/P. In practice, economic data for regional electronics usage is well-refined in the major economies but not well-scrubbed for smaller and newer countries added to the original regions. However, ROW clearly accounts for "all the other shipments" made to the world exclusive of the named regions/countries. Look for an extended discussion here to sort it out. See: APAC, EMEA, WW, extended discussion - regions

RSA     A public-key cryptographic system, the letters come from the last names of Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman

RTC     A Real Time Clock or Time of Day (TOD) clock is a timer that keeps track of the time and date, usually in a form that is easily read or displayed, such as mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm:ss a/p. It is important that such clocks keep time very accurately so that the time is still correct after a number of years. Most RTCs run from a 32768 Hz "watch" crystal which is accurate within 20 ppm (parts per million) beats.

The original IBM PC used a real-time clock which was an independent circuit and it was kept alive by the "CMOS battery" that had to be changed every few years. The circuit became integrated into many other chips. The power an RTC consumes is the subject of much attention because it may be the only circuit kept alive during "power off" of most electronic systems, and so can be a main source of battery drain.

Some people tried to paralyze the IT industry in the year 2000 blaming improper readings from RTCs. The sky was not falling, but FUD did sell a lot of computers, software upgrades, services, and "research".

RTL     Register Transfer Language or Level. See: TLM

RTOS  †     Most embedded systems rely on a Real-Time Operating System to respond quickly to handle sporadic events that occur in the equipment. that require attention. Since an operating system (OS) allocates hardware and software resources and manages the starting and completion of numerous software tasks, very fast interrupt response with lean switching overhead is critical for initiating the service routines to handle real-world events. See: real-time

s     Second (time), sometimes capitalized

SaaS     Software as a Service indicates that software programs are not purchased like traditional merchandise, owned by the purchaser for use for eternity, but instead are paid for on a subscription basis, possibly with a larger up-front cost followed by a recurring cost on a periodic basis for continued use. Many "aaS" services have added to and expanded the <anything> as-a-service concept, including Platform (PaaS) and Infrastructure (IaaS) as a service; often making use of Cloud Computing and Storage.

SAE        The Society of Automotive Engineers

SAM  †    The Served Available Market (sometimes: Addressable) is the market for which the product / service is intended to be sold, and is less than the TAM. If the product is an automobile, the TAM might be all passenger vehicles, but the SAM might be cars, excluding light trucks. However, when considering the TAM, this particular car might draw a few people out of their pickup trucks. Alternatively, proportionately, truck sales may increase, squeezing the car SAM smaller even though vehicle TAM is constant. SAM must be realistically specified to be useful. "Black 2-door Studebakers" is a market that other vendors can not serve, but "sports cars" may be the right SAM for a Mustang. Pay attention to exactly what SAM is being referenced when market share is discussed. See: TAM, SOM, share

SAR  †    Successive Approximation – a technique often used for converting analog signals to digital. Different from delta-sigma techniques. See: delta

SBC     The Single-Board Computer is a board-level computer that today might be called a "blade" and would include a semiconductor processor on the board and likely the memory as well. Some standard board configurations include VME or PC104 which entail physical, electrical, and power specifications. See PCB

SC       Not standard, but occasionally short for semiconductors

SCI     Serial Communications Interface   See: SPI, I2C

SCSI  †    Small Computer System Interface. Spoken as: sku’ zy

SDK     Software Development/Developers Kit. See: EVM

SDMA      Space Division Multiple Access

SDN     Software-Defined Network. See: NFV/SDN

SDRAM  †    Synchronous Dynamic RAM; spoken: ess-dee'-ram

SEC     The United States Security and Exchange Commission regulates stock market and associated financial transactions and the reporting of pertinent information by corporations listed and traded on stock exchanges in the jurisdiction of the United States.

semiconductor     Semiconductors are materials based on chemical elements that are neither good electrical conductors (like gold and silver) nor good electrical insulators. Instead, under particular conditions, semiconductors can be quickly changed from conductors to insulators, controlling and even amplifying properties of electricity. Silicon (Si) is by far the most useful basis of semiconductors, although in the early days Germanium (Ge) was used (both elements from group 14 of the periodic table of the elements), although some very high-speed circuits today use a molecular combination of gallium (Ga) and arsenic (As) called gallium arsenide, annotated GaAs and spoken in conversation simply as "gas". See: IC, SiGe

SERDES  †    The 10-bit SERialize and DESerializer physical-medium attachment sub-layer for Gigabit Ethernet

share     The Market Share (or SOM) of a product is the percentage of the market which purchases or uses the product / service. Competitors serve the balance of that market and market share is one important measure of the success and growth of a product / service. Suppliers fight vigorously to gain market share because amortizing costs across the greatest volume usually gives the lowest per-item cost. Describing the market properly is important and should be agreed among industry specialists. See: TAM, SAM, SOM

SH, SuperH     The SuperH processor architecture (sometimes just SH) family includes MCUs (SH-1 and SH-2) and MPUs. Many of Renesas' 32-bit MCUs are based on the SuperH family. The original SuperH was designed by Hitachi (later absorbed into Renesas Electronics.) Early in 2001, SuperH Inc. was organized to license the architecture, but within five years and after a cooperative venture with STMicro yielded little commercial benefit, the licensing was largely abandoned. [Other popular multi-vendor architectures include: ARM, MIPS, Power/PowerPC]

SHA-1  †   The Secure Hash Algorithm is an encryption technique. Others: DES, AES

Si     Silicon, the basic material of semiconductor circuits; when properly treated, silicon is conductive under given conditions, otherwise insulating. Partly because it is so plentiful on earth, silicon is generally very inexpensive even as the highly refined crystal used in semiconductors.

SIG   †    Special Interest Group

SiGe  †    A chemical compound of Silicon and Germanium; abbreviation pronounced sig'-ee (hard "g")

sigma     See: Σ, A-to-D, delta

SIM  †    A SIM card for a cell phoneSubscriber Identity Module - typically a smart card microcontroller chip used in a cell phone that contains data and may perform authentication or run simple applications.

SIMD  †  Single Instruction, Multiple Data refers to one instruction that causes the same operation to be effected on numerous pieces of data in parallel, for instance adding eight pairs of data to eight individual totals. Can be useful for media processing, like video. The acronym is often pronounced like "sim-dee".

SiP  †     1) System-in-a-Package (multi-chip, stacked…) usually refers to a number of chips connected together in a package (not all need to be semiconductors). Chips can be mounted side-by-side in the package or stacked on top of each other. A good example is a processor chip connected to a memory chip or two, all in one package, allowing for quite a mix of memory configurations without the difficulty of laying out a chip for each.  See: package, 3-D, TSV

SIP        2) Silicon Intellectual Property. See: IP

SKU  †    The Stock Keeping Unit might be considered the part number or product number that identifies an item, although a SKU might include information that is unique to the distributor, transporter, packaging, and quantity in a container, as well as the manufacturer, of the item. SKUs are used for inventory management and therefore came into use along with Universal Product Code (UPC) and their attendant "bar codes" which are essentially machine-readable versions of the SKU. Spoken as: skew.

smart, smart phone     There is no real standard for when an electronic device is considered "smart", since any electronic device utilizing a processor is equipped with a great deal of mathematical and decision-making capability, which could be called intelligence. It is hard to define when a human being should be labeled as "smart". When the Apple iPhone burst onto the market in 2007, it essentially embodied the definition of a "smart phone" [sometimes, one word: smartphone], although other mobile phones like the RIM Blackberry had previously been designated as smart; servicing and integrating multiple functions like a camera, email system, Web browser, and office productivity software into the mobile telephone handset.

As the Internet-of-Things (see IoT) started to describe highly-connected, intelligent electronic devices, the term "smart" has become attached to any device (the Things) that connects to the Internet. A grand extension of this the smart car, smart city, smart grid (electricity), and smart planet, denoting massively interconnected, intelligent digital devices all communicating vital information that makes all attached systems more capable than if they operated in isolation.

SMB, SME   Small-to-Medium Business or Enterprise, a common market category

2) sometimes, Subject Matter Expert

SMP     Symmetric MultiProcessing. See: homogeneous, heterogeneous, AMP (asymmetric)

SMS     The Short Messaging Service allows text messages up to 160 characters to be transmitted between cell phones. Originally a low bandwidth channel expected to be used for system maintenance, when made available to users it quickly became the most successful revenue generator for cellular carriers after voice calls - until the Internet became accessible to the mobile phone.

SMT       Surface-Mount Technology. See: package

SMTP     Simple Mail Transport Protocol used in email

SNAFU  †  Military jargon for Situation Normal - All Fouled Up. However, a milder form of snafu (sometimes without the caps and not particularly an acronym) is used in civilian life to simply mean an unexpected, possibly undefined, problem. See: FUBAR

SNMP     Simple Network Management Protocol

SNR     Signal-to-Noise Ratio, an indication of signal strength, measured logarithmically (dB)

SoC    A System-on-a-Chip is an easy concept and seemingly self-explanatory, but in reality is difficult to pin down indisputably. The SoC is the most-highly integrated circuit today, typically with a variety of functions blended together on a single piece of silicon. The chip should be comprised of all of the major functions required to operate the system, including the digital processor. The entire semiconductor memory system is not expected to be on the SoC, mostly because it could be huge – four or five chips in itself. An SoC should contain at least a quarter million transistors.

The difficulty with defining an SoC is pinning it down. Is a processor required or can the chip simply contain 250,000 gates of logic? What if a massive function is implemented but it takes four similar-sized SoCs to build the entire system? Does it matter if the SoC requires a few support chips like A-to-D converters or PHYs? What if the system is relatively small – something that a microcontroller can operate, like an automobile climate control? Isn't a microcontroller the original SoC? Is a highly-integrated embedded processor or 32-bit microcontroller an SoC? Do all ASICs and ASSPs fit the classification of SoC? Is a classification of SoC mutually exclusive of MPUs, ASICs, and ASSPs, or an independent label?

Does it matter? Generally some of these issues are simply areas for discussion, but when companies and marketers declare "the market for SoCs is $150B," then it is important to understand what is included in the category.

When spoken, the letters are spelled out, with the plural form adding an "s" to the end, thus spoken as: ess-oh-seas'. However, the plural of the spelled-out written term is "systems on chip". See: IC

soft core     For description in context see: hard core

software development kit     SDK.  See: EVM

SOHO       1) A market surface of the Suncategory of modest electronic office equipment described as Small Office-Home Office.

2) The SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory sends some great photographs of the Sun.  

3) Also an area at the edge of London with an interesting cultural heritage (initial cap only)

SOI     Silicon on Insulator, plus a Fully-Depleted version (FD-SOI)

SOL     Sadly Out of Luck is a cleaned up version of the military acronym indicating there are no good options

solid state     Transistor-based electronics and the integrated circuits that are made from them are considered to be solid state, which really means they are more hardy than the vacuum tube-based circuits and amplifiers that came before. Tubes (the British use the word "valve") are delicate, take up to a minute to warm up, and may burn out after a few years, while transistors and ICs can take vibration and physical abuse and are essentially instant-on and last forever. Solid state semiconductors have completely taken over from tube-based electronics, the transition starting in the 1950's

Two exceptions may be some broadcast radio towers that require power output beyond what power transistors can handle, and the finest audio gear from which the "golden ears" of certain well-trained humans can distinguish the odd harmonics perpetuated through tubes for a smoother sound than the even harmonics of digital electronics grind out. Even the last remaining widespread use of vacuum tubes of a different form - the CRT (cathode-ray tube) - quickly fell from favor as LCD screens, LED displays, and other flat, lower-power, less cumbersome, slightly-more-rugged screen technologies replaced CRTs for computer monitors and television screens and mobile phone screens (with "touch" capabilities) during the few years around 2010.

The vision of those older TV tubes dying out as power was turned off and the deflection electromagnets and voltage faded, or warbling as the vertical sync or horizontal hold was de-stabilized by aging components or low-flying aircraft, is a vision that is fading into memory (human, not solid state memory). See: semiconductor

SOM  †    Share Of Market or market share. See: share, SAM, TAM

SONET  †    Synchronous Optical NETwork

SOP     Standard Operating Procedure is a carefully-documented procedure for performing a given task. Also, in an off-hand context such as "that is SOP", SOP is a way of saying "the way things are normally done" - Standard Operating Procedure - without there being an actual written procedure.

2) In automotive parlance, SOP can mean Start Of Production

SPARC  †     The RISC processor architecture that executes the instruction set which was originally developed by Sun Microsystems, Inc., acquired by Oracle Corporation (Nasdaq: ORCL) in 2010. Common SPARC processor cores include UltraSPARC and SPARClite. SPARC is short for Scalable Processor Architecture. The name "Sun" was originally inspired by the alma mater of its founders, Stanford University. MIPS and Sun's SPARC were the two architectures that exemplified the commercial push for RISC processors in the mid 1980's. MIPS was licensed widely, but SPARC found few long-term homes outside of Sun's own equipment, so only a narrow (if mighty) vertical of software developed around SPARC. [Still popular multi-vendor architectures include: ARM, MIPS, Power/PowerPC, and x86]

SPI  †     Serial Peripheral Interface. See: SCI, I2C

splat     an off-hand term commonly used among programmers to refer to the asterisk: *

SPS     Samples Per Second, a speed rating used in A-to-D converters and signal processing. Sometimes: kSPS (thousand Samples Per Second) or MSPS (Mega/Million ...) See: ADC, DSP

SQL     Structured Query Language (for databases)

SR       Spinning Reserve method of storing electricity, including/especially for alternating current (AC)

SRAM  †     Static RAM; spoken: ess'-ram. See: memory

SSD     Solid State Disk drives are huge arrays of Flash semiconductor memory with a front end that mimics the operation of a hard drive. SSDs have advantages over hard drives because they are immune to vibration and physical disturbances, provide data readouts very quickly and generate no noise and little heat. However, SSDs do "wear out" as it becomes more difficult for the Flash to hold its data charge with each write action, which is mitigated by "wear leveling" techniques performed on the chips. Also while the cost of Flash memory is always going down, SSDs with the same capacity as their hard drive counterpart are more than an order of magnitude more expensive. Still, SSDs are available in much smaller sizes, and prices, than the smallest hard drive. See: memory, Objective Analysis reports

SSID   Service Set IDentifier

SSL     Secure Sockets Layer

ST, STM     Common short-hand for the Europe-based semiconductor corporation STMicroelectronics, which is a long-term conglomeration of many semiconductor companies, but primarily Italy's SGS Microelettronica and France's Thomson Semiconducteurs in the late 1980's. (NYSE: STM)

STB     A Set-Top Box converts digitally-encoded data streams into an analog or different digital signal that is suitable as the input to television sets. The term reflects the origins of the nondescript boxes sitting on top of the TV set.  STBs often present the program guide to the user for channel selection and, in more advanced systems, arranges recording for DVRs. STBs are often categorized into Analog, Digital, Terrestrial, Cable, or Satellite according to the incoming media. Other equipment that may perform similar functions include video game consoles and PCs.

STEM     In the education field, STEM refers to the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

stepping     (see: mask set) Semiconductors are manufactured using extremely sophisticated processes performed at almost unimaginably-small scales (with some parameters literally being only six atoms wide).  To look at it in a simplified manner, a chip is built by building layers of specially processed material on one another.  Those layers might be laid down the way sand and silt settles to the bottom of sea beds (deposition) over millennia. Each layer may be bombarded with light or certain chemicals to alter the composition or characteristics of the layer, possibly making it [more resistant or] more conducive to attracting or emitting free electrons (semi-conducting). Because this is a repetitive process where one layer is formed, then another layer on top of that (often in different thickness, chemical makeup, characteristics, doping, etc., often exposing or masking in a different pattern)

Semiconductor chips are manufactured in a layering process, depositing a layer of material, altering characteristics of that material, often using masks to produce precise patterns on the layer, and then repeating many times to build up the entire chip.  Some of the process is like the (old) photographic process of very quickly exposing light-sensitive material to different amounts of light to leave an image or pattern on the material.  In photography, the film from the camera provided the "negative" which filtered or masked where the light was to fall on the paper.  Semiconductors (try to) cut very precise edges to the "images" that are put on the layer and a mask is used to provide the desired pattern on the layer.  

Because it is a repeating process, performed one step at a time, many masks – each different – (and many other processes) are used to create transistors, conductors, and electronic sensitive features that ultimately make up the semiconductor chip.  From six to 20 and more layers may be built up.  Because they so specifically create the circuitry of each semiconductor component, the masks are often called "Mask Sets" or "Steppings". Vendors assign four or five alphanumeric characters to their mask sets (largely for internal use) such as "3K85K", and may simplify those to single or double-letters, such as "the B stepping", for more casual discussions.  These are usually marked on the outside of the chip package for traceability.  Mask set and stepping designations only specify what was used to build the electronics but have no reference to the (chip's protective) package.

SW, s/w     Software. See: processor, firmware

SWD     Serial-Wire Debug is a two-wire hardware interface in certain ARM processor cores (ARM-specific, not generic use)

system     A collection of interacting, interdependent parts. Any of those parts might be referred to as a subsystem or component. See: black box, block diagram

click for the history behind our titles

T's & C's    The Terms and Conditions are the "fine print" or the documentation of what happens after a stated situation develops. Most sales contracts or other contracts have T's & C's, often printed on the back of the paper forms or in the long strings of text found in Web pages with the tiny little check box next to it. Read quickly or ignor the T's & C's at your peril. One or another of them have a way of becoming very significant in some future situation, at which point you will see why that particular statement was included in the paperwork.

T & D     Transmission and Distribution of electricity for utilities

T & M     The Test and Measurement instrument industry

T1, T3     1.544 and 44.736 Mbps data transmissions for North America. See: E1

TAM  †     The Total Available Market includes the entire market that can be reasonably served by the product. The TAM for automobiles will normally exclude light trucks and especially motorcycles, even though all might be found in a residential garage. See: share, SAM, SOM

TBD     To Be Determined, used to indicate an unknown or uncommitted specification, value, or date that has not yet been determined. Information that is To Be Announced (TBA) should be forthcoming, but may also not yet be determined.

TCP/IP     Transmission Control Protocol with Internet Protocol

TCO     The Total Cost of Ownership of a product encompasses not only the initial cost to buy the equipment and its attentive software, but also the costs of installation, training, maintenance, upgrades, and repairs, plus the cost of floor space and air conditioning - all over the lifetime of the product. Even the cost of lost production while out of service could be included in TCO. The cost of consumables such as printer ink, paper, and electricity should also be included. Consumables might be the largest part of some products from razors to printers. Service costs like monthly service charges must be included in TCO as well. Cell phones and satellite receivers might be given away because the service provider is underwriting the cost of the handset/equipment on the expectation of collecting 24 months of service charges. The first piece of equipment that requires metric tools when all other equipment makes use of English tools will require purchase of a metric tool set – and should be considered as part of the TCO. On the other hand, tax savings from depreciation and other write-offs should reduce TCO.

TD-SCDMA     Time-Division Synchronous Code-Division Multiple Access, a cellular (WAN) technology

TDMA     Time Division Multiple Access, a communications media access control (MAC) technique, often associated with cellular technology. Derived from the older, more-generic Time Division Multiplexing (TDM).

telephone dialing     How area codes and telephone numbers came to be and why we "dial" a telephone is wrapped up in the underlying technology. Business and technology are tied together over time to reveal the answers in this short story.

temperature range     Semiconductors are usually tested to operate within a selected temperature range (room temperature is around 25°C):
• Commercial   0°C to + 70°C
     • Industrial -40°C to + 85°C
     • Extended   -40°C to +105°C  (sometimes given other names)
     • Automotive -40°C to +125°C
     • Military   -55°C to +125°C

At lower temperatures, semiconductors run faster but consume more power. There is science and a little art to testing the chip at the extreme temperature points and specifying ("spec'ing") electrical parameters over the full range. The problem is that high performance is tied to the fast transistor switching that occurs at low temperature, but a 20% gain in performance may require doubling the power consumption – usually a poor trade-off. A chip operating at room temperature may run 750 MHz and only draw 3 watts even though the part is spec'd for worst-case which is 1000 MHz and 10 watts at -40°C.

Usually, in a sequence known as "binning" (putting into bins), semiconductors are tested first at the widest temperature range (say, automotive) and chips that pass are categorized and sold at that temperature range. Next the parts that failed the widest range are tested at the next-narrower (less stringent) temperature range (say, industrial) and chips passing that range are similarly categorized and ultimately sold at a lower price. After repeating this process enough times any parts that fail to pass the 0-to-70°C range are considered un-usable and either disposed of properly or sent for failure analysis (FA) to determine why.

Interspersed with temperature tests are speed tests for 1.5 GHz, 1.2 GHz, 1.0 GHz or whatever maximum frequencies the chip has been specified to run. Market demand may determine the sequence of this testing and whether an industrial 1.2 GHz part is more desirable than a commercial grade 1.5 GHz part. See: binning

thou     This means you. Ignor it at your own peril, especially when followed by "shalt not ..." Similar terms in Olde Englishe and King James' are thy, thine, and thee, with ye being similar to the modern day y'all, commonly heard in the United States's Deep South and Texas. Distinctions between these are beyond the scope of this text. More help may be available at

Thumb     The 32-bit ARM instruction set has a subset, called "Thumb", that consists of frequently-used instruction in a 16-bit format to conserve memory space and reduce memory accesses. A Thumb-enabled ARM processor must be switched into the Thumb mode to execute Thumb instructions. The "T" in the once-popular ARM7TDMI processor indicated Thumb capability. Availability of compact Thumb instructions is one of the reasons ARM processors were chosen to run early digital cellular phones, a market ARM continues to dominate.

Thumb2 instructions are a much newer form of compact ARM instructions. No mode switch is necessary to run Thumb2 instructions so they can be interspersed with normal ARM instructions, plus they execute faster than the prior Thumb instructions.

Other instruction set architectures also have compact instruction capability, like MIPS (Tiny MIPS), PowerPC, and SuperH, although it may be implemented differently.

TI     Common short-hand for the USA-based semiconductor corporation Texas Instruments. (NYSE: TXN)

Tier 1     In automotive industry parlance, a Tier 1 is a major subassembly or electronics module supplier, like Denso, Visteon, Delphi, Bosch, Panasonic, etc., as opposed to an OEM like General Motors, Toyota, or Mercedes-Benz.

TLA     Three-Letter Acronym - a reason glossaries are needed. The TLA is a somewhat sarcastic sneer at acronyms in general - the shortening of a longer phrase to just its initial letters. Often heard in sentences such as "that presentation was full of TLAs."

There are also nested, hierarchical, or multi-layered acronyms or abbreviations where one of the letters actually stands for an acronym/abbreviation itself, such as VITA = VME International Trade Association where VME=VERSAmodule Eurocard.

The mystique of TLAs even carries into corporate names where corporate names reduced to just three letters and commonly or officially used as such seems to imply greatness; i.e. IBM, ATT. While such three-letter abbreviations might be simple to use as the company's stock symbol, more-desired stock symbols seem to be single letters, like "T" for AT&T or "F" for Ford. The military has never been one to limit its acronyms and short-hands to just three letters. Note that some purists insist that an acronym must be pronounced as a word † (like: DOS). What a conundrum if TLA stood for Two-Letter Acronym. See: WYSIWYG, WMBTOPCITBWTNTALI

TLB     Translation Lookaside Buffer, often associated with memory management

TLM     Transaction-Level Model, an advanced, more-holistic method of describing a system, as opposed to RTL and others.

TOD     Time-of-day. See: RTC

TOU     An electrical or water charge rate based on Time-Of-Use, that is, the time of day the consumption occurred, is often proposed to help level out the total load on the utility supplying the resource.

triple play     A number of service providers surrounding forms of communications chase what is called the "triple play". This refers to Internet, television, and telephone service of various and sometimes unified forms. Technologies such as VoIP, VVoIP, and packet-based telephony allow most of these services to run on the backbone of the Internet and TCP/IP. Additionally, wireless versions of telephone (cellular) and Wi-Fi can be blended into the triple-play. As collections of services gather, the triple-play concept has added even more "plays" such as security (home/office security and monitoring) and energy management/home automation have been layered in. To the users, the convenience of one monthly bill and one point-of-contact and uniform service standard must be considered against total cost and ability of the sole service provider to provide quality service across all the service types (plays). Traditional cable TV, satellite TV, telephone companies, and electric utilities wrestle for customer attention and money with the triple-play (and quad-, quin-...)

TSV     A Through-Silicon Via (conductor) allow signals from one side of a semiconductor die (or silicon imposer) to get to the other side for connection to another die in a stacked (3D) die configuration. See: SiP, 3-D

TTL     Bipolar Transistor-Transistor Logic technology essentially made integrated circuits practical. In the 1980s, CMOS took over and is now the basis of most electronics today. See: CMOS.

TTM     Time-To-Market, a common, important, and well-understood term, although the abbreviation is not universally used. Sometimes similar phrases are used, like Time-To-Money, emphasizing how quickly revenues are generated.

turn-key     Turn-key means "ready to go". When a new car is picked up at the dealer, a person expects to put a key in the ignition switch, turn it, hear the engine start up, and drive the car home. There is already fuel in the tank, oil in the engine, body and carpets cleaned, battery hooked up, luggage rack installed, and tires pressurized. All the driver must do is turn the key to start the engine and drive off in a shiny new car. This describes "turn-key".

It may be more difficult for electronic equipment to be turnkey. Software may need to be installed, language selection may need to be made, cabling may need to be hooked up right, other equipment may be expected to be in place, a PC might need to be used, a service may need to be purchased and enabled, security codes must often be set, and the user may need a lot of instruction for how to use the equipment.

If the "out of the box" (
OOB) experience is frustrating then the new owner might return the equipment to the store rather than plod through the chore of setting it all up. The equipment maker may lose a sale because it had no control of the service needed to feed the equipment. Trained salesmen, "Quick Start" instructions, and help-desks attempt to mitigate the difficulty of preparing electronic equipment for use, but the goal is that "turn-key" experience of happily driving a car off the lot.

turns     Orders that are taken and shipped in the same month are considered "turns" business because the orders are turned around very quickly, essentially shipped out of inventory, or from a very well-managed, well-forecasted production operation. See: backlog, billings, book-to-bill, inventory

TV       TeleVision

u, µ     1) A lower-case "u" is often substituted for the more-correct Greek letter "mu" (µ) to indicate micro-, one-millionth, 10-6. See: micro-

U        2) The "U" in a many processor circuit acronyms (ALU, CPU, MPU, MCU, FPU...) stands for unit, a remnant of the days when many individual components on a board comprised this function, later collapsed to a single chip. In speech, a person would usually say "the microprocessor" or "the processor" - "unit" would rarely be said. When the acronyms are spoken, the "U" is still mentioned: e.g. "the em-pea-ewe." See: KU

UART  †    Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter, an early, basic serial communications description. See: USART

UE         User Equipment; see: CPE

UHD      Ultra High Definition (4K & 8K video and TV resolution)

UI         User Interface; see: GUI, HMI

UL     1) Underwriters Laboratories
   2) UpLink, often used in WAN communications (see: DL)

UMTS    Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service, a cellular (WAN) technology

UPC      Universal Product Code. See: SKU

UPCS    Unlicensed Personal Communications Services

URL      Uniform Resource Locater (was Universal Resource Locater) ... http://

us, µs    A microsecond is one-millionth (10-6) of a second. For convenience, the lower-case "u" is often substituted for the more-correct Greek letter "mu" (µ) for micro-.

US, USA     The United States of America

USART  †    Universal Synchronous/Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART is asynchronous only)

USB     Universal Serial Bus. High speed serial data transfers are possible over this truly universal standard physical and protocol description. The ubiquitous cable allows increasingly faster speeds for ever-greater types of equipment. Many devices even recharge their batteries or completely rely on the power (5V, 900mA) available down the cable. The larger "A" end often defines the host, hubs can replicate and extend the fan-out of the hierarchical bus, and peripherals are the downstream end-point devices or "functions". An "On-the-go" OTG device might act as a host in one circumstance and as a peripheral (device) in another. For instance a camera might act as a host (master) when printing pictures directly to a connected printer, but act as a peripheral (slave) when uploading pictures to a host PC; all using the same physical port.
     • USB 1.1   Low Speed (LS) 1.5 Mbps & Full Speed (FS) 12 Mbps
     • USB 2.0   High Speed (HS) 480 Mbps
(megabits per second)
     • USB 3.0   Very High Speed 4800 Mbps with a new plug/socket

The 1.5 Mbps speed is plenty for many user input devices like mice and keyboards. 12 Mbps makes portable memory cards ("thumb drives" or "USB drives") and medium speed devices handy. High speed 480 Mbps transfers make real disc drives practical to connect or anything involving video streams. The not-yet-in-widespread-use USB 3.0 will allow massive data transfers in the blink of an eye. All are backward compatible but the 3.0 physical connection is a bit cumbersome.

USD     United States Dollar ($). USD is often used in financial references to distinguish the United States' primary monetary denomination from the dollar of Australia, Hong Kong, or other sovereign nations. A cent (¢) is one-hundredth of a US dollar. A "nickel" is 5 cents and a "dime" is 10 cents, with the word dime coming from a French word derived from decimal (one-tenth).

UTC     Coordinated Universal Time used to be called GMT. See: GMT

UV     UltraViolet light is electromagnetic radiation at the wavelengths just shorter than violet light visible to the human eye (~<400 nm). While the skin utilizes UV to create vitamin D, UV causes sunburn in light-skinned animals. Earth's atmosphere absorbs more than 95% of the UV that is radiated from the Sun. UV can cause some materials to fluoresce, thus a "black light" can liven up a dark party room. UV was once used to erase EPROM memories, but EPROM was made obsolete by Flash memory.  See: IR

UWB     Ultra Wide-Band enhanced Bluetooth

V     volt, a measure of electrical potential. See: Ampere

V2V, V2I, V2X Vehicle-to-Vehicle, Vehicle-to-Infrastructure, Vehicle-to-(any variety of things) — typically associated with wireless communications with one end being in a vehicle

Vcc, Vdd, Vss ...   The supply voltage for the collector (cc), drain (dd) or other primary point in a circuit; source, drain, and collector being the three terminals of a transistor. Icc, Idd, Iss are also similarly used for current values. Vss (ss=source) is often considered ground (GND; 0 volts; earth) in MOS.

VGA     Video Graphics Array. One of many computer monitor display standards, this one used to describe a screen size of 640 horizontal pixels by 480 vertical pixels (lines on CRTs) at the original US TV aspect ratio of 4:3. Other sizes:
      w x h
     320 x  240   QVGA Quarter VGA
     352 x  288    CIF Common Intermediate Format   
1.22:1 ratio
     480 x  272  WQVGA Wide Quarter VGA
     640 x  480    VGA Video Graphics Array
     800 x  600   SVGA Super VGA
     848 x  480   WVGA Wide  VGA
    1024 x  600  WSVGA Wide Super
    1024 x  768    XGA Extended Graphics Array
(sometimes x800)
    1280 x  720     HD High Definition (TV)    
  16:9 aspect ratio
    1280 x 1024   SXGA Super Extended          
1.25:1 aspect ratio
    1366 x  768   WXGA Wide  Extended          
  16:9 aspect ratio
    1440 x  900  WSXGA Wide Super Extended     
 1.6:1 aspect ratio
    1600 x 1200   UXGA Ultra Extended
    1280 x  720     HD High Definition (TV)    
  16:9 aspect ratio
    1920 x 1080    FHD Full High Def (1080p)   
  16:9 aspect ratio
    1920 x 1200  WUXGA Wide Ultra Extended     
 1.6:1 aspect ratio
    2048 x 1536   QXGA Quad  Extended
(some say Quantum)
    2560 x 1600  WQXGA Wide Quad  Extended     
 1.6:1 aspect ratio
    3440 x 1440        UltraWide               
  21:9 aspect ratio
    3840 x 2160  4KUHD 4K Ultra High Def       
  16:9 aspect ratio
    7680 x 4320  8KUHD 8K Ultra High Def       
  16:9 aspect ratio
Note that HDTV typically has a 16:9 aspect ratio.

VHDL     Very High-Speed IC (VHSIC) Hardware Description Language (HDL)

VLIW     Very Long Instruction Word

VLSI     Very Large-Scale Integration. See: IC

VLSI Technology     The corporation VLSI Technology was an early pioneer of ASIC technology and embedding processors (like the earliest ARM processor) into ASICs. It was acquired by Philips (now NXP) in 1999.

VoD     Video On Demand services provide video programs to consumers specifically when the consumer wants to view (or store) the program as opposed to based on a schedule. VoD consumes far more bandwidth since the bandwidth and content are generally only consumed by one viewer compared to a broadcast approach where everyone who wants to watch the program knows to tune to channel 1200 at 8 o'clock to watch it. With a little planning and forethought, DVRs bridge the gap by capturing a program that is broadcast at a given time and storing locally for playback later at the user's convenience. See: DVR

VoIP  †     Voice over Internet Protocol

VoP     Voice over Packet

VPA     The Volume Purchase Agreement between chip vendor and equipment manufacturer (sometimes also associated with the system design company) establishes the price and terms (T's & C's) for which the supplier will sell products to the manufacturer.  The prices are based on the volume of specific products the manufacturer anticipates buying.  A VPA usually covers a year time period.

VPN     A Virtual Private Network provides a layer of security allowing a client on a public network like the Internet to safely communicate with an enterprise server without fear of data transmissions being compromised.

W, watts     Electrical power is typically measured in Watts. Multiply Watts by time, such as kW-hr (kilowatt hours) to get a measure of energy. 1 kW-hr = 3.6 million Joules because one Joule is the energy of one Watt for one second. The more commonly-used BTU is nearly equal to one kiloJoule (actually 1 BTU = 1.054 kJ = 1.414 HP). See: ampere, BTU, HP, kWh, MW

waferclick to look closer     The large, thin, circular highly-polished slice of very purified silicon (or other semiconductor material) on which electronic components are formed. During circuit fabrication many chemical, mechanical, and atomic processes are performed on the wafer, often involving precision masks that determine where each process affects the material.

WAN  †     Wide Area Network. The cellular networks (and more). See: Networks

WAP  †     Wireless Application Protocol

W-CDMA    Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access, a cellular (WAN) technology

WDM     Wavelength Division Multiplexing

WDT      WatchDog Timer

WEP  †     Wired-Equivalent Privacy

white goods     The major appliances in a home are often referred to as "white goods", mostly because many decades ago they were primarily encased in a white colored enamel baked onto a heavy steel skin. While a series of colors have grown and faded in fashion in these appliances, plus different metals like stainless steel or bronze, the always-present and original white color endears the name "white goods" to such products as dishwashers, stove/range, oven, refrigerator, clothes washer, and dryer. Occasionally included are the similar vent hood, microwave oven, and trash compactor. Some white goods might be "built-in" to the house and stay with it when it sells, such as the vent hood, dishwasher, and sometimes a stove/oven. Color and style coordination within the kitchen are important factors in white goods. Rarely considered to be white goods are a garbage disposal in the sink and small kitchen appliances on the countertop such as blenders, food processors, mixers, can openers, bread makers, toasters, and the like.

Wi-Fi  †   Wireless Fidelity; Wireless networking based on IEEE 802.11    (

Wiki        Wiki is the Hawaiian word for "quick", and technically describes the straightforward software designed to make a Web site that is easily created and editable by multiple people. A Wiki is tied to a database and makes plentiful use of hyperlinks within its pages. The word Wiki is now used to refer to such Web sites, the most famous being "the Wikipedia" at

WiMAX  †     Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, wireless networking based on IEEE 802.16  See: Networks

WLAN, Wireless LAN     A Wireless Local Area Network like IEEE 802.11a, b, or g provides digital communications in buildings or within about 100 yards. See: Networks

WMBTOPCITBWTNTALI     Perhaps the longest known acronym, a little ad line really, from the SouthWestern Bell Telephone Company (SWBTCo) maybe back in the 1970's when the regional Bell operating companies were monopolies: We May Be The Only Phone Company In Town But We Try Not To Act Like It;
See: Why We Dial Phone Numbers

word     In describing a processor, "word" usually refers to the primary data size the processor is designed to handle, often the same size as the machine's ALU. "Double-word" data, which is twice a word's width, can often also be handled though may make two passes through the ALU to accomplish the operation. Half-word and smaller data sizes might be accommodated by sign-extending the smaller data to make it full word size or might even be packed so that two half-word data can be operated on in a single pass. To a 32-bit processor, the word size is considered 32-bits, double-word is 64-bits, and half-word is 16-bits. See: processor, SIMD

workaround     High technology products are so complex as to often contain errors, ambiguities, problems, or unsettled behaviors that were not discovered until after product release. A "workaround" is the method a designer may suggest to the user to perform the desired task while awaiting a more permanent correction, working around the flawed system. While a workaround acknowledges the problem, it may not always assure that a permanent fix will be implemented by the supplier. Workarounds can be software that compensates for hardware flaws, hardware fixing hardware inadequacies ("...use a pull-up resistor..."), procedural ("...verify the bit is set before resetting..."), suggestion to use a different component, or any combination. Workarounds are often found in application notes, FAQs, and errata sheets for components.

WW     WorldWide, the entire global market / economy. Excludes extra-terrestria. See: APAC, EMEA, ROW, extended discussion - regions

2) There are 52 Work Weeks each year and most semiconductor have the date the chip was assembled into the package stamped on the package in the form of WWYY where WW is the work week 01-52 and YY is the last two digits of the year, e.g. 4013. See: date code, package

WYSIWYG  †     What You See Is What You Get describes a good graphical user interface where the size, color, and orientation shown on the monitor are the same as one can expect to appear on a printed output. This term came into popularity as the early Macintosh computer demonstrated the phenomenon. Spoken as: wiz'-ee-wig. See: GUI, HMI

X        defining “X” in engineering, mathematics, electronics, and computing is interesting
In some logic and engineering uses, X is a shorthand for "trans" as in transistor (Xistor), transceiver (XCVR), transfer (Xfer), translate (Xlat). The origins of this use of the X is a little vague though it may stem from the letter's similarity to two arrows pointing at each other, since no particular direction is implied by "trans", even though movement is suggested. In ASCII, X-ON or X-OFF were control codes (DC1 - ASCII 11h and DC3 - 13h) for transmit on or off.

Also, X can indicate a "don't care" or irrelevant condition, one that has no effect on the state. This is common in mathematics and logic.

In a more general sense, X is a placeholder and can simply stand for an unknown or "any number of substitutions".

Many use a lower-case x to denote multiplication, although an asterisk (*) works just as well.

On maps, X marks the spot where the buried treasure is hidden.

Long years ago, an X might act as a signature for a person who could not write, and the mark still is used to indicate where a person should sign his/her name.

As a Roman numeral, X counts as ten.

Before it was determined to really be there and be designated a planet, Pluto was referred to as "Planet X". Recently, some astronomers demoted it from planet status. Apparently, its icy 1,500 mile diameter (about half of sunny Mercury's) doesn't rate.

x86     The processor instruction set architecture originally designed by Intel. Intel itself refers to the architecture as "IA" - Intel Archictecture - but for generic use "x86" is used by nearly everybody else. The x86 became established as the standard for the personal computer when IBM introduced the PC utilizing the 8088, an 8-bit external bus version of the 8086. The term x86 originates from the practice early on of indicating a more advanced part in the processor family by incrementing the hundreds digit, which stopped when 586 was reached and the more marketing-savvy Intel adapted the copyright-able name Pentium. The earlier parts in the architecture were 8086, 186 (an integrated part), 286, 386, 486. As was common in the early days, the architecture was licensed to other vendors ("second-sourced") until Intel awoke to the value of controlling its architecture and keeping it to itself. Today, x86-compatible chips are still available from AMD and VIA Technologies as well. For another, earlier Intel architecture, see the 8-bit MCU: 8051 [Other popular multi-vendor processor architectures include: ARM, MIPS, Power/PowerPC]

XTAL     crystal, as in the crystal stimulated to drive an oscillator (OSC) circuit

Y/Y     Year-over-Year; YOY; Can compare two quarters in sequential years or two 12-month periods. See: Q, Q/Q

YY       A code representing the last two digits of the year. See: date code, package

YTD     Year-To-Date; The sum total from the first of the year until the present (or stated) date. YTD usually relates to the calendar year (starting January 1), but can also refer to a company's fiscal year which may be anchored to a different date (and if so, should be stated clearly). Similar: MTD Month-To-Date. See: Q

Zigbee     A wireless communications specification, IEEE 802.15.4    See: Bluetooth

More lengthy discussion on these topics is on the Extended Discussion page:

3-D      Numbers      Geographic Regions   LSMFT

Some key words appearing in the Extended Discussion include (listed here to link for further research):
attention to detail building China CIS component continents contract cost cost-of-manufacturing country of origin design design process domestic emerging markets end-customers end-equipment engineers factors global governments heritage marketing marketplace North America OEMs processes quality Russia sales semiconductor social issues Soviet Union staff state support system integration tariffs third-party United States vendor Ukraine

active brain camera card depth depth perception distance eye glasses holograms image life-like motion pictures object passive photographs picture real life real-world scene separation size stereoscopic texture three dimensional viewer visual Keystone View Company stereoviewing latitude longitude Pershing

scientific notation measures conventions counting bytes address ranges IEEE kibi mebi gibi tebi clock rates pixel counts storage powers-of-10 Base-10 (decimal) powers-of-2 Base-2 (binary) milli- µ micro- nano- pico- kilo- mega- giga- tera-

           All descriptions and discussions are copyright ©Strategy Sanity

 Definition Description Discussion Dictionary Explanation Expansion Hieroglyph Jargon Define Index Terms Wiki Decode Acronym Terminology Abbreviation Symbol Units Embedded-101 Processor-101 Chips-101 Semiconductor-101 Consumer Electronics-101 High-Tech-101 Technology-101 Applications-101 Engineering Digital Integrated Circuit Systems Integration Mathematics

The terminology used in a high-tech field such as semiconductors is necessarily complex to adequately distinguish advancements and peculiarities of the science and technologies involved. However, the jumble of words and acronyms, and their usage, can quickly befuddle the unenlightened. Yet it is important that high-tech parlance is used properly by speakers and writers, and especially marketers, to assure good communication. Intricate terminology, abbreviations, and jargon may be necessary, but can also bewilder the listener or reader.

Be aware that high-tech terminology is often mis-used, sometimes mistakenly, sometimes to add qualities perceived as good to a product. Over time some technologies may be viewed as moving from good to old or "less good", usually because a newer technology is positioned as better by its promoters. But this is not always reality. Engineering is a trade-off of multi-dimensional benefits and costs. However, this can cause terminology to be stretched to fit inappropriately.

In this glossary, Strategy Sanity documents industry-accepted use of terms and acronyms, mostly dealing with the technology* surrounding digital processors, semiconductors, and electronic equipment.

A few notes on writing style for technical material can be found on the style page.

Beyond just definitions, discussions in this glossary expand on important issues, giving context and clarity to implications of the technologies. Diagrams and additional information may be referenced, where helpful. In fact, a careful reading of the glossary provides special insight to how the electronics and semiconductor worlds run, giving the reader at least a "Semiconductors 101" understanding.

Note that words in this glossary are described in the context of high-tech electronics, electronic applications, semiconductors, and embedded processors before other or more-general usage, with hardware connotations taking precedence over software.

This glossary does not purport to be a complete encyclopedia or dictionary. Many terms are carefully explained, others are given definitions, but some merely spell out the hieroglyph. A few concepts are expanded on a separate page. We do not cover every vendor’s pet name for common industry terms or even a truly unique feature. If the word is used across the industry, it will be here. Readers taking exception to information presented in the glossary should address concerns to the primary Strategy Sanity analyst.

These descriptions are original works of
Strategy Sanity, which reserves the copyright.

Linking to this Glossary is permitted so long as the URL is fully displayed with proper credit attributed.

Glossary & Semiconductors-101

Definitions and Explanations

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