Daily Archives: July 23, 2010

Today’s Cane Shaking On the Lawn: Apps

I don’t get apps. Not as in how they work, but why, in fact, they’re called “apps.” Because you know what? They’re programs. They are compendiums of code, compiled in a manner that when you execute them in a computing environment, they perform a specific task. Like a program. Exactly like a program. Because they are programs. So why not call them programs?

It is because programs is an ungroovy kind of word? Is it for the same reason station wagons are now called “crossover vehicles”? Will the hip young things using Foursquare on their iPhone to let the world know their apartments are unoccupied and ripe for looting be filled with horror if their cute little larceny abettor were called a program? Does the word conjure up intolerable images of a chunky, misshaven nerd, hovering asthmatically over a Commodore 64, waiting the 20 minutes until Omega Race downloads off the cassette by strapping on a feedbag of Cheetos and Mallomars and settling down with the latest copy of Byte? Is the word really that bad?

I certainly admit that “app” is a nice phoneme of a word, and that “program” doesn’t lend itself to such shortening; “There’s a prog for that” doesn’t quite have the same ring. And I don’t really have a problem calling programs “apps” as long as I can tell my brain it’s short for “application,” which is a specific genus of program, rather than a wholesale replacement of the word. But I don’t think that’s how people generally use the word, and it just makes me want to shake my cane and get the kids off my lawn. Recently I read a piece about what it will mean when we switch over to app-based operating systems, and I was all, what? So the new hotness is a screen on which icons are used to access the programs they represent? Just like the Macintosh in 1984? Somebody get me a chair, the future is blowing my goddamned mind.

I like apps. I like the little computers we use to run apps, which fit in my hand and have the same processing and visualizing power a forty pound hulking desktop and a fifty pound CRT screen had a decade ago. I’m not entirely sure why we need a new word to describe these little programs. And while I’m at it, I’m also not sure why you’re still on my lawn.