On a non-technical errand today, I ran across a working bit bucket. I’m not kidding and I have the picture to prove it, check it out. Which leads to a linguistic conundrum and yet another (mercifully short) sermon on standards.

This was in a hardware store, one which—bear with these details a moment, there’s a reason—is not located in a fashionable, wired, or with-it part of town (for Vancouver cognoscenti, the former Lumberland at Kingsway & 23rd, now a Rona). Here it is:

Bit bucket in a hardware store

These little bits that go in drills and ratcheted screwdrivers and so on, you lose ’em and drop ’em and wear ’em out all the time, so this merchandising vehicle is quite sensible. And a triumph of the practical application of standards: These days, more or less all bits seem to fit in more or less anything that takes a bit, so it’s remarkable how often you can, for example, piece together the bit-extender from the screwdriver with just the right squarehead and your power drill to get something done in a tricky corner. And then when you lose ’em or they wear out, you head to the hardware store and buy more bits from the bucket.

Anyhow, I saw this thing and thought “how clever” and had to snap a picture; over lunch I said to Lauren, “Isn’t that interesting, a back-formation from computer jargon into hardware marketing.” She looked at me blankly and eventually disagreed, she thought it was simply a nice little alliterative merchandising/display vehicle with no geek connotations at all. In fact, she hadn’t heard the usage “bit bucket.”

Well, she’s not as geeky as me, but she’s up there, for example when I explained what I meant by “bit bucket,” she said “Oh, like /dev/null.” So maybe that bit-bucket usage isn’t as commonplace as I’d thought? I suspect she’s right, the bit vendor’s marketers weren’t thinking about failed routers or overloaded mail servers or the like. But I sure was when I saw it.

author · Dad
colophon · rights

June 08, 2003
· Language (57 more)

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