I’ve always gotten a big laugh when people don’t pay attention to the acronyms they use.  Why do people say 'PIN Number?'  When you setup your ATM card, you assign a PIN to the account, a Personal Identification Number. So when you say 'PIN Number' what you're actually saying is 'Personal Identification Number Number.'  It just doesn't make sense. Why be redundant?

The next one of course is ATM Machine – we all know ATM stands for Automated Teller Machine but why then do people say 'ATM Machine?'  That’s like saying ‘Automated Teller Machine Machine.’ There’s even a McDonalds near me that has a sign hanging proudly in the driveway that says ‘ATM Machine Inside.’

I used to design networks and it’s crazy when so many people say ‘NIC Card.’ NIC stands for Network Interface Card so when you say 'NIC Card' you’re saying ‘Network Interface Card Card’ – it’s redundant.

I was in a car accident a while back, someone backed into me in a parking lot (I was too startled to use my horn, that would have saved me some aggravation – more on that one later). When I called the insurance company to make the claim, the claims representative said to me: ‘What is the VIN number for your car?’ I couldn’t resist, I asked her – ‘You have to know that VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number, why would you say VIN Number (Vehicle Identification Number Number)?’ She laughed and said that that’s what people expect them to call it, so they ignore the fact that it’s redundant and say it anyway.

I had a customer who for the longest time would (probably still does) say ‘DMZ Zone’ when referring to a network’s De-Militarized Zone. Of course I had to find a way to immediately use the term correctly to try to help him see how to use the acronym in a sentence but he never caught on: ‘Yes, the server would be placed in the DMZ here.’  Too funny! What I never figured out is what does he think the ‘Z’ stands for in DMZ? Does he even understand what DMZ actually stands for?  I’ll never know, I wouldn’t risk the customer relationship by embarrassing him; perhaps I’ll run into him some day and finally get around to asking him.

Of course there’s the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (The BES) – what I can’t figure out is why do people feel the need to say ‘BES Server’?  That’s like saying ‘BlackBerry Enterprise Server Server.’ This one I know is a little nebulous since you may be trying to say something about the Server running BES and the phrase seems incomplete without the second ‘server’ like you’re leaving out a word. Some people even take it a step further and spell it out: ‘B. E. S.’ - it’s just a BES (pronounced like fez) nothing more. Now Research In Motion’s Education Services folks are supposedly not allowed to call it a BES. For them, BES stands for BlackBerry Enterprise Solution. This is even funnier – so, your BES (solution) consists of a server running the BES (server) software. ‘Yes, my BlackBerry Enterprise Solution implementation consists of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server running on this box…’

OK, now finally back to the PIN.

This is a mystery that continues to befuddle me. Each BlackBerry device has a unique PIN associated with it. If you follow convention, it’ makes sense that the PIN stands for ‘Personal Identification Number’ but that doesn’t make sense. Why would a smartphone need a personal number?  I could see a mobile user needing a PIN, but why does a piece of hardware need a PIN?  I asked around when I worked at Research In Motion and nobody could tell me what it really stood for. I asked as many long term employees as I could find and even searched and searched the company intranet for the information, but nowhere could I find what PIN stands for.

As I started the book, I wanted to solve this mystery and write about it. I ended up not having the time to massage this topic into the book, so I decided to write about it here.
Wikipedia says the BlackBerry PIN is “an eight character hexadecimal unique identification number assigned to each BlackBerry device. PINs cannot be changed and are locked to each handset device. BlackBerry devices can message each other using the PIN directly or by using the Blackberry Messenger application.” You can find the reference and the rest of the text here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackberry_PIN#BlackBerry_PINhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackberry_PIN#BlackBerry_PIN.

I finally looked around on Research In Motion’s web site and found my confirmation, it does stand for ‘Personal Identification Number.’ I still don’t know why a smartphone needs a personal identifier, but it doesn’t work as a ‘Phone Identification Number’ since the early BlackBerry devices (with PIN’s) weren’t phones, they were just wireless email devices. If you have more information, please use the ‘contact me’ link on the left to send me an email – I’ll be happy to update the site.

Anyway, to be consistent with the theme for this posting, when talking about the BlackBerry PIN, the last letter already stands for ‘number’, so don’t you ever let me ever catch you saying ‘PIN number’!

After I posted this, my friend Dan reminded me: "Let's not forget software program. Off to the department of redundancy department with you!"

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