Wednesday, August 31, 2005

TWAIN: when an acronym isn't an acronym...

If you've ever used a scanner with your computer you've probably heard of TWAIN. TWAIN is an image capture API (Application Programming Interface) for Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh operating systems.

Most people assume that TWAIN is just another technology acronym, but according to the TWAIN Working Group's FAQ, TWAIN isn't an acronym:

Question: What is TWAIN an acronym for?

Answer: An image capture API for Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh operating systems. The standard was first released in 1992, and is currently ratified at version 1.9 as of January 2000. TWAIN is typically used as an interface between image processing software and a scanner or digital camera.

The word TWAIN is from Kipling's "The Ballad of East and West" - "...and never the twain shall meet...", reflecting the difficulty, at the time, of connecting scanners and personal computers. It was up-cased to TWAIN to make it more distinctive. This led people to believe it was an acronym, and then to a contest to come up with an expansion. None were selected, but the entry "Technology Without An Interesting Name" continues to haunt the standard."

You'll find TWAIN defined on Acronym Finder with an annotation that it's not an acronym. You can read more about TWAIN, at the TWAIN Working Group's website.

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