= A =
[from Greek `akme', highest point of
perfection or achievement] The canonical supplier of bizarre,
elaborate, and non-functional gadgetry - where Rube Goldberg and
Heath Robinson (two cartoonists who specialized in elaborate
contraptions) shop. The name has been humorously expanded as A (or
American) Company Making Everything. (In fact, Acme was a real
brand sold from Sears Roebuck catalogs in the early 1900s.)
Describing some X as an "Acme X" either means "This is
insanely great", or, more likely, "This looks insanely great on paper, but in practice it's really easy to shoot yourself
in the foot with it." Compare pistol.
This term, specially cherished by American hackers and explained
here for the benefit of our overseas brethren, comes from the
Warner Brothers' series of "Roadrunner" cartoons. In these
cartoons, the famished Wile E. Coyote was forever attempting to
catch up with, trap, and eat the Roadrunner. His attempts usually
involved one or more high-technology Rube Goldberg devices -
rocket jetpacks, catapults, magnetic traps, high-powered
slingshots, etc. These were usually delivered in large wooden
crates labeled prominently with the Acme name - which, probably
not by coincidence, was the trade name of the animation rotation
board used by cartoonists since forever. Acme devices invariably
malfunctioned in improbable and violent ways.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.