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 [ BACK]  [NEXT]                                                   Issue #021 - 01/05/1997

Understanding Technology

A computer lexicon.

Happy 1997 to All!
     Well, the new year has come, and so far it's pretty much like
1996.  A little too busy and a little too crazy.  We'll see how the
rest of the year goes as things go along.  Always best to take
things one day at a time, I suppose.
     This week, Sunday Funnies goes into education mode as we
provide a glossary of terms for computer users.  You too can around
this jargon to amaze your friends  and confuse or confound your
enemies.  I hope you find this helpful, or at least amusing.  Hey,
maybe I can get a grant from the National Science Foundation... 
Well, probably not...
     Have a great week!


  Amiga - Older computer made by Commodore.  Had no confusing
     error messages, it instead had confusing 'Guru Meditations'.

  Alpha - Software undergoes alpha testing as a first step in 
     getting user feedback.  Alpha is Latin for 'doesn't work.'

  Attachment - Software tool in electronic mail that allows users
     to accidentally send millions of bytes of useless data with
     a one line E-mail message.

  Backup - Duplicate copies of critical data.  This is a
     mythological concept as they never have been seen to exist
     in the real world.

  Beta - Software undergoes beta testing shortly before it's 
     released. Beta is Latin for 'still doesn't work.'

  Cabling - The wires that keep computers from falling off of
     users' desks.

  Cache - Expensive high-speed memory used by the CPU as
     temporary storage.  See Cash Memory...

  CD/ROM - Storage media that allows users to use multi-thousand
     dollar computers to play music like a $5 radio.

  CGA - Ancient color monitor standard. Mostly found haunting
     closets near computer areas.

  Computer - An instrument of torture.  The first true computer
     was invented by Roger "Duffy" Billingsly, a British
     scientist.  In a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, Duffy
     disguised himself as a German ally and offered his invention
     as a gift to the surly dictator.  The plot worked.  On April
     8, 1945, Hitler became so enraged at the "Incompatible File
     Format" error message that he shot himself. The war ended
     soon after Hitler's death, and Duffy began working for IBM. 

  CPU - Central propulsion unit.  The CPU is the computer's
     engine. It consists of a hard drive, an interface card and a
     tiny spinning wheel that's powered by a running rodent - a
     mouse if the machine is a 286, a gerbil if it's a 386, a
     ferret if it's a 486 and a ferret on speed if it's a

  Customer Service - A way to listen to radio stations in cities
     far away while you wait on hold for the one person who
     understands your problem to return from a three-week
     vacation in the Bahamas.

  Default Directory - (See Black hole)  The Default directory is
     where all the files that you need disappear to.

  Device Driver - Operating software for a particular piece of
     hardware.  Allows one manufacturer to blame another in case
     of problems.

  DOS - D_isk O_perating S_ystem.  Basic program that allows a
     computer to be more than an illuminated doorstop.  Despite
     it's simplicity and that the basic design was taken from
     other operating systems, it has allowed Bill Gates to make
     more money than any other human, living or dead.

  Electronic Mail - System that allows managers to instantly
     distribute thousands of copies of useless memos.

  Error Message - Terse, baffling remark used by programmers to
     place blame on users for the program's mistakes.

  File - A program or document that has been saved with an
     useless name.  It helps to think of a file as something
     stored in a file cabinet - except when you try to remove the
     file, the cabinet gives you an electric shock and tells you
     the file format is unknown.

  Floppy Disk - Removable computer storage media most often used
     as coasters for soda cans and to level monitors.

  Font - Style of lettering either printed or on screen.  May be
     mixed many times in the same message to achieve the same
     look as a ransom note.

  Hard Drive - Main storage unit for a modern computer.  The Hard
     in the name refers not only the physical type of disk but
     also the trouble it takes get and keep one working.

  Hardware - Collective term for any computer-related object that
     can be kicked or battered.

  Help - The feature that assists in generating more questions. 
     When the help feature is used correctly, users are able to
     navigate through a series of Help screens and end up where
     they started from without learning anything.

  HTML - H_yperT_ext M_arkup L_anguage.  Programming language
     that allows even novice users to create web pages that can
     stop all communication on networks.

  IBM Card - Antique data input medium using small cardboard
     pages with holes in them.  See also scroll, parchment, quill

  IBM compatible - old term for a computer that isn't made by 
     Apple and isn't made by IBM, either.

  IDE - I_tegrated D_evice E_lectronics.  Interface standard for
     Hard Drives and CD/ROMs that allows users to configure their
     system in at least 64 incorrect ways.

  Input/Output - Information is input from the keyboard as
     intelligible data and output to the printer as
     unrecognizable junk.

  Interim Release - A programmer's attempt at repentance.

  Internet - Name for a con game that gets major universities and
     government agencies to pay for all the equipment to allow
     users to play the computer game 'Doom' with people in Nepal.

  Java - A new graphical page description language.  Widespread
     acceptance awaits settlement of a lawsuit between Sun
     Microsystems and the government of Indonesia.  Both claim to
     have had the name 'Java' in common use first.

  Keyboard - User input device that sacrifices itself to protect
     the rest of the computer system by attracting spilled soda,
     dropped jelly donuts, etc.

  Macintosh - A type of computer made by Apple.  Has remained a
     minor player in the industry for many years, despite having
     most every innovation first.  If Apple's fabulous marketing
     department was selling Kentucky Fried Chicken, they'd
     probably describe it as 'Warm, Dead Fowl in Crumbs and Oil'.

  Memory - The temporary storage area for computer data.  The
     memory consists of three areas: Regular memory (640K),
     expanded memory (above 640K), and the part corrupted by
     Windows in a General Protection Fault. 

  Modem - Communications device used to slow the computer to a
     near stop while hooked to a phone line.

  Monitor - The glowing TV screen that allows users to see the
     error messages they are creating by operating the keyboard
     and mouse.

  Mother Board - The main board of modern computers, contains the
     CPU, memory and other expensive parts.  Must be replaced at
     at least six month intervals to keep up with current

  Mouse - Pointing Device attached to a computer.  Designed by
     the clever people at Xerox PARC in the 1960's to give users
     something cheaper and easier to throw when the computer
     doesn't work right.

  Network - a link between computers that allows users to blame
     their errors on other users located thousands of miles away.

  Plug and Play - New concept in IBM-style machines where the
     machine does not allow the user to set hardware incorrectly
     so it can't be used.  Instead, the computer itself adjusts
     the hardware settings wrong so the device can't be used. 
     Translated incorrectly from Japanese, the original phrase
     was 'Plug and Pray'.

  Printer - The output device of most computers.  A printer
     consists of three main parts: the case, the jammed paper
     tray and the blinking error light.  Even novice users can
     destroy whole rain forests by printing thousands of
     incorrect pages.

  Programmers - Computer avengers.  Once members of that group of
     high school nerds who wore tape on their glasses, played
     Dungeons and Dragons, and memorized Star Trek episodes; now
     millionaires who create "user-friendly" software to get
     revenge on whoever gave them a difficult time in school.

  Reference Manual - Object used to compensate for that short
     table leg.

  Reset Button - Control used to restart computer from the very
     beginning.  Placed on the front of most machines so it can
     be pushed accidentally to cause loss of data, sanity, etc.

  Scheduled Release Date - A carefully calculated date determined
     by estimating the actual shipping date and subtracting six
     months from it. 

  SCSI - Hard drive and CD/ROM interface protocol that allows
     similar devices made to the same standard to be completely

  Serial Port - Communication connection to certain external 
     devices.  Corruption of a US Navy term for a place to obtain

  Software - the instructions that allow a computer to operate
     and appear to be almost as intelligent as a really stupid

  Sound Blaster - A brand name of standardized audio card
     guaranteed to be incompatible with some type of software you

  Sub-Directory - A part of disk organization that allows users
     to hide files in ever more complex hiding places.

  TCP/IP - An acronym so obscure that it means as little to most
     users as LSMFT.

  UNIX - highly complex operating system that allows users to get
     completely lost in thousands of interesting ways.

  UPS - U_ninterruptable P_ower S_upply.  Hardware unit to used
     assure constant electrical power to critical computers.
     Installed by management the day after all data has been lost
     in a power failure.
  URL - U_niversal R_esource L_ocator.  The address to non-
     existent sites and files on the World Wide Web.

  User-Friendly - Of or pertaining to any feature, device or
     concept that makes perfect sense to a programmer and no
     other human or animal.

  Users - Collective term for those who stare vacantly at
     computer monitors. Users are divided into three types:
     novice, intermediate and expert.
     - Novice Users - People who are afraid that simply pressing
          a key might break their computer.

     - Intermediate Users - People who don't know how to fix
          their computer after they've just pressed a key that
          broke it.

     - Expert Users - People who break other people's computers.

  VGA - V_ideo G_raphics A_rray.  A video card supplied by
     management when they're too cheap to spend the money for

  Virus - Rarely seen, damaging programs used as a sales tool to
     sell virus protection software.

  Windows - Operating system used to slow most recent computers
     down to the same performance as old XT's & AT's from 1986.

  Windows 95 - Complete re-write of Windows made necessary as
     computers continually got faster.  Slows even the latest
     machines to XT speeds.

  World Wide Web - Font of all knowledge and wisdom, if you only
     have a long enough life span to let the stupid pages load.

© 1997 by Bill Becwar. All Rights Reserved.