386: No, 486: Oops,
Pentium: The only chip to consider if you're thinking
of buying a PC. Until Intel ramps up the 686.
640K: The salary
the average Wall Street PC analyst pulls in each
Algorithm: A catchy
1930 song by George and Ira Gershwin.
when a dozen copies of the beta version will be
hurriedly shrink-wrapped for the benefit of the
press and the investment community.
Backup: The chore
you were really, honestly, going to do the very
next thing before you switched drive letters and
accidentally copied older, out-of-date versions
of you files over all your newer ones at 3 a.m.
Buffer: The only
other job - involving a chamois at the car wash
- for which most computer store salespeople are
Free applications like home dentistry packages and
Esperanto spelling dictionaries that are thrown
in with cheap clones so you think you're getting
real value for your money.
CD-ROM: A $30 dollar
mechanism in a $300 cabinet that accesses vast quantities
of valuable information too slowly to use.
A sly technique employed by hardware vendors to
combat software piracy by continually changing the
size and compatibility of disk drives (from 160K
to 320K to 360K to 1.2MB to 720K to 1.44MB to 2.88MB,
CP/M: An antiquated
operation system from the early days of computing,
based on inscrutable prompts like A>, terse commands,
and absurdly backward conventions, such as 11-character
limits on filenames. Contrasted with today's modern
versions of DOS.
A program selling for under $500 that most people
use to keep lists of names and addresses, etc.
A program selling for over $500 that most people
use to keep lists of names and addresses, etc.
Debugging: The process
of uncovering glitches by packaging prerelease software
as finished products, then waiting for irate customers
to report problems.
You really didn't have to spend the money for the
upgraded version, since all you use anyway is the
old set of features.
End User: One born
Entry level: Only
slightly above most users' heads.
RAM that is, uh, well, um, different from extended
The computer didn't come with everything you needed.
RAM that is, uh, well, um, different from expanded
a last resort for procrastinators who missed the
final Federal Express pickup; these days, an expensive
way to order lunch from the pizza place around the
with permanent bugs hardwired into it.
Icon: One picture
is worth a thousand lawsuits. Or, as Shakespeare
might have put it, "He who steals my trash better
have a large purse.
A process employed by many applications to overwrite
and thereby trash the user's existing and painstakingly
created AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files
A way of presenting information to the user that's
every bit as good as a user interface except in
the areas of readability, ease of use, intuitiveness,
user (GUI): An increasingly popular way of presenting
information to the user, originally designed by
Xerox PARC and now being adopted by dozens of competitors;
otherwise known as the Trial Attorney Full Employment
Laptop: A dinky
keyboard wedded to a lousy LCD screen, all with
bad battery life.
Live links: A clever
system that lets you unknowingly corrupt data in
lots of separate files at the same time.
process of talking to a corporate press relations
official. (Question: How many IBM PR types does
it take to change a light bulb? Answer: We'll have
to get back to you on that.)
time it takes after your warranty expires for your
hard disk to start making a sound like a monkey
wrench in a blender.
NiCad battery: A
cell that powers a laptop long enough to let you
do three solid hours of work, then dies before you're
ready to save any of it to disk.
Open system: Made
up of parts from different manufacturers so that,
when you crash, each vendor can blame the others.
Optional: It should
have come free, but someone in the marketing department
ran 1-2-3 and figured they'd double their profits
Parity: A ninth
memory bit that one time in nine will crash an otherwise
perfectly functioning system when it detects an
error in itself.
Partition: A wall
you have to build around a noisy dot matrix printer
that makes only slightly less noise than a tree
You mean you'd rather click on a menu choice than
have to type things like DEVICE=\DOS\UTS\DRIVER.SYS
/D:0 /T:80 /S:15 /H:2 /F:1 ?
Power Surge: What
an MIS director feels when he denies you access
to your own database.
Power user: Someone
who's read the manual all the way through once.
out 30 different versions of your document before
getting the spacing correct.
A 50-dollar option based on a five-cent chip.
SAA: Silly And Awkward.
Shell: A clumsy
program that forces users to stumble through ten
menus to get anything done instead of typing a simple
sure you're sitting down when you ask the price.
software that can be used as a database, rudimentary
word processor, graphing program, and, in a pinch,
Stack: The place
in the corner of the room where you pile unopened
by the company that does the flashiest advertising.
Support: Fast, simple,
courteous, friendly, accurate help available to
any user who happens to work for any company that
bought 1,000 copies of the product.
you feel like doing with your foot and your computer
screen after you see the message "General Failure
Error Reading Drive C:".
An AT&T busy-signal test number.
A device to refill laser printers; invented by the
Association of American Dry Cleaners.
Torture test: Everyone
- from the FedEx guy to the clerk who opened the
box to the trainee who executed the speed test -
accidentally dropped it.
Tutorial: A program
that forces you to sit through lessons on every
last obscure and little-used feature of an application
while ignoring overall fundamental tricks that would
make you far more productive.
Unix, year of: See
Value-added: A lot
the belief of incompetent users that some mysterious
external force is to blame for their mistakes at
PC that sells for more than $10,000.
XT: All the computer
that most users who just type letters and run typical
spreadsheets will ever need, even though a 386 machine
will reformat their text a whole tenth of a second