Beginner: A person who believes more than one-sixteenth of a computer
Advanced User: A person who has managed to remove a computer from its
Power User: A person who has mastered the brightness and contrast
controls on any computer's monitor.
Sales Associate: A former cheese-monger who has recently traded
mascarpone for MS-DOS
Sales Manager: Last week's new sales associate.
Consultant: A former sales associate who has mastered at least
one tenth of the D-BASE 3 Plus Manual.
Systems Integrator: A former consultant who understands the term
Service: Cursory examination, followed by the utterance of the phrase
"It can't be ours" and either of the words "hardware" or "software."
Support: The mailing of advertising literature to customers who have
returned a registration card.
Alpha Test Version: Too buggy to be released to the paying public.
Beta Test Version: Still too buggy to be released.
Release Version: Alternate pronunciation of "beta test version."
Enhanced: Less awful in some ways than the previous model, and
less likely to work as expected.
Convertible: Transformable from a second-rate computer to a first-rate
doorstop or paperweight. (Lexicoginal note: replaces the term
Upgraded: Didn't work the first time.
Upgraded and Improved: Didn't work the second time.
Fast (6MHz): Nowhere near fast enough.
Superfast (8MHz): Not fast enough.
Blindingly Fast (10MHz): Almost fast enough.
Astoundingly Fast (12MHz): Fast enough to work only intermittently.
Memory-Resident: Ready at the press of a key to disable any currently
Multitasking: A clever method of simultaneously slowing down the
multitude of computer programs that insist on running too fast.
Encryption: A powerful algorithmic encoding technique employed in the
creation of computer manuals.
Desktop Publishing: A system of software and hardware enabling users
to create documents with a cornucopia of typefaces and graphics and
the intellectual content of a Formica slab; often used in conjunction
High Resolution: Having nothing to do with graphics on an IBM-
FCC-Certified: Guaranteed not to interfere with radio or television
reception until you add the cable required to make it work.
American: Italian or Taiwanese, as in "American Telephone and Telegraph."
American-Made: Assembled in America from parts made abroad.
Windows: A slow-moving relation of the rodent family rarely seen
near computers but commonly found in specially marked packages of
display cards, turbo cards, and Grape-Nuts Cereal.
TopView: The official position of IBM brass that an abysmally slow
character-based multitasking program is the product of the future.
Shareware: Software usually distinguished by its awkward user
interfaces, skimpy manuals, lack of official user support, and
particularly its free distribution and upgrading via simple disk
copying; e.g., PC-DOS.
DOS-SHELL: An educational tool forcing computer users to learn new
methods of doing what they already can.
UNIX: Sterile experts who attempt to palm off bloated, utterly arcane,
and confusing operating systems on rational human beings.
EMS: Emergency Medical Service; often summoned in cases of apoplexy
induced by attempts to understand extended, expanded or enhanced
Videotex: A moribund electronic service offering people the privilege
of paying to read the weather on their TV screens instead of having
Willard Scott read it to them free while they brush their teeth.
Artificial Intelligence: The amazing, human-like ability of a computer
program to understand that the letter y means "yes" and the letter n
Electronic Mail: A communications system with built-in delays and
errors designed to emulate those of the United States Postal Service.
C-py Pr-t-ct--n: An obscenity unfit to print and fast disappearing
from common parlance.
Turbo Card: A device that increases an older-model computer's speed
almost enough to compensate for the time wasted in getting it to work.
Laser Printer: A xerographic copying machine with additional
Workstation: A computer or terminal slavishly linked to a mainframe
that does not offer game programs.
RISC: The gamble that a computer directly compatible with nothing else
on the planet may actually have decent software written for it
AUTOEXEC.BAT: A sturdy aluminum or wooden shaft used to coax AT
hard disks into performing properly.
Plotter: A terroristic hypodermic device used to inject graphic
representations of boring data into boring meetings.
Clone: One of the many advanced-technology computers IBM is beginning
to wish it had built.
CD-ROM: An optical device with storage sufficient to hold billions of
predictions claiming it will revolutionize the information industry.
IBM Product Centers: Historical landmarks forever memorializing the
concept of "list price only."
IBM: Somewhat like an IBM product; in current parlance, invariably
followed by the word "compatible."
IBM Compatible: Not IBM compatible.
Fully IBM Compatible: Somewhat IBM compatible, but won't run IBM
100% IBM Compatible: Compatible with most available hardware and
software, but not with the blockbusters IBM always introduces the day
Lap-Top: Smaller and lighter than the average secretary.
Portable: Smaller and lighter than the average refrigerator.
Transportable: Neither chained to a wall nor attached to an alarm
Hard Disk: A device that allows users to delete vast quantities
of data with simple mnemonic commands.
Mouse: A peripheral originally christened "vermiform appendix" because
of its functional resemblance, renamed for its appropriateness as a
Printer: An electromechanical paper-shredding device.
Modem: A peripheral used in the unsuccessful attempt to get two
computers to communicate with each other.
Network: An electronic means of allowing more than one person at a
time to corrupt, trash, or otherwise cause permanent damage to useful
Documentation: A perplexing linen-bound accessory resorted to only in
situations of dire need when friends and dealers are unavailable,
usually employed solely as a decorative bookend.
User-Friendly: Supplied with a full-color manual.
Very User-Friendly: Supplied with a disk and audiotape so the user
needn't bother with the full-color manual.
Extremely User-Friendly: Supplied with a mouse so that the user
needn't bother with the disk and audiotape, the full color manual, or
the program itself.
Easy to Learn: Hard to use.
Easy to Use: Hard to learn.
Easy to Learn and Use: Won't do what you want it to.
Powerful: Hard to learn and use.
Menu-Driven: Easy to learn.
Copy Protection: (1) A clever method of preventing incompetent pirates
from stealing software and legitimate customers from using it; (2) a
means of distinguishing honest users from thieves by preventing
larceny by the former but not by the latter.
Warranty: An unconditional guarantee that the program purchased
is actually included on the disk in the box.
Version 1.0: Buggier than Maine in June; eats data.
Version 1.1: Eats data only occasionally, upgrade free to avoid
litigation by disgruntled users of version 1.0.
Version 2.0: The version originally planned as the first release
(except for a couple of data-eating bugs that just won't seem to go
away), no free upgrades or the company would go bankrupt.
Version 3.0: The revision in the works when the company goes bankrupt.
Spreadsheet: A program that gives the user quick and easy access to a
wide variety of highly detailed reports based on highly inaccurate
Word Processor: Software that magically transforms its user into
a professional author.
Thought Processor: An electronic version of the intended outline
procedure that thinking people instantly abandon upon graduation from
Business Graphics: Popular with managers who understand neither
decimals, fractions, percentages, Roman numerals, but have more than a
passing acquaintance with pies and bars.
Database Manager: A program that allows the user to manipulate data in
every conceivable way except the absolutely essential one he or she
conceives of the day after entering 20 megabytes of raw information.
Project Manager: Software for generating fantasy scenarios of amazing
optimism; proven in computer firms, where it is extremely successful
at scheduling advertising campaigns for unavailable products.
Integrated Software: A single product that deftly performs hundreds of
functions the user never needs and awkwardly performs the half-dozen
he uses constantly.
Windows: A method of dividing a computer screen into two or more
unusably tiny portions.