Computer Definitions

  • Alpha
    Software undergoes alpha testing as a first step in getting user feedback. Alpha is Latin for “doesn’t work.”
  • Beta
    Software undergoes beta testing shortly before it’s released. Beta is Latin for “still doesn’t work.”
  • CPU
    Central Propulsion Unit. The CPU is the computer’s engine. It consists of a hard drive, RAM, interface cards, and a tiny spinning wheel that’s powered by a running rodent – a gerbil if the machine is an old 486 and a ferret if it’s a Pentium.
  • Default Directory
    Black hole. The default directory is where all files that you need disappear to.
  • Error message
    Terse, baffling remark used by programmers to place blame on users for the program’s shortcomings.
  • File
    A document that has been saved with an unidentifiable 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.
  • 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.
  • Input/output
    Information is input from the keyboard as intelligible data and output to the printer as unrecognizable junk.
  • Interim Release
    A programmer’s feeble attempt at repentance.
  • Memory
    Of computer components, the most generous in terms of variety, and the skimpiest in terms of quantity.
  • Printer
    A joke in poor taste. A printer consists of 3 main parts: the case, the jammed paper tray, and the blinking red light.
  • 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 noogies.
  • RAM
    Fuzzy creature with horns that likes to eat. The rodent is NOT a fitness buff. It’s running to get away from the bytes of the RAM.
  • Reference Manual
    Object that raises the monitor to eye level. Also used to compensate for that short table leg.
  • Scheduled Release Date
    A carefully calculated date determined by estimating the actual shipping date and subtracting 6 months from it.
  • User-friendly
    Of or pertaining to any feature, device, or concept that makes perfect sense to a programmer.
  • Users
    Collective term for those who stare vacantly at a monitor. 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.