If you think you know what most techie terms mean--then read on

Readers often e-mail me questions about computer terms, so I thought it was time to
write a real-world glossary of common technical words. Please e-mail me your additions and
corrections.


Battery life: Lies, damned lies and statistics.


Boot: To reject with disgust, as in, "It didn't work, so I kept booting and
rebooting it." Cold boot: The same operation, but performed with the contempt
born of long experience.


Buyer: Person designated in advance to take the blame for purchasing decisions
made by higher-ups.


CD-ROM: The invention that led to gigabyte-size hard drives; or, a software
distribution medium that lets programmers ignore code optimization.


Columnist: A delusional drunk (definition supplied by several Apple Macintosh
fans).


Committee: Group charged with ratifying a decision previously adopted by upper
management, but not until new product releases made the choice irrelevant.


Computer: Electronic device that accelerates the creation of errors and
disseminates them to the world before you catch them.


Consultant: Someone who receives $100 per hour to have his or her advice
ignored. Washington consultant: Same as above, but pay is $300 per hour plus a
bonus for rejected advice.


Desktop publishing: Computer-assisted production of documents so complex they
are almost illegible.


Documentation: Compilation of marketers' dreams and visions; printed manual
labeled prominently with the product name so users can tell what it goes with; or, bulky
booklets and manuals used to weigh down software boxes to prevent theft.


E-mail: Haystack for hiding important messages.


Encryption: You can't read it but we can (the FBI's definition); you can't read
it and neither can we (the CIA's definition); if you can't read it, how do you know it
isn't what it says? (National Security Agency definition); or, essential part of software
that you can't take overseas (White House definition).


Enhancement: A bug the programmers couldn't fix before the product's ship date.


Feature: A bug the programmers didn't find before ship date.


56K: Dueling modem standards that would violate Federal Communications
Commission regulations if they worked as advertised.


Firewall: Software designed to make it impossible for anyone except hackers to
use an Internet connection.


Grammar-checker: Utility that absorbs an unlimited amount of your time but fails
to improve your writing.


Groupware: Memo writing by committee.


Java: Programming language whose code executes slowly enough that users can take
a coffee break.


Kenneth Starr: Attorney who succeeded in lowering White House electric bills by
making e-mail too risky to use.


Major upgrade: Vendor shorthand for "We need more income this
quarter."


Minor upgrade: Vendor shorthand for "We have to give this one away
free."


Network: String of computers connected by an optimist.


Network administrator: Person responsible for keeping network users optimistic.


Experienced network administrator: Twitch case huddled in a corner of the wiring
closet, connected to an intravenous Valium drip.


Paperless office: Concept that inspired consultants to publish massive reports,
books and articles, thus reducing the amount of paper available to offices.


Power user: User who runs software and hardware without reading the
documentation.


Press release: Detailed description of a new product written by someone who
hasn't tried it.


Support: Something that the more you need, the less you get.


24X drive: 10X CD-ROM drive with good PR.


Videoconferencing: Communication that produces public humiliation upon
expressing a silly opinion; supersedes e-mail, in which the humiliation is more private.


Virus: Bonus software often included with upgrades.


Y2K: Entertainment for the technologically literate who don't buy into
astrology; or, work release program for old Cobol programmers.


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at powerusr@penn.com.


inside gcn

  • facial recognition tech (Artem Oleshko/Shutterstock.com)

    Biometric ID spots imposters at land crossing

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group