Can't stomach software metaphors? Chew on the Digital Digestive System

Packet Rat
R. Fink


The Rat has grown weary of the software industry’s tendency to squeeze a
metaphor until every possible variation has dissolved into fine dust.


Take the rash of coffee-related product names that followed the introduction of Java.
It got to the point where everything had been trademarked, and one vendor tenuously
extended the metaphor by naming its product Twin Peaks in reference to the frequent line
from the television series, “That’s a damn fine cup of coffee.”


The whiskered one started checking in with his intellectual property attorney every
time he got near a Starbucks.


The metaphor of the moment, however, belongs to Microsoft Corp.


DNA, an acronym genetically re-engineered to fit the company’s trademarked
Distributed interNet Architecture, led naturally to the Microsoft Digital Nervous System.
And now the cyberrodent hears that Symantec Corp. is relabeling its antivirus and systems
utilities as the Digital Immune System.


Clearly, biological functions are now marketing vogue.


To stop the madness, the Rat hereby lays claim to the rest of the digital body metaphor
space. No user should have to pay bathroom royalties to Computer Associates International
Inc.


As an example, disks, CD-ROMs, tapes and hard drives under the new biological
metaphor would not merely be storage. They would hold and transfer large quantities of
data and allow it to be processed.


Suppose we called them the Digital Digestive System. Just think of the rich biological
metaphors applicable to system backups and core dumps.


Users who overstock their local disks would be referred to as digitally obese. A floppy
disk or CD wouldn’t merely eject—the system would regurgitate it. If a process
hung, you would have to perform the three-key Heimlich maneuver.


Then there’s power management. What if the whiskered one renamed it the Digital
Respiratory and Circulatory System?


Think about it. The Rat has dealt with some Energy Star systems that, once they went
into sleep mode, wouldn’t reboot without the plug being yanked and reconnected. The
furry one hereby terms this Digital Defibrillation.


Systems that power up but don’t boot are in digital coma or digitally brain-dead.
Uninterruptible power systems become digital heart-lung machines. Redundant power supplies
automatically perform a digital bypass when one fails. When you clean the fan filters,
you’re administering a digital decongestant.


The Rat has reserved another metaphor for temporary file cleanup utilities: digital
kidneys. A disk defragmenter removes—you guessed it—the digital kidney stones.


Of course, if the Digital Immune System fails to protect against virus-laden temporary
files, you might experience digital kidney failure, and there’s a long waiting list
for donors.


The Rat could go on and on. But that’s because he’s been working in Java
lately. As any digital doctor can tell you, coffee is a diuretic.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.



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