GLOSSARY OF POPULAR COMPUTER TERMS
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".
COMPUTER: Instrument of torture. The first computer was invented by Roger "Duffy" Billingsly, a British scientist. In a plot to overthrow Hitler, Duffy disguised himself as a German ally and offered his invention as a gift to the dictator. The plot worked. On April 8, 1945, Hitler became so enraged at the "Incompatible File Format" error message that he shot himself. The war ended soon after Hitler's death, and Duffy began working for IBM.
CPU: Central Propulsion Unit. The CPU is the "computer's" engine. It consists of a hard drive, an interface card, and a tiny spinning wheel that's powered by a running rodent --- a gerbil if the machine is a 286 model, a ferret if it's a 386, and a ferret on speed if it's a 486.
DEFAULT DIRECTORY: Black Hole. Default directory is where all the 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 (which can kill you, just ask Hitler).
HARDWARE: Collective term for any computer-related object that can be kicked or battered when inclined to do so.
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 a damn thing.
INPUT/OUTPUT: Information is "input" from the keyboard as intelligible data and "output" to the printer as unrecognizable crap.
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 three 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.
REFERENCE MANUAL: Object used to raise the monitor to eye level. Also handy to compensate for that short table leg.
SCHEDULED RELEASE DATE: A carefully calculated date determined by estimating the actual shipping date and subtracting six 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 blankly at a monitor. Users are divided into three types: novice, intermediate, and expert. Novice users are those who are afraid that simply pressing a key might break their computer. Intermediate users are those who don't know how to fix their computer after they've just pressed a key that broke it. And expert users are those who break other people's computers.