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  • 640K:
    The salary the average Wall Street PC analyst pulls in each year.

  • 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."

  • Boot:
    What your friends give you because you spend too much time bragging about your computer skills.

  • Bug:
    What computer magazine companies do to you after they get your name on their mailing list.

  • CD-ROM:
    A $100 mechanism in a $1200 cabinet that accesses vast quantities of valuable information too slowly to use.

  • Chips:
    The fattening, non-nutritional food computer users eat to avoid having to leave their keyboards for meals.

  • Copy:
    What you have to do during school tests because you spend too much time at the computer and not enough time studying.

  • Cursor:
    What you turn into when you can't get your computer to perform, as in "You $#% computer!"

  • Debugging:
    The process of uncovering glitches by packaging prerelease software as finished products, then waiting for irate customers to report problems.

  • Default Directory:
    The place where all files that you need disappear to.

  • Error:
    What you made the first time you walked into a computer showroom to "just look."

  • Expansion Unit:
    The new room you have to build on to your home to house your computer and all its peripherals.

  • File:
    What your secretary can now do to her nails six and a half hours a day, now that the computer does her day's work in 30 minutes.

  • Floppy:
    The condition of a constant computer user's stomach due to lack of exercise and a steady diet of junk food (see Chips").

  • 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.

  • IBM:
    The kind of missile your family members and friends would like to drop on your computer so you'll pay attention to them again.

  • Installation routine:
    A process employed by many applications to overwrite and thereby trash the user's existing and painstakingly created AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files.

  • Live links:
    A clever system that lets you unknowingly corrupt data in lots of separate files at the same time.

  • Low-bandwidth:
    The process of talking to corporate press relations official. (Question: How many IBM PR types does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: We'll have to get back to you on that.)

  • Memory:
    Of computer components, the most generous in terms of variety, and the skimpiest in terms of quantity.

  • Menu:
    What you'll never see again after buying a computer because you'll be too poor to eat in a restaurant.

  • Nanosecond:
    The time it takes after your warranty expires for your hard disk to start making a noise like a monkey wrench in a blender.

  • Open system:
    Made up of parts from different manufacturers so that, when you crash, each vendor can blame the others.

  • Optional:
    It should have come free, but someone in the marketing department ran 1-2-3 and figured they'd double their profits this way.

  • Parity:
    A ninth memory bit that one time in nine will crash an otherwise perfectly functioning system when it detects an error in itself.

  • Partition:
    A wall you have to build around a noisy dot-matrix printer that makes only slightly less noise than a tree chipper.

  • Power user:
    Someone who's read the manual all the way through once.

  • 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.

  • Return:
    What lots of people do with their computers after only a week and a half.

  • Shell:
    A clumsy program that forces users to stumble through ten menus to get anything done in DOS instead of typing a simple three-letter command.

  • Toll-free hotline:
    An AT&T repairman's busy-signal test number.

  • Toner cartridge:
    A device to refill laser printers; invented by the Association of American Drycleaners.

  • Tutorial:
    A program that forces you to sit through lessons on every last obscure and little-used feature of an application while ignoring overall fundamental tricks that would make you far more productive.

  • 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.

  • Virus:
    Commonly, the belief of incompetent users that some mysterious external force is to blame for their mistakes at the keyboard.

  • Window:
    What you heave the computer out of after you accidentally erase a program that took you three days to set up.

  • Workstation:
    Any PC that sells for more than $10,000.

  • XT:
    All the computer that most users who just type letters or run typical spreadsheets will ever need, even though a 386 machine will reformat their text a whole tenth of a second faster.
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