Computer Terminology

In the spirit of all those dreadful internet jokes and to celebrate the retirement of Bill Gates ...


Grades of Software

Beta
Software that isn't finished yet, but doesn't crash in the demo version. Usually Microsoft software gets this good at about version 3 of its commercial release.
Industry Standard
Anything made by Microsoft, especially if more than three months old.
Proprietary
Anything not made by Microsoft, especially software that works just as well on computers not running Windows.
Legacy
Any piece of software that you already have, especially software that works well. Somebody somewhere is determined to stop you using it as soon as possible.
Stable
The programmer who wrote it has died, emigrated, or joined an Ashram, and no one else can understand it well enough to fix the remaining bugs.
"Full Version worth £39.99"
The Stable (q.v.) software given away on the front of a computer magazine. Possibly refers to the value in Italian Lira or Egyptian pounds.
Special Edition
Old Beta (q.v.) software that is given away on the front of a computer magazine in the hope you'll pay for the latest version.

Operating Systems

Unix
A computer operating system intended to stop ordinary people doing anything on a computer, but which really works, and is actually very easy to use (once you have read about 5000 pages of manuals). It was invented by people who disliked typing so much that programs with names longer than two letters are almost unheard of.
Linux
A computer operating system intended to stop Microsoft making any more money. On good days combines the power of Unix with the ease of use of Windows. Possibly more often combines the obscurity of Unix with the crashability of Windows.
Windows
User manual A computer operating system intended to make you think that is very easy to use. And it is, until it isn't, or something goes wrong (usually about 30 minutes on Windows 98). Windows NT is really named after VMS on the IBM/HAL principle and is nothing to do with "New Technology".
MS-DOS
I can't remember any more.

Software Problems

Bug
An error in a computer program. An unknown, put possibly quite large percentage of bugs are not bugs at all, but caused by computer users doing one of the following:
  • Not reading the manual
  • Going to the pub the night before and needing something to blame for that vital report not being completed.
  • Turning the computer off without shutting it down in order to catch an earlier train/have more time in the pub.
  • Trying to do something a way the programmer hadn't thought of.
(Actually, except for Microsoft software that last one does count as a bug. If it's Microsoft software you need to go on a training course to find out how ordinary users use programs.)
Feature
An undesirable behaviour in a computer program, but one which a good lawyer managed to get acquitted when it was charged with being a bug.
Service Pack
The posh name for bug fix. A good service pack should be take up more space and be harder to install than the original software was, and should stop at least one completely unrelated program from working at all. Microsoft are world leaders in creation of service packs.
Upgrade Version
A bug fix you have to pay for.

Computers

PC
A computer that isn't cool enough to be a Mac
Mac
A computer that isn't useful enough to be a PC - at least that's what people who don't want to pay extra for quality tell themselves.
Portable
Until quite recently, a computer that you could only just get onto a plane without going over your luggage allowance. Replaced by "laptops" (q.v.)
Laptop PC
Midway between a Portable and a Notebook, their primary function is to allow commuters to watch DVDs in the train on the way home. Employees of MI5 and MI6 frequently lose laptops containing security arrangements for state visits by leaving them in the backs of cars, on trains etc.
Notebook PC
A computer with a keyboard that is usually too small to use, and a screen that cannot be seen except under ideal lighting conditions. In order to make them easier to carry items such as CD ROMs,diskette drives, etc, power supplies, are not built into the computer but come as separate components each with their own set of cables and handy carrying case.
Pocket PC
A small, but quite expensive toy and alleged computer that probably won't fit in your pocket and certainly isn't a PC.
Windows Mobile
An even smaller version of the Pocket PC that is also a mobile phone and camera. The phone bit works.

Technical Support

Microsoft Technical support
Either an oxymoron or a myth.
Technical Support hotline
A telephone line that you can dial to be reminded of old singles from the 1970s. Unlike radio, where DJs with annoying voices may interrupt records to make irrelevant and stupid comments, your technical support specialist will only rarely disrupt your musical enjoyment by asking you to make sure you have turned the computer on, or telling you that the new version available for only $500 would fix the problem, or telling you how to fix a problem you don't have.