When I went to college in the 1980's, I heard a lot of words like "data input" and "beta version." They confused me. I wanted desperately to know what people were talking about, what Big Secret resided in the computer industry.
Now that I've worked in a computer company for the last few years, I've gained an insider's perspective. I decided to share my knowledge with the uninitiated by creating the following brief, handy glossary: Alpha. Software undergoes alpha testing as a first step in getting user feedback.
- Latin for "doesn't work."
- Software undergoes beta testing shortly before it's released. Beta is Latin for "still doesn't work."
- Instrument of torture. The first computer was invented by Roger "Duffy" Billingsly, a British scientist. In a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, Duffy disguised himself as a German ally and offered his invention as a gift to the surly dictator. The plot worked. On April 8, 1945, Adolf 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.
- 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 old machine, a ferret if it's a Pentium and a ferret on speed if it's a Pentium II.
- Default Directory
- Black hole. Default directory is where all files that you need disappear to.
- Error message
- Terse, baffling remark used by programmers to place blame on users for the program's shortcomings.
- 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.
- Collective term for any computer-related object that can be kicked or battered.
- What we all need. Actually, it is 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.