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A Glossary of Computing Terms

A Glossary of Computing Terms

beta test, v. To voluntarily entrust one's data, one's livelihood and one's sanity to hardware or software intended to destroy all three. In earlier days, virgins were often selected to beta test volcanos.

bit, n. A unit of measure applied to color. Twenty-four-bit color refers to expensive $3 color as opposed to the cheaper 25 cent, or two-bit, color that use to be available a few years ago.

buzzword, n. The fly in the ointment of computer literacy.

clone, n. 1. An exact duplicate, as in "our product is a clone of their product." 2. A shoddy, spurious copy, as in "their product is a clone of our product."

enhance, v. To tamper with an image, usually to its detriment.

genlock, n. Why he stays in the bottle.

guru, n. A computer owner who can read the manual.

handshaking protocol, n. A process employed by hostile hardware devices to initiate a terse but civil dialogue, which, in turn, is characterized by occasional misunderstanding, sulking, and name-calling.

italic, adj. Slanted to the right to emphasize key phrases. Unique to Western alphabets; in Eastern languages, the same phrases are often slanted to the left.

kern, v. 1. To pack type together as tightly as the kernels on an ear of corn. 2. In parts of Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y., a small, metal object used as part of the monetary system.

modem, adj. Up-to-date, new-fangled, as in "Thoroughly Modem Millie." An unfortunate byproduct of kerning.

pixel, n. A mischievous, magical spirit associated with screen displays. The computer industry has frequently borrowed from mythology: Witness the sprites in computer graphics, the demons in artificial intelligence, and the trolls in the marketing department.

prototype, n. First stage in the life cycle of a computer product, followed by pre-alpha, alpha, beta, release version, corrected release version, upgrade, corrected upgrade, etc. Unlike its successors, the prototype is not expected to work.

revolutionary, adj. Repackaged.

Unix, N. A computer operating system, once thought to be flabby and impotent, that now shows a surprising interest in making off with the workstation harem.

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