386: No, 486: Oops, Pentium: The only chip to consider if you're thinking of buying a PC. Until Intel ramps up the 686.
640K: The salary the average Wall Street PC analyst pulls in each year.
Algorithm: A catchy 1930 song by George and Ira Gershwin.
Availability: Date when a dozen copies of the beta version will be hurriedly shrink-wrapped for the benefit of the press and the investment community.
Backup: The chore you were really, honestly, going to do the very next thing before you switched drive letters and accidentally copied older, out-of-date versions of you files over all your newer ones at 3 a.m.
Buffer: The only other job - involving a chamois at the car wash - for which most computer store salespeople are qualified.
Bundled software: Free applications like home dentistry packages and Esperanto spelling dictionaries that are thrown in with cheap clones so you think you're getting real value for your money.
CD-ROM: A $30 dollar mechanism in a $300 cabinet that accesses vast quantities of valuable information too slowly to use.
Copy protection: A sly technique employed by hardware vendors to combat software piracy by continually changing the size and compatibility of disk drives (from 160K to 320K to 360K to 1.2MB to 720K to 1.44MB to 2.88MB, etc.).
CP/M: An antiquated operation system from the early days of computing, based on inscrutable prompts like A>, terse commands, and absurdly backward conventions, such as 11-character limits on filenames. Contrasted with today's modern versions of DOS.
Database, flat-file: A program selling for under $500 that most people use to keep lists of names and addresses, etc.
Database, relational/programmable: A program selling for over $500 that most people use to keep lists of names and addresses, etc.
Debugging: The process of uncovering glitches by packaging prerelease software as finished products, then waiting for irate customers to report problems.
Downward compatibility: You really didn't have to spend the money for the upgraded version, since all you use anyway is the old set of features.
for your hard disk to start making a sound like a monkey wrench in a blender.
of typing a simple three-character command.
Shock-mounted: Make sure you're sitting down when you ask the price.
Spreadsheet: Sophisticated software that can be used as a database, rudimentary word processor, graphing program, and, in a pinch, a ledger.
Stack: The place in the corner of the room where you pile unopened software manuals.
Standard: Manufactured by the company that does the flashiest advertising.
Support: Fast, simple, courteous, friendly, accurate help available to any user who happens to work for any company that bought 1,000 copies of the product.
Throughput: What you feel like doing with your foot and your computer screen after you see the message "General Failure Error Reading Drive C:".
Toll-free hotline: An AT&T busy-signal test number.
Toner cartridge: A device to refill laser printers; invented by the Association of American Dry Cleaners.
Torture test: Everyone - from the FedEx guy to the clerk who opened the box to the trainee who executed the speed test - accidentally dropped it.
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.
Unix, year of: See Calendar, perpetual.
Value-added: A lot more expensive.
Virus: Commonly, the belief of incompetent users that some mysterious external force is to blame for their mistakes at the keyboard.
Workstation: Any PC that sells for more than $10,000.
XT: All the computer that most users who just type letters and run typical spreadsheets will ever need, even though a 386 machine will reformat their text a whole tenth of a second faster.