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The Hard Drive Is Inside the Computer

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the overdriven-pet-peeves dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 876

davidmwilliams writes "Those of us who work in technology have a jargon all of our very own. We know the difference between CPUs and GPUs, between SSD and HD, let alone HD and SDTV! Yet, our users are flat out calling everything 'the hard drive.' Why is it so?" As much as I hate to admit it, this particular thing drives me nuts. You don't call the auto shop and tell them that your engine is broken when your radio breaks!

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Meh (4, Insightful)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994785)

Get over it.. Who really needs users to identify which piece of their computer is broken? Even if they could tell the different components apart, they'd probably be wrong about where the problem is 90% of the time anyway.

Re:Meh (3, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994851)

Well how about this. You, as an IT knowing guy, tell your friend, the retard, that his hard drive is broken. Instead of buying a new hard drive, he buys a new PC, on your recommendation. Language is language and it's important that we are all synced.

Re:Meh (5, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995073)

Well how about this. You, as an IT knowing guy, tell your friend, the retard, that his hard drive is broken. Instead of buying a new hard drive, he buys a new PC, on your recommendation. Language is language and it's important that we are all synced.

Well, if you tell him the hard drive is broken, and he buys a new computer, then logically he _had_ to buy a new computer because that person would have never, ever been able to buy a new hard drive and to get his old computer with the new hard drive to work. The guy's only choices were to buy a new computer or to pay someone to fix it.

Re:Meh (5, Funny)

homes32 (1265404) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995217)

bonus if he bought the new computer from you.

Re:Meh (1, Troll)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995233)

...or to pay someone to fix it.

Haha what!? You build up an entire argument based on the fact that his only choice is to actually buy another PC and then shit on your own face in the end? Why!? Of course he should pay someone to fix it, if it's a perfectly functioning PC with a missing hard drive, why wouldn't he!? You're weird man.

Re:Meh (5, Informative)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995327)

What are friends for?

Seriously, if I tell my friend to buy a new hard drive, I expect him to buy a hard drive. If he needs my help connecting it or installing the OS, sure, I can do that, but I like to avoid buying things for other people (because if I take exactly the amount of money I paid for the drive, I will lose some money that I paid for the gas (but I don't know the exact amount), if I take more money then I should better know exactly how much I paid for the gas, so that I don't take too much). Luckily all my friends know how a hard drive looks like. On the other hand, if he didn't know how a particular component looks like, but I have the old one, I can always give it to him and say "go to the store and buy one of this".

Re:Meh (0)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995519)

Same. I ordered parts from newegg in february to build a system to run Darkfall on as my old computer was from like 2001 and had 512ram in it. I have 4gigs + an HD graphics card (geforce 9500gt oc'ed) and I bring it to my friends to hook up to his HDTV when I go over to help him with his college essays n shit (also to whore his cable as I only have dsl at my dad's) and he is constantly begging me to order him some ram for his computer which only takes DDR1 and he has 512 as well. I keep telling him to order himself, but for over a month now he keeps saying did you order me my ram yet?

I hate people who can't do shit for themselves. I'd gladly install or do anything technical for them cause I enjoy that shit, but I'm not going to spend my time + money to buy them shit that 1. i'm not guaranteed to be paid for and 2. they should learn to do themselves.

Re:Meh (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995531)

So you don't place any value on your time? You could say that you won't charge for time because it's your friend, but in that case you probably wouldn't charge for gas either.. I get paid a lot more per hour than I would use up in fuel on an average drive..

Re:Meh (5, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995105)

What's wrong about getting a load of spare parts when you offer him to get rid of his broken hard drive for free?

Re:Meh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995325)

Peanut butter in the keyboard, and soda stains in the "cupholder?"

Re:Meh (1)

Sinning (1433953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995439)

I'd be more worried about other substances in the keyboard.

Re:Meh (5, Funny)

WMD_88 (843388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995451)

Your username couldn't be more appropriate for that post. :)

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995179)

I totally agree.

As annoying as it might be, you should take the time to explain the differences. The explanation does not need to be in great detail, just in a language that they will understand. I've been doing this with a few of my local friends and I've noticed an improvement in them over time. They now don't point at the monitor when talking about the computer and don't point at the computer and call it a harddrive.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995459)

I'd tell him to give away his junk box to me and put in a new hard drive. and put it to some remote server area.

Re:Meh (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27994995)

People that use the equipment every day should show a level of professionalism that suggests they at least care enough about their jobs to learn the proper name for the equipment. If a truck driver wasn't able to use the correct name for the parts in their rig, whilst asking the mechanic for help, wouldn't the mechanic have the right to judge their ignorance with concern?

Re:Meh (2, Insightful)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995059)

they'd probably be wrong about where the problem is 90% of the time anyway.

I think you're on to something there ... instead of educating people on the correct terminology just teach the name of something that is prone to having problems so they can be right *most* of the time.

Re:Meh (1)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995077)

The issue isn't that people can't identify which part of their computer is broken. I don't think that any reasonable IT person expects that. The issue isn't even that they are calling the computer by the wrong name. The issue is that some people call the whole computer by a name that is incorrect but is a valid name for a single component that is part of the computer. This can cause confusion sometimes.

It's in memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995095)

The way people (my father, specifically) refer to both the RAM and storage as memory.

Re:Meh (4, Insightful)

woodsrunner (746751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995119)

agreed. In the example of the radiator, they might say radiator but it could be a thermostat, hose or water pump.

If everyone knew what was going on the need for technicians would vanish. It's time to get over it and be professional and do your job which is helping people do their jobs by supporting their technology.

Used to work in the far North as a network programmer for remote, fly-in tribes. When a chief calls the monitor in his broken English a t.v., is he really wrong?

In cree the word for monitor I have found is teevee. The word for computer is hard drive. Who am I to say they are wrong? I just have to make it's still working for them when I am 500 miles away back home.

Re:Meh (1)

shoemilk (1008173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995539)

Actually, the example in the summary was of a radio. A radiator is a much better example. The radio thing is equivalent of point to the speakers and saying "My hard drive is broken"

Re:Meh (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995317)

I have also heard it called the "mainframe". Yea and my mother called Atari 2600 cartridges "tapes".
And you have no idea how much stupid stuff I hear from "computer experts" every day.
Just let it go it will ruin your life.

Modem Box (5, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994799)

I also get the term "modem box" frequently, in reference to the tower.

Re:Modem Box (-1, Redundant)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994889)

Not to mention ADSL modem, there's no such fucking thing. Modem = Modulator/Demodulator, a simple AD-converter. There's no AD-converting in ADSL. ADSL is solely digital.

Re:Modem Box (5, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995025)

No, no it's not solely digital. It's modulated on much higher frequency analog than voice (hence the microfilter can split them), but it is most certainly not a digital technology.

Be informed before ranting.

Re:Modem Box (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995149)

Would you look at that. I stand corrected. I was taught otherwise, in school to add. +1 informative.

Re:Modem Box (3, Informative)

Phroggy (441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995137)

Not to mention ADSL modem, there's no such fucking thing. Modem = Modulator/Demodulator, a simple AD-converter. There's no AD-converting in ADSL. ADSL is solely digital.

This is caused by the lack of a suitable alternative term. The actual technical term for what most people call a DSL or cable modem is "CPE".

Customer Premise Equipment.

Literally, "that little box in your house."

Re:Modem Box (3, Informative)

goeken (22166) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995427)

I work for a small phone company in Iowa, every thing at the customers house from DSL modem to their phone is called Customer Premise Equipment to distinguish where the problem is. If it is our equipment it is called CO equipment (central office).

Re:Modem Box (2, Informative)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995181)

I disagree. Even though the acronym has 'digital' in it, the modulation on the wire is not direct baseband [] digital modulation - the sending and receiving sides of the ADSL signal are modulated above baseband to allow for the standard analog phone channel. From this article [] :

"With standard ADSL (annex A), the band from 25.875 kHz to 138 kHz is used for upstream communication, while 138 kHz [to] 1104 kHz is used for downstream communication."

Re:Modem Box (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995201)

Even if that was true; languages evolve. Printers don't print anymore either, most paint. A modem is a device connecting a data network to a phone network. It doesn't matter if the phone network is digital, or the data network analog.

Btw. I am not using my current monitor for monitoring either.

Re:Modem Box (2, Insightful)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995207)

Yes, so I thought too back in the day.... However, when I started looking into it I found out I was wrong. Read up on how ADSL works. [] .

ADSL is not fully digital at all. It splits out the frequencies used for voice and then utilises the frequencies not used by voice. If I explain it to a layperson, I usually tell them it's like having a bunch of modems running in parallel.

Re:Modem Box (5, Informative)

pz (113803) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995219)

Not to mention ADSL modem, there's no such fucking thing. Modem = Modulator/Demodulator, a simple AD-converter. There's no AD-converting in ADSL. ADSL is solely digital.

Um, almost, but not quite correct. Actually, not even close, but it's a nice day out today. ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line) modems do, in fact, exist. Lots of them. Every single ADSL drop is going to have a modem. Now a modem is indeed a modulator / demodulator, but that's a general-purpose term. And, in DSL signalling, there is, in fact, an analog carrier. The digital signals are being modulated into carrier tones. DSL does not create a baseband digital line sending low and high digital voltages between your computer and the remote processing (DSLAM) -- it sends a modulated signal pushed up out of baseband. It is most definitely analog, and there is most definitely mod/demod activity. So despite modem being something you might think of as being only an old-school term, it really still applies. (Even to cable TV/internet interfaces; those are also very highly analog devices at the front end.)

See, eg, [] for a decent overview.

But, more to the point here, a mod/demod pair is not a simple A-to-D converter. And there most certainly is a ton of analog-to-digital conversion going on in ADSL, in both directions.

When it comes down to it, the only place there are strictly digital signals are in strictly local communications (with some exceptions like RS-232 and related and derived standards like RS-242, USB, SATA, that can run over longer distances) that exist primarily as point-to-point connections between individual ICs. And even then, when you actually look at what's being signalled on the line, the distinction between digital and analog gets harder and harder to make over the years.

Re:Modem Box (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995227)

Except it isn't digital not even slightly. Transmitting over the distances they do REQUIRES an analogue signal (i.e. transmitting a waveform in varying frequency/phase/amplitude representing the digital signal instead of using the high/low peaks of the wave to represent bits).

ADSL uses variants of QAM modulation.

See: [] and [] for descriptions of the two modulations used in ADSL.

Re:Modem Box (0)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995321)

Do you have a superior term? 'ADSL box' is ambiguous, 'ADSL transcoder' is just terrible. 'Modem' has come to be a generic term for 'device that links your ethernet port to the rest of the world'. Yes, it's technically incorrect, but there isn't a suitable replacement.

Re:Modem Box (1)

nicholasjay (921044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995079)

I hear a lot of references to the 'modem' when talking about the tower. It gets infuriating when talking to people with an actual modem/router problem because they have no idea what's going on.

Not entirely true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27994845)

... The occasionally semi-literate ones will call it the "CPU." Having worked in modem tech support we got plenty of people referring to the PC itself as the "Modem."

- R

Re:Not entirely true... (0, Redundant)

Kadagan AU (638260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995255)

All the non-tech people I know refer to their whole computer as the CPU as well. It annoys me, but I've been slowly educating people. My grandmother is getting a lot better at these things lately.

That will never be as aggravating as memory vs... (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994853)

That will never be as aggravating as memory vs. storage. "I need more memory for my program" is more likely to mean "I'm out of disk space" than "I need more RAM". And the error messages specifically say they need more disk space, but they heard once that a computer stores things in its "memory" and they stopped learning right then and there. Just turned off their fucking brains, and went to sleep.

Re:That will never be as aggravating as memory vs. (1)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995155)

Yeah, and that's all well and good until someone mentions virtual memory.

Re:That will never be as aggravating as memory vs. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995159)

When I was younger and first learning about computers I made this mistake all the time until a more computer literate friend corrected me. I think the problem is when someone refers to memory they normally associate that with how their memory works in a human. You have memories to hold long term information so people will make the same assumption when the computer says "Need more memory to run the program." The message is a little vague in that sense. I can't really fault people for making the error.

Re:While supporting Mac SE... (5, Interesting)

Big Smirk (692056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995225)

If you remember those boxes with 8" screens....

The MAC OS would throw up a message that said something to the effect you were running out of memory (we had 2meg installed instead of max 4). I believe the message said please close some applications (Multi-finder).

Anyway, the natural step was for the user to start deleting icons (ie programs) from the desktop.

Then they would reboot. Then they would notice that some documents couldn't be opened and perhaps notice the icon has changed.

The trouble ticket would be "Can't open a document that I could open yesterday".

Why did they remove MS Word? Because they created all their documents with Word Perfect and only used MS Word to read docs from others (so they never clicked on the icon itself).

This happened so often that we had a server with an 'image' of the standard licensed software that we could drag over at moments notice. At the speed of Appletalk. Probably should have just turned off multi-finder... Oh well.

It doesn't stop there (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995259)

Try to get them to understand that they need to buy 2 Gigs of ram when they could have hundreds for the same price... only that these Gigs come in hard drive form.

But you may excuse them, IMO. We do use similar terms for quite different things. Graphics ram and system ram are both measured in MB and GB, but they are not interchangable. You cannot make your Windows run faster with a graphics card of 1GB ram, if you only have 128MB system memory, it won't do you any good. And Megahertz, Megabyte... they're both Mega, right. And if the advertising industry taught me anything, Mega means good, so it's gotta be great...

Snideness aside. Maybe our jargon is a bit hard to understand outside the biz. Your muffler is a muffler and it doesn't belong anywhere else. The fluids you fill into the various places in your car are very easy to keep apart. Breaking flued does not only sound different than fuel, it also smells and looks very different.

Re:That will never be as aggravating as memory vs. (2, Informative)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995323)

And that one is extremely hard to explain. The closest that I can do to explain this is compare RAM with short-time memory and Storage with long-time memory. Alas, most people have problems understanding that too.

I've also tried scrapbook (RAM) versus bookshelf with books (Storage).

Nothing seems to really get it through, even if you try to explain it without analogies. The problem here is that the concept of RAM is too hard to grasp and the the terms MegaByte/GigaByte are linked to Storage in their minds.

Re:That will never be as aggravating as memory vs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995355)

On the same note, when I mentioned my new computer recently, a non-technical friend asked "How many gigabytes?"

I told him I had a thousand...

This is why IDLE is a category... (3, Insightful)

Doches (761288) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994857) I don't click on pointless drivel like this by mistake.

Re:This is why IDLE is a category... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27994975)

I'm not familiar with that standard, is it similar to SCSLI?

Re:This is why IDLE is a category... (1)

Ogun (101578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995257)

So instead IDLE as a category allows you to read the item and then post pointless drivel as a reply, obviously not by mistake.

Servers... (4, Interesting)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994875)

As an outsourcer I ran in to an issue for a while trying to talk someone through something on the phone, because as it turns out, everything in side the server room is a server, even the switches, the routers, and and other piece of equipment. It really just comes down to people hearing one or two terms and thinking they're talking "tech-speak" with you. Only problem is often times they're either unable or unwilling to learn, or take offense at suggestions on what the difference is.

Re:Servers... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27994909)

Yep, I had that one... at home. The computer in my room is the one connected to the wireless router, so my computer is the "main server", apparently.

Ever worked on a Linux box w/ a dead-end luser? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27994973)

I did, recently: I installed Ubuntu for the first time last year, and man, I was disappointed.

Right out of the box, so to speak, there were problems:

1. NVIDIA graphics card drivers weren't installed because they were proprietary. Come on. Even then, dragging windows around and typing into text boxes had a minor delay that didn't feel natural.

2. All websites looked different and ugly as sin, because the package didn't come with the fonts that every other system used. Come on!

3. Multi-monitor use was difficult to set up without having to alter configuration files ( though I do wish taskbars on multiple screens would come to Windows 7). Some things I found simply couldn't be done without writing scripts: setting up a hotkey to send a window to the other monitor, etc.

To resolve most of these issues, I had to navigate a bunch of forums and wiki help pages. I couldn't imagine trying to show my mom how to do that, for instance.

Ubuntu has a lot of strengths, and many of its features made me go "OOOO, cool!" But the Linux learning curve is freakishly steep. To do something of medium difficulty in Windows generally requires advanced console command knowledge in Ubuntu.

Known terms (5, Insightful)

Allicorn (175921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994877)

It's one of the few components they routinely hear about which is usually referred to with words rather than letters and is therefore easier to remember. Since it becomes the only known (though not understood) technical term, a certain class of users will invoke it at every opportunity they get to make themselves sound as if they know what they're talking about and thereby deserve some preferential treatment.

This is not something specific to computing. The same type of people will constantly refer their mechanic to their "carburetor" or their plumber to their "ball cock" ;-)

IT Crowd (5, Funny)

masterfpt (1435165) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994879)

BOSS - What do you know about computers?

- Well, receiving emails, sending emails, clicking, double clicking, the internet... The list goes on...

BOSS - What is that under my table?

- The... hard... drive(?)...

BOSS - Of course! You got the job!

Re:IT Crowd (5, Funny)

.Bruce Perens (150539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995069)

BOSS - What do you know about computers?

- Well, receiving emails, sending emails, clicking, double clicking, the internet... The list goes on...

BOSS - What is that under my table?

- Your ... secretary?

BOSS - Now you know what you need to do to get a job around here!

Re:IT Crowd (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995423)

IIRC it was more like

"I could go on"
"Clicking ... double clicking... the mouse... mice ... the thing under the table"
"The hard drive!"

The fun (or not so fun, IMO) part of our profession is that you can BS anyone into believing anything, as long as you stay ahead just an inch. Sadly, this also means that imposters can easily become your boss if they can pull off a better show than you, despite not knowing anything about Komputars.

Re:IT Crowd (1)

loutr (626763) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995521)

Hello. Hello computer. Hello. Hello ?

Re:IT Crowd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995529)

Did you turn it off and on again?

Just hard drive? (5, Funny)

thecoolbean (454867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994885)

For my customers in a very rural, very southern town, it's a toss up between hard drive and: 'There's something wrong with the modem' "You mean you can't dial out?" "What?" "Dial out. You can't dial into your internet provider" "No. We got DSL. There's something wrong with the whole modem" "..."

Be thankful

Re:Just hard drive? (1)

Barny (103770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994955)

And if I hear the phrase "now, I am computer illiterate..." one more fucking time....

The best therapy for that one though, is to mentally change illiterate to ignorant.

Re:Just hard drive? (5, Insightful)

Phroggy (441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995011)

And if I hear the phrase "now, I am computer illiterate..." one more fucking time....

The best therapy for that one though, is to mentally change illiterate to ignorant.

Trust me, those people are fine. It's the ones who pretend to know what they're talking about, that cause the headaches.

When you work with it daily..... (5, Insightful)

killerkoi (120943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994893)

I completely understand. If our users had a better grasp of technology, they would be making all the numb skull mistakes. The same mistakes that are ranked Level 1 importance, when in fact every else on my plate is actually more important.

If they used the proper terms, I wouldn't have to carry around a mini shop in a bag.

What I am have a problem with, is when they get offended by you asking them questions that could help me fix it right now, over the phone. Saving them time and, most of the time, money.

Priority (5, Insightful)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994915)

Think of the issue from the point of view of someone who has no interest in the technical aspects of a computer. They see the entire desktop amalgamation--display, keyboard, mouse, and box of chips--as the computer. Now consider the first time that the computer, as a whole, caused them anxiety or stress: for most people when a document was lost, or when the system failed to boot, or when the system began malfunctioning. That anxiety was not caused, most frequently, by the CPU, or the motherboard, or by the memory, or the monitor, or the mouse. The source of the anxiety was something that happened with the hard drive. In their struggle to appear to know more about the computer they have managed to identify that there is a significant component called the hard drive. It's a default setting. If the word they are looking for is not the entire computer then, by default, it must be the hard drive.

People do know the difference between the radio and the engine of a car because, for many people, the radio is every bit as important as the engine and, should the radio go out, it would cause them just as much anxiety as the engine going out.

Another poster mentioned 'modem box'. Those people, obviously, have had their largest and most stressful experience with the computer when the modem was no longer working properly. Blame that one on AOL.

Re:Priority (1)

TiberSeptm (889423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995143)

-1? This seems to be somewhat interesting and insightful, even if it might not be what I think. Why must people use negative mod points as "-1 I Disagree"?

Re:Priority (4, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995145)

I'm happy to allow trained professionals to deal with my car when there's a problem. Often times, I don't know the source of the problem. That being said- I still know the difference between, say, the engine and the starter. I can tell the difference between a brakes problem and an engine problem. But I couldn't tell you much more than that.

The problem isn't that they don't know- it's that they just go ahead and use random words that they don't know. If I don't know the problem, or anything related to it- I describe the symptoms, and don't pretend to know more than I do. I certainly don't suggest that the solenoid on the belts is causing a gas leak.

Linksys (5, Funny)

Tteddo (543485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994921)

I like the mass hallucination that causes everyone to pronounce Linksys as Linkskees.

Re:Linksys (1)

jasonjas (774456) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995237)

I get that all the time. "Where can I get a Linkskees" I really want to say "It's on a mountain slope, you can rent them there."

The "machine" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27994939)

I love how people call geeks that say the computer is the "machine" is a dumb ass.

Poor Comp.Sci literacy (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994959)

Due most of the time to poor teacher comp.sci literacy at school (whatever degree).
Sometime is also mind laziness that drives people not to literate themselves.

Re:Poor Comp.Sci literacy (1)

jcombel (1557059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995203)

Due most of the time to poor teacher comp.sci literacy at school (whatever degree). Sometime is also mind laziness that drives people not to literate themselves.


i repair PCs in a mid-sized urban city for a living. 4/5 of my customers come in saying
"My hard drive is broken,"
"My CPU is broken," or
"My modem is broken."

from my personal history, my public high school keyboarding teacher - who taught typing fairly enough - was charged with basic computer literacy immediately before keyboarding instruction began the first semester (this was ~8 years ago). the class was taught to identify parts as "CPU" (the tower case), Monitor, Keyboard, and Mouse.

i don't think it's much of a stretch to think that my generation - really the first to receive modern PC instruction in required secondary school classes - were given poor information, which spread like wildfire to the friends and family that had zero PC 'education.'

Here comes the flood (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994961)

I sense an immense tech/geek bitchin' session in the makin'

Chill out dudes - and we don't need anyone mentioning the 'coffe cup holder' again, do we!?

magic box, good enough for most (2, Insightful)

arikol (728226) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994979)

The thing is, most users don't NEED or WANT to know about how the tool works. Doesn't matter what tool that is.

WE do.

A general car driver WILL say "the engine is broken" if the engine, drive-train or ANY other mechanical part between engine and wheels seems to malfunction. That goes about many of you computer experts as well.
You don't NEED or WANT to know anything about flywheels, transmissions, cam-shafts, fuel injector nozzles or other car crap.

Respect the user as a USER of a tool. A very advanced and complicated tool which needs a specialist to understand it.

As for the understanding the average user does need.
They need to know about the storage, the hard disk. Just so they can find files. They don't need to know about the CPU, RAM (except that you can only run a few apps at once, if the computer gets slow then shut down some programs) or PSUs or motherboards or any of that crap.

Just think about your life and all the tools YOU use, yet don't really understand. When it fails, it's broken. Just... youknow...the box, it dun broked!

Even where you have some limited laymans understanding that may still be rather faulty (most people don't understand microwaves for instance)

You want their diagnosis??? (1)

catsRus (548036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994981)

"You don't call the auto shop and tell them that your engine is broken when your radio breaks!" You might not but lots of people do! Fixing anything can be a challenge, you get to figure it out without much help from the customer on most occasions (sometimes it is easier without their diagnosis). They just want it to work.

Why? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994989)

Because people are stupid, that's why.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995287)

No, because nobody needs to know everything. Just because our lives revolve around computers, doesn't mean everyone's does.

Personally I don't give a damn if my car engine is a piston, rotary or rocket engine. Ok, the latter would be pretty cool, but still ... if it's broken I'll tell my mechanic that "my engine is broken" and not try to explain him his job.

labtop (1)

Yold (473518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27994991)

Laptops are wayy more common than they were a decade ago, and yet I still here a lot of people saying "labtop". I know that my girlfriend can spell "laptop", and yet she still pronounces it with a "b" rather than "p".

Laptop dancing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995377)

My favorite was a woman on the local news objecting to a strip club where there wold be "laptop dancing" taking place.

I still have visions of a titty bar with woman dancing on top of old thinkpads :-)

Talk about jargon (-1, Troll)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995033)

I didn't twig just what she meant at the time.

Twig? As in a small piece of a tree branch? What the hell does that have to do with not understanding what the person meant?

Would it have been so difficult to say, "I didn't understand what she meant at the time."? Trying to use a cutting-edge word definition which only a select few know makes you look, and sound, elitist as well as trying too hard (which also applies to this common sense blurb called an article).

Re:Talk about jargon (2, Informative)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995275)

twig, verb, twigged, twig-ging. British

verb (used with object)
1. to look at; observe: Now, twig the man climbing there, will you?
2. to see; perceive: Do you twig the difference in colors?
3. to understand.
verb (used without object)
4. to understand.

cutting-edge word definition? (2, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995455)


Cutting-edge word definition? This one goes back to the 1700s!

twig (twig)

transitive verb, intransitive verb twigged, twigging twigging

      1. to observe
      2. to understand

Etymology: via thieves' slang from Irish "tuigim", I understand

Re:cutting-edge word definition? (0, Troll)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995525)

So tell me. Without someone looking up the word, how are they supposed to know what that obscure reference to the word means? Yes, you can infer the meaning from the context of the sentence, but the person still comes off sounding elitist for using that definition of a common word.

To call the kettle black... (5, Funny)

marciot (598356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995061)

Well, sometimes IT professionals refer to people by their component parts too. For example:

"That dick from accounting just fubared the laser printer by feeding regular transparancies into it."

Must be an American thing (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995125)

I've never once heard of anyone referring to a PC as a HDD here in the UK. 'Computer' or 'PC' is all I've ever actually heard it been called. Even with older people who haven't had a great deal of exposure, they at least refer to it as 'tower', 'unit' or even 'system' - all of which are perfectly valid.

It's our fault... (5, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995131)

I think the problem is actually that the computer field didn't come up with a proper term themselves. I remember way back-in-the-day some computer enthusiasts calling it "the CPU" which is also highly misleading. Nowadays, computer people will call it, "the tower", "the machine", "the box", or something like that. But let's face it--these are actually not very good terms. We don't actually have a precise and universal term that refer to it. The situation was muddled by the fact that there is no standard form-factor for a computer (we went from big servers, to boxes laying down, to boxes standing up like towers, to all-in-ones like iMacs, with all kinds of variations in between...).

Now this isn't a problem for computer people. We know what "power cycle the system" means and we can be precise by saying "press the button on the front of the case". But because amongst ourselves we don't consistently use a precise term, other people just picked-up on whatever term sounded right. We kept referring to "the hard drive" while pointing at (actually inside) the box, so people thought the box was "the hard drive". It's understandable.

The whole situation is funny, but not the end of the world. You just have to keep in mind that when someone uses precise terminology (like "hard drive" or "operating system" or "internet") they could very well be using it wrong.

Re:It's our fault... (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995541)

Well, actually CPU is probably quite a good term. Back in the day, mainframe computers had lots of racks in the computer room with peripherals, tape storage etc., but usually only one Central Processing Unit. The "CPU" on the motherboard of a modern PC is a microprocessor that needs the rest of the motherboard in order to function, so it's not that ridiculous calling the motherboard / processor combination the "CPU", unfortunately CPU has changed meaning from its original usage to refer to the microprocessor itself rather than the whole functional unit.

Foxfire! (1)

cyber1kenobi (666018) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995153)

I get it all the time - nobody can say Firefox, it's always Foxfire. Drives me nuts. I've been doing on-site service with the company I started for 10+ years and I really would love to be insulated from the customers. I don't want to deal with them on the phone or via e-mail, I want to show up and fix what needs fixin' or whatever else I have to do. Babbling on the phone about the same thing over and over again is driving me crazy.

When you call them (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995185)

You don't call the auto shop and tell them that your engine is broken when your radio breaks!

No, you call them and tell them:
your car is making a funny noise when your wheel bearings are going out.
your car is making squealing noise when the belts are loose.
your car doesn't shift right when your transmission is low on fluid.
the steering wheel shakes when your tires are out of balance.
the car is overheating when the water pump or thermostat is broken.

Ok, maybe you don't, but most people do just that.

Re:When you call them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27995549)

That's right and in the technical support world we get calls telling us 'my computer crashed' or 'I got an error message' and that's at best. Usually 'my computer crashed' is worded more closely to 'something shut off' and error messages are 'I got some kind of popup'.

These are much more poorly worded than how you would explain something to your mechanic.
If your car seems to shudder when you turn right you'll tell your mechanic that but if your computer is repeatedly having Word crash with an error message why do you say that your computer crashed and don't even mention what was going on at the time?

... "server"? (1)

fyta (595526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995191)

I've found an alarming number of business ISP users referring to their Internet connection as their server: "I can't get on to Google - is our server down?". Aaargh ;/

"is our server down?" (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995551)

You're ABSOLUTELY right, except that they don't ask about the server, do they? They TELL you that the server is down.

On the other hand, the amateurs who actually do anything with my servers blame EVERYTHING on the network. They want to VLAN everything. Graphs of tiny network usage versus their colossal CPU or local disk IO stats mean nothing. It is the network. They need their own network, then everything will be fine. And they know so much more than me.

Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse and Hard Drive (4, Interesting)

anyaristow (1448609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995199)

As far as some people are concerned, their computer consists of four parts: the monitor, keyboard, mouse and hard drive. The latter is the big case where they put CDs. It's the only component their software and other users regularly mention, so it's what they've come to know the box as.

Re:Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse and Hard Drive (0, Offtopic)

anyaristow (1448609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995481)

Nevermind. I just noticed that making a post like this [] will not only get you modded "flamebait", but also move your karma from "good" to "bad". My apologies for not posting the expected party line.

Sure (4, Insightful)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995251)

But outside of nerddom, computers are all software. People make the distinction between the motor and the radio because they interact with the stereo and the motor separately. And really, most people would identify the alternator, water pump, and headders as "motor". Most people have never opened the case to their pc and only know it as the thing they have to turn on to get at the internet.

I think it's mostly an issue of people having been trained for years that the relevant part is the hard drive and that everything else is just nerd jargon for the crap that supports the drive.

Frankly, they're right.

Everything lives on the hard drive, and when some part fucks up, it's their data that gets screwed up and the software that they interact with that tells them or quits working. The particular component that failed is pretty much irrelevant. The data on the drive is inaccessible or corrupt.

In a similar but related argument that pops up once in a while... nerds talk about hardening the Linux OS and say things like "the only thing rogue software could destroy is user data, the OS proper remains unharmed". Neglecting the fact that the whole fucking purpose is the data.

Users call it the hard drive because that's the only part that actually matters.

It seems that CPU is the furniture industry's term (1)

webwake (1557063) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995277)

Not only do users confused with terms it seams the whole furniture industry is confused. It seems that CPU has become the term used by the furniture industry. Just Google CPU Holder [] .

of course it is (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995293)

the "hard drive" is the beige box sitting on the floor. And the "computer" is the heavy thing you look at on the desk. (be careful when telling them to bring in their "computer" for service) After about two weeks of taking phonecalls for support you come to understand this. After awhile, you also come to understand that some people believe electronics can work without power or while switched off also. I watched someone here almost short out their brain when a caller asked if the computer had to be turned on to burn CDs.

One of these callers is a professor at our local university. assume nothing.

Used to be true (1)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995315)

Doesn't this come from the time when the hard drive really was a box on its own?

Modem (1)

LoStMaTt (960655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995367)

I still have a dozen or so customers that call their tower the "modem".

Most people will never understand (2, Insightful)

jmyers (208878) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995373)

I was doing work for a small town ISP a few years ago (1996 or so). They had a policy that if you bring your PC to the office they will configure it for you. A lady showed with with just the CRT monitor and wanted to get set up for internet access. The guy I was working with explained very nicely that he needed the computer and this was just the monitor. She said that she was not sure and would come back with the other part. The really bad part...the lady who brought in the monitor taught computer 101 classes at the local community college.

Memory (1)

Slash.Poop (1088395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995375)

The most common thing I hear is people confusing memory and the hard drive. I suppose to them it makes sense. The hard drive is the thing that keeps (remembers) their files.

Me: "You are running out of space on your computer."
Them: "OK, well can you give me some more memory then?"

It is at this point I usually get out my pack of crayons.

Sure, but which web browser do you use? (5, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995407)

I was in a kick-off meeting for a small web project for my firm's new client (a non-profit advocacy type organization). We were going to build a little CMS for part of their relocated web presence, and this was back before you could just-add-water to Drupal or Joomla, etc., and when which browser you used actually mattered when it came to admin tasks.

So, I asked the group around the conference table, "Just so we know how to approach some of this, which web browser do you folks use here in the office?" The public relations director raised her hand and said, "Oh, that's me!"

She was the Official Web Browser in the office, and was the one to talk to about all such matters. What do you say at that point? So I said, "Excellent... it's helpful to have a designated contact point on the ... uh ... highly technical stuff."

The process is called "metonymy". (4, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995461)

At least that is the name that rhetoricians use for it: referring to a thing by something associated with it.

When we call soldiers "boots on the ground" that is metonymy. A special case is synecdoche, using the part for the whole ("blade" for "sword").

In any case, its wired into human language and thought. If you look in a dictionary, you'll find words with three or more definitions. Usually there is a process of metonymy going on. "Justice" entered the English language meaning something to mete punishment or reward according to the right of the recipient. It has come to mean a lot of other things: fairness, righteousness, the law, a judge or other legal official, etc.

That's odd. (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#27995469)

My users all call the box "the CPU".

Thank goodness no one remembers 5.25" disks anymore, since they used to see 3.5" disks as rigid, and would tell me they stored things on the "hard disk" when they'd put them on 3.5" floppy.

Now ALL the floppies are gone, so I just never ask people where they store anything. If I did, I suspect they'd tell me they put it in "the CPU."

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