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The Hard Drive Is Inside the Computer 876

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the overdriven-pet-peeves dept.
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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The Hard Drive Is Inside the Computer

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  • Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MeanMF (631837) * on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:21AM (#27994785) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by noundi (1044080)
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gnasher719 (869701) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:35AM (#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 (Score:5, Funny)

          by homes32 (1265404) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:42AM (#27995217)
          bonus if he bought the new computer from you.
        • Re:Meh (Score:5, Informative)

          by Pentium100 (1240090) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:46AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:35AM (#27996307)
            Um, send them a URL to Newegg of the thing they need to buy and then make them buy you dinner when you install it? Jeez, all this social networking and nobody knows how to have friends anymore.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by geminidomino (614729) *

              Dinner? Talk about inflation...

              Friend-Geek service used to only cost you a beer!

              *GeminiDomino, being used by women for techs since 1991*

            • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

              by sumdumass (711423) on Monday May 18, 2009 @02:30PM (#28000767) Journal

              What do you suppose they check the email or URL out on when their hard drive is crashed?

              That's something that always puzzled me. Our local electric coop decided to discontinue the 800 number to see if your power outage was already reported. Instead, they went to a website so that you can conveniently turn on your computer without electricity, navigate through your dark as night router to enter your address in a website to see if your power outage needs to be reported or not. At least with the 800 number, it used your phone number from caller ID (or enter it manu8aly) to check your billing records for your address coverage and if it wasn't reported, you could just press numbers on the keypad at the prompts and automatically report the outage. Now you conveniently need to not need power at your house to report an outage.

        • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ari_j (90255) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:02AM (#27995621)
          Language is important, indeed. The key to effective communication is to know the language of your audience. If you know that, in your friend's jargon, "hard drive" and "CPU" are both terms used to refer to the entire computer other than external peripherals, you should tell him "a part inside your computer is broken but it can be fixed or even replaced without you having to buy a new computer."

          You get bonus points if you know his interests well enough to formulate a good analogy, such as "a part inside your computer needs to be replaced or fixed, kind of like if your Mustang won't start because it needs a new distributor cap."

          Communication is 90% knowing your audience.
          • Re:Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

            by UncleTogie (1004853) on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:00AM (#27996821) Homepage Journal

            If you know that, in your friend's jargon, "hard drive" and "CPU" are both terms used to refer to the entire computer other than external peripherals, you should tell him "a part inside your computer is broken but it can be fixed or even replaced without you having to buy a new computer."

            That's why our shop has developed the crazy idea of "informing our clients". We drag 'em to the back, 'n' SHOW 'em their hard drive. We then show them an open hard drive, and even our older clients get the "record player" analogy once they've seen the guts. We've found that the clients walk away more informed, and happier that we actually took a few minutes to describe the problem. Otherwise, all they hear is "the framjabulator snonked on the whooziwhats, so pay us money to make your computer work again..." and just look at the dollar signs. On the extreme cases, we plunk their rears down for the install itself.

            Informed clients are generally happy ones.

            • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Xaedalus (1192463) <Xaedalys@@@yahoo...com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:34AM (#27997453)
              Just wanted to say thank you for doing this. That is an example of excellent customer service and excellent sales tactics. Informed customers are happy customers, and happy customers come back to you. I wish more businesses would take the time to do what you do. So some karmic kudos to you, sir. You deserve them. :-)
            • Re:Meh (Score:5, Funny)

              by timepilot (116247) on Monday May 18, 2009 @12:49PM (#27998917)

              problem. Otherwise, all they hear is "the framjabulator snonked on the whooziwhats, so pay us money

              Crap! That's just what my doctor said to me this morning! Is it serious???

        • Re:Meh (Score:5, Funny)

          by b4upoo (166390) on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:04AM (#27996903)

          Offer him $20. for the computer as scrap knowing that you can easily fix it and sell it. Then sell him one you just happen to have on the shelf for 30 times what you paid for it. This is America!

      • Re:Meh (Score:5, Funny)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:37AM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:32AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Norsefire (1494323) *

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by powerlord (28156) on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:02AM (#27996845) Journal

        "I don't understand. I was using my computer and The Windows broke."

        "The Windows keeps restarting every time I turn it on."

        "I think I have a virus, The Windows is running slower."

        "I think there is something wrong with The WIndows. It keeps beeping and the TV won't turn on."

        Works for me.

    • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by woodsrunner (746751) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:37AM (#27995119) Journal
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:02AM (#27995607) Journal

        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.

        I know what you mean, and I don't think anyone sees it as a major problem, but the reason that it annoys me is that (in my experience) the customers who do things like calling the computer a hard drive are the ones who are under the deluded impression that they know what they're talking about. I have no issue with a pleasant customer who puts a computer on my desk and says "Err, it's not working."; as you said, it's my job to know how to diagnose and fix the computer, not theirs. I find it irritating when someone with the same level of knowledge tells me "My hard drive is broken, does it need more RAM?" or some equally nonsensical statement. If you don't know what you're talking about there's no harm in admitting it, you look a lot worse stringing together random 'tech' words in the hope that you sound smart.

        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.

        Separate issue, in my opinion. In the context of the article we're communicating in fluent English. In English, hard drive and computer are not synonyms.

      • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:05AM (#27995679) Homepage

        But people are expected to know that a radiator is not the same as a car. I don't expect people to know the difference between SATA and IDE, but they need to know the difference between the engine and the wheels.

        If you want to discuss something, you need to know at least a decent subset of the vocabulary that goes with it. If you don't, then you use phrases like "my car is broken" and "it keeps overheating", not "the axel is broken". Just because you know the word axle is a car thing doesn't mean it's OK to use it to refer to any part of the car.

  • Modem Box (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FredFredrickson (1177871) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:22AM (#27994799) Homepage Journal
    I also get the term "modem box" frequently, in reference to the tower.
  • 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.

    • by Big Smirk (692056) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:42AM (#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.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:43AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fubar1971 (641721)
        Your example is not a very good one.

        "Graphics ram and system ram are both measured in MB and GB, but they are not interchangeable."

        MB, GB, Mhz, etc are all units of measure. They have nothing to do with components of a computer.

        Your example is like saying I need 1 qt of brake fluid can be confused with 4 qt's of oil. 2 totally different things, but the same unit of measure.

        You would have been better off with comparing something like DDR vs. DDR2 or IDE vs. SATA.
  • by Doches (761288) <DochesNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:26AM (#27994857)
    ...so I don't click on pointless drivel like this by mistake.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alteran (70039)

      ...so I don't click on pointless drivel like this by mistake.

      This is why "ironic" is a category, so I don't click on pointless drivel like this by mistake.

  • Servers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mc1138 (718275) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:27AM (#27994875) Homepage
    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.
  • Known terms (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Allicorn (175921) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:27AM (#27994877) Homepage

    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" ;-)

    • Re:Known terms (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:27AM (#27996115)
      It's not just that (although that is certainly part of it). The "computer" is on their desk (keyboard, mouse and monitor), so whatever else is connected to the "computer" needs its own name. I can never get it through my sister's head that the "computer" is the box on the floor and the stuff on her desk is just peripherals. Whenever she has a problem with her computer it takes me forever to figure out if the problem is something I can walk her through over the phone or if I need to drive over there to fix it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537)

        Yeah, it's not so much the case anymore, but I remember in the early 90s trying to explain to lots of different people that the monitor was not the computer. Even though you can see representations of the files on the monitor, that's not where the files are. Even though moving your mouse causes the pointer to move on the monitor, the monitor doesn't know where your mouse is.

        There's a spacial disconnect going on, a certain level of abstraction, and it has to be learned. It makes sense, in a lot of ways,

  • IT Crowd (Score:5, Funny)

    by masterfpt (1435165) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:27AM (#27994879) Journal

    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 (Score:5, Funny)

      by .Bruce Perens (150539) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:35AM (#27995069) Homepage Journal

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:51AM (#27995423)

      IIRC it was more like

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

      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 (Score:5, Funny)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:53AM (#27997889) Homepage

        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.

        I used to work with a guy who, while working help desk, would convince people that it helped to rub their computers. They'd call with some problem, and he'd say, "Uh huh, ok. Have you tried rebooting it yet? Yes. Ok. Have you tried rubbing it?" If they asked why, he had some answer about how the friction would add a little heat to help things work, or else something about discharging static electricity. Really, he just liked the idea of someone rubbing their computer case to try to get it to work.

  • by thecoolbean (454867) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:27AM (#27994885) Homepage

    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

    • by copponex (13876) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:19AM (#27995951) Homepage

      I used to work at an ISP in the dirty dirty, back in the days when all we had were 8 external modems on a card table.

      There was a cable cut that took out our T1 connection, and soon frantic calls from end users were coming in. For whatever reason, people just didn't accept that the "whole internet" could be inaccessible because our connection to it was severed.

      We just started telling people that the internet was on fire. And for some reason, they would say "Oh, okay" and hang up.

      That doesn't beat the time when a customer told me that the "computer inside his computer" was making funny noises. Looking back though, it sort of makes sense.

  • by killerkoi (120943) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:28AM (#27994893) Homepage

    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.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:34AM (#27997457)

      There's something I didn't quite grasp yet: Being unable to answer computer related questions makes people feel incredibly stupid for some reason. And I can't find out why.

      My car is broken and I can't fix it. My mechanic asks me something and I can at best reply "Gimme slow instructions to do what you want, but don't expect me to know a muffler from a spark plug". I have no problem telling him I have no idea what makes that machine work. That's his job, after all. I turn the key and it goes 'vroom'. If it doesn't go 'vroom', I call him.

      Same goes for many things in life. People don't expect to be good at anything but what they're actually good at. Should be a 'duh' moment. Yet when it comes to computers, people get irate (and, I assume, because they feel they should know and feel stupid in that moment when they can't answer your "simple" question) when they can't even answer a question.

      First thing I usually do is reassure them that this is a very tricky problem but I'm sure he's up to it and together we can figure it out. Most of the time it calms them down when they think that it takes someone with years and years of experience to even begin understanding what's wrong.

  • Priority (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) <lajollahomeless@hotmail.com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:29AM (#27994915) Homepage Journal

    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:38AM (#27995145) Homepage Journal
      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 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tteddo (543485) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:29AM (#27994921) Homepage
    I like the mass hallucination that causes everyone to pronounce Linksys as Linkskees.
  • by arikol (728226) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:32AM (#27994979) Journal

    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.
    Why?
    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)

  • by marciot (598356) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:35AM (#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."

  • It's our fault... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:37AM (#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.

  • by anyaristow (1448609) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:41AM (#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.

  • Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by earnest murderer (888716) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:43AM (#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.

  • by jmyers (208878) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:48AM (#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.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:50AM (#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."
  • by hey! (33014) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:53AM (#27995461) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Yes, it is fair (Score:3, Informative)

    by egcagrac0 (1410377) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:00AM (#27995579)

    Ok, it's not really fair to pick on people for not knowing something that isn't in their field. I'd hate for a doctor to mock me because I don't actually know where my liver is or what on earth the spleen is for.

    Actually, the last few times I visited a physician, they mocked me for not being familiar with internal medicine. (Srsly.) I take this as carte blanche to mock people outside of my profession for not being reasonably familiar with it.

    I usually don't mock my users, however, since I'm a professional.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:04AM (#27995659)

    I don't fault people for not knowing what the blinky bits are. What I fault is when they ask for advice and then don't fucking listen.

    I shit you not, I actually had this conversation --

    "Why did you buy Vista? We had this discussion last week and I told you you didn't need it, your computer couldn't run it, and you aren't missing anything."

    "But I thought I needed Vista to be legal on my computer."

    "No, for the fuck of Christ, no. Just make sure you don't open the box and you should be able to return it."

    The next day.

    "My little one opened the Vista and tried installing it. Now I don't have my stuff where I had my stuff."

    "You never made backups of anything, did you?"

    "No. The computer is as far back on the desk as it can go. How much further should I push it?"

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:06AM (#27995695)

    A CFO at a local community bank once told me (I was the manager of network services for the bank):

    "I don't want to know how the watch works, I just want to know what time it is."

    That put my job into perspective.

    -ted

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hanners1979 (959741)
      Did he used to go to the watch repair shop and tell them "My time machine is broken"?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      I bet he doesn't tell the jeweler that the mainspring is broken when the second hand has fallen off, though.

  • by Ravenscall (12240) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:09AM (#27995765)

    Not long before he died, my grandfather and I were able to bond over this.

    Now, he did not know the first damn thing about computers. Given that he spent most of the first two decades of his life without electricity, I really could not blame him. However, he was a furniture salesman from the 50s through the 70s. I was relating to him some of the frustration of front line tech support, and he told me about some of the things he dealt with back then. Like people calling in because they bought ironing boards, and the ironing board was not ironing their clothes. Or those newfangled microwaves. People would buy them, put the food in, and not understand why the food was not cooking even though they had not turned any dials or pressed any buttons. We shared quite a few laughs over people misunderstanding technologies that are so elementary today a child can use them.

    • by taustin (171655) on Monday May 18, 2009 @12:25PM (#27998529) Homepage Journal

      We shared quite a few laughs over people misunderstanding technologies that are so elementary today a child can use them.

      My father worked in Saudi Arabia in the early 60s, and the oil companies hired a lot of bedouin workers. Said workers were sometimes provided quarters. Electric stoves were provided, but the cooking elements had to be replaced quite frequently, becuase the bedouins would use the electric stove to light camel chips, which they would then cook on. (They had, for the most part, never eaten anything not cooked on burning camel dung, and found food cooked on an electric stove too bland to eat.) The local sheik finally got air conditioning, after complaining long enough that his refrigerator wasn't keep the food cold (because he'd leave the door open to cool the house).

      At the first orientation when my father arrived, they were told to never pick up hitchhikers, because someone who has never traveled except on foot or camel-back simply doesn't understand that it's not safe to just open the car door and step out when they get where they're going (at highway speeds).

      None of this reflects on the locals being stupid or slow. It all reflects on the fact that they had never seen any of this technology before.

  • by ProppaT (557551) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:11AM (#27995793) Homepage

    Apparently the monitor is the computer and the computer is the CPU.

    In addition to being called the computer, the monitor is also often referred to as the t.v. and the "window." I once had a lady that was adamant that they called the operating system Windows because you viewed it in the window.

    Both the monitor and computer both have their separate power cable. Just because you have your monitor cable going between the monitor and computer doesn't mean that one is going to power the other.

    Unfortunately, there isn't a fuse to replace when the computer won't turn on. Also, they stopped using tubes in computers some ages ago.

    Laptop's are actually "labtops," because the original intent was to make a computer that was easy to use in a lab environment. It's just coincidental that they also work nicely in your lap.

    When someone says the word "memory," don't even try to figure out what they mean. Just troubleshoot. Not enough memory for their program could mean anything from hard drive space to ram to having integrated video and not being able to play a game.

    There is really no need to have a fire extinguisher close to the computer. Honestly. The cd burner isn't really burning anything.

    Your best costumer is the one who knows absolutely nothing and doesn't claim to know anything. I successfully walked an 85 year old lady through a motherboard replacement on the phone once. On the other hand, I often had a hard time getting "IT guys" to follow simple instructions for troubleshooting devices. I don't care who you are, I'm not going to send you a replacement modem when there is a known registry fix that will make it work just fine. ...

    It's funny, you almost develop an entirely knew "language" when dealing with laypeople over the phone. I could go on and on...

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:35AM (#27996291) Journal
    How many people refer to the Clock Tower as "Big Ben", while Big Ben is actually one of the bells in the tower and hence seen by few people?
  • by myz24 (256948) on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:08AM (#27996969) Journal

    ...and put all of my efforts into getting people to stop calling the projector "the powerpoint." "I need to borrow the laptop and powerpoint" BAH!

  • The one that bugs me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tarlus (1000874) on Monday May 18, 2009 @01:13PM (#27999315)
    "Download." For so many people I work with (and in my family as well) the word "download" ends up being the universal verb for everything computer-related. Save a document? Downloaded it. Move a file to a USB drive? Downloaded it. Run a program? Downloaded it.

    Another common one is for someone to refer to a whole computer as a CPU. This doesn't irk me as much, but still...

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