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English For Computer Nerds

March 26, 2001

by David Allen Russell

editor's note: David has started an online news service for the city of Lake Elsinore

"Nothing in the world is less productive than to make more efficient that which should not be done at all." I'd like to give the appropriate credit to the person or persons that originated that line, but don't know his or her name.

Anyone who has ever walked through a computer store, or a major department store, or even a drug store can not help but see those racks of books with bright yellow covers that say "Windows for Dummies," "Excel for Dummies," "MS Word for Dummies," and a host of other books all purported to be for the general public that these guys think are really stupid.

I'm sorry, but the real dummies are the guys who decided to create their own vocabulary and want to put us down to bring themselves up by impressing us all with their voluminous knowledge. They insult us by making up their own language and laughing at us because we donít understand it. Hey folks. We are the majority of the population, and know full well how to speak, communicate with each other, and understand the language that we were taught in school. How dare they insult our intelligence by making up this cockamamie jargon? These computer nerds believe they are better than us by making up their own stupid language to confuse us. These nerds have an enormous ego problem, and have used this medium to try and humiliate us and revenge themselves on the general public by using a form of gibberish so they can laugh at us for not understanding. They are actually the dummies, because they have failed to learn how to use the language they were taught in school, and failed to communicate efficiently. They are just too dumb to be able explain in terms that anyone can understand. Often they use this double talk when they don't have an answer themselves and try to shuck us using doubletalk and doublespeak. The reality is that they themselves do not have an answer and are just jiving us. There is a joke that goes, "What is the difference between a car salesman and a computer nerd?" The answer is, the car salesman knows he's lying.

Newcomers to the computer world have sadly discovered that the so-called help menu on their computer, or on line, is very seldom of much or any help at all. It is as though it is in a foreign language. These help menus appear to be written by the some person or persons who talk doublespeak, and the people you talk to in the stores, all arrogant and self-centered, have adopted the same attitude. It is one that virtually reeks of the notion that they are so very smart, and you are so very dumb. They have a wealth of information about a plethora of irrelevant subjects, in a struck up foreign jargon, none of which seem to apply to any particular situation or problem that we have and want answered.. And, if you write your problem to one of those help E-mail addresses like you get the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page returned to your E-mail. No help at all. It is insulting. You can be a famous brain surgeon or someone with a Masters Degree in world sciences, and they treat you like crap. They will give you about a thousand things to click on, none of which have the answer to your particular problem, and none of it makes any sense unless you know their computer Ebonics dictionary of lingo. You are supposed to know what pop 2 and 3 are, and ISP, FAQ, FTP, PKZip, DSL, and a host of other acronyms mean. Usually there is a space to type in your question, and when you do, it takes you right back to the same page that didn't answer your question in the first place. Then there is the E-mail address to write your question on, and that hopefully will get you back and answer. Instead you get back another computer generated answer that is the same as what you saw on the Frequently Asked Questions page, (FAQ) which didn't answer your question at all.

Recently I had a problem with my computer being frozen. That is to say that it was just stuck on a page and no matter what I tried to do, I could not make it do anything, I used all the usual tricks I had learned over the years. I hit the escape button, Nothing. I tried the mouse, but it wouldn't move the arrow (Cursor). I think they call it that because it is enough to make you want to curse often. I tried using the old faithful escape by pressing Ctrl Alt Delete, all three keys together at one time. That did nothing. I tried to shut it off with the off button, and let it re-start. (notice I used the English term instead of re-boot. The definition of boot is something you wear on your foot, and re-boot would means changing to another boot. There is nothing in Webster's Dictionary that says a boot is re-starting a computer.) Unfortunately, the off button on my computer is on a magnetic lock up system and will not go off by pushing on it. You have to go through the shut off cycle and then let it shut itself off. I thought of shutting off my power supply unit but didn't want to do that because also plugged into it is my light, my screen, my printer, and my electric clock. If I shut that off, the clock would have to be shut off, and that would mean looking for the manual on it, and going through an arduous ordeal and step-by-step procedure to re-set it. What a pain in the arse that clock is. Remember when setting a clock was simple? You just twisted the knob on the back and it was done. And it never went off just because you had a power failure. Well, anyway, I called my Internet Service Provider (ISP) and he gave me his answer in Mandarin Chinese--even the Chinese don't understand that language anymore. It hasn't been spoken since Confucius died hundreds of years ago. His advice was entirely useless. Finally I called an old friend of mine who I didn't want to bother, and because I still owed him money. He has had years of experience in these things, and actually speaks the English language. He told me, "Just go behind the computer and pull the plug out of it for a second, then plug it right back in." Wow! I understood that. It was a language that I knew and loved, and it did the trick. It worked. When I pulled that plug out the computer shut down, and without shutting anything else off, then when I plugged it back in, I heard that hard disc start to whir and the lights came on. Looking at the screen I saw it go through it's usual start up program (re-boot) and checking the discs for errors, then when my screen lit back up a message on it read, "To return active desktop, press here." I took my mouse, put the arrow over that message, clicked on it and my active desktop came back up on the screen. All fixed. I don't know why it ever froze up and I don't care. It was all normal and working again, and that is all that mattered to me. Isn't the English language a Godsend?

Recently another friend of mine complained that sometimes when he was writing a long letter on his E-mail, he would get disconnected right in the middle of writing and lose the entire thing he had been writing. Then he would have to start writing it all over again trying to remember the good things he had written when originally inspired.. Sometimes it is hard to re-create that initial inspiration and write it as well as you did the first time, and losing it is an exasperating experience. I know about that because I have lost valuable material in exactly the same way. I explained a simple trick to him that I had learned and one that could solve his problem. First, don't ever write your E-mail when you are on line. That is never a good idea for several reasons. #1. If you only have one telephone line you are tying up your telephone, your fax, and even your answering machine for all of that precious time. #2. You can get disconnected mid-stream and lose it all. #3. You may want to re-write and edit quite a few times to perfect your letter. You might even want to pause and think about it for a while, go get a cup of coffee, change your mind and re-write it. Rule Number One. Never write a letter on the net. Instead, write you letter in MS Word, or WordPerfect, or wherever program you prefer to write your regular letters which are intended to be printed and mailed. You can do all this off-line. Finally, when you have finished writing and re-writing, and editing, and are absolutely satisfied that all the spelling and everything is exactly as you want it to be and correct, just touch the Ctrl key on the bottom left side of your keyboard, and while holding it down press the letter A. It is just three columns up on your left above the Ctrl key. Your entire letter will turn black. Now you can copy it either by touching that icon at the top of your screen with two envelopes, or by using the edit button and using the copy button in there. Once you have done that just close the document by touching the X at the top right of your screen and when it asks if you "Do you want to save changes?" say yes. Then open up your on-line service and go to your E-mail. Address your E-mail and put the subject in the subject line. Then you might see a paste icon there somewhere. It looks like a pot of paste. If you don't see it, just put your cursor on the place where you usually write your letter and touch Ctrl V. That will paste your letter into the document just the way you wrote it, Now touch the "Send" button and away it goes. No more long waits on line to write perfect E-mails.

Thinking of all this, I am reminded of a story that comedian Paul Gonzales told about being in an elevator in downtown Los Angeles. The elevator car was crowded full of Asians, all loudly jabbering away in their own language in a very annoying manner. He took it for as long as he could then finally blurted out, "Hey, you guys. you're in America now. Speak Spanish."

So, let us all send a message to all those computer nerds who have made up their own E-bonics, and have a problem with the language of the people. "Hey, you guys! Learn how to speak OUR language."

David Allen Russell



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