Have you ever tried explaining a computer problem to someone who was completely computer illiterate? After reading the following tale by Brenda Dial, you may reconsider using computer jargon in your conversations.
Feed that computer!
The other day, I was talking to my father about computers. Believe me when I say that this is never a good thing! I joked to him that my first hard drive was only 20 MB. I laughed at the memory of having such a small amount of disk space.

He frowned and asked exactly what part of the computer had teeth, thinking I had meant the word “bite.” The easiest explanation I had was that if you weren’t careful, any part of the stupid thing could reach up and get you. I had the perverse pleasure of enjoying the slack-jawed, wide-eyed stare he gave me when I then warned him to be careful of the viruses you can get if a computer bites!

Here kitty, kitty, kitty!
I am so glad that my slipshod housekeeping skills have come up in my mother’s estimation. Several months ago, she began her tight-lipped, silent disapproval when she overheard my husband and I discussing our new mouse.

It took me a while longer than it should have to figure out what the problem was. It wasn’t until I turned down her tenth offer of a cat (we already have four) that I forced her to explain what her problem was. Apparently, she believed we actually had a real mouse in the house. I didn’t even try to explain that the mouse we had referred to was the one that went to our computer.

Class is in session
I thought I had met my match a year or two ago when I was talking to my sister about a Word class I had just finished teaching. Since my sister and I are very close, she was only half listening to me. She caught the subject of the class, Word, if not any other part of the conversation up to a point.

What followed was something out of Abbott and Costello’s, “Who’s on First.”

“Which part of the Word are you teaching?”

It was a reasonable question. There are so many different facets to Word. “Just an introductory class.”

“Genesis and what else?”

“Not Genesis or anything having to do with the Bible. Not The Word, but Microsoft Word.”


I thought she was getting it. “Yes, Word.”

“You taught an entire class on one word?”

“Not a word, but Word.”

“But you said it wasn’t on the Bible.”

“Not The Word, but Word, the program.”

“You taught a class on a wordy television program?”

“Not a television program. Word, the software program. I taught a class on the computer program, Microsoft Word.”

She thought for a long time and finally nodded. “You know, as much as you talk, you would excel in teaching a class on a single word.”

I tried one more time. “The Excel class is tomorrow. It is important that you understand I am talking about Word and that class was today.”

She finally turned from the dishes in the sink and pointed heavenward, using her soapy hands to try and educate me. She spoke very slowly as she added, “The Word is important every day.” I agreed and prayed that I would never have her in one of my classes!

Uno, DOS, tres, quatro
You know, software developers don’t help us out at all. Think back on the operating system you had on your first computer (if you can think that far back and if you have lived long enough). I’ll give you a hint. It was probably by Microsoft. It came in a whole series of versions. That’s right—DOS. You got it. Now, for the uninitiated, yet slightly literate, that word is synonymous with the Spanish word for two, dos.

Whenever you were talking to one of those poor ignorant fools and you included the version, the conversation had a tendency to go something like this:

“I am now running DOS 3.” Pride filled your voice.


“No, 4 isn’t even ready yet.”

“So, you’re running 2 sets of 3?”

“2 sets of 3 what?” Non-computer people have such a strange way of talking.

“I don’t know, laps, miles whatever. You’re the one doing them. You tell me.”

“How can I tell you? You brought it up!”

“No, I didn’t bring it up.” It is amazing how slowly some people can start to talk. “You said you were running 2-3.”

“No. I said I was running DOS 3.” Nodding hugely. Surely they were catching on now!

“Alright, be that way. Where are you running it?”

“On my computer. You know, the one with the 20-MB hard drive?”

“You run with something that keeps biting you?”

I even had to give up whole conversations back then. When dealing with such people, then and now, I really think I should have instead gone and taken a nice, long hard drive.
Have you ever struggled through a conversation with a computer novice? Tell us about it. Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.