Computerese Simplified

© 1981 Lawrence I. Charters

80-U.S. Journal, September-October 1981, pp. 137-139

Most TRS-80 owners are not computer or electronic experts, yet most computer magazine articles routinely use terms, abbreviations, acronyms, slang and jargon known only to computer specialists. With the following dictionary though, even a rank amateur can get in there and speak computerese with the best – or worst – of them. Never again fear that you will display your ignorance of essential computer terms! This dictionary will let you obfuscate with supercilious disdain, and no one will be the wiser.

8-BIT MACHINE – A computer selling for four quarters.

16-BIT MACHINE – A computer selling for two bucks.

6502 – The year you will finally pay off your computer.

6800 – The year you will finally pay off your peripherals.

8080 – A much larger caliber than 3030.

68000 – The year your spouse will forgive you for buying a computer.



AD / DA – Computer equivalent of the missionary position.

ADA – A computer language designed for government use. It is presently undefined (like most government language).

ADDRESS – Type of attire worn by some female programmers (and even some males).

ADVENTURE – Complex game involving puzzles, mazes, uncertain goals and huge waste of time. Also known as “debugging.”

ALGOL – Husband of Polygol. Their missing daughter is Polygon.

ALGORITHM – 1. Musical beat used in computer music. 2. Form of birth control used by Algol.

ALPHANUMERIC – Inventor of the characters used by computers.

ALTAIR – 1. A place where computers are married. 2. A place where computers are sacrificed.

ANSI – Troubled by insects.

APL – An Apple computer after it has been dropped from the roof.

APPLE – Computer for hard-core programmers (see PET).

APPLICATION – Generic name for a type of program. No one is certain what an application program is, but it always has a hefty price tag.

ARRAY – A blast from a CRT.

ASCII – Usually used in pairs, it is ideal for travelling down snowy mountain sides.

ASSEMBLER – Person who puts your computer together after it has been aligned by a computer club. (see COMPUTER CLUB).

ATARI – Famous John Wayne movie involving elephants. ATARI 800 is the large theatre version in 70mm stereo; ATARI 400 is the 8mm silent version.


BACKUP – Opposite of forward.

BANK SELECT – Used by thieves to remember whom they intend to rob.

BAR CODE READER – Electronic device used to find taverns.

BASIC – 1. What an environmentalist would say about the health of the San Francisco Bay. 2. Computer language used for generating errors. Most billing programs are, apparently, written in BASIC.

BATCH PROCESSING – Making lots of cookies at once.

BAUD RATE – The number of attractive and skimpily clad women/men passing by you on the beach.

BAUDOT – Short for “baud audit”. Audit of baud rates (see BAUD RATE).

BCD – Three of the first four letters of the alphabet.

BINARY – A rating of computers developed by astronomers. A “binary” computer would rate just two stars – strictly mediocre.

BIPOLAR – Admiral Richard Byrd (1888-1957).

BIT – 1. One eighth of a byte. One half of a byte is a nibble. One byte, in turn, is half of a gobble. 2. Twelve and a half cents.

BOMB – A picture printout of a really nice looking human being, usually blonde.

BOOLEAN LOGIC – Your spouse’s term for your reasoning.

BOOT – 1. English term for engine compartment cover. 2. Steel tipped foot covering used for kicking computers. 3. Good way to end a four-hour sort.

BOOTSTRAP – 1. Famous programmer, Melvin Bootstrap, author of all bootstrap programs. 2. Item of apparel worn by computer when running sexy programs.

BRANCH – Stick used for beating CPU’s. If the stick is watered, someday it might turn into a computer club.

BREADBOARD – The only kind of board you can afford after buying a computer.

BUBBLE MEMORY – Your spouse’s nickname for you.

BUBBLE SORT – Your spouse’s term for your friends.

BUFFER – Programmer who works in the nude.

BUG – Intercom system used in Watergate complex.

BURN IN – Opposite of burnt out.

BUS – A misspelled kiss.



C – Programming language used by sailors. “Tiny C:” c.

CARD READER – Card cheat.


CHECKSUM – Slang for a random number generator.

CHIP – 1. One California Highway Patrolman, 2. Used in computers, they come in four flavors: silicon, potato, chocolate and buffalo.

CLOAD – Command to lock up keyboard.

COBOL – Far better than monobol.

CODING – Addictive drug.

COMMAND – A suggestion made to a computer.

COMPILER – Noah Webster (1758-1843).

COMPONENT – Part of a computer, usually forgotten when the machine was sold to you, that costs extra.

COMPUTER – A device designed to speed and automate errors (see MINICOMPUTER and MICROCOMPUTER).

COMPUTER CLUB – 1. Baseball used for aligning data in a computer. 2. The group of people that spilled beer all over the keyboard.

COMPUTER MAGAZINE – Where your computer stores ammunition.

CONCATENATION – A convention of all the nation’s kittycats.

CONFIGURE – Computer slang; a “configure” is the price the salesman quotes over the phone to con you into stopping by his place of business.

CONFIGURATION – Opposite of profiguration.

CONTROL CHARACTER – Computer magazine editor.

CONSOLE – What you must do to a computer owner while the computer is being repaired.

CONSTANT – A variable. (see VARIABLE).

CONSULTANT – Person who makes more money than you do to tell you how to save money with your computer.

CONSULTATION – Getting a second opinion on why your computer doesn’t work.

CP/M – Program listing for “look in evening section.” (see PROGRAM LISTING).

CPS – Used in referring to word processing equipment, it means “Corrections Per Second.”

CPU – C3PO’s mother.

CRASH – Normal termination.

CROSS REFERENCE – One that is angry.

CRUNCH – Noise made when putting a diskette in a disk drive.

CRT – Cathode Ray Tube, a superlethal Defense Department weapon being developed by NBC, ABC and CBS.

CSAVE – Command to write blank tapes.

CURSOR – A light on the video monitor, so called because the computer generates the light with an obscene command.

CYCLE TIME – When gas gets to $5.00 per gallon.


DAISY WHEEL – Mechanical simulation of a flower, used by programmers when reciting to their computers, “I love it, I love it not …”

DATA – An Italian word, meaing a single piece of information, as in “look at disa and data.”

DATA ANALYSIS – Computer treatment of Freudian slips.

DATA BASE – Not as good as data noble.

DATA SEPARATOR – A miniature binary food processor used for sorting digital bits.

DATUM – What you should do if you discover a rich, unmarried computer company owner of the opposite sex.

DEBOUNCE – Superglue poured over keyboard.

DEBUG – Raid sprayed on the keyboard.

DECIMAL – One tenth of a motorcycle gang member’s girlfriend.

DEDICATED – A programmer trying to decode a string-packed program.

DENSITY – A programmer that you can’t understand is single density; a programmer that makes no sense is double density.

DIGITAL – Something done with the fingers, as in checking computer mathematics.

DIGITAL COMPUTER – A computer which uses fingers and toes for counting.

DIGITALIZER – Computer equivalent of Alka-Seltzer.

DIP – Inventor of a famous switch.

DISASSEMBLER – Another term for a computer club.

DISK DRIVE – 1. A trip through the woods in search of flying saucers. 2. A motor for a Frisbee.

DISKETTE – A Frisbee used to carry information, similar to a passenger pigeon.

DISK PACK – Six cans of fluid, used by disk drive technicians to improve their thinking.

DISPLAY – 1. A question you ask the salesman when you find a tape player on the mark down table. 2. What a computer flasher does.

DMA – Abbreviation of “Direct Memory Access”; brain surgery.

DOCUMENTATION – Instructions which come with hardware or software and explain how much more money you will have to spend in order to get your hardware or software to work.

DOS – Short for “Disk Operating System”, a course in Frisbee offered by Cal State Sonoma.

DOT MATRIX – Phrase used in claiming credit for clever programming; e.g., “Dot ma trix.”

DOWNTIME – Slang for periods when a programmer is being realistic. (see JUMP; UPTIME).

DUPLEX – Having two apartments.

DUMP – Spouse’s term for area around the computer.

DYNAMIC MEMORY – Memory that has been stampeded. (see MEMORY).


EBCDIC – Security code for IBM computers, ‘Means “Erase Backup, Chew Disk, Ignite Cards”. For a variety of obvious reasons, only IBM computers use EBCDIC code.

EDITOR – A program which deletes obscene commands.

ELECTRIC CRAYON – Toddler version of Electric Pencil.

ELECTRIC PENCIL – Great technological advance, batteries not included.

EMULATE – A large, but tardy, Australian bird.

EPROM – Acronym for “Exit Program, Read Owner’s Manual.”

ERROR – A programmer’s decision to skip making a flowchart and exclude comments.

ERROR TRAP – A black hole placed in a computer to capture bugs.

EXECUTION – What your computer did to your program, also known as murder.

EXPANSION – Computer slang for “vital parts missing.” A computer with “expansion capability” is capable of working only when the extra parts are purchased.

EXPRESSION – Quaint phrase uttered by a computer programmer when the computer does something unexpected. (see SPECIAL CHARACTER).


FEATURE – A hardware limitation as described by the advertising department.

FIFO – Good name for a French poodle.

FILE – Found in cakes, it is used to end lockups.

FIRMWARE – Hardware that is beginning to melt.

FLAG – White sheet raised by computer to indicate surrender.

FLIP FLOP CIRCUIT – Device used by politicians to determine policy.

FLOPPY DISK – The back pain you claim is from an old war injury.

FLOWCHART – Current map of Gulf of Mexico.

FLUSH – Using a hose to wash old information out of a computer.

FLYING HEAD – Airliner toilet.

FORMAT – FORTRAN command used exclusively by Matthew. There used to be several such commands, such as FORBEAR, FORCEPS, FORFEIT, FORLORN FORMICA, FORNICATE, FORUM, FORSYTHIA, and FORTRESS, but none of these people used the command as much as Matt, and only his command remains.

FORTH – One of the top five computer languages.

FORTRAN – A high level computer language used by those who have mastered BASIC syntax errors and are looking for a challenge.

FUDGE – Delicious chocolate candy, commonly found in programs written for chips made in Hershey, PA.


GARBAGE – Debris left by memory (see MEMORY).

GENERAL PURPOSE COMPUTER – A computer not terribly good at anything in particular.

GIGO – “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. Normal result of most computer programming.

GLITCH – A bug with ambitions.

GRAPHICS TABLET – Pill taken by overworked computer artists.


HACKER – A frustrated programmer armed with a hatchet.

HANDSHAKING – Symptom of too much programming. Most commonly seen among programmers who have just had their programs erased by power fluctuations.

HANGUP – Why your computer won’t run “Interlude.”

HARD COPY – Cheating during a well-monitored test.

HARDWARE – A computer related to rumor, as in “I hardware they are going to do this and that.”

HASHING – Programming technique whereby nice, neat information is made indecipherable.

HEXADECIMAL – Unlucky numbers used by computers.

HIGH RESOLUTION – A law passed in Denver.

HOME COMPUTER – Real estate agent’s loan calculator.


I/O – Abbreviation of the phrase used by programmers while they watch their programs crash, known in full as “Aaaaiiiieee! Ooooooooh…”

IBM – 1. Incredibly Big Machine. 2. Invasion of Bug-eyed Monsters. 3. In London, a frequent answer to the question, “Where is the tour guide? “I be ‘im.”

IC – 1. How you feel in an air-conditioned data processing center. 2. Understanding, as in “Oh, now IC.”


INFORMATION – Ordered material in a computer, as when you see all the transistors and note that they are lined up in formation.

INITIALIZE – 1. Carving your initials on a floppy disk. 2. Used to describe the process in which, when a computer is first turned on, it monograms everything in sight.

INPUT – Where your program is (see OUTPUT; PUT).

INSTRUCTION – A suggestion made to a computer.

INTERACTIVE – Used to describe programs you can get involved in, such as “Interlude.”

INTERFACE – A computer’s true self, revealed to no one else.

INTERPRETER – A program that converts high-level language such as BASIC into a low-level language, such a s Modern English.

ITERATE – A healthy illiterate.


JOYSTICK – Peripheral intended for use only by consenting adults.


KEYBOARD – 1. Piece of wood used for unsticking keys. 2. The most important part of a computer. Resembling a typewriter, a keyboard is used for entering errors into a computer.

KEYPAD – Place where you take your date when you want results!

KEYPUNCH – 1. The one that won the fight. 2. The one that gave you a hangover.

KEYWORDS – All the words left out of your computer.

KILO – What you could have spent your money on if you hadn’t bought a computer.


LANGUAGE A system of organizing and defining syntax errors.

LIFO – Usual result of attempting to set up a FIFO queue.

LIGHT PEN – One weighing less than ten pounds.

LINE PRINTER – Computer used for writing excuses.

LOOK UP TABLE – Crib sheet for computers.

LOOP – (see LOOP).


LOST DATA – 1. Data left in the nooks and crannies of the computer overnight. 2. (See DATA, LOST).

LOW RESOLUTION – A law passed in Amsterdam.

LSI – Acronym for “Large Scale Integration”, used to describe the process of getting heavy people to weigh themselves in kilograms.


MACHINE LANGUAGE – A language spoken only by machines. You can hear it sometimes while talking long distance on the telephone. We don’t know what they are saying yet, but they are up to something…

MACRO – Scottish fish eggs.

MAINFRAME – What the salesman said you were getting when you bought your micro (see SIMULATOR).

MANUAL – 1. A handy book, to be used as a guide to your computer, software and peripherals. It is usually a photocopy of some hand-written notes, and tells you how to use the manual and not how to use the computer, software or peripheral. 2. The name of the system you are forced to use when your computer is on strike.

MATH CHIP – Piece of broken abacus.

MEGABYTE – Nine course dinner.

MEMORY – Miniaturized elephants used for information storage in a computer. (see DYNAMIC MEMORY, GARBAGE, OEM,STATIC MEMORY)

MEMORY MAP – 1. Elephant paths. 2. Sheet of paper showing location of computer store.

MENU DRIVEN – A gourmet.

MHz – Acronym for “megahertz”, meaning “a million pains.”

MICROCOMPUTER – One millionth of a computer (see COMPUTER, MINICOMPUTER).

MICROFICHE – Sardines.

MICROPROCESSOR – A very short version of a processor (see PROCESSOR).

MINICOMPUTER – Wife of Ottocomputer.

MINIDISKETTE – A diskette left out in the rain.

MITS – Warm coverings for the hands and fingers.

MODEM – What the phone company detective looks for when he tries to find out why your computer ate the telephone, as in “We need to find the modem.”

MONITOR – A Yankee TV screen used to display computer data. The Confederate equivalent is called a Merrimac.

muLISP – A computer language popular in San Francisco.

MULTI USER – Someone who uses multis.

muMATH – A computer language for kittens.

MUX – Short for multiplexer, a device which plexes multis. A device which plexes cats is a perplexer.


NANOSECOND – Mork’s stuntman.

NETWORK – What Tarzan says after capturing elephant in a trap.

NEWDOS – Acronym for “Not Exactly What Dealer Offers to Sell.”

NIM – Anyone who consistently loses at a famous computer game.

NORMALIZE – What a spouse claims to be trying to do by cutting the power to the computer (usually done at 3 a.m.).

NS – Abbreviation used to describe memory. It stands for “Nice and Slow.”

NULL STRING – The result of a four hour sort.

NUMBER CRUNCHING – Placing a computer on the floor and jumping on it.


OBJECT CODE – Reason given by computer as to why it won’t run a program.

OEM – Acronym for “Offal Efficient Memory”. As the name implies, it refers to exceedingly tidy elephants that leave little garbage. (see MEMORY, GARBAGE).

OFF LINE – A computer joke in bad taste.

ON LINE – A computer joke in good taste.

ON/OFF – Computer memory is composed of thousands of bits of memory which are either on or off. The reason why computers need so much memory is due to the fact that, at any given time, roughly half of all memory is off, sleeping on the job.

OPERATOR – The guy/gal that gets all the good dates.

OUTPUT – Where your program is when you search for it (see INPUT, PUT).


p CODE – Toilet training shorthand.

PAPER TAPE – Not very good for fixing leaking computers.


PASCAL – Computer language used for college football players, known in full as “Pass Calvin or else.”

PASSWORD – The nonsense word taped to the CRT.

PATCH – Used for fixing programs, also called Scotch tape.

PERIPHERAL – 1. Something attached to your computer with wires, cables, or chewing gum, such as the case, the monitor, whips and chains, dynamite, and other programming aids. 2. Your spouse after you have purchased your computer.

PERSONAL COMPUTER – Electronic device that makes unkind remarks about your physical and mental attributes.

PET – Computer for soft-core programmers (see APPLE).

PILOT – Computer language used for flight simulations. A small version of this language is called “PILOT light.”

PINFEED – The diet your spouse threatens you with every time you mention a new program or peripheral you want.

PL/l – Short for “Programming Language I”, a very vulgar computer language. (This conclusion based upon listening to programmers discuss their PL/l programs).

PLOTTER – Someone who tries to take over the organization/city/ state/country/world or universe with a home computer.

POINTER – An informer.

POP – 1. Coca Cola. 2. Machine language instruction for “Punch Operator’s Proboscis.”

PORT – 1. A type of sweet, dark red wine. 2. One of the ways a program might list.

PORTABILITY – 1. Capable of making wine. 2. Capable of drinking wine. (Definitions apply to both programmers and computers).

PRIME NUMBER – Tender, juicy numbers used in only the most expensive computers.

PRINT – Name of the computer used by the FBI for analyzing handwriting.

PRINTER – Johann Gutenberg (1400-1468).

PRINTED CIRCUIT – Centerfold from the magazine “Playbit.”

PROCESSOR – A thing that digests data or food, sometimes called a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child or relative.

PROGRAM – A broadcast that occasionally interrupts commercials (see PROGRAM LISTING).

PROGRAM INTERRUPT – Power blackout.

PROGRAM LISTING – 1. TV Guide (see PROGRAM). 2. Used to describe programs that fill with water and lean to one side.

PROGRAMMER – A person who thinks he knows how to talk to a computer. A person who really does know how to talk to a computer is known as a fruitcake.

PROM – Used by desperate computers, it is an acronym for “Please Read Operator’s Mind.”

PROMPT – Bills.

PROTECTED DATA – (Definition withheld).

PROTOCOL – System of stylized rules by which computers and people talk to people and computers, also called profanity.

PSEUDOCODE – 1. Program that isn’t for real. 2. Program written under a pseudonym.

PUNCHED CARD – Fended, Molded, Bindled and Sputilated card used to compute your tax return.

PUT – 1. Name of the place where the computer has your program (see INPUT, OUTPUT). 2. An event in the Computer Olympics. Contestants strive to throw a computer as far as possible with one hand.


Queue – Where the director sends you after you forget your queue during a performance.


RAM – 1. Acronym for “Randomize All Memory.” 2. Nickname for a veteran programmer, also known as “old goat.”


READY – Computer message which says that it is bored.

REAL NUMBERS – What you wish your computer would use instead of all this phony binary /hex stuff.

REAL TIME – Opposite of phony time.

REDUNDANCY – Kkeybbounce.

REGISTER – Never found in a Radio Shack store.

RESERVED WORDS – All the good ones that you wanted to use.

RESET – Another method of ending four hour sorts.

REVERSEIINVERSE – .elpoep egnarts yllaer ot ylno lufesu era syalpsid esehT .syalpsid oediv esrevni ro esrever evah sretupmoc emoS

RIBBON – What your spouse gives you every time your friends ask about your computer.

RND – Short for “random number generator,” a computer command used for calculating checkbook balances, income tax, rent, phone bills…

ROM – 1. Built on seven hills, all roads lead to it. 2. Drink made from fermented molasses.

RS-232 – R2D2’s father (see CPU).


S 100 BUS – An experimental rocket powered bus designed by NASA.

SAVE -What you should do before you buy a computer.

SCREEN – A wire mesh which protects the computer from the programmer.

SCRIPSIT – What your article does after you send it to the editor.

SCROLL – What the instructions do when you are trying to read them.

SERIAL – Wheaties.

SIMULATOR – What you actually purchased when you bought your computer (see MAINFRAME).

SINGLE BOARD COMPUTER Unmarried computer with nothing to do.

SNOBOL – Computer language used in cold climates.

SOFTWARE – 1. Data cassette, diskette, disk left out in the sun or in the pizza oven too long. 2. What a female computer programmer wears on a data.

SORCERER – Computer that uses hexadecimal numbers exclusively.

SOURCE CODE – Guide to famous novel by J Michener.

SPECIAL CHARACTER – 1. A compiler of computer dictionaries. 2. One of the characters used in computer expressions, like: @, &, , $, # and !, as in the famous expression, “@#$%&(%I” (see EXPRESSION).

SPOOLER – Device used to pack up data processing equipment using ribbon cable.

STAND ALONE – What happens to a programmer who starts talking about computers at a party.

STAR TREK – Where most data processing time goes.

STATE OF THE ART – Undefined.

STATIC MEMORY – Sleeping elephants (see MEMORY).

STORAGE – How long a business has been in operation.

STRING – Technique used for attracting computer users, the most famous string being, “Come and see my latest program!”.

STRINGPACKING – 1. Technique used for shipping strings through the mail. 2. Technique used for shipping Androids through the mail.

STRINGY FLOPPY – A diskette that needs to put on weight.

STRUCTURED PROGRAMMING – Propped up with two by fours.

STYLUS – Pig farmer after moving to the city and becoming a computer repair technician.

SUBROUTINE – Closing hatches before diving.

SUBSCRIPT – Underwater handwriting.

SUPERSCRIPT – Fantastic handwriting.

SYNTAX – Tax on sex.

SYNTHESIZER – A device for measuring syntes.

SYSTEM – Foolproof method for winning at blackjack on a computer.


TAPE DRIVE – Campaign to raise money for the release of Nixon’s White House tapes.

TELETYPE – A talkative person opposite of the silent type.

TERMINAL – Mental state of most programmers.

TEXT – The book you used in your programming class and wish you had read before buying a computer.

THREADED LANGUAGE – One stitched together out of odds and ends.

THERMAL PRINTER – Printer used by pilots of hang gliders and sailplanes.

TIMESHARE What Tarzan tells you when he wants to use your microcomputer.

TOGGLE – Goggle for toddler.

TOKEN – Slang for smoking pot.

TRS-80 – World’s most advanced computer, it writes computer dictionaries in its spare time.

TRSDOS (TRISS DOES) – But Susan doesn’t.

TTL – Computer command (used by computers when playing chess or similar games): “Turn Tables and Laugh.”

TTY – Computer command (used by computers when loading programs from cassette): “Twist Tape and Yawn.”

TURNKEY – A bad computer, as in “That’s a turnkey computer if I ever saw one”.

TWO’S COMPLIMENT – We think that is nice.

TWO’S COMPLIMENT ARITHMETIC – We think you look younger every year.


UNIX – Plural of eunuch.

UPTIME – Slang for period when programmer is being naive. (see JUMP, DOWNTIME).

USER – Someone requiring drug rehabilitation.

UTILITY – TPC (The Phone Company, The Power Company), TWC (The Water Company), TGC (The Garbage Company).


VARIABLE – A constant. (see CONSTANT).

VIRTUAL MEMORY – Cheap RAM which the manufacturer claims is “virtually memory – will do everything but remember.”

VOLATILE STORAGE – A disk drive filled with nitroglycerin.


WAND – An expensive light pen.

WINDOW – Aluminum foil dropped into your computer by the enemy to mess up the video.

WRITE – Opposite of wrong.


Z-80 – The production run that finally worked.

Z-CODE – The method used to determine the age of Z-280 sports cars.

ZORK – The large bird that delivered your computer.


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