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5. The PC debate: getting to grips with your computer

Your computer is a highly sophisticated device, designed to do the work of a human employee. View it, therefore, with extreme suspicion - it is after your job. Don't be fooled by its friendly "Flying Toasters" screensaver or the cheery way it offers to save your documents automatically. These are all cunning ruses to gain your trust. This digital despot is a far more fearsome rival than any human colleague. You cannot, for example, blackmail it with photographs of what you saw it getting up to at the Christmas party (even if it WAS searching out porn sites on the Internet). No, your only hope is to catch it off-guard by actually learning how to use it. Obviously you will never become computer-literate, to the level of say, a particularly slow five-year-old - but you may attain some degree of control.

For the aid of the novice here is a handy list explaining some of the more baffling technical terms you may encounter.

Cursor - flashing square, so-called because of the amount of effort you will expend thinking up new expletives to use about it.

Internet - place to find sleazy, corrupt and sexually depraved Web sites (eg http://www.conservative-party.org.uk)

Web site - evidence that office cleaner should be threatened with pay cut.

Memory Failure - result of too much alcohol at office Christmas bash.

Mouse: 1. Mouse-shaped thing connected to computer. 2. (In medical research profession) Mouse-shaped thing connected to computer until animal rights group prises the electrodes off its testicles and release it. 3. Mouse- shaped ingredient of "Meat Stew" in corporate canteen.

Menu - hilarious work of fiction, displayed on wall in office canteen (above "Meat Stew").

Socket - what the I. supervisor will do to your computer when he cannot solve the malfunction.

Apple - computer named after a piece of fruit.

Video-conference - method of hi-tech communication, named after a popular variety of pear.

Cranberry - piece of fruit which does not, yet, have any item of electronic equipment named after it. Delia Smith hopes to rectify this, being a businesswoman with an eye for a gap in the market.

PC User - prudish female colleague who will accuse you of sexual harassment if you make flippant reference to three and a half inch floppies.

Mac - short for "Macintosh". Waterproof garment. Useful when computerised office sprinkler system (installed in compliance with European safety legislation) goes on the blink again.

Big Mac - staple diet of office Computer Nerd.

Word processor - similar to a Kenwood Chefette, but for words. A Kenwood will reduce your vegetables to a tiny quantity of puree. A word processor will do the same to documents.

Window - thing to stare through when network has "gone down". Network generally goes down with more depressing results than Paula Jones.

Auto Spell-Checker - reason why Michael Portillo receives so much mail addressed to Mr Portaloo.

Modem - formal term of female address, once your letter has been processed by your Auto Spell-Checker (as in "Dear Sir or Modem").

RAM - Really Annoying Machine. Not to be confused with...

ROM - Ridiculously Obsolete Machine. May be upgraded to a Fisher Price Speak-N-Spell.

Notebook - spiral-bound collection of paper sheets, used as a more reliable information storage device when your computer has given up completely.

Debbie Barham

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