People misuse terminology constantly in high-tech fields, but there are a few terms that should never be used incorrectly in the presence of computer people. The true geek will laugh (perhaps quietly) if you make these mistakes. To have some fun with your nerdy colleagues, see how to spoof your techie friend
, buffer flush
and naming fiascos
Bits and Bytes - Pints and Gallons
There are eight bits to a byte, and certain functions are measured in bits and bits per second, while others are measured in bytes and bytes per second (for clarification, see space/time
). However, saying bits when you should say bytes would be like going to a gas station and asking for 10 pints of gas instead of 10 gallons (there are eight pints to a gallon).
The way around it is to use common slang. If you forget gigabits or gigabytes, say "gigs." For megabits and megabytes, say "megs." Although terabytes is becoming a common term, "teras" will most likely appear on the horizon. "Megs" and "gigs" are so common that countless telephone support people forget whether they mean bits or bytes, that is if they ever knew in the first place.
Storage, Not Memory
If you want to sound professional, do not mix up storage and memory. The contents in storage is permanent until erased, which includes hard drives, solid state drives (SSDs) and flash drives. Everything in memory (RAM) vanishes when the device is turned off. Increasingly however, there are memories that do retain their content, but they are typically used in sensors at remote locations and not as the main memory in computers, tablets and smartphones (see non-volatile memory
). See storage vs. memory
Stream vs. Download
Streaming is a live or on-demand broadcast of audio or video content. You listen or watch, and although you may be able to pause and continue, streaming is one and done. Downloading on the other hand means storing content in the computer or mobile device, which can be played any number of times. Never say downloading when you are actually streaming and vice versa. However, also be aware that there is software available that captures streamed content and thus turns it into a download. See streaming
Run, Launch, Load, Start, But Don't Boot!
Boot refers to loading and running only the operating system and not applications. Booting happens when you turn the computer on or select Restart. When you want to start any application (Web browser, photo editor, etc.) that is already installed in your computer, say "start" it, "run" it, "load" it or "launch" it, but do not say "boot" it. See load
Running the Install Program
A common mistake users make is to tell support people they cannot run their application, when in fact, they never ran it in the first place. Applications are delivered to users wrapped up within an install program, and the first time the CD-ROM or downloaded file is executed, the install program is being run, not the application. You should clarify whether you are having trouble installing the program or running the application you just installed. See install program