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Monday, 18 May 2009 15:00

The cranky CIO says the hard drive is inside the computer

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Those of us who work in technology have a jargon all of our very own. We know the difference between CPUs and GPUs, between SSD and HDD, let alone HD and SDTV! Yet, our users are flat out calling everything "the hard drive."

Ok, it’s not really fair to pick on people for not knowing something that isn’t in their field. I’d hate for a doctor to mock me because I don’t actually know where my liver is or what on earth the spleen is for.

Yet, somebody, somewhere must be teaching the wrong thing. I hear the same mislabelled terminology far too often for it to be coincidence.

Several years ago I replaced a faulty hard drive on a server. I had a lady complain that nothing was faster, despite expecting it to be so. I asked why she was anticipating a change in performance and she replied, “Didn’t you just change the hard drive?”

I didn’t twig just what she meant at the time. It took several more experiences with people telling me their “hard drive” kept crashing (which concerned me greatly until I realised it was just Microsoft Word that was locking up) or even asking if they could bring in their “hard drive” from home and have me fix up a few problems.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, and no doubt you’ve heard it too. In each case they were referring to a computer. The girl in the first scenario assumed when I said I was replacing a hard disk I was commissioning a whole new server!

Back when I was in high school in the ‘80’s the computer was often referred to as “the CPU” which wasn’t strictly accurate either, but was certainly more correct than “the hard drive” which is a single physical component used for data storage and does not in any way perform calculations, accept keyboard or mouse input, and it definitely does not emit output to a display device.

Sure, people who don’t practice IT daily might get their terms mixed up. Heck, once I had a 20 year old Nissan 280ZX and had the starter motor replaced. When my first son was born I decided I needed a more modern and reliable family vehicle. I took the Z car to a car yard. The dealer looked it over and as soon as he opened the bonnet he commented on the new starter motor. I still to this day don’t know what on earth a starter motor looks like or where it is but this guy could tell with a single glance it was new.

However, what concerns me is just why so many people have this same affliction. It really raises the question to my mind as to whether our schools or other educational institutions are literally teaching young people “this is the hard drive” as they point to a picture of a computer.

Do you know the cause? Have you heard anything similar?


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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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