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Not The Usual Fare:
A Review of Books
© 1997 Lawrence I. Charters

Washington Apple Pi Journal, September/October 1997, p. 73, reprint information

Funny Books

Maybe they weren't designed that way, but two recently received books are quite funny. The first, Illustrated Computer Dictionary for Dummies, by Dan Gookin et. al., is admittedly not a new book (published 1993), but it is accurately titled: this book is definitely targeted at dummies. Each entry includes a word or term, a definition, and then a sentence illustrating the use of that term. Here is the entire entry for the term "Macintosh:"

Pronunciation: Mak-en-tah-sha
Meaning: a family of personal computers created by Apple Computer in 1984 that features a graphical user interface. The Mac was the first computer to offer a 32-bit microprocessor. More importantly, the application programming interface (API) gives users ease of use and reduced learning time. The Macintosh family is the largest non-IBM compatible personal computer series in use. (See also Quadra, System 7, DA, API, and graphical user interface.)
Sentence: "I always click the little apple menu option on my Macintosh. I don't always need to; I just think it's cute."

The book was distributed by a computer chain as a promotion to entice customers into their stores. I decided, after looking at the book, to avoid the chain at all costs.

For a much better computer dictionary, and it is "cuter," too, try Robin Williams' Jargon: An Informal Dictionary of Computer Terms (Peachpit Press, 1993). Not only is it much better illustrated (the Dummies illustrations are rare, and mostly decorative), the definitions are far better, and written in much better English. And I doubt Robin claims she did her book on a "Makentahsha."

Another funny book is Bob LeVitus' Make Your CD-ROM Work: How To Survive a Bad "Out-Of-Box" Experience. Most of the 240 page book is devoted to getting CD-ROM drives to work on Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 sytems, but there is a section on the Macintosh. A small section. A very small section.

And most of that is padding, covering such things as finding out how much memory your Mac has, what kind and speed CPU you have, how to install QuickTime, etc. For Mac users, making the CD-ROM drive work consists of these complex steps:

  1. Turn on Macintosh.
  2. Insert something -- an audio CD, a Mac CD-ROM, a UNIX CD-ROM, a Windows CD-ROM, a PhotoDisc -- in the CD-ROM drive (label up) and do whatever is appropriate.

Now -- isn't that funny?

Dan Gookin, Wally Wang and Chris Van Buren, Illustrated Computer Dictionary for Dummies, IDG Books, 1993, vi, 405 pp., $12.95. ISBN 1-56884-004-7. http://www.idgbooks.com

Bob LeVitus and Ed Tittel, Make Your CD-ROM Work: How To Survive a Bad "Out-Of-Box" Experience, Random House, 1996, xiii, 240 pp., $10.95. ISBN 0-679-76965-X. http://www.randomhouse.com


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Revised August 28, 1998 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/