Congratulations to our August Reader Challenge winners. We had a tie for first place, so three lucky readers will receive prizes. We selected the winners for this challenge based on a laugh quotient--we measured how hard and long we laughed at the clever answers.

First prize is shared by Stephen Bohman and Jan Philipp, who each win a copy of my book, "Admin911:Windows 2000 Registry." Second prize goes to Rick Kingslan, who wins a copy of Admin911:Windows 2000 DNS & WINS by Dustin Sauter. Both books are from Osborne/McGraw-Hill Publishing.

The Problem
It's August, and in the Northern Hemisphere, it's too hot to work hard (those of you in the Southern Hemisphere are probably planning ski jaunts), so I thought I'd pose some nontechnical, but still tricky, challenges.

I was teaching a class at a local community center, and the room was filled with computer users who were past the novice stage but not yet ready for Help desk assignments. Many of the students wanted IT careers and were in the class to improve their skills so they can take certification tests in the future.

During a break, students were discussing the hurdles they face in getting high-tech jobs. One student opined, "You have to use computer jargon during every interview to show you know what you're doing." Immediately, everyone began discussing the origin and meaning of the terminology that experienced computer professionals use. See how many of these terms you can define accurately.

  • Geek-what's the origin of the term?
  • Gateway
  • Latency
  • Legacy Device
  • Scroll Lock


Here are my answers (not nearly as amusing as some of your responses).

Geek-what’s the origin of the term?

Well, so much for the way words pass from generation to generation: Most all of you looked this term up, and you apparently all used the same source. The term geek predates computers by many decades and historically means someone who performs acts that are generally considered weird to the point of being categorized as antisocial or repellent to society. When computers appeared, the term evolved to describe computer users who were so involved in bits and bytes that they had no lives and therefore lacked social skills. Today, proficient computer aficionados use the term proudly to describe themselves as experts, and to those of us involved with computers, the term no longer has negative connotations.


The computer that is the first hop when data leaves your computer to travel to a remote computer, usually on the Internet. To see the hops, use Ping or Tracert to go to an IP address or a Web address.


The time required to receive a response from a device, such as a network server, a hard disk, or a CD-ROM drive.

Legacy Device

According to many IT professionals (especially those who center their careers on Microsoft Windows), a legacy device is a device that is not Plug-and-Play (PnP) enabled. However, most computer users use this term to describe any device that isn't the currently available model.

Scroll Lock

A key on your keyboard that you press to turn on the Scroll Lock light on your keyboard. Years ago, some programming languages assigned to this key a function that programmers could use while writing code. For end users, nobody has ever come up with a generic use that all software manufacturers agree on. Although Microsoft Excel (and probably other software) changes the scrolling method when you press this key, there’s no standard built-in function for it. Personally, I think the key should be assigned a "state" that forces Title Case Where Every Word In A Sentence Is Capitalized, which I would find useful for writing headings in articles and reports.