Larry Osterman's WebLog

Confessions of an Old Fogey
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Sometimes you've just got to wonder.

Sometimes you've just got to wonder.

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I just ran into this on Microsoft's "What to Know Before You Download and Install Windows XP Service Pack 2" site:

Memory: You need at least 2 gigabytes (GB) of free memory space on your hard disk.

To check your free memory space, click Start, click My Computer, and right-click Local Disk (C:) or the name of the drive you are installing SP2 on, and then click Properties.

Does anyone ELSE find it disturbing that Microsoft's recommending that people have 2G of memory to install the service pack?  Or that Microsoft's recommending that people have memory space on their hard disk?  How do I get memory space on my hard disk?  Should I increase my paging file to 2G to make that work?

Sigh.  If you treat people like they don't understand computers, how on EARTH can you expect them to learn about computers?

  • nit!

    i do agree with you though...
  • *rofl* Considering the way some other computer terms have been abused and changed over the years there well may come a time when we're screaming, "It's not memory if it's permanent storage!"

    I'm still trying to find a way to explain the difference to my Mom. I've tried using an encyclopedia set (hard drive) vs the article you've read and are digesting (RAM) but that was a no go. Any suggestions?
  • Brian:
    I usually try to explain things without analogies, but how about:

    RAM : hard drive :: kitchen counter : freezer

    The kitchen counter (RAM) is where you process your food (data), while the freezer (hard drive) is where you store your food (data).

  • At least we no longer have to try and explain the difference between memory, expanded memory, extended memory, and hard drives.

    I can remember equating memory to your 'desk', since that is where you laid out your work. I then described the hard drive as a file cabinet, which is where you stored things, and then lastly I described expanded memory like a credenza providing more work space...

    Oh, things are so much simpler now, right?
  • I always explained it as an office.

    The procesor is the boss, he/she tells people what to do.

    Hard drive are the filing cabinets where all the stuff is.

    Memory are the workers that run back and forth between the two.

    Has always worked well.
  • Bah, users.

    You know there are some people that just can't learn or are unwilling to learn. No matter how much you try to teach them they just don't get it. I think all we can do is contuously replace that "Coffee Cup Holder" that comes with their PC for them and continue on with our day.
  • I always thought CPU registers, Lx cache, RAM, disk drives, optical driver, tape drives are all memory. It's how it's introduced in systems architecture and operating systems courses all over the world.
  • Aaah Ovidu, here's the thing. They're all STORAGE. They're not MEMORY. To me, MEMORY is specifically targetted to RAM chips (whether they're in RAM or Lx cache)

    Storage has lots of different kinds of characteristics. For instance, CPU registers are highly transient storage, but they're very, very fast. Lx cache is another kind of storage - faster than the others, but slower than registers. Also less transient. Tapes are really slow, but they last a long time (not as long as optical drives, but longer than disk drives (hopefully)).

    Memory is a KIND of storage. But you need a SPECIFIC kind of storage to download XP SP2 - you need hard disk storage. Not RAM storage.
  • A couple of thoughts:

    http://wombat.doc.ic.ac.uk/foldoc/foldoc.cgi?query=memory
    ( These days, usually used synonymously with Random Access Memory or Read-Only Memory, but in the general sense it can be any device that can hold data in machine-readable format.)

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=memory
    (Computer Science:
    a) A unit of a computer that preserves data for retrieval.
    b) Capacity for storing information: two gigabytes of memory.)

    I understand your point that to incentivize people to move from thinking about all storage as the same to thinking about RAM and hard disk memory as different it would help if the technical writers at Microsoft were consistent in using different terms for different things. I'm just not convinced that in a world where flash memory devices are interchangeable with portable hard drive devices it's a useful long-term skill for end users to need to know the internals of their devices.

    When I was in school, "computer class" meant BASIC and Logo programming. I won't deny that the skills are useful to me today, but I think that's more a quirk of fate than anything. I don't exactly see my colleagues having a hard time carrying on their jobs (or even using computers productively) without them.
  • Even better, this passed the "mom test":

    RAM : hard drive :: your brain : notebook

    You can remember a lot, but you'll never remember it all, so you have to write some stuff down.

    Talking about a hard drive's "memory" is about on the same level as talking about the "man that just kicked a touchgoal" on TV. Yes, that happened - it made me sad too.
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