Microsoft Press Computer Dictionary. (book reviews)
by David English
When Microsoft publishes a 400-page compute dictionary, you expect it to be better than good. Just as an academic dictionary that includes the name of Oxford or Harvard in its title is likely to be an authoritative resource, a computer dictionary with Microsoft's name creates certain expectations.
Fortunately for all concerned, Microsoft has produced the definitive computer dictionary. Compared to other computer dictionaries and glossaries, Microsoft Press Computer Dictionary (MPCD) is much more thorough and readable. It is so readable, in fact, that I enjoyed casually browsing its pages, stopping on unfamiliar terms such as burst speed, ping pong buffer, and session layer. I was also impressed by the distinction made between baud rate and bits per second (they're not always the same) and the multiple definitions for such words as path, address, and format.
Most of all, I enjoyed my chance encounters with examples of computer slang, including kludge "a piece of hardware or software that basically operates properly but whose construction or design is severely lacking in elegance or logical efficency") and liveware ("Slang for 'people.' Also called wetware or jellyware, as opposed to hardware, software, and firmware").
As good as MPCD is, it's not perfect. Under animation, the definition lists the frame rate of film animation as 28 fps-- it's actually 24 fps. And there are too few illustrations. Maybe Microsoft could go in with TimeLife for the definitive computer encyclopedia in 12 monthly volumes. Until then we'll have to settle for what is clearly a must-have computer resource.