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September 15, 2010

What the FAQ?

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

FAQ is quickly joining the term download in my library of misused computer terms.

My favorite misused computer term of all time is download. People who don’t know a download from an upload use the term generically to mean “transfer.”

Sometimes they could just say “copy” as in, “I need to download a file to my thumb drive.”


Ancient History ago I detested how Marketing Idiots misused the term TSR.

TSR stands for Terminate but Stay Resident. It was the name of a DOS function call that initiated a primitive form of multitasking. Programs like SideKick and print spoolers were TSRs. I preferred the term “memory resident program,” but that didn’t appeal to the suits, who preferred TLAs.

TLA = Three Letter Acronym.

So they labeled everything a TSR. Even WordPerfect was a TSR.


Today, the term being misused more than anything is FAQ.

Yes, I have a FAQing problem.

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions, but its use seems to be any Q&A. So a list of questions and answers automatically becomes a FAQ, even though few of the questions are ever asked and possibly none of them are asked frequently, if ever.

That’s because the Marketing Idiots (them again) are using FAQ as a simple Q&A where the majority of the questions are things they make up. The answers conveniently support buying the crap the Marketing Idiots are pushing.

Originally a FAQ list was a true list of Frequently Asked Questions. They began on the old (very old) USENET message lists.

People, usually newbies, asked the same stupid questions over and over. So someone along the line developed the list of questions most frequently asked. Hence, the FAQ list. And it was really a FAQ. To that I say, FAQ yeah!

Back in the old days you could refer to the FAQ to see exactly what was asked, how often it was asked, and see the answers, answers often given over and over, and learn what the group was all about. The FAQs were useful. They were FAQs!

Now there’s nothing I can do about the misuse of the term FAQ. You’ll see more and more “FAQ lists” all over the Internet, lists that are written not by people asking questions frequently, but by those who don’t know the difference between a FAQ and a simple Q&A. That’s really a FAQ off.


I need to get the FAQ out of here.


  1. Dan- This comment is loosely related to your blog post, it has to do with gripes, misunderstanding and computer misuse:

    Have you read the book “The Unix Haters Handbook”? Its a free download here:
    its about how the entire *nix system is a complete mess that never gets fixed. Im curious what you think since youve written one of the only books on curses.

    Comment by BradC — September 16, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  2. Simson is a great author, and he’s done some wonderful Unix texts.

    At that period in computer book publishing (1994), the trend was to do silly/funny books. That’s because most publishers (even IDG) misunderstood the nature of DOS For Dummies. They thought that book was successful because it was humorous. That was true, but not the entire reason. So you saw silly books like The Unix Haters Handbooks.

    Comment by admin — September 16, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

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