Change PC to Win or Windows

Derek Martin code at
Sat Aug 2 16:43:25 CEST 2008

On Tue, Jul 22, 2008 at 08:19:05PM +0700, Lie Ryan wrote:
> But until the dictionary is rewritten, it is incorrect usage. 

That's complete nonsense, much like the rest of your argument.  People
use words all the time that aren't even IN a dictionary.  Their
absence from any dictionary makes them no less capable of conveying
meaning.  The dictionary does not define language; humans do, through
their every-day use of words.

Dictionaries record how words are commonly used, and are written by
stubborn, pedantic old men with nothing better to do than sit around
their oak desks debating the meaning of words... meanwhile the rest of
the just USE words to communicate our ideas.  Dictionaries are like
technical documentation: written with the best of intentions, and
mostly accurate at the time of writing, but out of date by the time
they are published.  [No offense meant to dictionary writers... I
mostly fit that description myself, excepting that I am not quite yet
an "old" man.]

> FOR DECADES, people used the term PC for all sorts of things, 

I never said they didn't.  That also is completely irrelevant.  It's
still the case that "PC" is commonly (these days MOST commonly, by
far, at least in the US where all this technology was invented and
named) used to refer to Intel-compatible hardware running a Microsoft
OS.  That fact, by itself, justifies the use in this case and any
other.  This is the very nature of language.

> Apple's personal computer is NOT a PC? Aren't you contradicting
> yourself? 

No, of course I'm not.

> Just like what Apple, you have just said: "I'm Apple, I'm a
> personal computer, but I'm not a personal computer." Completely
> nonsense.

Yes, I agree: what you wrote is complete nonsense.  Only that isn't
what I said at all.  I said Apple isn't a PC.  The term "PC" and the
term "personal computer" are separate and distinct.  One has only 2
letters, the other has 16 letters in two words.  The latter ONLY means
a (non-specific) computer designed for personal use.  The former can
mean that, though that usage is far less common than the one I was
using: an Intel compatible personal computer on which Microsoft
operating systems run.  The software industry has been marketing
titles as "For PC" since the creation of the IBM PC, and did not stop
doing so when other PC-compatibles arrived on the scene, nor even when
IBM stopped making them.  So what did they mean by "PC" after IBM
stopped making them?  They meant, very clearly, that their software
was intended for Intel-compatible hardware running a Microsoft OS.

Does that mean that PC hardware running Linux is not a PC?  Of course
not -- except when the term is used in a context where it does mean
exactly that. ;-)

> Last, probably my strongest argument: "If the folder has been called
> WinBuild/WindowsBuild, there is no need for arguments. PC as Windows is
> an arguable usage, Windows as Windows is not arguable."

There is no need for arguments now!  The only reason there are
arguments now is because a few stubborn people irrationally refuse to
accept the term "PC" as it is most commonly used in modern English,
as has been the case for most of my lifetime.  Finally, the person who
named the build can call it whatever they want... that's one of the
perks of creating something: you get to name it.  They could have
called it "VanillaIceCreamBuild" or "Vinny'sSkankyHoBuild" -- it's
their choice what to call it.  The name of a thing need not reflect
its purpose, orientation, meaning, or any other concrete or abstract
property of the thing.  It's just a name.

Look, I've already said I don't like the term, and in fact I think
that eventually, as PC hardware (and the software that runs on it)
continues to evolve, it's going to become problematic.  Except that it
won't: when it becomes a problem, English-speaking humans will invent
a new word to describe the class of computers they're discussing.
That is how language works.

But in the mean time, we have no other word to refer to the class of
hardware that is based on Intel chipsets and is designed specifically
to be compatible with Microsoft Windows (or indeed running said
Windows).  We need a word to distinguish this class of machines from
Apple computers (which ironically now also use Intel, but are still
clearly distinct from PCs, partially because they mainly run Windows),
Sun computers, SGI computers, etc.  The term "PC" has been relegated
to that role, and the fact is that the vast majority of those
computers run Windows today.  It's also a fact that the overwhelming
majority of English-speaking humans commonly use the term "PC" to mean
what I've said (and also other similar things).

Your complaints and arguments about alternate meanings of "PC" are
irrelevant, pointless, and futile.  Even if the maintainers are
convinced to change the name, it does not change the fact that the
term will continue to be used that way by millions of humans, nor that
they are not wrong for doing so, since it is a well-established term
in the computer industry as well as the common population, and has
been since long before Apple started using it that way.  And it does
not change the fact that you (and others like you) are being stubborn
by refusing to accept that simple truth.  If you're unable to see that
by now, I don't imagine there's anything I can do to help you, so I
give up trying to convince you.  [...and there was much rejoicing.]

Derek D. Martin
GPG Key ID: 0x81CFE75D

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