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the god Pan

The god Pan, Arcadian Lord of the flocks and pastures, answers your questions about computers and the Internet.

Dear Pan,
Are computers male or female?
Herme Aphrodite

Dear Herme,

This topic has been raised on more than one email circular before now.

The case for feminine gender:

  • Their internal logic system is mysterious and rarely understandable.
  • The language they use to communicate with each other is incomprehensible to everybody else.
  • Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for later retrieval.
  • When things go wrong, maintenance can be very expensive.

The case for masculine gender:

  • In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on.
  • They hold a lot of data but still can't think for themselves.
  • They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they are the problem.
  • You make a commitment to one and within months you come across a better model.

In case the answer isn't clear from the guidelines above, here is a much easier method of determining gender. Whatever gender you are, your computer is the opposite.


Dear Pan,
I'm curious to know why Microsoft dropped the year suffix for its Windows operating systems. We had Windows 95 and Windows 98. Why have they now changed to the letters XP?
Tod Oftodhall

Dear Tod,

You're labouring under some serious misapprehension there if you think those numbers relate to years. They tell you the percentage of computer resources required to run the Windows operating system. As you can see, things were getting pretty tight by the time they were on 98, and 2000 was only suitable for networks, as you had to spread the operating system across 20 computers just to get one machine working properly.

The company escaped the naming formula with NT (Not Telling) and has recently thrown observers further off the scent with XP, which stands for Xeroderma Pigmentosum, a rare genetic skin disease characterised by hyper-sensitivity to the sun.

The next Windows operating system will be called Longhorn another medical term, this one relating to male sexual arousal.


More Pan on the Foxglove Home page.

Send your questions to Pan at ajs@foxglove.co.uk

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