"Remember: The race goes not to the strong, nor swift, nor more intelligent but to the less stupid"

The Book
Excerpts from The Glossary of
In Search of Stupidity:
Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters


The immediate precursor to the Internet created by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). No one lost any money on the ARPANET, a fact that leads many people to remember it fondly.


A marketing process that attempts to attach desirable intangible qualities to products and services. The process reached its apotheosis during the dot-com boom, a time when sock puppets and incredibly expensive Super Bowl ads featuring things like computer-generated herds of cats wasted amazing amounts of money with no discernible ROI.


An industry term for the high-tech distribution system. The term is used somewhat loosely and often refers to a channel segment, as in “the reseller channel.” The channel is sometimes also referred to by hardware and software vendors as “bloodsuckers,” “vampires,” “weasels,” and “those thieves.” The channel has its own special vocabulary for the vendors.

chiclet keyboard

Used on the PC Junior. A membrane-based keyboard technology that companies insist on periodically trying to sell to people even though past experience has taught them no one wants it.

competitive upgrade

A software promotion designed to drain sales away from a competitor's installed base. Usually the product is sold at a price close to or below the upgrade price of a competing product. At Borland, these programs are sometimes referred to as "hoist by your own petard."

demo doll

An individual assigned to demonstrate a product, often to a member of the press or an industry analyst. Demo dollies can be of either sex. The most important personal characteristic of a successful demo dolly isthe ability to nod wisely even when a member of senior management says something inane.


Acronym for enterprise resource planning. A class of software designed to integrate every aspect of a company's operations, from customer service to warehouse management. Frequently, use of these products requires a business to "reengineer" its business processes, which in turn often leads to the need to placate angry customers who are receiving multiple bills for items they didn't order. This helps drive purchases of CRM software.

grey market

A system designed to sell products outside of normal "authorized" reseller channels. Gray markets usually spring up when large companies buy more products than they can sell in order to achieve bigger discounts, and then turn around and sell their excess inventory "out the back door" to smaller resellers. These resellers in turn sell the product to customers (sometimes without warranties or service agreements). Everyone in high tech is constantly bemoaning the existence of gray markets, but they never seem to go away. Participants in these markets can be distinguished by their nervous tics, an unfortunate byproduct of their constant winking.


Acronym for integrated development environment. A software development tool used by programmers to write programs. A good-quality IDE is often named as a respondent in the divorce proceedings between a programmer and his or her spouse.


Initial public offering (of stock). During the dot-com boom, IPOs were often used to legally defraud millions of people who should have known better.

moore's law

Not actually a law, but an observation. Moore's "law" states that the number of transistors contained in a microdevice doubles every 18 months. Moore's Law accounts for the fact that the new computer you just bought will be worth the price of a boat anchor 6 months after purchase. Actually, the boat anchor will be worth more.

open source

Both a movement and a process of creating software that believes that the underlying source code of products should be freely accessible to users. Many open source programmers believe Bill Gates is Satan. Bill Gates believes many open source programmers are communists.


A networking technology that allows computers to communicate and exchange information directly instead of through a server. Peer-to-peer networks are most frequently used to defraud record companies, whom no one likes anyway.


A 1980s “Write Once, Run Anywhere” precursor to Java. The performance of p-System programs tended to be poor, and figuring out how to properly capitalize the name of the OS drove everyone crazy.


Acronym for relational database management system. A methodology for storing and retrieving data from computer systems that relies heavily on tables. Periodically, database programming specialists engage in abstruse arguments about which database system is more or less relational than another. These arguments can sometimes reach levels of ferocity equivalent to those seen during the Thirty Years War, but because programmers are poor fighters, no one is usually hurt.

subtractive marketing

A marketing process that strips desirable features out of a successful product and then attempts to position the pathetic, leftover hulk as a good "value." Marketers who rely on subtractive marketing must hope that their customers are idiots. Usually, this hope is disappointed.


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