An Analogy from an Unlikely Source

Following up from my previous post about using analogies to describe technical terms to non-technical people, I heard what might be the best analogous circumstance from somewhere I didn’t expect.

A cable shopping channel.

On QVC this morning, as we were flipping channels looking for programs for the kids, I landed upon a segment selling HP laptops. And despite one of the hosts’ scripted, insincere sincerity and exuberance describing technology to viewers in the guise of a “conversation” with his cohost, he (or his writers) used the analogy of a restaurant kitchen to describe the internal workings of a computer.

The multi-core CPU was the chefs in the kitchen. It split duties among them all in order to manage specific tasks simultaneously, and the more chefs one has in the kitchen, the more duties they can govern. Head chef, sous chef, commis chef, etc. Each can be likened to one of the cores of a processor, handling its own assigned task both independently and in conjunction with the other cores to complete the overall task (the meal).

The RAM is the counter or work surface. The greater the amount of RAM in the computer, the larger the work surface in the kitchen, which means the more ingredients and dishes can be placed at any given time before they have to be moved out to their next destination. If a counter is only 1′ by 3′, there’s a limit of the number of plates that can be placed there before another process (the servers) have to move them out, which means delays if the servers are busy. Conversely, if the counter is 3′ by 16′, then not only can more plates be placed on the counter, freeing the cooks to continue working, but servers don’t have to wait for dishes and more dishes can be placed for expediting.

The hard drive space is the size of the walk-in and dry-goods storage, which is pretty self-explanatory.

Admittedly, despite my disdain for the cable shopping channels simply because of the mind-numbing superficial presentation of the shows and hosts, this particular analogy was actually brilliant. I may not be in the business of consulting with my colleagues for home computer purchases, but the reality is that I get asked quite frequently. And because of my innate expertise, I’m going to help them out, because why wouldn’t I?

I’m going to use this restaurant analogy now.