[gender-it] 'master-slave' computer terminology questioned

  • From: Irina Aristarkhova <uspia@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: gender-it@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, mxt_core@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2003 21:17:51 +0800

Hi all,

I thought this might be of interest to our groups.



'Master' and 'slave' computer labels unacceptable, officials say

Wednesday, November 26, 2003 Posted: 11:33 AM EST (1633 GMT)

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=95 Business 2.0: A new language for the server room=A0

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Los Angeles officials have asked=20
that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms=20
"master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are=20
unacceptable and offensive.

The request -- which has some suppliers furious and others busy=20
re-labeling components -- came after an unidentified worker spotted a=20
videotape machine carrying devices labeled "master" and "slave" and=20
filed a discrimination complaint with the county's Office of Affirmative=20=

Action Compliance.

In the computer industry, "master" and "slave" are used to refer to=20
primary and secondary hard disk drives. The terms are also used in other=20=


"Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County,=20=

this is not an acceptable identification label," Joe Sandoval, division=20=

manager of purchasing and contract services, said in a memo sent to=20
County vendors.

"We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor=20
review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of=20
equipment components that could be interpreted as discriminatory or=20
offensive in nature," Sandoval said in the memo, which was distributed=20=

last week and made available to Reuters.

The memo did not include any suggestions for alternative labels.

Dennis Tafoya, director of the affirmative action office, said in a=20
separate memo that an "exhaustive search" had been undertaken to find=20
all such labels and replace them with more "appropriate" ones. A form=20
was sent to all departments to identify equipment carrying the labels=20
"master" and "slave" or any other offensive terms.

Faced with an avalanche of complaints from vendors and the general=20
public, Sandoval told Reuters in an interview that his memo was intended=20=

as "nothing more than a request" and not an ultimatum or policy change.

"I do understand that this term has been an industry standard for years=20=

and years and this is nothing more than a plea to vendors to see what=20
they can do," he said. "It appears that some folks have taken this a=20
little too literally."

Sandoval said that he had already rejected a suggestion that the county=20=

stop buying all equipment carrying the "master" and "slave" labels and=20=

had no intention of enforcing a ban on such terms with suppliers.

"But we are culturally sensitive and we have 90,000 employees," he said.=20=

"We have to take these things seriously."

Sandoval added that in addition to the e-mails he's received "telling me=20=

how stupid I am and how I should be fired" he has gotten a positive=20
response from some companies willing to reexamine their labels.

In June, the Los Angeles city council unanimously passed a law requiring=20=

that any companies doing business with the city disclose profits they=20
may have made from slavery in the 19th Century. In 2000, the council=20
supported federal legislation seeking reparations for descendants of=20

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be=20
published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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