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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 14:53 GMT
Offensive jargon comes under fire
Computer hard disk, Eyewire
Hard disks can be arranged as master and slave
Technology firms supplying Los Angeles County with hardware have been asked to avoid using the words "master" and "slave" to describe their products.

The request follows a complaint by one LA County employee who considered the description offensive.

The worker filed a discrimination complaint after seeing videotape machines labelled with the words.

Hi-tech firms supplying the county are being asked to avoid unacceptable labels and instead use alternatives.

Term assurance

Technology firms were asked to use different terms in an e-mail sent to them on 18 November by Joe Sandoval, division manager of purchasing and contract services for LA County's Internal Services Department.

In the message Mr Sandoval wrote: "Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label."

The terms "master" and "slave" are used frequently throughout the hi-tech world to describe a configuration in which one piece of hardware controls another.

In an interview Mr Sandoval said the e-mail message was no more than a request and was not intended as an ultimatum.

"I do understand that this term has been an industry standard for years and years and this is nothing more than a plea to vendors to see what they can do," he said.

"It appears that some folks have taken this a little too literally."

The tale came under scrutiny by the Snopes Urban Reference website which attempts to find the truth behind many contemporary tall tales.

Mr Sandoval said he had already rejected a request to stop buying equipment labelled with the potentially offensive terms.

The complaint about the labels on the videotape machines was made in May by a worker in the Probation department and who told the county's Office of Affirmative Action Compliance about their grievance.

Within LA County an exhaustive search has been mounted to find all equipment labelled with the offending descriptions.

In many cases the labels have been replaced or taped over with others reading "primary" and "secondary".

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