Published on November 13, 2009
Glossary of Computer Terms Bandwidth This is a measure of the amount of information or data that can be sent over a network connection in a given period of time. Bandwidth is usually measure in bits per second, or "bps." Bit – Binary digit; Describes the fundamental unit of information. A bit is either a 0 or a 1. Groups of bits represent other symbols, such as letters of the alphabet. • 1,024 (approximately one thousand) bytes = 1 kilobyte (Kb) • 1,048,576 (approximately one million) bytes = 1 megabyte (Mb) • 1,073,741,824 (approximately one billion) bytes = 1 gigabyte (Gb) • 8 bits = 1 byte, which is enough to store one character. Blog – Weblog; A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is ‘blogging and someone who keeps a blog is a ‘blogger’. Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in chronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominently. Bookmark – An Internet bookmark acts as a marker for a Web site. When using a Web browser, you can simply select a bookmark from the browser's Bookmarks menu to go to a certain site. Also called “Favorite” Boolean Operators – Specific words, AND, OR, NOT, used to combine terms or phrases when searching an electronic database. Use of the word AND narrows a search. Use of OR broadens a search. Use of NOT narrows a search. Boot – To start a computer and load its operating system software (usually Windows) Browser – see Web Browser. Broadband – Generally refers to connections to the Internet with much greater bandwidth than you can get with a modem. There is no specific definition of the speed of a broadband connection but in general any Internet connection using DSL or a CableTV may be considered a broadband connection. Byte – A group of 8 bits that usually represents a character or a digit. For example, the byte 01000001 represents the letter A. CDR – Compact Disc–Recordable. A storage technology in which a CD drive not only reads data from compact discs but also writes data to CDR discs. A standard CDROM drive can only read data from a disc. See Also CDROM and CDRW. 19
CDROM – Compact Disc – ReadOnly Memory. Can store up to 700 megabytes of data on a single disk. Most software comes on CDROMs. CDRW – Compact Disc – ReWritable. Writes data to a disc, and erases data from CD RW discs to make them reusable. CPU – Central Processing Unit. A chip or circuit that interprets and executes programs by processing a list of machine instructions which perform arithmetic and logical operations and decode and execute instructions. In microcomputers, the entire CPU is on a single chip. Cache – A temporary storage area in memory or on a disk that computer components and various programs use to quickly access data. Pronounced “cash”. Chat – To talk to another person by typing at your computer. What you type appears on the other person’s screen, and what the other person types appears on your screen. You can chat on the Internet or on an online service, such as America Online. Clipboard – A temporary storage area in Windows that holds text and graphics. The Cut and Copy commands put text or graphics on the Clipboard, replacing the Clipboard’s previous contents. The Paste command copies Clipboard data to document. Cookie – An electronic identification ‘badge’ that many websites store on your computer to help identify you when you return to the site or to record items you buy as you shop online. Crash – The failure of a system or a program. Usually, you realize that your system has crashed when you can’t move the mouse pointer or type anything. A condition where a program (either an application or part of the operating system) stops performing its expected function and also stops responding to other parts of the system. Often the offending program may simply appear to freeze. If this program is a critical part of the operating system the entire computer may crash (a system crash). See Also Virus, System Crash. Copy and Paste – The facility to copy a portion of text in a computer program and add it to another place or document. Similar to Cut and Paste, except copying will duplicate the selected text, whereas Cutting removes it from the original area. Cut and Paste – To move something from one place in a document to another. Cutting and pasting is the computer equivalent of using scissors to clip something and glue to paste the clipping somewhere else. See Also Copy and Paste. 20
DSL – Digital Subscriber Line; A method for moving data over regular phone lines. A DSL circuit is much faster than a regular phone connection, and the wires coming into the subscriber's premises are the same (copper) wires used for regular phone service. DVD – Digital Versatile Disc, Digital Video Disc. An optical storage medium that provides greater capacity than CDROM; DVDs are frequently used for multimedia as well as data storage. DVDR – Digital Video Disc, or Digital Versatile Disc; Discs that can store more than seven times as much data as a CD, making them useful for storing fulllength feature films. DVD drives are designed to handle both DVDs and CDs. DVDRW, DVD+RW– Digital Versatile Disc Rewritable; A storage technology in which a DVD drive reads, writes, and erases data from a (DVDRW) disc to make them reusable. Defragmenting – A process that reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems. It does this by physically reorganizing the contents of the disk to store the pieces of each file close together and contiguously. It also attempts to create larger regions of free space using compaction to impede the return of fragmentation. Desktop – The area on the display screen where icons are grouped is often referred to as the desktop because the icons are intended to represent real objects on a real desktop. Disk Drive – A device that writes data to a magnetic disk and reads data from the disk. Think of a disk drive as a cassette recorder/player for a computer. Download – To copy files form another computer to your computer, usually through a modem. See Also Upload. Driver – A small file that helps the computer communicates with a certain hardware device. It contains information the computer needs to recognize and control the device. DualCore Processor – A dualcore processor is a CPU with two processors or "execution cores" in the same integrated circuit. Each processor has its own cache and controller, which enables it to function as efficiently as a single processor. However, because the two processors are linked together, they can perform operations up to twice as fast as a single processor can. While a dualcore system has twice the processing power of a single processor machine, it does not always perform twice as fast. This is because the software running on the machine may not be able to take full advantage or both processors. Some operating systems and programs are optimized for multiprocessing, while others are not. Though programs that have been optimized for multiple processors will run especially fast 21
on dualcore systems, most programs will see at least some benefit from multiple processors as well. Email – Electronic mail; Email, or email, is a system that lets people send messages to and receive messages from other computers. Email is available on networks, online information services, and the Internet. Emoticons – Derived from the two words 'Emotions' and 'Icons'. Emoticons are a shorthand method of explaining a feeling on the Internet. Emoticons can be used in any communication over the Internet but particularly popular with chat rooms and instant messaging. Also called “Smileys.” FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions; Documents that list and answer the most common questions on a particular subject. File – A collection of information stored as a single unit on a floppy or a hard disk, etc. Files always have a file name to identify them. File Transfer Protocol – FTP; A set of rules that governs the exchange of files between two computers on the Internet. Flash Drive – See USB Thumb Drive. Floppy Disk – A removable, portable magnetic disk on which data and programs can be stored. Also called diskettes, floppies are flexible plastic. The 31/2 inch disks have a hard protective case around them. Folder – The Windows name for a directory, a division of a hard disk/floppy etc. that stores groups of related files. Font – Any set of characters of the same typeface (design) and type size (measured in points). For example, Times New Roman 12point is a font, Times New Roman is the typeface, and 12point is the size. There are 72 points in an inch. Format (disk) – To prepare a disk for storing data. Formatting creates a map on the disk that tells the operating system how the disk is structured. The operating system uses this map to keep track of where files are stored. Freeze – Either a single computer program or the whole system may "hang" or become unresponsive to keyboard and/or mouse input. The term "hang" is synonymous with "freeze," the more commonly used term. In a hang, the window affected or the whole 22
computer screen becomes static, the latter case including the mouse cursor. It is contrast with crash, where a program stops working and is not responding, or exits abnormally after encountering a problem. When no other input works, the power cycle must be restarted by an on/off or reset button. GUI (“gooey”) – stands for Graphical User Interface; allows the user to click on menus or icons to start programs and perform tasks instead of typing in commands. A program interface that takes advantage of the computer's graphics capabilities to make the program easier to use. Welldesigned graphical user interfaces can free the user from learning complex command languages. Hard drive – Hard disk drive. A disk drive that reads from and writes to a hard disk. The hard drive also is called the hard disk. You'll probably never see it because it is nestled inside your computer. It's the computer's electronic filling cabinet, and it stores the computer's operating system, files, programs and documents. Hardware – The hardware is the physical part of a computer system; the machinery and equipment. Hardware includes the monitor, tower, mouse, keyboard, speakers, and printer. It can also include other devices that communicate with the CPU such as scanners or digital cameras. Highlight – To select text in order to cut, copy, delete, move, or format it. When you highlight text, it typically appears white on a black background. To highlight using the mouse, click the cursor next to the text, click and hold the left mouse button then drag the mouse across the chosen text. To highlight all text, click Edit > Select All from tool bar in most programs. Home Page – The first page on a World Wide Web site, to which supporting pages are linked. Typically, the home page serves as an index or table of contents to other documents stored at the site. The home page can also be the Web page that your browser is set to use when it starts up, or the main Web page for a business, organization, person, or simply the main page out of a collection of Web pages. HTML – Hypertext Markup Language; The code used to create documents for the World Wide Web. These codes tell the web browser how to display the text (titles, headings, lists, etc.), insert anchors that link this document to other documents, and control character formatting (such as making it bold or italic). In a web browser, you can view the HTML coding by selecting Source under the Edit menu. HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol; The protocol for moving hypertext files across the Internet. HTTP is the most important protocol used in the World Wide Web (WWW) 23
Hyperlink – An element in an electronic document that links to another place in the same document or to an entirely different document. Typically, you click on the hyperlink to follow the link. Hyperlinks are the most essential ingredient of all hypertext systems, including the World Wide Web. Hyperlinks are usually underlined or shown in a different color. Also called “Link”. Hypertext Generally, any text that contains links to other documents words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed. Icons – Small pictures that represent commands, files, or windows. By moving the pointer to the icon and pressing a mouse button, you can execute a command or convert the icon into a window. You can also move the icons around the display screen as if they were real objects on your desk. IM – Instant Message; A private message that reaches the recipient almost immediately after the user sends it. IMs are commonly used in America Online, Microsoft, or Yahoo! Interface – the keyboard, mouse, menus of a computer system. The user interface allows the user to communicate with the operating system. See Also GUI. Internet – The Internet is not synonymous with World Wide Web. The Internet is decentralized by design. Each Internet computer, called a host, is independent. Its operators can choose which Internet services to use and which local services to make available to the global Internet community. Remarkably, this anarchy by design works exceedingly well. A network of networks; a group of networks interconnected via routers. The Internet (with a capital I) is the world's largest internet. This worldwide information highway is comprised of thousands of interconnected computer networks, and reaches millions of people in many different countries. The Internet was originally developed for the United States military, and then became used for government, academic and commercial research and communications. The Internet is made up of large backbone networks, and smaller networks that link to them. The Internet functions as a gateway for electronic mail between various networks and online services. The World Wide Web facility on the Internet makes possible almost instantaneous exchange of information by linking documents around the world. Internet computers use the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). There are over six million hosts on the Internet: mainframes, minicomputers or workstations that support the Internet Protocol. IP – Internet Protocol; IP is an address of a computer or other network device on a network using IP or TCP/IP. For example, the number "188.8.131.52" is an example of such an address. These addresses are similar to addresses used on houses and help data reach its appropriate destination on a network. 24
Mouse – A device that controls the movement of the cursor or pointer on a display screen. A mouse is a small object you can roll along a hard, flat surface. Its name is derived from its shape, which looks a bit like a mouse, its connecting wire that one can imagine to be the mouse's tail, and the fact that one must make it scurry along a surface. As you move the mouse, the pointer on the display screen moves in the same direction. Mice contain at least one button and sometimes as many as three, which have different functions depending on what program is running. Some newer mice also include a scroll wheel for scrolling through long documents. Netiquette – The etiquette on the Internet. Operating System – The main control program of a computer that schedules tasks, manages storage, and handles communication with peripherals. Its main part, called the kernel, is always present. The operating system presents a basic user interface when no applications are open, and all applications must communicate with the operating system. Examples of operating systems are Windows, DOS, MacOS, Linux, UNIX, etc. PC – PC stands for personal computer. However, there are many kinds of personal computers; PC usually refers to personal computers that conform to the standard of the IBM PC. There are more IBM PCs and PC clones in use worldwide than any other type of computer. The IBM PCs and PC clones are based on the Intel microprocessors and mostly are run with DOS or Windows. Some makers of PC clones are Compaq, HP, and Dell. PDF – Portable Document Format; A file format designed to enable printing and viewing of documents with all their formatting (typefaces, images, layout, etc.) appearing the same regardless of what operating system is used. PDF was developed by the Adobe Corporation. PlugandPlay The ability of a computer to automatically detect and configure new hardware components when they are plugged in, without requiring the user to go through complicated installation procedures. With plug and play, it should be possible to immediately use a new peripheral as soon as it is plugged in. Example, a mouse or Flash drive. Macintosh equipment has always been plugandplay; PC users have it since Windows 95. Plugin A (usually small) piece of software that adds features to or enhances a larger piece of software. The idea behind plugins is that a small piece of software is loaded into memory by the larger program, adding a new feature, and that users need only install the few plugins that they need, out of a much larger pool of possibilities. An example is the set of additional tools and effects available to Photoshop image editor in the Plugins folder. There are many plugins for Netscape Navigator such as Shockwave player that give the browser special capabilities, especially for multimedia websites. 26
Pointer – A symbol that appears on the display screen and that you move to select objects and commands. Usually, the pointer appears as a small angled arrow. Text processing applications, however, use an Ibeam pointer that is shaped like a capital I. Pointing device – A device, such as a mouse or trackball, which enables you to select objects on the display screen. Presentation software – A type of business software that enables users to create highly stylized images for slide shows and reports. The software includes functions for creating various types of charts and graphs and for inserting text in a variety of fonts. Most systems enable you to import data from a spreadsheet application to create the charts and graphs. Printer – A device that prints text or illustrations on paper. Protocol – On the Internet protocol usually refers to a set of rules that define an exact format for communication between systems. For example the HTTP protocol defines the format for communication between web browsers and web servers. Pulldown Menu – A menu that appears near the top of the screen, on the menu bar, listing various options. A menu’s contents are not visible until you click the menu. The menu then drops down, covering a small part of the screen. RAM – Random Access Memory; The working memory of the computer. RAM is the generic term for read/write memory, memory that permits bits and bytes to be written to it as well as read from it, in any order or sequence. RAM is the memory used for storing data temporarily while working on it, running application programs, etc. Access to and from RAM is very fast. "Random access" refers to the fact that any area of RAM can be accessed directly and immediately, in contrast to other media such as a magnetic tape where the tape must be wound to the point where the data is. RAM is called volatile memory; information in RAM will disappear if the power is switched off before it is saved to disk. ROM – ReadOnly Memory; Memory that can be read but not changed. Readonly memory is nonvolatile storage; it holds its contents even when the power is turned off. Data is placed in ROM only once, and stays there permanently. ROM chips are used for storage of the essential software of the computer, called firmware. Recycle Bin – A virtual trash can into which Windows places files and folders when you choose to delete them. The Recycle Bin is a temporary storage area that acts as a safety net for deleted files. If you delete a file or folder by mistake, you can usually retrieve it 27
from the Recycle Bin. Once you Empty the Recycle Bin, all files and folders within will be permanently deleted. Screen Saver – A program that displays a moving picture on your computer screen when the computer is inactive. Screen savers are typically used as decorative novelties and to prevent passersby from snooping. Scrollbar – A band, typically displayed along the bottom and right edge of a window, used to bring the contents of the window into view. Search Engine – A tool to find documents on the Web. At great speeds, the search engine will search through millions of Web pages and select those with specific words and phrases as chosen by the user. Shortcut – A cloned version of an icon that points to a document or program on your computer. Shortcuts let you place programs and documents in more than one convenient location on your computer. Shortcut Keys – A single key or combination of keys used to save keystrokes or mouse operations. Smileys – See Emoticons. Software – A program or set of programs that tells a computer system what to do. There are two types of software: operating system software and application software. Operating system software (such as Windows) gets your computer up and running. Application software lets you do something useful, such as type a letter or manage your finances. Other types of software include games and utilities (programs for maintaining and optimizing your computer). Spam (or Spamming) – An inappropriate attempt to use a mailing list, or USENET or other networked communications facility as if it was a broadcast medium (which it is not) by sending the same message to a large number of people who didn’t ask for it. The term probably comes from a famous Monty Python skit which featured the word spam repeated over and over. The term may also have come from a low opinion of the food product with the same name, which is generally perceived as a generic contentfree waste of resources. (Spam® is a registered trademark of Hormel Corporation, for its processed meat product.) Spreadsheet software – Spreadsheet applications (sometimes referred to simply as spreadsheets) are computer programs that let you create and manipulate spreadsheets electronically. In a spreadsheet application, each value sits in a cell. You can define what type of data is in each cell and how different cells depend on one another. The relationships between cells are called formulas, and the names of the cells are called labels 28
Spreadsheets – A table of values arranged in rows and columns. Each value can have a predefined relationship to the other values. If you change one value, therefore, you may need to change other values as well Spyware – A somewhat vague term generally referring to software that is secretly installed on a user’s computer and that monitors use of the computer in some way without the users' knowledge or consent. Most spyware tries to get the user to view advertising and/or particular web pages. Some spyware also sends information about the user to another machine over the Internet. Spyware is usually installed without a users' knowledge as part of the installation of other software, especially software such as music sharing software obtained via download. Start menu – What appears after the Start button is clicked; allows access to tools and programs on the computer Status bar – The area at the bottom of a program window that shows you what is going on as you work. A status bar might show the page and line number where the insertion point is positioned or show the progress of an opening program or webpage. Surfing – By analogy with riding waves in the ocean, traveling from place to place on the Internet. The idea "Internet surfing" may come from "channel surfing" on the television, which means switching from channel to channel looking for something interesting. By that example, surfing the internet is traveling from site to site, exploring the Internet for fun. System Crash – A breakdown of either the operating system or the hardware, resulting in the systems halting, often very abruptly. See also Crash, Virus. System Unit – (CPU, or Tower) The central component of any computer, the system unit contains the computer’s CPU, memory, disk drives, and other essential components. See also CPU. Tab – Browser tabs allow you to view multiple web pages in the same browser without the need to open a new browser session. Also called “Browser Tabs”. Taskbar – Runs across the bottom of the computer screen. Contains the clock, Start button, and any open programs or windows. You can use the taskbar to switch between open programs or windows. 29
Task Manager – A program used to provide information about the processes and programs running on a computer, as well as the general status of the computer. It can also be used to terminate processes and programs, as well as change the processes' priority. Taskbar – Runs across the bottom of the computer screen. Contains the clock, Start button, and any open programs or windows. You can use the taskbar to switch between open programs or windows. Thumb Drive – See USB Thumb Drive. Toolbar – A strip of buttons typically displayed near the top of a program window, below the menu bar. The toolbar contains buttons that you can click to enter common commands, allowing you to bypass the menu system. Undo – A feature in most programs that lets you reverse one or more actions. For example, if you delete a paragraph by mistake, you can choose the Undo command to get it back. Upload – To send data to another computer, usually through a modem and a telephone line or over a network connection. See Also Download. URL – Stands for Universal Resource Locator, or Uniform Resource Locator. The global address of documents and other resources on the World Wide Web. Universal Resource Locator is a means of identifying an exact location on the Internet. A URL is comprised of four parts: Protocol Type (HTTP), Machine Name (webtrends.com), Directory Path (/html/info/), and File Name (default.htm). A resource identifier that describes its target by presenting a pathway for retrieving it. URL may include a protocol, a host computer, and how to find the target resource on that computer. USB – Stands for Universal Serial Bus, or Port. USB is a "plug and play" interface between a computer and addon devices such camera and microphone. With USB, a device can be added to your computer without having to turn the computer off. USB Thumb Drive – A small data storage device that plugs right into the computer’s USB port. Since they are small in size but have large storage capacities, USB thumb drives have replaced most previous portable data storage mediums such as floppy disks and CDs. Because they have a builtin USB connection, they also don't require a special disk drive to be used. Instead, they can be used on any computer with a USB port, which nearly all modern computers have. Also called “Flash drive”, “Jump drive”, or simply “USB”. 30
Utility – A program designed to optimize, protect, or maintain a computer rather than perform a task for the user. Utilities include backup programs, antivirus software, and memory optimizers. Virtual Memory – Disk storage used as RAM (memory). Virus – A program that attaches itself to files on a floppy or hard disk, duplicates itself without the user’s knowledge, and might cause the computer to do strange and sometimes destructive things, such as reformatting your hard drive. See Also Crash. Wallpaper – A graphical design that appears as the background for the Windows desktop. Also known as desktop background. Web Browser – A software application used to make navigating the Internet easy for the user by providing a graphical user interface so the user can click menus, icons, or buttons rather than learning difficult computer commands. Also called a web client because the browser application resides on the client, or the computer of the individual using it, rather than residing on a web server. Two widely used web browsers are Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Web Site – A site (location) on the World Wide Web. A group of similar web pages linked by hyperlinks and managed by a single company, organization, or individual. A web site may include text, graphics, audio and video files, and hyperlinks to other web pages. Each Web site contains a home page, which is the first document users see when they enter the site. The site might also contain additional documents and files. Each site is owned and managed by an individual, company or organization. WiFi – Stands for Wireless Fidelity. A wireless network standard for connecting computers via radiofrequency signals rather than network cables. Commonly referred to as a means to connect to the Internet. Windows – A way of displaying information on different parts of the screen. When capitalized, used as an abbreviated form of Microsoft Windows. In each window, you can run a different program or display a different file. You can move windows around the display screen, and change their shape and size at will. Word Processing – Using a computer to create, edit, and print documents. Of all computer applications, word processing is the most common. To perform word processing, you need a computer, a special program called a word processor, and a printer. A word processor enables you to create a document, store it electronically on a disk, display it on a screen, modify it by entering commands and characters from the keyboard, and print it on a printer. 31
Word processing program – The preparation of text documents by means of a computer program. Word processing is a stage of desktop publishing: the preparation of text, rather than the design or typography. Some features provided by word processing software include word wrap, text editing functions, type styling, page formatting, search and replace, spelling and grammar checking, style sheets, headers and footers, page numbering, sorting, and mail merge. World Wide Web – World Wide Web is not synonymous with the Internet. A system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents. The documents are formatted in a markup language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) that supports links to other documents, as well as graphics, audio, and video files. This means you can jump from one document to another simply by clicking on hot spots. Not all Internet servers are part of the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web (WWW or simply Web) is all the resources and users on the Internet that are using the Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP). The Web gives universal access to a vast collection of documents. The Web's protocols are a superset of many of the most common Internet application services. Web servers exist for libraries, corporations, and a wide variety of other sites. An easy (but powerful) globalinformation system based on a combination of information retrieval and hypertext techniques. The Web is a hypertextbased, distributed system developed to provide Internet users an easy, intuitive means of accessing information. Worm – A worm is a virus that does not infect other programs. It makes copies of itself, and infects additional computers (typically by making use of network connections) but does not attach itself to additional programs; however a worm might alter, install, or destroy files and programs. 32
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