Computer Terms

Computer Terms 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

For more definitions of computer and technical terms visit: High – Tech Dictionary

A
address The identifying location of a device or an area of storage; for example, a memory register, disk sector, or network node. 2.To identify with an address.  See also URL
ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange. A code in which each alphanumeric character is represented as a number from 0 to 127, translated into a 7-bit binary code for the computer. ASCII is used by most microcomputers and printers, and because of this, text-only files can be transferred easily between different kinds of computers. ASCII code also includes characters to indicate backspace, carriage return, etc., but does not include accents and special letters not used in English.  ASCII codes for creating foreign characters
B
backup To make copies of important files in case the originals are damaged. Data can be backed up on external hard drives, floppy discs, CD-ROMs, tape, etc.
back slash The character \ (ASCII 92), not to be confused with the forward slash / (ASCII 47).
boolean Having two possible values (such as 0 or 1, on or off, true or false). Referring to a system of algebra and logic developed by English mathematician.  Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT when used in a search.
boot 1.To load a computer’s operating system. 2.The process of loading a computer’s operating system or restarting the computer.
boot virus A virus that infects a computer when the computer is booted from an infected disk. A boot virus may make it impossible to start the computer because they usually the sector [location] where your start-up commands are located.
bounced message An electronic mail message returned with a notice indicating the transmission failed, either because the message was misaddressed or a connection failed.  Possible reasons for this are temporary server outages and peak or busy times.  This can account for you receiving an email message that says your email was undelivered when in reality it is delivered on the next attempt by the server.
browser A client program that allows users to read hypertext documents on the World Wide Web, and navigate between them. Examples of browser are Netscape Navigator, Lynx, and Microsoft Internet Explorer.  Browsers can be text-based or graphic-based.
bubble jet The ink jet printer technology used by Canon.  Bubble jets differ from ink jets in the way they create the dots used to create characters and text.  Bubble is literally to the way the ink is placed on the paper. Ink Jets form letters by tiny spray or burst of ink.
bug An error in a computer program or in the computer’s hardware that causes repeated malfunctions.  Usually, reinstalling the program’s software will correct most “bugs.”
bundled software Software that comes free with the purchase of new hardware or other programs, and usually includes a variety of basic programs and sometimes an encyclopedia, sample computer games, or other multimedia software.
bus A set of conductors which connect the functional units in a computer. It is called a bus because it travels to all destinations. There are local busses that connect elements within the CPU and busses which connect the computer to external memory and peripherals [printers, digital cameras, CD burners].
button bar A means of disabling a system’s security which is deliberately left by designers of the system, often to give access to service technicians or maintenance programmers.
byte The amount of memory space used to store one character, which is usually 8 bits. A computer that has 8-bit bytes (most large and small computers today) can distinguish 28 = 256 different characters.
C
cable A flexible wire or bundle of wires, usually metal (glass or silica in fiber-optic cable), insulated with plastic or rubber, and having connectors on the ends. Some kinds of cable, especially coaxial cable and fiber-optics cable, are used in electronics and computer networking.
cable modem A cable modem is an external device that hooks up to your computer and instead of getting an internet connection through your telephone wire (or another system), you get a connection through your cable network (same place your cable TV connection comes from).
cache A temporary storage area for frequently-accessed or recently-accessed data. Having certain data stored in cache speeds up the operation of the computer. There are two kinds of cache: internal (or memory cache) and external (or disk cache). Internal cache is built into the CPU, and external cache is on the motherboard.  When an item is called for, the computer first checks the internal cache, then the external cache, and finally the slower, main storage.
carpal tunnel syndrome Injury of the carpal tunnel, a nerve pathway in the wrist, that is sometimes caused by long hours of typing. The primary symptoms are numbness, tingling, and pain in the fingers caused by pressure on the main nerve to the hand. Stretching exercises, massage therapy, or medication will help mild cases; if the condition is severe, it may require surgery. To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, typists can use a padded wrist support, take breaks and stretch the hands from time to time.
cathode ray tube (CRT) A glass vacuum tube with a fluorescent screen that glows when struck by electrons .Images are displayed by electron beams which constantly scan the screen; a variable electromagnetic field within the tube directs these beams. TV screens and computer monitors both contain cathode ray tubes.
CD Rom Compact Disc Read-Only Memory. An optical disc that is physically the same as an audio CD, but contains computer data. Storage capacity is about 680 megabytes. CD-ROMs are interchangeable between different types of computers.
Celeron A brand of processors from Intel for the basic PC market, available in 333-MHz, 300A-MHz, 300-MHz and 266-MHz operating frequencies. All Celeron processors are based on the Intel 0.25 micron CMOS process technology. The processors are in the single edge processor package (SEPP). They have the same P6 micro architecture core as the Pentium II processor, and provide the performance to run most common applications on operating systems. They are designed for dependability and cost efficiency.
character map An interactive keyboard layout in Windows that shows for each typeface the characters available in uppercase, lowercase, and with option keys. The equivalent utility for Macintosh is Key Caps.
clean boot Starting the computer and only loading the main part of the operating system.
click To press a button on a mouse or other pointer. Clicking is used to place the cursor, when working in text, or to select an object on the screen or a menu option.
click and drag To use a mouse or other pointing device to grab an item on the computer screen and move it to another location. To click and drag, point to an item, click the pointer and hold the button down while dragging the item to the desired location; then release the button.
clipboard An area of temporary memory which is used to transfer text or graphics (or both) within a document being edited, or between documents. The data is put into the clipboard with either the Cut or Copy command, then Paste is used to put it into its new location.
cold boot Booting the system from power off. Same as hard boot.
cold fusion ColdFusion is a visual programming, database and debugging tool. It is used for building Web applications. ColdFusion offers integration with databases, e-mail, XML and other enterprise technology.
computer An electronic device that has the ability to store, retrieve, and process data, and can be programmed with instructions that it remembers. The physical parts that make up a computer (the central processing unit, input, output, and memory) are called hardware. Programs that tell a computer what to do are called software.
computer security act An act signed in January 1988 by President Reagan, establishing guidelines for the security and privacy of information in U.S. government computer systems, the training of federal employees in computer security practices, and the differences between computer security in defense-related and civilian agencies of government.
computer software Software is the programs that tell a computer what to do. Hardware is the physical part of a computer system; the machinery and equipment.
computer virus A program that infects a computer by attaching itself to another program, and propagating itself when that program is executed. A computer can become infected by files downloaded over a network, or by the installation of new software or floppy disks that are infected with viruses. Some viruses are only pranks, and perform harmless actions like displaying a screen with a joke message on it. Others can destroy files or wipe out a hard drive.
cookie A cookie is a set of data that a website server gives to a browser the first time the user visits the site, that is updated with each return visit. The remote server saves the information the cookie contains about the user and the user’s browser does the same, as a text file stored in the Netscape or Explorer system folder. Not all browsers support cookies.
CPU Central Processing Unit. The CPU controls the operation of a computer. Units within the CPU perform arithmetic and logical operations and decode and execute instructions. In microcomputers, the entire CPU is on a single chip
CRT (CRT) A glass vacuum tube with a fluorescent screen that glows when struck by electrons .Images are displayed by electron beams which constantly scan the screen; a variable electromagnetic field within the tube directs these beams. TV screens and computer monitors both contain cathode ray tubes.
cursor The movable symbol on a computer screen that shows where the user is working, whether typing in text, drawing lines, or moving design elements around. The cursor can be moved with the arrow keys or a mouse. It usually appears in text programs as a blinking dash or rectangle, or an arrow. In graphics programs the cursor is often called a pointer, and can take many different shapes such as a brush, pencil, or hand.
cyber A prefix taken from the word cybernetics (Greek kybernan, to steer or govern), and attached to other words having to do with computers and communication
D
daisy chain A configuration in which devices are connected to each other in sequence, like a chain of daisies.
daisy wheel printer A impact printer that uses a rotating plastic wheel with the type characters on it. The wheel spins to line up the correct character to print. Daisywheel printers produced high-quality type, and were common in the 1980s but fell out of use when laser printers became affordable.
data link 1.The physical connection between two points in a communications circuit, such as a telephone wire or a microwave beam.2.The physical connection (such as wires) and the logical connection (protocols and programs) between points in a communications circuit.
database 1.A large collection of data organized for rapid search and retrieval. 2.A program that manages data, and can be used to store, retrieve, and sort information. Examples are Lotus Approach, Microsoft Access,  Filemaker, and dBASE. See also Lotus Approach.
degauss To demagnetize. Color monitors and the read/write heads in disk and tape drives need to be degaussed periodically to neutralize unwanted magnetism. Some monitors degauss themselves automatically when they are turned on.
delete 1.To erase data from a file or remove a file from a storage medium. On the computer, deleted files are no longer visible in the directory, but the files may still be on the disk, and recently-deleted files may still be recovered through the use of software like Norton Utilities.2. ASCII code 127, the control character entered by pressing the delete or backspace key. It erases the character immediately to the left of the cursor.
deselect To cancel the selection of an item, area of text, or group of items. A mouse can be used to deselect by clicking outside the selected area, or keyboard commands can be used. When an item or area of text is deselected, it is no longer highlighted.
dialog box A box on the computer screen that lets the user communicate with the computer. A dialog box can be used to enter information, set options, or give commands to the computer. The dialog box gives the user choices (such as open file, delete, save) which can be selected by clicking with the mouse.
disk cache A section of RAM that provides a cache between the disk and the CPU. It enables the computer to operate faster. Retrieving data from hard disk can be slow; a disk caching program helps solve this problem by placing recently accessed data in the disk cache. Next time that data is needed, it may already be available in the disk cache; otherwise a time-consuming search of the hard disk is necessary.
docking station A piece of hardware that a portable computer can be plugged into when it is at a fixed location. The docking station makes available devices that the portable computer is not able to support, such as a battery charger, a larger screen, additional drives, or a network.
DOS Disk Operating System. More computers worldwide have DOS than any other operating system. There are different versions of it: PC-DOS for IBM PCs, MS-DOS for non-IBM PCs, plus Apple DOS, Amiga DOS, Novell DOS, etc.
dot A period or decimal point. This terminology is used in Internet domain names; for example, .net is pronounced “dot net.”.
download To transfer files or data from one computer to another. To download means to receive; to upload means to transmit.
drop down list A selection field which only displays one choice at first; the rest of the list is revealed when the user clicks and holds the mouse button down, or takes some other action.
DSL Digital Subscriber Line or Digital Subscriber Loop. A technology which enables high-speed transmission of digital data over regular copper telephone lines. See also HDSL and ADSL.
E
emoticon A typewritten picture of a facial expression, used in e-mail and when communicating on the Internet, to indicate emotion.
ergonomics (From Greek, “the study of work.”) The science of designing working environments and the tools in them for maximum work efficiency and maximum worker health and safety. An ergonomically designed workplace has proper light to reduce eyestrain, chairs that support good posture, lowest possible exposure of workers to undesirable radiations, etc.
ethernet The most popular type of local area network, which sends its communications through radio frequency signals carried by a coaxial cable. Each computer checks to see if another computer is transmitting and waits its turn to transmit. If two computers accidentally transmit at the same time and their messages collide, they wait and send again in turn. Software protocols used by Ethernet systems vary, but include Novell Netware and TCP/IP.
F
F Keys Function keys. A set of special keys on a computer keyboard that are numbered F1, F2, etc. that perform special functions depending on the application program in use.
FAT File Allocation Table. A special file located in sector 0 on a disk, which contains information about the sizes of files stored on the disk and which clusters contain which files.
FAT32 File Allocation Table 32.An improvement on the file allocation table (FAT) in Windows 95, the release of Windows 95 known as OSR2, and Windows 98.FAT32 raises the number of bits used to address clusters and makes each cluster smaller. FAT32 supports hard disks of up to 2 terabytes (2,048GB), which is a thousand times greater than Windows 95’s previous 2GB limit.FAT32 also greatly increases the number of clusters on a logical drive, providing greater storage efficiency.
fax Facsimile. A document sent over telephone lines, originally by means of a special facsimile machine which scans a document and transmits electrical signals to print a copy of the document on the other end. Now computers can send faxes with fax software and a modem, so a fax can be sent from computer to fax machine, from fax machine to computer, or from computer to computer without requiring a printout.
fax modem A combination fax and data modem which is either an external unit that plugs into the serial port or an expansion board that is installed internally. A faxmodem makes it possible to fax a document straight from the computer, but cannot scan documents which are not in the computer. Most modems now are faxmodems.
fiber optics (FO). The transmission of data in the form of pulses of light. Fiber optics uses cables containing glass or silica fibers no thicker than a human hair. There is very little signal loss, and information can be transmitted at high speed over long distances. Fiber optic cables do not have problems with external noise like wire cables do, and are better for transmissions requiring security.
FIFO First In First Out. A method of storage in which the data stored for the longest time will be retrieved first.
file compression Compression of data in a file, in order to reduce the amount of space needed for storage or to speed up transmission of the file.
file extension A notation after the end of a file’s name which indicates the type of file it is.T he extension follows a period; for example, LETTER. BAK (the extension “BAK” indicates this is a DOS backup file). DOS and Windows extensions must be three letters or less; Macintosh extensions can have more letters, or can be deleted.
firewall An electronic boundary that prevents unauthorized users from accessing certain files on a network; or, a computer used to maintain such a boundary.  A firewall is a hardware and/or software boundary that prevents unauthorized users from accessing restricted files on a network.The part of the network that is not behind the firewall is available to whoever logs on.There are three standard firewall architectures: the dual-host gateway, the screened-host firewall system, and the demilitarized zone firewall.
flame An angry message on a newsgroup or mailing list, often a personal attack instead of a remark relevant to the subject under discussion. Also, to post such a message.
flame war A heated argument in a newsgroup or other public electronic forum, often resulting in personal insults and other angry remarks that are off the subject.
flash (Shockwave Flash). A file format for delivering interactive vector graphics and animations over the World Wide Web
flatbed scanner A scanner which has a flat piece of glass the document is put on to be scanned. One of the problems with a hand-held scanner is keeping the scanner steady; this problem is eliminated with a flatbed scanner because the document is stationary and a mechanically-operated scanning head moves beneath the glass. A flatbed scanner also works better than a sheet-fed scanner when the documents have cut and paste layout that might fall off.
floppy disk (FD). A removable, portable magnetic disk on which data and programs can be stored. Also called diskettes, floppies are flexible plastic. The older 5-1/4 inch disks are more flexible; the 3-1/2 inch disks have a hard protective case around them and are the primary size used now.
format disk To prepare a disk so a computer can read and write data on it. Formatting a disk includes creating the physical tracks and sector identification, and creating the indexes specific to the operating system it will be used on. Floppy disks can be bought preformatted or can be formatted by the user with a program on the computer.
fragmentation The storage of a file on a disk in fragments which are not next to each other. When a file is stored, the data is placed in whatever disk areas are available, which may mean breaking it into fragments. Defragmenting puts all the fragments of each file together and the areas of free space together, thus speeding up access time and making more free space available on the disk.
free space Empty space on a hard drive, available for loading programs or data. The description of a program for a new user normally indicates the amount of free space needed to load the program. A program that calls for 4 megabytes of free space will take up 4 megabytes on the hard drive.
freeware Freeware is software that is available free of charge, but which is copyrighted by the developer, who retains the right to control its redistribution and to sell it in the future. Freeware is different from free software, which has no restrictions on use, modification, or redistribution.
freeze The condition of a computer when the pointer and everything on the screen is frozen in place, and the computer does not respond to commands; one kind of crash.
free web page (FWP). There are some World Wide Web sites that offer free Web pages to the general public or a selected group of users. There are other sites that offer a free Web page along with membership.
free net A community-based bulletin board system which is part of the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN), a Cleveland, Ohio, organization whose aim is to make computer networking as available as public libraries. Freenets are operated by volunteers and funded by donations.
front end A small computer through which a user communicates with a larger computer; or, a program that provides a user-friendly interface to another, harder-to-use, program
frowney A frowning face 🙁   (emoticon).
W
web The World Wide Web (WWW). A hypermedia-based system for browsing Internet sites.  It is named the Web because it is made of many sites linked together; users can travel from one site to another by clicking on hyperlinks. Text, graphics, sound, and video can all be accessed with browsers like Mosaic, Netscape, or Internet Explorer. The Web can also be accessed with text-only browsers like Lynx.
web host A web hosting company (usually an ISP) leases server space and web services to companies and individuals who wish to present a web or e-commerce presence but do not wish to maintain their own servers. The servers are connected to the same fast internet backbone as the ISP. Cost structures are determined by the amount and complexity of services offered such as Scripting Tools, SQL Databases, Credit Card Processing, etc.A company that maintains the server computers and stores the data for a website to make it available to the world wide web (www).
Website A server computer that makes documents available on the World Wide Web (www).  Most commonly thought of as a group of informational pages belonging to a person or organization with a domain name [their dot-com address] that are available on the world wide web.