Glossary of Computer/Internet Terms

By Joe Burns

     Note to the reader: The following is a list I've put together after receiving many letters asking what I mean by certain terms. If there is a term you wish to add to this list, please e-mail me here. I will find the definition (unless you provide it) and add it here.


     I'm working on adding links from this page to my tutorials. I hope to have them all covered, somehow, some way....

     Please feel free to scroll through the entire list or search for a specific term using the FIND button above. Explorer users, use CTRL-F for your search.


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  • 32-bit/16-bit: This denotes the number of "pieces" (or bits) of information required by an operating system to run a certain application. It also deals with the construction of the computer's CPU (Central Processing Unit) or brain. The Pentium CPU easily runs 32-bit applications because the wires that hold all the pieces together (known as busses) are big enough to flow through 32 bits at a time. 486s, 386s, and below aren't big enough. They work with 16 bits at a time. Windows95 is a 32-bit application. Yes, it will run on a 486, but very slowly while using a great deal of memory and virtual memory (hard drive space) to do it.

    A

  • ANSI: It stands for American National Standards Institute. This is the place that sets standards for data communications, like the Internet.

  • Analog: Not digital. This is data in the form of a continuous flow. A record or a tape is analog. Digital, on the other hand, is in pieces or samples. More to come on that.

  • AppleShare: This is Apple Computer's network system. It allows many different end users (people on computers) to attach to one central location and get files. (Sound familiar?)

  • Application: This is a program. It does things when called upon. A shortened version gave Java its name: applet.

  • Archie: Search tool used to find resources stored on Internet-based FTP servers.

  • ASCII: It stands for American Standard Code Information Exchange. This is text. It's all those things you see on your keyboard. However, it is standardized text so data transfer is allowed between systems. It works by representing letters and characters through a seven-digit code of ones and zeros. An example would be that "Joe" might look like this to the computer:

    0011010,0111100,01010011

  • Asynchronous: Transferring data with the help of start and stop bits that indicate the beginning and end of each character being sent.

  • ASP: Active Server Pages. An invention from Microsoft that runs on their server software. See here.

  • AVI: Stands for Audio/Video Interleaved. Microsoft's format for encoding video & audio for digital transmission.

    B

  • Backbone: Well, all of these computers have to come together somewhere. There are many "backbones" on the Internet. Think of the backbone as the next larger grouping of computers you connect with to get included in the Web. You're at the end of a rib coming off of the backbone -- get the picture? The main backbone of the Internet here in the U.S. is the NSFNet. It stands for National Science Foundation Net.

  • Bandwidth: The carrying capacity of a wire attached from one computer to another. It is usually measured in the amount of bits carried. You know that 28.8 modem you have? It will allow a bandwidth of 28,800 bits per second.

  • Baud: This is a measurement of the amount of data that can be transferred in one second. Example: A 14.4 baud modem can transfer 14,400 bits of information in one second.

  • BBS: Stands for Bulletin Board Service.

  • BIOS: Stands for Basic Input/Output System. This is the little set of programs that lets all the different parts of the computer talk to each other.

  • Binary: This is a basic system of numbering using ones and zeros.

  • Bit/s: "Bit" is a grouping of the words "binary" and "digits." Think of a bit as a number, a 1 or a 0 to be exact. A grouping of bits helps to make up ASCII code. Data transfer is often in terms of the number of these "bits" that can be moved in a second.

  • BMP (pronounced "bimp"): It's a bitmap, an image made up of little dots.

  • Buffer: The buffer is a section of the computer where data is stored before being used. This buffering allows time for an application to fix differences in bit rates among other things. It creates a space of time for compensation.

  • Browser: User's software program for viewing & browsing information on the Internet.

  • Burst: Most people know this from "pipeline burst cache." Burst means to send data in a large package all at one time rather than small bits over a longer time.

  • Bus: There are wires between all the parts of your computer. There is a wire from the memory to the brain, and from the brain to the printer, etc., etc. Those wires are called busses. They differ from one another by the amount of data they will transfer at one time.

  • Byte: A unit of space. It is also used to represent a series of seven or eight ASCII code digits representing a character.

    C

  • C: A programming language developed at AT&T.

  • Cache: This is a memory section that holds data while the CPU (central processing unit) or brain, is working on it. Go to your Netscape directory -- you'll see a cache full of files marked ".moz". Those are "mozilla" files. That's what Netscape calls pages after they've been displayed and saved.

  • CD-ROM: Compact Disc - Read Only Memory. It's a storage place that disallows recording or manipulating of its data.

  • CGA: Stands for Color Graphics Adapter. It's a piece of hardware that plays with colors.

  • Client: A computer attached to an Internet server.

  • COBOL: Stands for Common Business Oriented Language.

  • COM: Stands for Component Object Module.

  • Compiler: This is an application that converts a programming language into a machine language program.

  • CPU: Stands for Central Processing Unit. This is the brain of your computer. It is made up of two parts: The Arithmetic Logic Unit (this does all the processing) and the Control Unit (this makes sure every part of the computer is working together to present the information).

  • CSS: Stands for Cascading Style Sheets. See here.

  • Cyberspace: This is a term that gives us a way to sort of "see" what we are surfing while on the Net. It's a generic term for the entire Internet, not just the World Wide Web.

    D

  • Data: Anything that is recorded or used for processing. The stuff that transfers between computers needed a name -- data seemed good.

  • Database: Anything that accepts data is a database. A pile of newspapers is a database. A computer database has the ability to manipulate that data. It is possible to attach applications to that database to search the contents.

  • Data Rate: Speed that information moves from one item to another. This is usually in the form of bits.

  • DDS: Stands for Direct Digital Signal.

  • Dedicated Line: This is a phone line meant specifically for one thing, like being attached to a computer.

  • Demodulation: This is the process of converting analog information (like over phone lines) into digital information (like in a computer). See "Modem" for more.

  • DHTML: Stands for Dynamic HTML. See here.

  • Dial-Up Line: This is a telephone line that is connected to a server. When it is called, tones are exchanged between the server and the devise calling in order to attach.

  • Digital: Your CD player is digital. It is a series of small samples of data playing together very quickly (30,000 times a second). Digital recording of information means representing the bits of data through ones and zeros. Playing the bits back to again create what was recorded is called digital processing.

  • DNS: This stands for Domain Name System. The Internet runs by assigning different sites "Names." They are actually 4-part strains of numbers associated with names, but names nonetheless. Getting a DNS error means that the address you are attempting to reach is not recognized by the Internet community.

  • Domain: This is a higher level section of the Internet, usually given its own DNS. The domain is the section of an address before the directory slashes start. "htmlgoodies.com" is my domain. Click here if you want one of your own!

  • DOS: Stands for Disc Operating System. It is a generic term for the many programs that accept commands to trip applications to run. The most popular is MS-DOS (MS stands for Microsoft).

  • DPI: Stands for Dots Per Inch.

  • Dumb Terminal: This a video screen that is seeing manipulation in another computer. Example: If you log in to AOL, your computer is not doing the work -- AOL's computer is. You are just being offered a window into that world. That window is your screen. It's a terminal, but it's just watching -- thus a dumb terminal.

    E

  • EBCDIC: Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code. It is also called the Extended ASCII Code, as it adds an eighth digit to the normal seven-digit code.

  • E-Mail: Stands for Electronic Mail. E-mail is actually a method of transferring files among computers, rather than the file itself, but that's what the name has come to mean.

  • Encryption: This is any one of many methods to transfer a file into a hard-to-crack code. It is often done by scrambling or by letter-to-letter replacement.

  • Engine (as in "Search Engine"): This is the working part of a database or application.

  • Ethernet This is a method of file transfer that uses dedicated cables rather than dial up phone lines. Ethernets are usually set up attaching end users to a central system like an Intranet. It was invented by Xerox believe it or not. F

  • FAT Stands for File Allocation Table. Basically this is a table of contents in a directory that tells the computer what al is in there. Look at your Netscape cache, you'll see a FAT. It'll be the first file.

  • FAQ Stands for Frequently Asked Questions. An FAQ is a file or document where a moderator or administrator will post commonly asked questions and their answers.

  • Fiber-Optic This is a new style of cable being used for very high speed data transmission. It works by pushing (modulating) a light wave across cable. The data is carried along with the light.

  • File Sharing This is the most important feature of the Internet. This is a method of allowing one server to give the same file to many different end users.

  • FORTRAN Stands for FORmula TRANslation.

  • Freeware This a shortened version of Free Software. Programmers offer their work without wanting pay in return.

  • FTP Stands for File Transfer Protocol. G

  • Gateway As in Common Gateway Interface (CGI). It is a piece of software that allows two items to communicate with each other. They are used to make connections between computers and systems inside that computer.

  • GIF Pronounced "jif." Stands for Graphical Interchange Format. It is an image format created by Compuserve.

  • Gigabyte (GB) It's about a billion bytes. Actually it's 2 to the 30th power or 1,073,741,824.

  • GIGO It's an acronym that stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out.

  • Gopher One of the first commonly used interfaces for the Internet with a format structure and resource for providing information. It was created at the University of Minnesota who's mascot is the gopher.

  • GUI Pronounced "gooey". It stands for Graphical User Interface. It's the graphical representations you see on the screen.

    H

  • Hardware These are the physical items including your computer and floppy discs.

  • Helper Application This is an application your browser uses to manipulate a downloaded program.

  • Hotlist List of URLs saved within the Mosaic Web browser. (Bookmark in Netscape.)

  • HTML Stands for HyperText Markup Language. Common language used to write documents on World Wide Web.

  • HTTP Stands for HyperText Transport Protocol. Common protocol used to communicate between World Wide Web Servers.

  • Hypertext This is a mark-up language that allows for non-linear transfers of data. The method allows your computer to provide the computational power rather than attaching to a mainframe and waiting for it to do the work for you.

    I

  • IBM Stands for International Business Machines

  • Icon A small video display that acts as an activation link when clicked on.

  • Interface This is any type of point where two different things come together. Most often, the term is used to describe the programs between you and your computer like Windows, OS/2 and others. What you see on the screen is the interface between you and what your computer is doing.

  • IS Stands for Information System.

  • ISO Stands for the International Standards Organization. Someone has to say what is the standard for transferring data. These people are it. You'll find them in Paris.

  • ISDN Stands for Integrated Services Digital Network.

    J

  • Java Java is an Object Oriented Program developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems. Java is delivered over the Internet in the form of little applications or "applets" that do tricks when they download and are read by the browser.

  • Java Script This is a language very close to Java that allows for more interaction with the viewer. It is much more forgiving than Java as doesn't require it's own window in which to work.

  • JPEG Pronounced "J-Peg." Stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. It's an image format that allows for compression when stored.

  • Jughead Search browser like "Archie".

    K

  • Kilobyte (KB) This is about a thousand bytes of space. In reality, it's two to the 10th power or 1,024 bytes.

  • Kbit/s Stands for thousands of bits per second.

    L

  • LAN Stands for Local Access Network. And Intranet would be one of these. It's a smaller network covering a set area.

  • Live Script This is the former name of Java Script. There are few updates between the two.

  • Login To attach to a computer. It has also come to represent your User ID command.

  • Login Script This is the small text file that is run by the server gateway to make the attachment between it and your computer.

    M

  • Mainframe Mostly a mainframe is only a mainframe when compared to a desktop computer. It's bigger and much more powerful. Sometimes it's called a server or CPU.

  • Megabyte (MB) About a million bytes of space. Actually it's 2 raised to the 20th power or 1,048,576 bytes of space.

  • MIDI Stands for Music Instrument Digital Interface. It allows a computer to store and replay a musical instrument's output.

  • Modem This is a word created out of the beginning letters of two other words: MOdulation and DEModulation. The words mean the changing of data from digital (computer language) to analog (phone line language) and then back again. It represents the purpose of your computer's modem.

  • Mosaic The first Web browser to have a consistent interface for the Macintosh, Windows, and Unix environments. It was created at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). The success of this browser is really responsible for the expansion of the Web.

  • MPEG Stands for Motion Picture Experts Group. A format to make, view, and transfer both digital audio and digital video files.

  • Multiplexer This is a piece of hardware that allows one item to take the place of several. An example would be using a multiplexer to allow 10 computers to attach where only one could before.

    N

  • NACS Stands for Netware Asynchronous Communication Services.

  • Network This a system that sends and receives data.

  • Network Adapter This is the hardware that allows the computers that are part of a network to communicate with each other.

    O

  • Object Something that contains both the data and the application that operates on that data.

  • OOP Stands for Object Oriented Program. A larger program made up of smaller objects.

  • Operating System Often written just as OS. This is the software that manages the computer system. It controls all functions and direction. Examples include Windows and Windows 95.

    P

  • PPP Stands for Point To Point Protocol. It's a software application that allows an attachment to a server.

  • PICT Pronounced "Pick,t." It is another image format.

  • Plug-In This is a program that your browser uses to manipulate a downloaded file. It differs from a Helper Application in that the plug-in works inside the browser window.

  • Port This is the connecting component or hardware that allows two computers to attach to one another.

  • Protocol This is a series of set rules that allow items to transfer.

    Q

  • Query This is to make a computer request of a database.

    R

  • RAM Stands for Random Access Memory. It's the memory of the computer.

  • RealAudio This is a method of playing sounds invented by Rob Glasser that creates a buffer between the supplying server and your computer. The file is played without downloading it completely.

  • Real Time This is method of processing data the moment it is received. Batch mode is a term used for a mainframe computer dealing with data when it has the time.

  • ROM Stands for Read-Only Memory. This is memory and information that cannot be changed.

    S

  • Serial This is a consecutive occurrence of two items in the same channel.

  • Server This is a mainframe computer that serves the other computers attached to it.

  • Shareware This is an application that a programmer makes available to users for a set amount of time and then asks for a donation. In return for the donation, a registration number is often returned that can be used to "turn on" the features of the program.

  • Shell This is a program that sets parameters and acts as a series of boundaries in which an application can run.

  • SLIP Stands for Serial Line Interface Protocol. This is another application that allows for a connection to another computer.

  • SMTP Stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.

  • Software This is a program, the actual code the computer reads. All other stuff is hardware. A floppy disc is hardware.

  • Spam This is to transmit unwanted messages, usually over email, to a great many people.

  • SVGA Stands for Super Video Graphics Adapter. It's a high level monitor.

    T

  • TCP/IP Stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. This is a large grouping of programs and standards that govern how information moves round the Internet. The protocols were established around 1970-1980 to allow computers to attach to one another.

  • Telnet One of the TCP/IP Protocols. It allows a connection to another computer over dedicated phone lines.

  • Terabyte (TB) It's about a trillion bytes. Actually it's 2 to the 40th power or 1,009,511,627,776 bytes.

  • Terminal This is what you look at when you're on the Internet. It's your computer screen.

  • Terminal Emulation This is an application that allows your terminal to act as a dumb terminal.

  • Transparent Something that occurs without being known to the user.

  • TWAIN Stands for Technology Without An Interesting Name. I like this, I found it on another site.

    U

  • UNIX This is an operating system developed by AT&T. It's big push it that it allows one server to service many different end users at one time.

  • URL Stands for Universal Resource Locator. It's a fancy way of saying Internet Address.

  • User Someone attached to a server or host.

    V

  • VDD Stands for Virtual Device Driver.

  • Veronica Stands for Very Easy Rodent Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives. A database of menu names from a large number of Gopher servers. A quick and easy way to search Gopher resources for information by keyword.

  • VGA Stands for Video Graphics Adapter. This is a lower level color monitor.

  • VIRUS Stands for Very Important Resource Under Siege (or...Vicious Internal Rabbit/Rodent Uprooting Stuff). Actually, it's a small program written specifically to cause problems in your computer. I caught a computer virus that disallowed me to save any of my text files as anything but temporary files. That meant each time I turned off the computer, the files were lost.

  • VMS Stands for Video Memory System

  • VRML Stands for Virtual Reality Modeling Language. It's a form of application that gives a 3-D effect to pictures sometimes allowing you to "move" through them.

    W

  • WWW Short for World Wide Web.

  • WAIS Stands for Wide Area Information Servers. Searches large indexes of information on the Internet.

  • WAN Stands for Wide Area Network, like the Internet.

  • WAV Stands for WAVeform sound format. Microsoft's format for encoding sound files.

  • Workgroup Persons sharing files and data between themselves.

  • Workstation The computer attached to the Internet.

  • WPG Stands for Word Perfect Graphics.

    XYZ

  • ZIP Stands for Zone Information Protocol. This is an application that allows for the compression of application files.


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