Computer Terms

Application Software: Software programs designed to meet specific needs, such as typing documents, producing charts, or tracking payroll information.

AUP (Acceptable Use Policy): The conduct expected from a person using a computer or service.

Backup: Duplicate copies of data on different storage media for emergency purposes.

Bookmark: A stored location for quick retrieval at a later date; Web browsers provide bookmarks that contain the addresses (URLs) of favorite sites. Most electronic references, large text databases and help systems provide bookmarks that mark a location users want to revisit in the future.

Boot: Initiating commands, causing the computer to start executing instructions.: personal computers contain built-in instructions in a ROM chip that are automatically executed on startup. These instructions search for the operating system, load it and pass control to it.

Bulletin Board (BBS Bulletin Board System): A computer system used as an information source and forum for a particular interest group. A BBS functions somewhat like a stand-alone Web site, but without graphics. However, unlike Web sites, each BBS has its own telephone number to dial into.

Cold Boot: Starting the computer by turning power on.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read Only Memory): A compact disc format used to hold text, graphics and hi-fi stereo sound; similar to an audio CD, but uses a different track format for data.

Computer: A general-purpose machine that processes data according to a set of instructions that are stored internally either temporarily or permanently. The computer and all equipment attached to it are called hardware. The instructions that tell it what to do are called software. A set of instructions that perform a particular task is called a program, or software program.

Control Panel: A program used to change some setting in the operating system or computer. Control panels allow for changing keyboard and mouse sensitivity, speaker volume, display colors and resolution as well as modem, network and printer settings. Control panels are part of most operating systems, but also come with peripheral devices to allow fine tuning of particular features.

CPU (Central Processing Unit): The computing part of the computer; also called the processor, it is made up of the control unit and ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit).

Database: A set of related files that is created and managed by a database management system (DBMS).

Defrag/Defragger: Also called an optimizer program, it is a software utility that defragments a disk. It rewrites the files and stores them in adjacent sectors.

Digital Camera: A video or still camera that records images in digital form.

Directory: A simulated file folder on disk. Programs and data for each application are typically kept in a separate directory (spreadsheets, word processing, etc.). Directories create the illusion of compartments, but are actually indexes to the files which may be scattered all over the disk.

Disk drive: A computer’s information storage device.

DOS (Disk Operating System): Program information that provides instruction to enable computer to interpret keyboard and mouse input, display information on the screen, control printer, and work with other hardware attached to the computer.

DVD ROM: The next-generation video CD and high-capacity CD-ROM; the disc is the same diameter as a CD-ROM, but can be recorded on both sides. Each side holds 4.7GB, equivalent to seven CD-ROMs, or 14 CD-ROMs, if both sides are used.

E-mail: The transmission of memos and messages over a network. Users can send mail to a single recipient or broadcast it to multiple users.

File: A collection of bytes stored as an individual entity. All data on disk is stored as a file with an assigned file name that is unique within the directory it resides in. To the computer, a file is nothing more than a string of bytes. The structure of a file is known to the software that manipulates it. For example, database files are made up of a series of records. Word processing files contain a continuous flow of text.

File Management: Software used to manage files on a disk. It provides functions to delete, copy, move, rename and view files as well as create and manage directories. The file managers in Windows 3.x and Windows 95 are File Manager and Explorer.

File Server: High-speed machines that hold programs and data shared by network users; the workstations (clients) are the users’ personal computers, which perform stand-alone processing and access the network servers as required.

Floppy Disk/Diskette: A reusable magnetic storage medium. Invented by IBM and introduced in the early 1970s in an 8" square format, floppies have been the primary method for distributing personal computer software up until the mid 1990s when CD-ROMs became a competitive medium. Floppies are widely used for backup and to transfer data between users that are not attached to a network.

Folder: In the Macintosh and Windows 95, a simulated file folder that holds data, applications and other folders. A folder is the same as a DOS or Windows 3.1 directory, and a folder within a folder (subfolder) is the same as a DOS or Windows 3.1 subdirectory.

Format: The structure, or layout, of an item.

Function Key: A set of keyboard keys used to command the computer (F1, F2, etc.). F1 is often the help key, but the purpose of any function key is determined by the software currently running.

Hard Disk: The primary computer storage medium, which is made of one or more aluminum or glass platters, coated with a ferromagnetic material. Most hard disks are fixed disks, which are permanently sealed in the drive.

Hard Drive: Primary storage device that computer uses to store data, generally not removed from the computer and can store large amounts of information; normally drive C on computer.

Hardware: Physical equipment used to perform computing tasks (i.e., machinery and equipment such as CPU, disks, tapes, modem, cables, etc.); in operation, a computer is both hardware and software.

Homepage: The first page retrieved when accessing a Web site

Icon: In a graphical user interface (GUI), a small, pictorial, on-screen representation of an object, such as a document, program, folder or disk drive.

Input: Input devices provide a way of communicating with a computer; these devices enter information and issue commands (i.e. keyboard, modem, scanner, and mouse).

Intranet: An in-house Web site that serves the employees of the enterprise. Although intranet pages may link to the Internet, an intranet is not a site accessed by the general public.

Internet: A group of networks worldwide, (but mostly in North America and Europe) using a common protocol, the Internet Protocol (IP), such that data can be transmitted seamlessly. In particular the Internet supports facilities such as e-mail and World Wide Web (WWW).

LAN (Local Area Network): A communications network that serves users within a confined geographical area; it is made up of servers, workstations, a network operating system and a communications link.

Laptop: A portable computer that has a flat screen and usually weighs less than 12 pounds. It uses AC power and/or batteries. Most have connectors for an external monitor and keyboard transforming them into desktop computers. Most laptop computers today fall in the notebook computer category.

Linear Presentation: Sequential or having a graph that is a straight line.

LCD Panel (Liquid Crystal Display): A projection device which displays images from the computer monitor (screen) to a larger screen for large group viewing.

Logging In: Accessing the network by keying in name and password.

Logging Off: Coming off the network

Maximize: In a graphical environment, to enlarge a window to full size.

Memory: The computer's workspace (physically, a collection of RAM chips). It is an important resource, since it determines the size and number of programs that can be run at the same time, as well as the amount of data that can be processed instantly.

Minimize: In a graphical environment, to hide an application that is currently displayed on screen. The window is removed and represented with an icon on the desktop or taskbar

Modem: A device that lets computers communicate through telephone lines (may be internal or external).

Mouse: The most popular pointing device called a mouse because of its resemblance to one, with the cord being the mouse's tail; graphical interfaces (GUIs) are designed to be used with pointing devices, but key commands may be substituted.

Multimedia: Disseminating information in more than one form. It includes the use of text, audio, graphics, animated graphics and full-motion video.

Multitasking: The running of two or more programs in one computer at the same time. The number of programs that can be effectively multitasked depends on the type of multitasking performed (preemptive vs cooperative), CPU speed and memory and disk capacity.

Operating System: The master control program that runs the computer. It is the first program loaded when the computer is turned on, and its main part, called the kernel, resides in memory at all times.

Network: Two or more computers wired together which share information.

Notebook computer: A laptop computer that weighs from approximately five to seven pounds.

PC: Personal Computer.

Peripheral: Hardware attached to a computer, such as printer, scanner, speakers, and microphone.

Port: A socket on the back of the computer to which peripherals may be attached.

Productivity Software: Refers to word processors, spreadsheets, database management systems, schedulers and other software packages that are designed for individual use.

Query: To interrogate a database (count, sum and list selected records).

RAM (Random Access Memory): Temporarily stores date inside a computer; this data is lost if not saved before turning off computers.

Reboot: To reload the operating system and restart the computer

Recycle Bin: In Windows 95, an icon of a waste can used for deleting files. The icon of a file or folder is dragged to the trash can and released.

ROM (Read Only Memory): A memory chip that permanently stores instructions and data. Its contents are created at the time of manufacture and cannot be altered.

Scandisk: A utility in Windows 95 and DOS (as of Version 6.2) that detects and repairs errors on disk. In Windows 95, the ScanDisk Standard option searches for files that have been corrupted.

Scanner: A device that reads a printed page and converts it into a graphics image for the computer

Search Engine: Software that searches for data based on some criteria

Shortcuts for Windows : Windows allows you to create pointers, or Shortcuts, to your program and data files. The Shortcut icons can be placed on the desktop or stored in other folders. Double clicking a Shortcut is the same as double clicking the original file. However, deleting a Shortcut does not remove the original. Shortcut icons have a small arrow in their lower left corner pointing

Software: A series of instructions for the computer that perform a particular task, called a program; the two major categories of software are system software and application software.

Spreadsheet: Software that simulates a paper spreadsheet, or worksheet, in which columns of numbers are summed for budgets and plans.

Stand-alone PC: A PC that is not permanently connected to a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN).

System Software: Programs used to control the computer and develop and run application programs, including operating systems, monitors, network operating systems and database managers.

Telecommunications: Communicating information, including data, text, pictures, voice and video over long distance.

Toolbars: A row or column of on-screen buttons used to activate functions in the application.

Truncate: To cut off leading or trailing digits or characters from an item of data without regard to the accuracy of the remaining characters.

TV Converter: A box that connects from computer to a television; it is a projection device that displays images from the computer monitor onto a television screen for large group viewing.

Unix: A multi-user, multitasking operating system that is widely used as the master control program in workstations and servers.

Videoconferencing: A video communications session among several people that are geographically separated

Virus: Software used to infect a computer.

WAN (Wide Area Network): A communications network that covers a wide geographic area, such as state or country. A LAN (local area network) is contained within a building or complex, and a MAN (metropolitan area network) generally covers a city or suburb.

Warm Boot: Restarting the computer by performing a reset operation (pressing reset, Ctrl-Alt-Del, etc.) after a problem or when a program freezes.

Web Page: A page in a World Wide Web document

Word Processing: The creation of text documents. Except for labels and envelopes, it has replaced the electric typewriter in most offices, because of the ease in which documents can be edited, searched and reprinted

Wild Cards: Symbols used to represent any value when selecting specific files. In DOS, Windows and UNIX, the asterisk (*) represents any collection of characters, and the question mark (?) represents one single character

Windows: A multi-user windows operating system for personal computers and small shared machines, released by Microsoft. It is a true operating system, running directly on the hardware and so effectively replacing both MS-DOS and MS-Windows, and offering significant improvements over both.

Windows 95: A major upgrade of Windows 3.1 designed to replace Windows 3.11, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and MS-DOS. Released in August 1995, it is a 32-bit operating system that requires a 386 minimum and will not run in a 286. It is a self-contained operating system that includes a built-in and enhanced version of DOS.

Windows 98: An upgrade of Windows 95, designed to run on Pentiums. Includes integration of Internet Explorer onto the desktop and through Microsoft programs.

Windows XP:An upgrade of Windows 200, designed to run on Pentiums.

Zip Drive: A drive that can be external or internal; it uses a zip disk that holds 100 MB of data.