GLOSSARY OF COMPUTER TERMS
Updated - 01/17/2016

ADDRESS

A number used in information storage or retrieval that is assigned to a specific memory location.

ALPHANUMERIC

Consisting of or utilizing alphabetic and numerical symbols and punctuation marks, mathematical symbols, and other conventional symbols.

APPLICATION

A computer program designed for a specific task or use.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The ability of a machine to perform those activities that are normally thought to require intelligence.

ASCII

American Standard Code for Information Interchange. A standard Eight Bit Code. It represents Letters, numbers and symbols. It allows most computers to talk with each other.

BACKUP

A copy of a program or file that is stored separately from the original.

BAUD

A unit of measurement used to measure the speed information in a computer is received or sent

BINARY

A number system based on the two digits "1" and "0". This number system is used by all computers to store and represent information and instructions.

BIT

A single character of a language having just two characters, as either of the binary digits 0 or 1.

BOOLEAN SEARCH

Information retrieval involving the operators AND, OR, NOT, IF, THEN, and EXCEPT.

BOOT

Short for Bootstrap. A short computer program used to load and position another program.

BUFFER

A device or area used to store data temporarily and deliver it at a rate different from that at which it was received.

BUG

Refers to an error in a computer program. Frequently these are the cause of malfunctions in a program.

BULLETIN BOARD

A system that enables users to send or read messages that are of general interest and addressed to no particular person.

BUS

A parallel circuit that connects the major components of a computer, allowing the transfer of electric impulses from one connected component to any other.

BYTE

The amount of computer memory needed to store one character of a specified size, usually 8 bits for a microcomputer and 16 bits for a larger computer.

CACHE

A fast storage buffer in the central processing unit of a computer.

CD/ROM

A compact disk that functions as a high capacity storage device.

CELL

A basic unit of storage in a computer memory that can hold one unit of information, such as a character or word.

CHIP

An integrated circuit. A tiny slice or chip of material on which is etched or imprinted a complex of electronic components and their interconnections.

CIRCUIT BOARD

An insulated board on which interconnected circuits and components such as microchips are mounted or etched.

CLOSED

Relating to a file that cannot be accessed.

COMMAND

A signal that initiates an operation defined by an instruction. (example - a special keystroke that tells a word processor to spell check.)

COMPUTER

A device that computes, especially a programmable electronic machine that performs high-speed mathematical or logical operations or that assembles, stores, correlates, or otherwise processes information.

CPU (Central Processing Unit)

This is the control center of the computer. The part of a computer that interprets and executes instructions.

CURSOR

A bright, usually blinking, movable indicator on a display, marking the position at which a character can be entered, corrected, or deleted

DATA

Numerical or other information represented in a form suitable for processing by computer. The name for the information given to or received from the computer.

DATABASE

A collection of data arranged for ease and speed of search and retrieval.

DESKTOP PUBLISHING

The design and production of publications, such as newsletters, trade journals, or brochures, using microcomputers with graphics capability.

DIP (Dual Inline Package)

A chip is put into a plastic or ceramic case called a DIP. This makes the chip easier to handle and fit into the computer.

DISK

A magnetic disk used to store information.

DISPLAY

To provide (information or graphics) on a screen.

DOS

Disk Operating System-a program that tells to computer how to function.

DOT MATRIX

A dense grid of dots or pins used to form alphanumeric characters or designs, as by some computer printers and visual display units.

DOWNLOAD

To transfer (data or programs) from a central computer to a peripheral computer or device.

DUMP

To transfer (data stored internally in a computer) from one place to another, as from a memory to a printout, without processing.

E-MAIL (Electronic Mail)

Messages sent and received electronically via telecommunication links, as between microcomputers or terminals.

EMULATE

To imitate the function of (another system), as by modifications to hardware or software that allow the imitating system to accept the same data, execute the same programs, and achieve the same results as the imitated system.

ESCAPE

A key used especially to interrupt a command, exit a program, or change levels within a program.

EXECUTE

To run (a program or an instruction).

FILE

A collection of related data or program records

FLOPPY DISK

A flexible plastic disk coated with magnetic material and covered by a protective jacket, used primarily in microcomputers and minicomputers to store data magnetically. Also Called diskette

FONT

Type traditionally consisting of all of the characters of the alphabet, upper (capital) and lowercase, in one size and design, and also includes numerals, punctuation marks, and special characters.

FOOTER

Printed matter positioned in the bottom margin of a page, especially a title, page number, or date that is repeated throughout a document created on a word-processing system.

FORMAT

To divide (a disk) into marked sectors so that it may store data.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

Allows users to transfer computer files easily between host computers. This is still the primary use of the Internet, especially for software distribution, and many public distribution sites exist.

GARBAGE

Incorrect, meaningless, or unwanted information in input, output, or memory.

GOPHER

Allows users to create and use computer file directories. This service is linked across the Internet to allow other users to browse files.

GRAPHICS

These are pictures on the computer screen.

HACKER

One who is proficient at using or programming a computer; a computer buff. One who illegally gains access to or enters another's electronic system to obtain secret information or steal money

HARD DISK

A rigid magnetic disk fixed permanently within a drive unit and used for storing computer data. Hard disks generally offer more storage and quicker access to data than floppy disks do.

HARDWARE

Refers to all the computer equipment including the computer itself, input and output equipment and storage devices

HEADER

Printed matter or information, such as a title, date, or page number, positioned in the top margin of a page and usually repeated throughout a document, especially a document composed on a word-processing system.

HYPERMEDIA

A computer-based information retrieval system that enables a user to gain or provide access to texts, audio and video recordings, photographs, and computer graphics related to a particular subject.

HYPERTEXT

A computer-based text retrieval system that enables the user to provide access to or gain information related to a particular text.

ICON

A picture on a screen that represents a specific command.

INITIALIZE

To set to a starting position or value for computer storage devices.

INPUT

Information put into a communications system for transmission or into a computer system for processing.

INTEGRATED CIRCUIT

A tiny slice or chip of material on which is etched or imprinted a complex of electronic components and their interconnections.

INTERFACE

The point of interaction or communication between a computer and any other entity, such as a printer or human operator.

INTERNET

An open interconnection of networks that enables connected computers to communicate directly. There is a global, public Internet and many smaller-scale, controlled-access internets, known as enterprise internets.

JOYSTICK

A manual control or cursor device, as one attached to a computer. It is ideal to move a point or object across the screen quickly and is used mostly for video games.

KEYBOARD

A set of keys, as on a computer terminal, word processor, typewriter, or piano. An input device for the computer.

KEYPAD

An input device, sometimes part of a standard typewriter keyboard, consisting of a separate grid of numerical and function keys arranged for efficient data entry.

KILOBYTE

A unit of measurement of the memory capacity of a computer, equal to 1,024 bytes. Usually considered to be One thousand bytes.

LANGUAGE

A system of symbols and rules used for communication with or between computers.

LAPTOP

A microcomputer small enough to use on one's lap.

LISP

A programming language designed to process data consisting of lists. It is widely used in artificial intelligence research.

LOAD

A term that refers to the process of bringing information held on some external storage device into the memory of the computer

LOCK

To end the processing of (a magnetic tape or disk) in such a way as to deny access to its contents.

LOGIC

The nonarithmetic operations performed by a computer, such as sorting, comparing, and matching, that involve yes-no decisions.

MACRO

A single instruction in programming language that results in a series of instructions in machine language.

MEGABYTE

A unit of storage capacity equal to 1,048,576 bytes. Usually considered to be One million bytes.

MEMORY

A unit of a computer that preserves data for retrieval.

MENU

A list, displayed on a monitor, of options available to a computer user

MICROCOMPUTER

A very small computer, such as a laptop or personal computer, built around a microprocessor and designed to be used by one person at a time.

MICROPROCESSOR

An integrated circuit that contains the entire central processing unit of a computer on a single chip.

MICROSECOND

This is equal to one millionth of a second. It is the speed which some computers get and carry out instructions.

MINICOMPUTER

A small computer, usually fitting within a single cabinet, that has more memory and a higher execution speed than a microcomputer.

MODEM

A modem is an Input-output device that allows computers to receive or transmit information over regular telephone lines. (Modulator Demodulator)

MONITOR

A device that accepts video signals from a computer and displays information on a screen.

MOTHERBOARD

The main board of a computer, usually containing the circuitry for the central processing unit, keyboard, and monitor and often having slots for accepting additional circuitry.

MOUSE

A hand-held, button-activated input device that when rolled along a flat surface directs an indicator to move about a computer screen, allowing the operator to move the indicator freely, as to select operations or manipulate text or graphics.

NETWORK

A system of computers interconnected by telephone wires or other means in order to share information.

NODE

A terminal in a computer network

OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

The use of light-sensitive devices to identify and encode printed or handwritten characters.

OFF-LINE

Not connected to a computer or computer network.

ON-LINE

Connected to a computer network. Under the control of a central computer, as in a manufacturing process or an experiment.

OPERATING SYSTEM

Software designed to control the hardware of a specific data-processing system in order to allow users and application programs to employ it easily.

OUTPUT

The information produced by a computer from a specific input.

PAGE

A quantity of memory storage equal to between 512 and 4,096 bytes. Also a site used on the WWW.

PARITY BIT

A bit added to a binary code that indicates parity and is used to check the integrity of data. It is a way for the computer to check to see if the character it has received is the one the user has sent.

PASSWORD

A sequence of characters required to gain access to a computer system.

PERIPHERALS

Input-Output devices attached to a computer such as the keyboard, printer, disk drives and monitor

PERSONAL COMPUTER

A microcomputer for use by an individual, as in an office or at home or school.

PIXEL

The smallest image-forming unit of a video display.

PPP

Point-to-point protocol. This lets you connect to the Internet.

PRINT

To print as a function; produce printout. (Hard Copy) A printed copy of the output of a computer.

PRINTER

An output device that prints information on to paper or other media.

PROGRAM

To provide a computer with a set of instructions for solving a problem or processing data.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

Short term memory in a computer. When the computer is turned off, all the information stored here disappears. A memory device in which information can be accessed in any order.

ROM (Read Only Memory)

A small memory that allows fast access to permanently stored data but prevents addition to or modification of the data.

SAVE

To copy (a file) from a computer's main memory to a disk or other storage medium so that it can be used again.

SCAN

Produce a picture or an image by moving a finely focused beam of light or electrons in a systematic pattern over (a surface) in order to reproduce or sense and subsequently transmit an image.

SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface)

A system that connects peripheral devices to a computer.

SECURITY

The level to which a program or device is safe from unauthorized use.

SHELL

A program that works with the operating system as a command processor, used to enter commands and initiate their execution.

SLOT

A socket in a microcomputer that will accept a plug-in circuit board.

SOFTWARE

A general term referring to a series of instructions or programs given to the computer to do a specific job.

SPREADSHEET

An accounting or bookkeeping program for a computer.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)

An internet connection is usually implemented using theses international standards. The protocols are implemented in software running on the connected computer.

TELNET

Allows users to log in to another computer from a remote location.

TERMINAL

A device, often equipped with a keyboard and a video display, through which data or information can enter or leave a computer system.

UNFORMATTED

A computer disk that has not been prepared for writing or reading.

UPLOAD

To transfer (data or programs), usually from a peripheral computer or device to a central, often remote computer.

USENET

The Usenet service allows users to distribute news messages automatically among thousands of structured newsgroups.

VACCINE

Software designed to detect and stop the progress of a computer virus.

VAPORWARE

New software that has been announced or marketed but has not been produced.

VDT (Video Display Terminal)

An output device using the screen of a cathode-ray tube to display data and graphic images. Another name for the monitor.

VIRTUAL MEMORY

Computer memory, separate from the main memory of a specific machine, that can be used as an extension of the machine's main memory.

VIRUS (Computer Virus)

A computer program that is designed to replicate itself by copying itself into the other programs stored in a computer. It may be benign or have a negative effect.

WINDOW

A small area on a monitor in which a file or a part of a file can be displayed.

WORD PROCESSING

The creation, input, editing, and production of documents and texts by means of computer.

WWW (World Wide Web)

Allows users to create and use point-and-click hypermedia presentations. These documents are linked across the Internet to form a vast repository of information that can be browsed easily.

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)

Relating to or being a word-processing or desktop publishing system in which the screen displays text exactly as it will be printed.

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