- American Standard Code for Information Interchange, an encoding system for
converting keyboard characters and instructions into the binary
number code that the computer understands.
- The capacity of a networked connection, i.e., the more bandwidth
you have, the more data you can send along the networked wires. Bandwidth is
particularly important for Internet connections, since greater bandwidth also means faster
- binary code
- The most basic language a computer understands, it is composed of a series
of 0s and 1s. The computer interprets the code to form numbers, letters,
punctuation marks, and symbols.
- (short for “binary digit”). The smallest piece of computer
information, either the number 0 or 1.
- To start up a computer.
- Software used to navigate the Internet.
Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer are today's most popular
browsers for accessing the World
- A malfunction due to an error in the program or a defect in the equipment.
- Most computers use combinations of eight bits, called bytes, to represent
one character of data or instructions. For example, the word “cat” has
three characters, and it would be represented by three bytes.
- Compact Disc Read-Only Memory. Similar to a CD music disc, but designed
for computers, a single disc can hold around 640 megabytes
of data, enough for several encyclopedias or other reference works. Most
software programs are now delivered on CD-ROMs.
- A tiny wafer of silicon containing miniature electric circuits that can
store millions of bits
- A single user of a network application run off a server. A client/server
architecture allows many people to use the same data simultaneously; the
program's main component (the data) resides on a centralized server, with
smaller components (user interface) on each client.
- A moving position-indicator displayed on the computer monitor that shows
the computer operator where he or she is working.
- Slang for the Internet.
- A collection of similar information stored in a file, for example, a
database of addresses. This information may be created and stored in a
database management system (DBMS).
- Computer slang for finding and correcting equipment defects or
malfunctions in the program.
- The option that is presumed to be selected if a user makes no choice. In
most programs, the defaults can be changed to reflect personal preferences.
- desktop publishing
- Use of a personal computer in combination with text, graphics, and page
layout programs to produce publication-quality documents.
- A list of files stored in the computer.
- Two distinct types: the “hard disk” that is inside the computer and
stores vast amounts of data (new computers currently come standard with
hard drives); and the “floppy” disk, which is portable, 3.5"
square, and can store about 1.4 megabytes
of data (the name is a vestige of early 5.25" disks, which were
- disk drive
- The equipment that a floppy disk is inserted into so that information may
be stored on or retrieved from the disk.
- The instruction manual for a piece of hardware or software.
- The name of a network or computer linked to the Internet.
It is found in an email address after an @ sign. The email address for the
First Lady, for example, is email@example.com, “whitehouse.gov”
being its domain. A domain ends with an abbreviation indicating its type
(e.g., “.com” stands for company, “.gov” for government, “.org”
for organization, and “.edu” for educational institution).
- Used either as a verb or a noun, it refers to the process of transferring
information from a web site (or other remote location on a network) to the
computer. One can “download a file” or “view a download.”
- Disk Operating System. An operating system designed for early
- Electronic mail; messages, including memos or letters, sent electronically
between networked computers that may be across the office or around the
- A set of data that is stored in the computer.
- A structure for containing electronic files. In some operating systems, it
is called a “directory.”
- Sets of typefaces (or characters) that come in different styles and sizes.
- File Transfer Protocol. The format and rules for transferring files from a
host to a remote computer.
- gigabyte (GB)
- One thousand megabytes.
- The cause of an unexpected malfunction.
- An Internet search
tool that allows users to access textual information through a series of
- Graphical User Interface. A system that simplifies selecting computer
commands by enabling the user to point to symbols or illustrations (called
icons) on the computer screen with a mouse.
- Software that allows networked individuals to form groups and collaborate
on documents, programs, or databases.
- A person with technical expertise who enjoys tinkering with computer
systems to produce additional features. A hacker is also one who
intentionally accesses all or part of a computer or a computer system
without authorization to do so (a crime in some states).
- hard copy
- A paper printout of what you have prepared on the computer.
- The physical and mechanical components of a computer system, such as the
electronic circuitry, chips, monitor, disks, disk drives, keyboard, modem,
- home page
- The main page of a Web site used to greet visitors, provide information
about the site, or to direct the viewer to other pages on the site.
- Hypertext Markup Language. A standard of text markup conventions used for
documents on the World Wide Web. Browsers interpret the codes to give the
text structure and formatting (such as bold, blue, or italic).
- Hypertext Transfer Protocol. A common system used to request and send HTML
documents on the World
Wide Web. It is the first portion of all URL
addresses on the World Wide Web (e.g., http://www.whitehouse.gov).
- Integrates audio, graphics, and/or video through links embedded in the
- A system for organizing text through links, as opposed to a menu-driven
hierarchy such as Gopher. Most Web pages include hypertext links to other
pages at that site, or to other sites on the World
- Symbols or illustrations appearing on the computer screen that indicate
program files or other computer functions.
- Data that goes into a computer device.
- The interconnections that allow a device, a program, or a person to
interact. Hardware interfaces are the cables that connect the device to its
power source and to other devices. Software interfaces allow the program to
communicate with other programs (such as the operating system), and user
interfaces allow the user to communicate with the program (e.g., via mouse,
menu commands, icons, voice commands, etc.).
- An international conglomeration of interconnected computer networks. Begun
in the late 1960s, it was developed in the 1970s to allow government and
university researchers to share information. The Internet is not controlled
by any single group or organization. Its original focus was research and
communications, but it continues to expand, offering a wide array of
resources for business and home users.
- An object-oriented programming language designed specifically for programs
to be used over the Internet.
Java allows programmers to create small programs or applications
(“applets”) to enhance Web sites.
- kilobyte (K or KB)
- Equal to 1,024 bytes.
- laptop and notebook
- Small, lightweight, portable battery-powered computers that can fit onto
your lap. They have a thin, flat, liquid crystal display screen.
- Mac OS
- Short for Macintosh Operating System. An operating system with a graphical
user interface, developed by Apple for Macintosh computers.
- megabyte (MB)
- Equal to 1,048,576 bytes, usually rounded off to one million bytes.
- A computer device or series of devices that store information. Computer
memory is measured in terms of the amount of information it can store,
commonly in megabytes
- A list of options that users can choose from.
- To combine two or more files into a single file.
- An abbreviation for Megahertz. One million hertz. One million cycles per
second. Unit of measure for band and bandwidth,
or for processor speed of a computer CPU, in millions of computer clock
cycles per second. For example, the Pentium is currently available in 500
- A complete central processing unit (CPU) contained on a single silicon
- A device that connects two computers together over a telephone line by
converting the computer's data into an audio signal.
- A video display terminal.
- A small hand-held device, similar to a trackball,
used to control the position of the cursor on the video display; movements
of the mouse on a desktop correspond to movements of the cursor on the
- Software programs that combine text and graphics with sound, video, and
animation. A multimedia PC contains the hardware to support these
- An early operating system developed by Microsoft Corporation.
- Computers that are connected to other computers.
- An operating system with a graphical user interface, developed by IBM for
IBM PCs and compatible computers.
- Data that come out of a computer device.
- Personal computer.
- Pentium chip
- Intel's fifth generation of sophisticated high-speed microprocessors.
Pentium means “the fifth element.”
- personal computer (PC)
- A single-user computer containing a central processing unit (CPU) and one
or more memory circuits.
- Power PC
- A competitor of the Pentium chip. It is a new generation of powerful
sophisticated microprocessors produced from an Apple-IBM-Motorola alliance.
- A mechanical device for printing your computer's output on paper. The
three major types of printers are dot matrix, in which individual
letters are made up of a series of tiny ink dots formed by punching a ribbon
with the ends of tiny wires; ink jet, which sprays tiny droplets of
ink particles onto paper; and laser, which uses a beam of light to
reproduce the image of each page, before dry toner is applied to the image
and transferred to paper. The laser printer is the most popular today. The
dot matrix is practically obsolete.
- A precise series of instructions written in a computer language that tells
the computer what to do and how to do it. Programs are also called
“software” or “applications.”
- programming language
- A series of instructions written by a programmer according to a given set
of rules or conventions (“syntax”). High-level programming languages are
independent of the device on which the application (or program) will
eventually run; low-level languages are specific to each program or
platform. Programming language instructions are converted into programs in
language specific to a particular machine or operating system (“machine
language”) so that the computer can interpret and carry out the
instructions. Some common programming languages are BASIC, C, C++, dBASE,
FORTRAN, and Perl.
- push technology
- Internet tool
that delivers specific information directly to a user's desktop, eliminating
the need to surf for it. PointCast, which delivers news in user-defined
categories, is a popular example of this technology.
- Random Access Memory. One of two basic types of memory. Portions of
programs are stored in RAM when the program is launched so that the program
will run faster. Though a PC has a fixed amount of RAM, only portions of it
will be accessed by the computer at any given time.
- Read-Only Memory. One of two basic types of memory. ROM contains only
permanent information put there by the manufacturer; information in ROM
cannot be altered, nor can the memory be dynamically allocated by the
computer or its operator.
- An electronic device that uses light-sensing equipment to scan paper
images such as text, photos, and illustrations and translate the images into
signals that the computer can then store, modify, or distribute.
- search engine
- Software that makes it possible to look for and retrieve material on the
particularly the Web. Some popular search engines are Alta Vista, Yahoo!,
Web Crawler, and Lycos.
- A computer that shares its resources and information with other computers,
called clients, on a network.
- Computer programs; also called “applications.”
- Software that allows one to calculate numbers in a format that is similar
to pages in a conventional ledger.
- Exploring the Internet.
- Input device that controls the position of the cursor on the screen; the
unit is mounted near the keyboard, and movement is controlled by moving a
- Uniform Resource Locator. The protocol for identifying a document on the
Web; the Web address (e.g., www.census.gov).
- A large unmoderated and unedited bulletin board on the Internet
that offers thousands of forums, called newsgroups. These range from
newsgroups exchanging information on scientific advances to celebrity fan
- user friendly
- A program or device whose use is intuitive to people with a nontechnical
- virtual reality (VR)
- A technology that allows you to experience and interact with images in a
simulated three-dimensional environment. For example, you could design a
room in a house on your computer and actually feel that you are walking
around in it even though it was never built. (The holodeck in the
science-fiction TV series Star Trek: Voyager would be the ultimate
virtual reality.) Current technology requires the user to wear a special
helmet, viewing goggles, gloves, and other equipment that is wired to the
- An unauthorized piece of computer code attached to a computer program or
portions of a computer system that secretly spreads from one computer to
another by shared disks and over telephone lines.
- A portion of a computer display used in a graphical interface that enables
users to select commands by pointing to illustrations or symbols with a
mouse. “Windows” is also the name Microsoft adopted for its popular
- World Wide Web (“WWW” or “the Web”)
- A network of servers on the Internet that use hypertext-linked databases and files. It was developed in 1989
by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, and is now the primary
platform of the Internet. The feature that distinguishes the Web from other
Internet applications is its ability to display graphics in addition to
- word processor
- A computer system or program for setting, editing, revising, correcting,
storing, and printing text.