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Computer Glossary


Computer Related Information:

A, B & C Drives: The A Drive is the 3.5 inch floppy drive. The B Drive is not used anymore - it used to be the 5.25 inch floppy drive! The C Drive is your hard drive with the OS on it (if you have more than one hard drive they will be D, E, etc. and so on. The CD (or DVD & CDRW) drives are usually the next highest drive letters.

Antivirus: Antivirus software is a type of application you install to protect your system from viruses, worms and other malicious code. Most antivirus programs will monitor traffic while you surf the Web, scan incoming email and file attachments and periodically check all local files for the existence of any known malicious code.

BIOS: (Basic Input/Output System) Software that contains the computers basic instructions on how the OS communicates with the hardware. The BIOS is on the Motherboard.

Bit: Binary digit, the smallest unit of information on a machine. A single bit can hold only one of two values: 0 or 1. Consecutive bits are combined into larger units for more meaningful information. A byte is 8 consecutive bits.

Blue Screen of Death (BSOD): Slang used to describe the blue Fatal Exception Error screen that appears after a full blown system crash.

Byte: Binary term, a unit of storage capable of holding a single character. A byte is equal to 8 bits. A kilobyte (KB) is 1024 bytes, a megabyte (MB) is 1,048,576 bytes and a gigabyte (GB) is 1,073,741,824 bytes.

Cracker: A cyber burglar or vandal, one person or a group intent on causing malicious harm to a network or computer or to steal information beneficial to themselves like passwords, credit card numbers, etc. Most commonly known as "hacker".

Cyberspace: The experience of time, distance, people, travel, shopping and information you encounter while in the world of the Internet. The only physical activity needed in cyberspace is using a keyboard & mouse.

DirectX: A utility that enhances multimedia capabilities on your computer. DirectX provides better playback of different types of multimedia and manages 3D graphics. Every new version of DirectX incorporates more advanced 3D graphics capabilities with the result that software programmers and video card manufacturers usually require the latest version for their newest products.

Drivers: Small programs that tell your computer exactly what the hardware or peripheral is and how it is to work properly with your computer and it's OS. There can be thousands of each type of hardware component made for computers and each one will have different drivers for every OS made - if you do not use the correct driver for the hardware or peripheral and your OS, chances are it will not work properly, if at all! Most OS's have generic drivers, just enough to get the computer running and allow the user to install the proper driver.

DVD: Digital Versatile Disc. By using multiple layers & both sides of a disc, DVD can store 4.7GB to 17GB of data, while CDs are limited to 684MB.

Firewall: A protective barrier (program or device) installed between your computer, or internal network, and the outside world. It will monitor and filter any information coming in to your computer and will block certain types from entering that may be malicious or unauthorized.

Format: A Format will completely and irretrievably erase all data on the item. Floppy diskettes, Zip disks, CDRW disks and hard drives can all be formatted.

FPS: Frames per second. The number of times per second that a scene is redrawn to give the illusion of continuous animation. A movie is 24fps, a good game should be at least 30fps.

Hacker: A dedicated programming expert who believes in sharing his expertise and experiences with other hackers. A hacker does not believe in vandalizing or maliciously destroying data, or in stealing data. On the other hand there is the "cracker", a cyber burglar or vandal, intent on causing malicious harm or to steal information beneficial to themselves. Usually when the term hacker is used it refers to crackers.

Hard Drive: (Hard Disk Drive) Physical Storage space in your computer. (This is like a filing cabinet where everything you save is stored in digital form.) The first hard drives contained 1000 bytes, today's hard drives are up to 130 billion bytes!

Hardware: Components of your computer system that you can physically touch, like the modem, the mouse, the monitor, the tower, the printer, etc.

IP Address: A Unique number that identifies a PC or some other device on a network. (IP stands for Internet Protocol) Every computer attached to the Internet has an IP Address. On high-speed Internet your computer has a permanently assigned IP address but on dial-up Internet your computer will have a different IP Address assigned every time it goes onto the Internet.

IRQ (Interrupt Request): Unless coded to cooperate with each other, no two parts of a computer can access CPU cycles at precisely the same time. All the installed devices must therefore send Interrupt Requests to the operating system, asking for the processor's undivided attention. In modern computers IRQ-dependent devices (e.g., keyboards, mice, soundcards) vie for interrupt priority among 16 different IRQ slots. If you need to install a new IRQ-dependent device but you are out of slots, you're out of luck. (Some motherboard manufacturers, like Intel, have finally developed the technology to have up to 32 IRQ's on their motherboards)

ISP: Internet Service Provider. The company that you have your Internet account with.

Internet: Originally a project called Arpanet created by the United States government in conjunction with various colleges and universities for the purpose of sharing research data. As it stands now, there are nearly one billion computers connected to the Internet all over the world. There is no central server or owner of the Internet - every computer on the Internet is connected with every other computer. As of July, 2005 there were approximately 64,320,000 websites on the Internet!

LAN: Local area network. A private computer network within a building or a local group of buildings.

Mainboard: Also called the Motherboard.

Mbps: Megabits per second. A megabit is 1 million bits.

MBps: Megabytes per second. A byte is 8 consecutive bits.

MHz: Megahertz. One MHz represents one million cycles per second.

Motherboard: The piece of hardware inside the computer tower that all the other components connect to. Motherboards have slots for hardware components such as video, sound, modems, NICs, USB plus future upgrades or some (or all) of these items can be integrated into the various chips on the motherboard. Also called the Mainboard.

MPEG: Moving Picture Experts Group. The name of a family of standards used for coding audio-visual information (movies, video and music) in a digitally compressed format.

MPEG-2: A widely supported audio/video standard formulated by the Moving Picture Experts Group. It defines methods for compressing and decompressing audio and video data to conserve resources in computers, digital TVs and other multimedia devices.

MP3: MPEG Layer 3. An audio compression format that can reduce a four-minute song into a 4MB file of near-CD-quality music - perfect for sending across the Internet.

Network: Two or more computers connected together with the ability to communicate with each other and share files, printers, Internet connection, etc. Networks can range anywhere from two home computers connected together to thousands of computers in a large business. When you connect to the Internet you are joining a network with up to 3 billion other computers.

Output Device: Wherever computer files are viewed, whether it is on the monitor or output to the printer.

Pixel: The smallest unit of resolution on a video screen. Everything on the screen is formed of pixels. More pixels are better, because the screen can display more detailed images. Screen resolution is expressed in pixels - 1024x768 means a screen displays 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically, for a total of 786,432 pixels.

POP3: Post Office Protocol 3. The standard protocol for sending and receiving mail on the Internet.

RAM: Main Memory (It's like short term memory in people - nothing gets saved until you tell it to. Once the information you are working on is saved as a file it is put onto the Hard Drive (or floppy diskette or CDR, etc). If the power goes off before the data is saved all the information in the memory is lost.)

Software: Programs that the computer or peripherals must use to run, like word processors, spreadsheets, games, photo editing programs, scanner programs, music files, antivirus programs, chat programs, downloads from the Internet, etc.

Spam: Unsolicited commercial email. The email equivalent to Telemarketers and junk mail. It is estimated that two thirds of all email sent today is spam.

System Resources: The Microsoft Windows operating system sets aside a tiny bit of memory (128K) for programs to use. The more programs that are open & running, the lower the system resources will be and the slower the computer will run. When a program is exited the system resources it is using are restored (at least it's supposed to!).

USB: Universal Serial Bus. A single USB port can (supposedly) connect up to 127 peripherals! The data transfer rate of USB is considerably faster than the parallel port (for the printer) or the serial port (for joysticks, etc.). The original USB 1.1 transfers data at 12 Mbps and USB 2.0 ( or High Speed USB) transfers data at 480 Mbps.

VGA: Video Graphics Array. Refers to your monitor.

Video Card: It is the video card that puts the picture on the monitor. All newer video cards have 2D/3D capability. Microsoft Windows and office programs are 2D. Most games are 3D.

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