Q?Glossary of Terms



Access: To gain entry to or connect to.
AGP: Accelerated Graphics Port. An enhancement of the system bus designed to boost graphics performance.
Alphanumeric: Consisting of letters, numbers and special characters such as punctuation marks and spaces.
Applications: See software.


Back slash: The \ character. On most keyboards this is located near the bottom left of the keyboard. The back slash character is frequently used when describing the location of a file.
Backup: A duplicate copy of a file. You should backup your data files regularly so you have have a spare copy if the original is accidentally damaged or lost.
Bandwidth: The amount of data that can be transmitted over a network connection at any one time. A standard modem connection to the Internet provides a relatively low bandwidth, making it unsuitable to download large media such as videos. A cable modem however provides considerably higher bandwidth.
BIOS: Basic Input Output System, pronounced buy-oss. This is software that controls basic communications e.g. the screen and keyboard. When your computer firsts starts up it loads the BIOS before loading the operating system.
Bit: A binary digit is the smallest piece of information that can be stored by a computer. A bit can have a value of 0 or 1. There are 8 bits in a byte.
Boot: To start up a computer.
Bps: Bits per second, the standard measure of data transmission speeds.
Browser: See Web Browser.
Bug: An error in a computer program or computer hardware.
Bus: A set of wires used to transfer data between the main components on a computer’s motherboard.
Byte: A measurement of memory. One byte can contain a single character e.g. a letter, number, punctuation mark or another symbol.


Cable modem: A modem which operates over cable TV lines, providing high transmission.
CD-R: Compact Disc Recordable, a drive that can write and read CD-ROM’s and audio CD’s.
CD-ROM: Compact Disc Read-Only Memory, a data version of the familiar audio CD. It has a fairly high capacity and is frequently used for program installations.
CD-RW: Compact Disc Rewritable, a type of CD that lets you write to it in multiple sessions (unlike a CD-R disc which can only be written to once.)
Central Processing Unit: Also known as the CPU or microprocessor. The ‘brains’ of your computer. The CPU handles all the central logic and operations for your computer.
Chip: Short for microchip. A small piece of silicon which contains electronic components such as transistors and resistors organised into a circuit.
Clipboard: A temporary storage space, whenever you use the cut or copy commands in a program the information is stored on the clipboard. It can be inserted into the current document by using the paste command.
Cloud (Computing): An unknown storage area, accessible worldwide, but secure as well.
Configure: To set up a computer system or computer program so that it functions well.
Cookie: A small file placed on your hard disk by a web site in order to identify you when you visit again.
CPU: See central processing unit.
Crash: A serious computer problem that causes a program to halt or the whole computer to stop working.
Cursor: The small pointer that moves about the screen in a direct relationship to the movement of the mouse.
Cyberspace: The non-physical world created within computer systems. For example when you are connected to the Internet you are in cyberspace.


Data: Any type of information. A letter you create with your word processor is data, as is a picture you draw using a graphics program. Data is stored on your computer in files.
Default: A standard or recommended setting which you may alter if you wish. For instance the Windows task bar appears at the bottom of your screen by default, however you can move this if you wish.
Desktop: The full screen display where all windows activity takes place.
Device: Any computer sub-system or peripheral such as a printer, USB port or disk drive.
Device driver: Software which tells a piece of hardware how to interact with the computer system. For instance your printer requires a printer driver to work correctly.
Dialog box, dialog: An onscreen box that lets you adjust settings or provide information needed to run a program
Dial-up connection: A widely used method of connecting to the internet. A dial up connection uses a regular phone line to connect to the internet via a mode.
Directory: see folder.
Disable: To prevent a feature or component from operating.
Disc: A storage medium using optical technology.
Disk: A computer storage medium using non optical technology.
Diskette: See floppy disk.
Document: Any self-contained piece of work created using a program. Examples of documents include a letter created in a word processor, a picture created in a graphics editor or a web page.
Download: To copy information from a remote computer to your computer. When you connect to the web you are constantly downloading web pages and files to your computer system.
Drop-down menu: Sub-menus which drop down from another menu. Also known as pop-up menus or cascading menus.
DSL: Digital Subscriber Line, a technology that supports high speed data connections.
DVD: Digital Versatile Disc, a high capacity storage disc similar to a CD-ROM but it can store more data.


e-mail: Electronic mail. Messages that are exchanged between users on a network.
e-mail address: A unique name that identifies an e-mail recipient. E-mail addresses take the form of username@hostname. An example is johnsmith@anywhere.co.uk which is pronounced ‘johnsmith at anywhere dot co dot uk’.
Enable: To allow a program a feature or a computer device function.
Ergonomic: Designed to enhance human comfort and performance.
Execute: To run a computer program.


FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (pronounced fak). Documents which give the answers to commonly asked questions about a particular topic.
File: A collection of related information stored on a computer. Each document you create is stored in a file with its own filename.
Floppy disk: A small round removable storage medium. floppies are so-called because inside a rigid protective case is a flexible brown plastic disk on which data can be stored.
Folder: A file container on a disk. Like a folder in a filing cabinet you can store related files in the same folder to help organise your information.
FTP: File Transfer Protocol, a commonly used method for transmitting files across the internet.


GIF: Graphics Interchange Format. A graphics file format used widely on the internet as the image is compressed to minimise the size which reduces the download time.
Gigabyte: A measurement of memory. One gigabyte is equivalent to 2 to the 30th power (1,073,741,824) bytes or 1024 megabytes.
GUI: Graphical User Interface, pronounced gooey. Windows has a GUI as it is made up of graphical element e.g. windows, icons and menus.


Hang: See crash.
Hard disk: A device where you permanently store programs and data. Hard disks are usually connected permanently with the main computer housing. Also called hard drive, hard disk drive or HDD.
Hardware: The physical equipment that makers up a computer system. For example the monitor, keyboard and disk drives are all hardware.
Home page: The main page of a web site.
HTML: Hypertext Markup Language, the authoring language used to create documents.
HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the set of rules governing the transmission of documents on the world Wide Web.
Hyperlink: An element (text or graphic) in a document that links to another place in the same document or to a different document. This are commonly used on the World Wide Web to navigate to different pages.


Icon: A small on-screen picture which represents something e.g. a program, folder, data file or a shortcut.
Input: Information entered into a computer or the act of entering such information. You can input the information using input devices such as a keyboard, mouse or scanner.
Interface: A term most often used to describe the user interface, which is the way a computer system or program is designed to work with its human operator.
Internet: A global network of computer networks, allowing communication and information exchange.
Internet address: See URL.
ISP: Internet Service Provider. ISP’s maintain a dedicated communication line to the Internet, users dial in to the ISP, which can then connect them to the Internet via a high speed dedicated communications line.
ITIL: IT Information Library – A process methodology used in mid-sized to large companies to standardise the IT departments and inter-departmental procedures.


JPG: Pronounced jay-peg. A graphics file which can be compressed to a fraction of it size. They are commonly used on the internet as their small size reduces download time.


Kbps: Kilobits per second is a measure of data transfer speed. One kilobit is 1000 bits.
Kilobyte: A measurement of memory, one kilobyte holds 1024 bytes.


Lan: Local Area Network. A group of computers connected together within a fairly small geographical space, usually within one building.
Linux: An operating system which runs on a variety of computer hardware, including PCs.
Log off, log out: See sign off.
Log on: See sign on.


Mac OS: An operating system designed by Apple which is used on Macintosh computers.
Mbps: Megabits per second – millions of bits per second. A measurement of data transfer speed.
Megabyte: A measure of computer storage.
Megahertz: A measure of frequency, used to measure microprocessor speed.
Memory: Random Access Memory, is temporary storage area for programs and data while your computer is switched on. Anything stored in RAM is lost when the power is turned off.
Menu: A lost of options from which you can choose.
MHz: See megahertz.
Microcomputer: A computer built around a single microprocessor such as a PC.
Microprocessor: A silicon chip that contains a central processing unit.
Modem: Modulator-demodulator. A device used to transmit digital data across analogue phone lines.
Motherboard: The main circuit board in a computer holding the primary components such as the CPU and RAM.
Mouse: A pointing device which lets the user interact with the computer.
MP3: A compressed audio format. MP3’s can be downloaded from the internet and you can listen to them on a PC or on a portable MP3 player.
Multimedia: The use of sound, video or animation as well as static graphics and text.
Multitasking: A system which can perform more than one task at a time. Both Windows and Mac OS are multitasking operating systems.


Nanosecond: One billionth of a second.
Netiquette: Etiquette guidelines for behaviour on the Internet, in particular with regard to posting messages to newsgroups and e-mail.
Network: Two or more computers linked together.
Newsgroup: An online discussion group on a particular topic.
Newsreader: An application that lets you read and reply to messages posted on the Internet.


Offline: Disconnected from a computer communications system.
Online: Connected to a computer communications system.
Open: Also called run, load, start or execute. Opening an item activates it.
Operating System: A collection of programs which together manage all the basic functions of a computer. The operating system runs other programs (e.g. word processor), manages the storage of documents and coordinates the function of the computer itself. Windows, Mac OS and Linux are examples of operating systems.
Output: Information processed by a computer program and displayed or stored on a device. examples of outputs are printing a document, displaying a picture on a screen or playing music through speakers.


PC: Personal computer. Usually used to refer to any computer that runs the Windows operating system.
Peripheral: Hardware component that you add to the computer e.g. a monitor or printer.
Plug and Play: The ability to configure new devices automatically.
Port: A conduit for transferring information between a computer and an external device, such as a modem, mouse, printer or digital camera.
Post: To post a message on a newsgroup of message board.
Protocol: A set of rules which allows different parts of a computer network to ‘talk’ to one another.


Resolution: The clarity of the image on the screen.
ROM: Read Only Memory, internal memory which contains permanent instructions.


Scroll: To move a document in a window so you can see any portion of it. You can scroll up and down or side to side using scrollbars to the right and bottom of the window.
SCSI: Small Computer System Interface (pronounced skuzzy). A high performance design for connection disk drives, scanners and other devices to a computer.
Search engine: A program that searches pages on the Internet for specified keywords and returns a list of documents containing the keywords. Examples include Google and Yahoo.
Setup: To install and configure computer hardware or software.
Shareware: Software which you can try without payment. If you choose to use the software you may have to pay a fee after a trial period.
Shortcut: A pointer to a file. Creating a shortcut allows you to quickly access a program or document no matter where it’s actually stored.
Sign off, sign out: To finish a session on a computer system or network.
Sign on: To start a session on a computer or network. By signing on, usually by entering a username and password you let the system know you are connected.
Software: A generic term for computer programs.
Spam: Electronic junk mail.
Storage: Any medium or device (such as a hard disk) used to store date for an extended period.
Surf: To move from place to place on the Internet, usually using a Web Browser.


Taskbar: The long horizontal bar at the bottom of the Windows desktop which you see to access programs and manage your desktop.
Toolbar: Icons grouped together within a program usually in a strip across the top of the window. Each toolbar icon or button provides a shortcut to one of the program’s commands or features.
Tooltip: A short, informative message which pops up when you let the mouse pointer linger on an icon, menu option or other part of the user interface.
Traffic: The amount of information being handled by a communications system. During heavy times of heavy traffic on the Internet, you’ll notice your connections slow.


Undo: To reverse your last action in a computer program. Many programs allow multiple ‘undos’ so you can reverse a whole series of actions.
Unzip: To decompress a file that has been compressed using a program such as WinZip.
Upload: To send information from your computer to a remote computer.
URL: Uniform Resource Locator, the address used to identify documents and other resources on the Internet. e.g. www.bbc.co.uk
USB: Universal Serial Bus, used to connect devices to a computer.
User friendly: Easy to learn and use.


Virtual: Not real, something which is virtual has no physical basis itself but mimics a physical object in conceptual terms. e.g. a virtual tour of a building.
Virus: A computer program designed to replicate itself. Many computer viruses are innocuous, some are harmful and can either damage information and programs on your computer or cause your computer to malfunction.
VoiP: Using the internet and specifically, a broadband connection, to make and receive cheap or Free calls.


Web: Short for World Wide Web.
Web Browser: A software application used to locate and display web pages.
Web Page: A document on the World Wide Web.
Web Server: A computer that stores web pages and delivers the to web browsers on request.
Web Site: A location on the World Wide Web, consisting of at least one page (the home page) and possibly many pages.
Window: A portion of the screen used to display a program, document or data.
Windows: An operating system designed by Microsoft.
World Wide Web: A collection of online documents stored on interlinked computers, called Internet servers around the globe. The web is only part of the Internet – some Internet servers perform functions other than being Web Servers, for example mail servers store and handle e-mails.


Zip: To compress a file using a program such as winzip. You zip files to package numerous related files together and to make them smaller, so they are easier to store on a disk or to send to another user via the internet.