Computer Jargon
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Computer Jargon

Computer jargon can be very confusing...and who has time to remember all the TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) and abbreviations we hear every day? So we’ve produced this computer jargon guide to simplify all the terms and abbreviations you’ll likely come across when searching for “anything” technical.

B

  • Bandwidth - Bandwidth is the speed at which data travels across a network connection when using the Internet for example. It’s normally measured in KB or MB per second – meaning the higher the number, the faster the connection.
  • Bit - The smallest measurement for digital information used in computing.
  • BlackBerry - A brand of hand-held smart phone that can send and receive e-mails, browse the Internet and make phone calls.
  • Blog - Short for web log, a website which is normally written by one person and deals with one particular subject. Many blogs take the form of a diary or a daily current affairs bulletin.
  • Bluetooth - A technology that allows the transfer of information between two or more devices (such as mobile phones and laptop computers) without the need for wires.
  • Broadband - A high-speed phone and Internet connection which allows you to browse the Internet and use your home phone at the same time.
  • Browser - A software program that allows the user to look at web pages and organize files. Popular browsers include Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari.
  • Burn - Slang term for making as in “burning a CD or DVD”. Information is burned onto a removable disc such as a CD. The recording device used is often referred to as a CD burner.
  • Byte - A unit which measures the size of data file. A byte usually consists of eight “bits”. 1024 bytes make up a kilobyte (KB), while 1024 KB make up 1 megabyte (MB).

C

  • Chat room - An Internet website where people can “chat” to each other in real time, most commonly text-based.
  • Clipboard - An area of temporary storage space on a Windows computer, used for storing data which has been copied or cut from a document or file, before it is copied into another document or file.
  • Compression - A method that reduces the size of digital data so that it can be downloaded or stored more quickly.
  • Console - An electronic machine designed for a specific purpose such as playing games. Normally connected to a monitor or a television.
  • Cookies - When you visit a website, it may choose to store information about you and your activities in a small file, a cookie, which is stored on your computer. Cookies allow the website to remember you when you next visit the site. They commonly contain login or registration information.

D

  • Desktop - The “virtual desk” on a computer that represents items you would find on a real desk such as documents, folders and an address book, as well as giving access to software applications.
  • Disc drive - Computer hardware which stores and recalls data on a disc. Different types of disc drive include “hard drives” (built in to the computer), “optical drives” (which play CDs, & DVDs) and “external drives” (such as Zip drives which attach externally to a computer).
  • Domain name - A domain name is a uniform resource locator. The domain name is used in web addresses and usually identifies both the name of the holder, and its type or location.
  • Download - To transfer a file from one computer or disk to another computer, most commonly using the Internet. It is also used to describe moving images from a phone or camera to a computer.

E

  • E-commerce - Short for electronic commerce, this refers to buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet.
  • E-mail - Short for electronic mail. A way of writing, sending and receiving messages over an electronic communication system. Also describes a message that uses this system.
  • Encrypt - To “scramble” the data within a file so that only those who have the digital key or password can view it.

F

  • File - A collection of information that is stored within a computer system. Files can contain many different types of information, including pictures, music, documents and web pages.
  • Firewall - A hardware or software system that acts as a security device and limits access between two or more computer networks. A firewall is typically used to stop computer hackers getting into a company’s computer system.
  • Folder - An electronic “container” which that allows you to store files, making it easier to organize the information on a computer.

G

  • GB - A gigabyte (GB) is a unit which measures file sizes. 1024 megabytes (MB) make up one GB. The capacity of a hard drive is commonly measured in GB.
  • Gif - Stands for Graphic Interchange Format. A Gif is a low-quality graphics file that is limited to 256 colors. Gif files are very common on websites, due to their small file size.

H

  • Hardware - The opposite of software, hardware refers to physical computer or phone equipment such as a monitor or a disc drive.

I

  • Intranet - This term is mainly used to describe an internal website – that is, one only available to people who are part of an organization or company. In other words, it is a private Internet.
  • ISDN - Short for Integrated Services Digital Network. A type of phone network system which allows faster and better quality transmission than normal phone systems.
  • ISP - Short for Internet Service Provider. An ISP is the name of the company who provides your broadband or dial-up Internet connection.

J

  • Java - A computer programming language which works on all computer platforms and is designed mainly to allow users to interact with web pages. It should not be confused with JavaScript.
  • JavaScript - A series of programming codes designed by Netscape, which add functions and effects to web pages.
  • JPEG - Stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. A JPEG is a picture file that is compressed to make the file smaller, so that it can be transmitted across the Internet more quickly.

K

  • Keyboard - Controls the operation of a computer, as well as allowing a user to type letters and numbers. The most popular type of keyboard is known as “QWERTY” due to the arrangement of its letter keys.
  • KB - A kilobyte (KB) is a unit which measures file sizes. 1024 bytes make up one KB, while 1024 KB make up one megabyte (MB).

L

  • Laptop - A portable computer so-called as it can be used while balanced on the user’s lap. Sometimes called a notebook.

M

  • MB - A megabyte (MB) is a unit which measures file sizes. 1024 kilobytes makes up one MB, while 1024 MB make up one GB.
  • Memory - Often referred to as RAM, this describes the area that a computer uses to run programs and hold data. A computer with a high amount of RAM in its memory will be able to access this information more quickly than one with a small amount.
  • Modem - A device that allows one computer to connect to another using a phone line. It is most often used to connect a computer to the Internet.
  • Monitor - An electronic device, similar to a television that displays information from a computer or games console.
  • Mouse - A hand-controlled pointing device attached to a computer to enable the user to operate certain tasks. Its pointer onscreen is often referred to as a cursor.
  • MP3 - A popular compressed multimedia file type used for music (audio) files, particularly for distribution over the Internet. This is the file type used by MP3 players such as Apple’s iPod.
  • MP4 - A compressed multimedia file type used particularly for moving picture and music (audio) files.
  • Multimedia - This term describes something which combines data, images and sound. For example, a conference presentation containing video clips might be referred to as a “multimedia presentation”.

N

  • Network - A network is created when two or more computers are connected together.

P

  • Palmtop - A small computer designed to fit in a user’s hand. Generally used as a personal organizer but increasingly capable of sending e-mails, browsing the Internet and performing other complex tasks.
  • PDF - Short for Portable Document Format, a PDF is used to display a document as it was intended to be displayed, as it will look the same regardless of the type of computer it is displayed on.
  • Pixel - Short for Picture Element, a pixel is the smallest part of a digital image which can be displayed on a computer screen. A digital picture can consist of millions of pixels. A monitor’s screen resolution size is also measured in pixels.
  • Proxy server - A server that is located between two servers, usually to increase performance or security, or both. It processes tasks rather like a phone switchboard operator does, passing them to another server if it cannot process them.
  • PS2 - Short for PlayStation 2. A popular games console made by Sony which can also be used to play DVDs and CDs.

R

  • RAM - (Random Access Memory). This describes the area that a computer uses to run programs and in layman's terms is simply called “memory”. A computer with a high amount of RAM will be able to run more programs at once and run them faster than a computer with less RAM.
  • Resolution - Refers to the level of detail of a screen or an image. The higher the resolution, the better quality of picture.

S

  • Screensaver - Originally designed to preserve the quality of a computer monitor, a screensaver is an image or pattern which comes on screen when a computer is not being used, either for entertainment or security purposes.
  • Scroll - Moving content within a display “window” on a computer screen.
  • Search engine - A search engine is Internet software which catalogues websites in a database so that computer users can look up things on the Internet. The most well-known search engine is Google.
  • Server - A computer which provides services or software to other computers within a network.
  • Shortcut - A file that contains a link to another file or program, or a button which performs a task when pressed. Shortcuts are usually represented by a small picture or logo.
  • Software - The opposite of hardware, software generally refers to computer programs and applications. Microsoft Windows is an example of software.
  • Spam - Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail – unsolicited and usually commercial e-mail messages.
  • Spyware - Malicious software applications that install themselves on a computer without the user’s knowledge, particularly while connected to the Internet. They then record information about the activity on that computer, or worse, let someone else take control of the computer from another location.

T

  • Taskbar - A taskbar is a central computer application that enables the user to access and monitor programs and files quickly.
  • Toolbar - A block or bar of buttons which perform certain tasks within a computer program when pressed.
  • Trojan Horse - A malicious program that usually installs itself onto a computer without the user’s knowledge and can cause a great deal of damage. Trojan Horses are often attached to legitimate programs received on an e-mail and, once activated, can allow other people to gain access to the files on the infected computer.
  • TIFF file - Short for Tagged Image File Format. A type of picture file that is of very high quality. It is often further shortened to TIF.

U

  • Upload - To transfer a file from one computer or disk to another computer, most commonly using the Internet. See also download.

V

  • Virus - A virus is a program or piece of programming code that “infects” a computer without the user knowing, and can cause a wide range of problems. A constantly evolving threat, viruses are most often spread using e-mail.
  • Virus protector - Software which protects a computer from viruses, which can be harmful, by automatically removing them from the system.

W

  • Wallpaper - Usually describes the picture used as a background for a computer’s desktop.
  • WAP - Short for Wireless Application Protocol. A technology that allows users to access information, e-mail and some Internet content using wireless devices such as mobile phones and pagers.
  • WAV file - Short for waveform. A digital sound file format, developed for Microsoft Windows, which stores audio as a waveform.
  • Webcam - A digital video camera attached to a computer, which is designed for broadcasting live or recorded pictures over the Internet.
  • Wireless - A method of communication that uses radio waves instead of wires to transfer information between two or more devices. For instance, a mobile phone might transfer data to a laptop computer using a wireless connection such as Bluetooth.

X

  • XBOX360 - A popular games console made by Microsoft which has its own hard drive, as well as being able to play DVDs and CDs.

Z

  • Zip - To zip a file means to compress it so that it takes up less space on a disk, particularly to allow quicker transfer over the Internet.
  • Zip drive - A disc drive which plays or records a Zip disk.

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