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Computers & Networking Glossary


Wireless networking standard that comes in three versions:

802.11a: Transmits data up to 54 Mbps using the 5GHz band.

802.11b: Transmits data up to 11 Mbps using the 2.4GHz band.

802.11g: Transmits data up to 20 Mbps using the 2.4GHz band.
Backward-compatible with 802.11b.
Access point

Hub that allows users to wirelessly connect to a network.

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line: Type of DSL used in North America that allows download rates up to 8Mbps and upload rates up to 1Mbps.

Free software supported by advertisements.

Accelerated Graphics Port: Bus standard for connecting a single graphics card directly to the motherboard. It feeds graphics directly into RAM for faster performance and is used to support 3D graphics.
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All-in-one printer

Printer that can copy, scan, and fax. Also called multifunction printers.
All-in-one system

Computer that has components integrated into its monitor.

Advanced Micro Devices: Makers of Athlon and Sempron processors.

America Online: Division of Time Warner that operates as an ISP and online content provider.
Apple Computer

Company founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Makers of Apple desktops, laptops, Mac operating system, iPod MP3 player, and iLife applications.
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Type of software designed to be used by people. Applications run on top of the operating system and utilities.

Advanced Technology Attachment: Standard for drives that include a controller. It supports one or two hard drives and has a 16-bit interface. Also called IDE and parallel ATA. ATA/100 offers data transfer rates up to 100MBps.

AMD's line of processors for PCs and laptops.
Backward compatible

A product's ability to work with earlier models or versions of itself.

Basic Input/Output System: Code stored on a ROM chip or in flash memory that loads the operating system and tells a computer how to operate hardware, particularly the keyboard and monitor.
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Binary Unit: Smallest unit of digital information that can hold a 1 or a 0.

Short-range wireless networking that works up to 30 feet.

Wire or cable that carries several channels of data at once.

Drive used to write information to a CD or DVD with a laser.

Wires that transmit data from one part of a computer to another, allowing components to communicate with the CPU and RAM. A 16-bit bus can transmit 16 bits of data at one time while a 32-bit bus can transmit 32 bits of data at a time. Faster buses have faster clock speeds.
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Binary Term: Single unit of storage that can hold one character.

Insulated electrical conductors twisted around a central core. Also used to describe broadband cable television and Internet service providers.
Cable lock

Lock that fits into a laptop's security slot.

Storage area that makes data available for quick access. The term can apply to an area of memory that retains recently-accessed data or to a place on your hard drive where your browser stores information from recently-viewed webpages.

Box that houses a computer's internal components including the motherboard, hard drive, power supply, fan, and drives. It should include jacks for common connections such as USB, IEEE 1394, and headphones.
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Cat5 cable

Category 5 Cable: Networking cable used to connect a computer to a LAN. It supports data transfer rates up to 1000 Mbps.

Compact Disc: Polycarbonate and metal storage media. The term is also used to describe a read-only CD that contains music.

Compact Disk-Recordable: CD media used for read-only audio CDs and CD-ROMs. A burner can only write to CD-R media once.

Compact Disc-Read-Only Memory: Read-only CD media that can store up to 1GB of data.

Compact Disk -ReWritable: CD media used for data storage. A burner can write to CD-RW media multiple times.
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Intel's line of budget processors for PCs and laptops.
Centrino Mobile Technology

Intel technology for notebooks that includes a power-efficient Pentium-M processor and built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.
Clean install

Process of installing an operating system on a hard drive that does not already have an OS or upgrading an existing OS without carrying over existing data and settings.
Clock speed

Processor or bus speed measured in MHz or GHz. Processor clock speed determines how many instructions the CPU can execute per second. Higher speeds offer better performance.

Parts that make up a computer or device.
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Items used by a printer such as ink cartridges, toner, and paper.

Device that controls data transfer to and from drives and other peripherals.

Central Processing Unit: Chip in a computer that executes instructions. Also called the processor.
Crossover cable

Cable that can directly connect two computers over their communications ports.

Cathode Ray Tube: Vacuum tube that creates pictures by scanning an electron beam back and forth across a phosphor-coated screen. Also used in traditional television displays.
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A piece of digital information, often with special formatting that allows one computer to share data with another computer.
Data transfer rate

Measurement in megabits or megabytes per second of how fast data can move from one device to another. 1 Mbps equals 1,000,000 bits per second and 1 MBps equals 1,000,000 bytes per second.

Case designed to sit horizontally on a desk, usually under a monitor. Also a term used to describe computers with a desktop or tower PC case design.
Docking station

Device that remains on a desk and attaches to a laptop. The docking station contains common ports for connecting peripherals, slots for expansion cards, and some have hot swap bays that let you attach additional storage.

Device that connects to a computer and controls access to certain software. Also used to describe a jack wired to an Ethernet or telephone cable.
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Dots per Inch: Measurement of resolution that represents the number of ink or toner dots a printer can fit on one inch of a printed page. Higher DPI indicates higher resolution and higher print quality.

Device that reads data from and writes data to a physical disk.

Small program that takes general commands from full programs and tells devices, such as keyboards, what to do.

Digital Rights Management: Practice of encrypting data or marking it with a digital watermark to prevent illegal copying and distribution.

Digital Subscriber Line: Technology that transfers data from a telephone switching station to a house or office over copper wire.
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Dual boot

System that can start up to one of two different operating systems.
Dual processors

System that has two identical processors on the motherboard. Each processor takes turns working with data and requesting information from RAM and the hard drive. Software needs to be optimized for dual processing and users need to run several tasks simultaneously to see improved performance.

Budget processor from AMD that was discontinued in 2004 and replaced with the Sempron.

Digital Versatile Disc: Storage media that holds movies and other data. Storage capacity starts at 4.7GB.

Recordable DVD format supported by Dell, HP, Philips, Sony, Ricoh, and Yamaha that permanently writes data to a disc once.
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Recordable DVD format supported by Dell, HP, Philips, Sony, Ricoh, and Yamaha that can erase and write data to a disc multiple times.

Drive that can write to DVD+RW and DVD-RW media.

Recordable DVD format supported by Apple, Hitachi, NEC, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba that permanently writes data to a disc once.

Read-only DVD format.

Recordable DVD format supported by Apple, Hitachi, NEC, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba that can erase and write data to a disc multiple times.
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Digital Visual Interface: Standard that converts analog signals to digital signals.

Enhanced IDE: Version of the IDE standard that supports data transfer rates up to 16.6MBps. It was developed by Western Digital and is also called ATA-2 and Fast ATA.

All-in-one computer from Apple that includes a CRT screen and basic applications.

Process of protecting data with a secret code that can be decoded with a password.

LAN standard with data transfer rates up to 10Mbps. Fast Ethernet (100Base-T) supports data transfer rates up to 100Mbps.
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End User License Agreement: Agreement with a company that specifies terms and conditions of how you can use its software.

File Allocation Table 32-bit: Hard drive file system used by Windows 98, ME, 2000, and XP.

Device or software that accepts, modifies, and outputs a processed signal or data.

Hardware or software that stops unauthorized users from accessing a network.

Apple's name for the IEEE 1394 high-speed external bus standard with data transfer rates up to 400Mbps.
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Flat panel

Thin display. Name for LCD monitors.
Floppy drive

Type of drive that writes data to small portable disks (floppy disks or floppies). Floppies have a maximum storage capacity of 1.44MB.

Front Side Bus: Bus that transfers data from the CPU to devices.

Point where two or more networks connect.

Gigabyte: Data storage measurement. One gigabyte equals 1,024 megabytes.
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Gigahertz: Measurement of speed. One GHz equals one billion cycles per second. It is used to measure clock speed.
Graphics card

Dedicated card or section of the motherboard dedicated to processing images. Also called a video card.

Graphical User Interface: Program that allows a person to interact with a computer using icons and menus instead of typing a set of commands.
Hard drive

Storage device that holds your operating system, programs, and other data. Storage capacity is measured in GB, with higher numbers allowing you to save more data than a drive with a lower storage capacity.

Physical computer components and devices.
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CPU component designed to dissipate heat. Some work with the help of a fan.
Hot swap

Ability to replace or add a device while a computer is running. The operating system will recognize the new device without rebooting.

Wi-Fi access point available for public use.

Device that contains ports and connects segments of a LAN.
Hyperthreading (HT)

Intel technology that allows processors in the 3GHz and faster range work on two separate threads of data at the same time. Software needs to be optimized for hyperthreading in order for users to see improved performance.
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Integrated Drive Electronics: Drive that includes a controller. Used to describe the ATA standard.
IEEE 1394

High speed external bus standard with data transfer rates up to 400Mbps.

Apple's software suite that includes DVD mastering software (iDVD), a video editor (iMovie), photo editor (iPhoto), and sound editor (GarageBand).
Ink-jet printer

Printer that uses dots of ink to create text and images.

Process of adding hardware or software to a computer and configuring it so that it will work.
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Company founded by Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore in 1968 that makes Pentium, Celeron, and Xeon processors.

Infrared Data Association: Port that allows two devices to share data over infrared light waves if they're a few feet apart. The devices must have a clear line of sight.

Internet Service Provider: Company that provides computers with access to the Internet for a fee.

Central part of an operating system that manages memory, system tasks, processes, and the hard drive.
KVM switch

Keyboard, Video, Mouse: Device that allows two computers to share one monitor, mouse, and keyboard.
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Local Area Network: Relatively small network in a building or several buildings. Computers on the network can access shared data and peripherals.

Small and mobile personal computer. Also called a notebook.
Laser printer

Printer that uses heat and pressure to transfer toner to paper.

Liquid Crystal Display: Display technology that works by shining light through pixel cells to produce an image.

Operating system now known as Linspire
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Low-cost commercial operating system based on Linux. It features a GUI similar to Windows and was called Lindows until April 2004. Linspire users can subscribe to the CNR Service to download software designed for use with the operating system.

Open-source operating system that can run on a variety of platforms, including PC and Mac.
Mac OS

Operating system used by Apple computers.

Megabyte: Data storage measurement. One megabyte equals 1,048,576 bytes.

Megahertz: Measurement of speed. One MHz equals one million cycles per second. It is used to measure clock speed.
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Company founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975. Makers of the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office.
Microsoft Office

Microsoft's suite of productivity software. It includes a word processing program (Word), spreadsheet program (Excel), presentation program (PowerPoint), and email manager (Outlook). Some versions may also include a database program (Access), website builder (FrontPage), Web conferencing software (Live Meeting), desktop publishing software (Publisher), or business management software (Visio).
Microsoft Works

Microsoft's basic word processing and spreadsheet software. The full suite includes an image editor, personal financial management software (Money), and Encarta encyclopedia.
Minimum system requirements

System requirements your computer has to meet in order to install hardware or software.

Abbreviation for motherboard.
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Modulator-Demodulator: Device that converts analog signals from a telephone line into digital information your computer can recognize.

Main circuit board of a computer that holds the CPU, RAM, BIOS, and ports. It also has controllers for the hard drive, burners, monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
Multifunction printer

Printer that can also copy, scan, and fax. Also called All-in-one printers.

Network-Attached Storage: Storage device that acts as a file server and contains several hard drives. Additional storage can be added without taking network servers offline.

Series of two or more interconnected computers.
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Small and mobile personal computer. Also called a laptop.

New Technology File System: Hard drive file system used by Windows XP. It can handle larger hard drives than FAT32 and offers security, compression, and data recovery features.

Optical Character Recognition: Type of software that converts image text into text a person can edit.

Original Equipment Manufacturer: Company that buys computers from a manufacturer, customizes them for an application, and sells them. The term is also used to describe software bundled with hardware or other software.
Open source

Programs that have their source code available to the public at no cost. People can use and modify the programs as they like.
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Operating system

Program that tells your computer how to run all other programs.
Optical drive

Drive that writes information with a laser to create read-only media such as a CD-ROM.

Abbreviation for operating system.

Segment of a hard drive that a computer recognizes as a separate drive.

Alphanumeric code needed to access secure information.
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Personal Computer: Computer that contains an Intel, AMD, or other comparable processor. It also offers a lot of component options.
PC tower

Case designed to sit upright on the floor.

Peripheral Component Interconnect: Bus standard developed by Intel for connecting devices to a computer's motherboard.
PCI Express

Local bus standard that offers faster speeds than PCI and AGP.

Personal Computer Memory Card International Association: Standard for attaching peripherals to a notebook computer.
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Intel's line of performance processors for PCs and laptops.

Hardware added to a computer, such as a burner or printer, that increases the number of things it can do.
Photo printer

Ink-jet printer that will print up to a page border, includes an LCD preview pane, and can read memory cards from digital cameras.

Picture Element: Single point in an image. You see a complete image when multiple pixels are put together.
Plug and play

Standard developed by Microsoft and Intel that allows a computer to automatically detect and configure a device.
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Interface on a computer where you can connect devices.
Port replicator

Device similar to a docking station that has common ports for connecting devices to a notebook computer.

Pages per Minute: Measurement of how many printed pages a printer can produce in one minute.
Print Server

Computer or device that manages print job requests from different computers on a network.

Chip in a computer that executes instructions. Also called the CPU.
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Series of instructions that tells your computer how to behave.

Interface standard for a mouse and keyboard.

Random Access Memory: Virtual storage area where active programs keep information. RAM can be accessed faster than slower hard drive memory, but information is removed from RAM when a program is closed. As RAM speeds increase, programs can access data faster, improving overall performance.
Recommended system requirements

System requirements your computer should meet in order to install hardware or software without impeding performance.

Database of Windows system configuration information.
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Image quality and clarity measured in pixels. Higher resolution offers a clearer picture.

Read Only Memory: Permanent memory that stores information critical to allowing your system or a device to work, including the program that boots your machine.

Device connected to two networks (such as a LAN and ISP) and forwards data along a network. Routers act as a hardware firewall and some include a built-in print server.

Revolutions per Minute: Measurement of how fast a drive can spin.

Serial ATA: Bus standard for creating a point-to-point connection with data transfer rates starting at 150MBps.
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Device that converts information on a piece of paper (or any object placed on the scanner bed) into a digital image.

Small Computer System Interface: Standard for transferring data between devices on a bus at up to 80MBps. You can attach multiple devices to a single SCSI port.

Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line: DSL used in some parts of Europe.

Budget processor manufactured by AMD. It replaced the Duron and competes with Intel's Celeron processor.
Serial port

Interface that transfers data one bit at a time.
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Computer dedicated to managing network resources such as shared files or programs that run on behalf of users.

Instructions or data that can be stored digitally.
Sound card

Card or section of the motherboard dedicated to processing audio information.

Software that secretly installs a program to track your computing habits and serve you ads.
Surge protector

Appliance that regulates the voltage of an electrical current powering a device.
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Swap file

Virtual memory that holds a cache of data on the hard drive. It supplements RAM and is sometimes called the page file.

Device that forwards or filters information between parts of a LAN.
System requirements

Specifications set by a manufacturer that your computer needs to meet in order to install and run hardware or software.
Tablet PC

Notebook that has a touch-sensitive LCD screen. Users input information with a stylus.
Tape drive

Peripheral device that writes data to magnetic tape, backing up a hard drive.
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Amount of data transferred from one place to another in a specified period of time. Also called data transfer rate.

Powder that is electrically charged to produce prints on copy machines and laser printers.

Touch-sensitive area of a laptop that allows a user to control a cursor.

Case designed to sit upright on the floor.

Peripheral pointing device similar to a mouse that has input buttons and a ball that a user can manipulate with his or her hands.
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Ultra DMA

Version of ATA that supports data transfer rates up to 33MBps. Also known as Ultra-ATA.

Small, flexible operating system that supports multiple users.

Uninterruptible Power Supply: Battery backup with enough power to keep a computer up and running long enough for a user to properly save data and shut down.

Universal Serial Bus: Standard protocol for transferring data to and from digital devices. USB 1.1 offers a data transfer rate of 12Mbps. USB 2.0 offers data transfer rates up to 480Mbps.

Program that handles a specific task, usually related to systems management.
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v.90 Modem

Standard 56k dialup modem.
v.92 Modem

56k dialup modem that can establish a connection faster than a v.90 and includes an on-hold feature.

Video Graphics Array: Image display standard that supports resolutions of 720x400 or 640x480. SVGA supports up to 800x600 resolution.
Video card

Dedicated card or section of the motherboard dedicated to processing images. Also called a graphics card.

Voice over Internet Protocol: Hardware and software used to make telephone calls over a broadband Internet connection. VoIP transfers packets of data instead of using traditional telephone circuits.
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Virtual Private Network: Standard for remotely accessing a LAN.

Wide Area Network: Network that covers a large geographical area, connecting several LANs.

Low-resolution camera that can be attached to a computer and, with the help of software, send images over the Internet.

Wireless Fidelity: Term used to describe 802.11 networking. An organization called the Wi-Fi Alliance tests and approves Wi-Fi Certified products.

Operating system created and distributed by Microsoft. Windows 95 was the first version of the OS to have a GUI.
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Transmit data over radio waves instead of using cables.

Wireless LAN.

Type of computer used for software development and other applications that require a lot of computing power and good graphics. Usually runs on a Unix or Windows NT-based operating system.

Intel processor designed for dual processor servers and workstations.
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