GRBJ's IT Translator

March 17, 2006
Text Size:
Let’s face it, for the vast majority of people, the computing and information technology world is as foreign as the programming languages used within it. Here are some of the basics.

ASP: Confusingly, can refer to Active Server Page or Application Service Provider. The first is a type of Web page used to display frequently changing information. These can be used to customize the content to the user by geography, etc. The second is a software-based service distributed by a third-party from a central location to customers in other locations. These offer companies inexpensive alternatives to information services.

Analog: The world as we know it: a continuous transmission of information to our senses. Digital information estimates analog data using ones and zeros. Analog is actually more accurate — hence the difference in sound between a turntable and CD player — but is difficult to transmit or manipulate.

Backbone: The main network lines that connect local area networks (LANstogether. The result is a wide area network (WANlinked by a backbone connection, comparable to the human nervous system.

BASIC: Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a once-simple computer programming language now used to create often advanced programs.

Bluetooth: A type of wireless technology that uses infrared radio waves to communicate between compatible devices.

Broadband: A ubiquitous term for high-speed Internet; refers to the ability of a single cable or wireless transmission to carry a large amount of data at once.

Byte: A set of eight bits that represent a single character in the computer’s memory, used to measure file sizes, hard disk space and computer memory. Larger amounts of data are measured in units such as megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes. For example, one kilobyte is equal to 1,024 bytes. A megabyte is 1,024 kilobytes. A gigabyte is 1,024 megabytes.

CAD: Computer-Aided Design, the standard for three-dimensional design.

Cookie: Data sent to a computer by a Web server that records its actions on a certain Web site. When the computer returns to that site, it loads certain pages according to the information stored in the cookie.

Database: A structure used to store organized information, typically made up of many linked tables of rows and columns. Used in nearly all e-commerce sites to store product inventory and customer information.

Defragment: When a large file is stored over deleted smaller files, the data is often “fragmented” to other parts of the hard drive, slowing the computer. This process reverses that effect.

Domain name: The name that identifies a Web site, such as

Download: The process by which information is sent to a computer; the opposite of upload, the process of transferring information from a computer.

DSL: Digital Subscriber Line, a form of broadband Internet using regular phone lines.

Encryption: The coding or scrambling of information so that it can only be read by someone with the correct decoding key.

Ethernet: The most common type of connection computers use in a local  area network (LAN). An ethernet port looks much like a phone jack, but is slightly wider. This port can be used to connect your computer to another computer, a local network, or an external DSL or cable modem.

Fiber-optic: Cable made up of super-thin filaments of glass or other transparent materials that can carry beams of light. Through these, data can be sent at the speed of light, using a laser transmitter that encodes digital information into pulses of light.

Flash: Web animation technology from Macromedia that allows Web developers to incorporate colorful animations with text, shapes and images into their Web pages. Since it doesn’t take up a lot of space, large animations can be downloaded relatively quickly.

HTML: Hyper-Text Markup Language, the language that Web pages are written in.

Internet: A “nuke-proof” communications network created in 1969 by the U.S. military. Today spreads across the globe and consists of countless networks and computers, allowing millions of people to share information. Commonly used features include the World Wide Web, e-mail, file transfer protocol and Instant Messaging

ISP: Internet service provider.

Java: A popular programming language developed by Sun Microsystems.

JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group, the name of the committee that developed this compressed image file format.

Kbps: Kilobits Per Second. Not to be confused with Kilobytes per second (which is eight times more data per second). Commonly used in describing data transfer rates and modem speeds, such as 33.6 Kbps and 56 Kbps.

Linux: An open-source operating system created by Linus Torvalds. Based on Unix, it is today used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Mbps: Megabits Per Second. One megabit is equal to one million bits or 1,000 kilobits. Used to measure data transfer speeds of broadband Internet connections.

MP3: MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3, the most popular compressed audio file format.

Moore’s Law: A theory that the complexity of a circuit doubles every 18 months.

Node: Any system or device connected to a network.

OS: Operating System, the software that communicates with computer hardware; without it, no programs can run. It allocates memory, processes tasks, accesses disks and serves as the user interface.

P2P: Peer to Peer. In this network, the “peers” are computer systems connected to each other via the Internet. Files can be shared directly between systems on the network without the need of a central server.

Packet: A small amount of computer data sent over a network. When information arrives at a computer via the Internet, it does so as many little packets.

PDF: Portable Document Format. Developed by Adobe Systems, a PDF file captures document text, fonts, images, and even formatting of documents from a variety of applications.

Portal: A Web site that acts as a starting point for browsing the Web.

Proxy server: A server that all computers on a local network have to go through before accessing information on the Internet.

RAM: Random Access Memory, small memory chips connected to the main circuit board, or motherboardof a computer. Essentially a staging point from which data are read from the hard drive, running programs from the RAM allows computers to function without any lag time. Generally, the more RAM a computer has, the faster it is.

ROM: Read-Only Memory, containing hardwired instructions that the computer uses when it boots up.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization.

T1: A system that transfers digital signals at 1.544 megabits per second (a bit faster than a 56K modem, which maxes out at around 0.056 Mbps). Because of its large bandwidth, hundreds of people can access the Internet from one line.

T3: 30 times faster than a T1.

Thin client: Sometimes referred to as network computers, these function as regular PCs, but without hard drives or other unnecessary features. With no software, they serve only to run programs and access data from the server.

UNIX: An operating system created in Bell Labs in the 1960s, today the most common OS for Web servers.

URL: Uniform Resource Locator. It is the address of a specific Web site or file on the Internet.

USB: Universal Serial Bus, the most common type of computer port used in today’s computers. With the help of a few USB hubs, up to 127 devices can be connected to a single port, and theoretically, all used at once.

Wi-Fi: Wireless Fidelity refers to wireless network components that are based on one of the Wi-Fi Alliance’s 802.11 standards.

Source: The Sharpened Glossary,            

Recent Articles by Daniel Schoonmaker

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus