application & app
An application (often called "app" for
short) is simply a program with a GUI. Note that it is different from an
Starting up an OS is booting it. If the computer
already running, it is more often called rebooting.
A browser is a program used to browse the web. S
common browsers include Netscape, MSIE (Microsoft Internet Explorer), Safar
Lynx, Mosaic, Amaya, Arena, Chimera, Opera, Cyberdog, HotJava, etc.
A bug is a mistake in the design of something, e
software. A really severe bug can cause something to crash.
Chatting is like e-mail, only it is done
instantaneously and can directly involve multiple people at once. While e-m
now relies on one more or less standard protocol, chatting still has a coup
competing ones. Of particular note are IRC and Instant Messenger. One step
beyond chatting is called MUDding.
To press a mouse button. When done twice in rapid
succession, it is referred to as a double-click.
A point of attention on the computer screen, oft
marked with a flashing line or block. Text typed into the computer will usu
appear at the cursor.
A database is a collection of data, typically
organized to make common retrievals easy and efficient. Some common database
programs include Oracle, Sybase, Postgres, Informix, Filemaker, Adabas, etc
A desktop system is a computer designed to sit in
one position on a desk somewhere and not move around. Most general purpose
computers are desktop systems. Calling a system a desktop implies nothing a
its platform. The fastest desktop system at any given time is typically eit
an Alpha or PowerPC based system, but the SPARC and PA-RISC based systems a
also often in the running. Industrial strength desktops are typically called
Also called "folder", a directory is a
collection of files typically created for organizational purposes. Note tha
directory is itself a file, so a directory can generally contain other
directories. It differs in this way from a partition.
A disk is a physical object used for storing dat
It will not forget its data when it loses power. It is always used in
conjunction with a disk drive. Some disks can be removed from their drives,
some cannot. Generally it is possible to write new information to a disk in
addition to reading data from it, but this is not always the case.
A device for storing and/or retrieving data. Some
drives (such as disk drives, zip drives, and tape drives) are typically cap
of having new data written to them, but some others (like CD-ROMs or DVD-RO
are not. Some drives have random access (like disk drives, zip drives, CD-R
and DVD-ROMs), while others only have sequential access (like tape drives).
The concept behind an e-book is that it should
provide all the functionality of an ordinary book but in a manner that is
(overall) less expensive and more environmentally friendly. The actual term
e-book is somewhat confusingly used to refer to a variety of things: custom
software to play e-book titles, dedicated hardware to play e-book titles, a
the e-book titles themselves. Individual e-book titles can be free or
commercial (but will always be less expensive than their printed counterpar
and have to be loaded into a player to be read. Players vary wildly in
capability level. Basic ones allow simple reading and bookmarking; better o
include various features like hypertext, illustrations, audio, and even lim
video. Other optional features allow the user to mark-up sections of text,
leave notes, circle or diagram things, highlight passages, program or custo
settings, and even use interactive fiction. There are many types of e-book;
couple popular ones include the Newton
book and Palm DOC.
E-mail is short for electronic mail. It allows f
the transfer of information from one computer to another, provided that they
are hooked up via some sort of network (often the Internet. E-mail works
similarly to FAXing, but its contents typically get printed out on the other
end only on demand, not immediately and automatically as with FAX. A machine
receiving e-mail will also not reject other incoming mail messages as a busy
FAX machine will; rather they will instead be queued up to be received after
the current batch has been completed. E-mail is only seven-bit clean, meani
that you should not expect anything other than ASCII data to go through
uncorrupted without prior conversion via something like uucode or bcode. So
mailers will do some conversion automatically, but unless you know your mai
is one of them, you may want to do the encoding manually.
A file is a unit of (usually named) information
stored on a computer.
Sort of in-between hardware and software, firmwa
of modifiable programs embedded in hardware. Firmware updates should be tre
with care since they can literally destroy the underlying hardare if done
improperly. There are also cases where neglecting to apply a firmware update
can destroy the underlying hardware, so user beware.
An extremely common type of removable disk. Flop
do not hold too much data, but most computers are capable of reading them.
though that there are different competing format used for floppies, so that
written by one type of computer might not directly work on another. Also
sometimes called "diskette".
The manner in which data is stored; its
organization. For example, VHS, SVHS, and Beta are three different formats
video tape. They are not 100% compatible with each other, but information c
be transferred from one to the other with the proper equipment (but not alw
without loss; SVHS contains more information than either of the other two).
Computer information can be stored in literally hundreds of different forma
and can represent text, sounds, graphics, animations, etc. Computer informa
can be exchanged via different computer types provided both computers can
interpret the format used.
On a computer keyboard, the keys that start with
"F" that are usually (but not always) found on the top row. They
meant to perform user-defined tasks.
Anything visually displayed on a computer that is
The physical portion of the computer.
A hypertext document is like a text document with
the ability to contain pointers to other regions of (possibly other) hypert
The Internet is the world-wide network of comput
There is only one Internet, and thus it is typically capitalized (although
is sometimes referred to as "the 'net"). It is different from an
A keyboard on a computer is almost identical to a
keyboard on a typewriter. Computer keyboards will typically have extra keys,
however. Some of these keys (common examples include Control, Alt, and Meta) are meant to be used in conjunction with othe
just like shift on a regular typewriter. Other keys (common examples include
Insert, Delete, Home, End, Help, function keys,etc.) are meant to be used
independently and often perform editing tasks. Keyboards on different platf
will often look slightly different and have somewhat different collections
keys. Some keyboards even have independent shift lock and caps lock keys.
Smaller keyboards with only math-related keys are typically called
Computer programs can be written in a variety of
different languages. Different languages are optimized for different tasks.
Common languages include Java, C, C++, ForTran, Pascal, Lisp, and BASIC. So
people classify languages into two categories, higher-level and lower-level.
These people would consider assembly language and machine language lower-le
languages and all other languages higher-level. In general, higher-level
languages can be either interpreted or compiled; many languages allow both,
some are restricted to one or the other. Many people do not consider machine
language and assembly language at all when talking about programming languages.
A laptop is any computer designed to do pretty m
anything a desktop system can do but run for a short time (usually two to f
hours) on batteries. They are designed to be carried around but are not
particularly convenient to carry around. They are significantly more expens
than desktop systems and have far worse battery life than PDAs. Calling a
system a laptop implies nothing about its platform. By far the fastest lapt
are the PowerPC based Macintoshes.
Computer memory is used to temporarily store dat
In reality, computer memory is only capable of remembering sequences of zer
and ones, but by utilizing the binary number system it is possible to produ
arbitrary rational numbers and through clever formatting all manner of
representations of pictures, sounds, and animations. The most common types
memory are RAM, ROM, and flash.
MHz & megahertz
One megahertz is equivalent to 1000 kilohertz, or
1,000,000 hertz. The clock speed of the main processor of many computers is
measured in MHz, and is sometimes (quite misleadingly) used to represent the
overall speed of a computer. In fact, a computer's speed is based upon many
factors, and since MHz only reveals how many clock cycles the main processor
has per second (saying nothing about how much is actually accomplished per
cycle), it can really only accurately be used to gauge two computers with t
same generation and family of processor plus similar configurations of memo
co-processors, and other peripheral hardware.
A modem allows two computers to communicate over
ordinary phone lines. It derives its name from modulate / demodulate, the
process by which it converts digital computer data back and forth for use w
an analog phone line.
The screen for viewing computer information is
called a monitor.
In computer parlance a mouse can be both the
physical object moved around to control a pointer on the screen, and the
pointer itself. Unlike the animal, the proper plural of computer mouse is
This originally indicated a capability to work w
and integrate various types of things including audio, still graphics, and
especially video. Now it is more of a marketing term and has little real
meaning. Historically the Amiga was the first multimedia machine. Today in
addition to AmigaOS, IRIX and Solaris are popular choices for high-end
The term network computer refers to any (usually
desktop) computer system that is designed to work as part of a network rath
than as a stand-alone machine. This saves money on hardware, software, and
maintenance by taking advantage of facilities already available on the netw
The term "Internet appliance" is often used interchangeably with
A network (as applied to computers) typically me
a group of computers working together. It can also refer to the physical wi
etc. connecting the computers.
A notebook is a small laptop with similar price,
performance, and battery life.
An organizer is a tiny computer used primarily to
store names, addresses, phone numbers, and date book information. They usua
have some ability to exchange information with desktop systems. They boast
better battery life than PDAs but are far less capable. They are extremely
but are typically incapable of running any special purpose applications and
thus of limited use.
The operating system is the program that manages
computer's resources. Common OSes include Windows '95, MacOS, Linux, Solari
AmigaOS, AIX, Windows NT, etc.
The term personal computer properly refers to any
desktop, laptop, or notebook computer system. Its use is inconsistent, thou
and some use it to specifically refer to x86 based systems running MS-DOS,
MS-Windows, GEOS, or OS/2. This latter use is similar to what is meant by a
A personal digital assistant is a small
battery-powered computer intended to be carried around by the user rather t
left on a desk. This means that the processor used ought to be power-effici
as well as fast, and the OS ought to be optimized for hand-held use. PDAs
typically have an instant-on feature (they would be useless without it) and
most are grayscale rather than color because of battery life issues. Most h
a pen interface and come with a detachable stylus. None use mouses. All have
some ability to exchange data with desktop systems. In terms of raw
capabilities, a PDA is more capable than an organizer and less capable than
laptop (although some high-end PDAs beat out some low-end laptops). By far
most popular PDA is the Pilot, but other common types include Newtons, Psions, Zauri, Zoomers, and Wi
CE hand-helds. By far the fastest current PDA is the
Newton (based around a StrongARM RISC
processor). Other PDAs are optimized for other tasks; few computers are as
personal as PDAs and care must be taken in their purchase. Feneric's PDA /
Handheld Comparison Page is perhaps the most detailed comparison of PDAs and
handheld computers to be found anywhere on the web.
Roughly speaking, a platform represents a comput
family. It is defined by both the processor type on the hardware side and t
OS type on the software side. Computers belonging to different platforms ca
typically run each other's programs (unless the programs are written in a
language like Java).
If something is portable it can be easily moved
one type of computer to another. The verb "to port" indicates the
A printer is a piece of hardware that will print
computer information onto paper.
The processor (also called central processing un
or CPU) is the part of the computer that actually works with the data and r
the programs. There are two main processor types in common usage today: CISC
and RISC. Some computers have more than one processor and are thus called
"multiprocessor". This is distinct from multitasking. Advertisers
often use megahertz numbers as a means of showing a processor's speed. This
often extremely misleading; megahertz numbers are more or less meaningless
compared across different types of processors.
A program is a series of instructions for a
computer, telling it what to do or how to behave. The terms
"application" and "app" mean almost the same thing (alb
applications generally have GUIs). It is however different from an applet.
Program is also the verb that means to create a program, and a programmer is
one who programs.
Running a program is how it is made to do someth
The term "execute" means the same thing.
The non-physical portion of the computer; the pa
that exists only as data; the programs. Another term meaning much the same
An program used to perform various calculations.
is especially popular for financial applications. Some common spreadsheets
include Lotus 123, Excel, OpenOffice Spreadsheet, Octave, Gnumeric, AppleWo
Spreadsheet, Oleo, and GeoCalc.
The operator of a computer.
A program designed to help with the production of
textual documents, like letters and memos. Heavier duty work can be done wi
desktop publisher. Some common word processors include MS-Word, OpenOffice
Write, WordPerfect, AbiWord, AppleWorks Write, and GeoWrite.
The World-Wide-Web refers more or less to all the
publically accessable documents on the Internet. It is used quite loosely,
sometimes indicates only HTML files and sometimes FTP and Gopher files, too
is also sometimes just referred to as "the web".
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