Application: Application is another term for software program; basically a program you use on a computer, like Word, TurboTax, Outlook, etc.
Bandwidth: A measurement of a data line's transmission speed, or the amount of data a network can transfer from one computer to another in a given amount of time.
BIOS: Basic Input/Output System. This term is used to refer to ROM BIOS chip inside the computer. This chip starts and manages the computer bootup process.
Bootstrap Loader: A small program that manages a computer boot up process until the operating system can take over. The bootstrap loader’s only job is to load other software, usually in a sort of sequential chain up to the point when the operating system can get loaded into memory and start. The name "bootstrap loader" comes from the idea that the computer is pulling itself up by its "bootstraps".
Broadband: A bandwidth term that means a data line that will allow large amounts of data to be transferred very quickly. Basically a broadband line will be much, much faster than an old dial-up line.
Burn: To “burn” a CD or DVD means to write data files to it using a special piece of hardware.
Bus: A collection of (usually copper) wires through which data is transmitted from one part of a computer to another. You can think of a bus as a "highway" on which data travels within a computer.
Cable vs DSL: Cable and DSL are types of broadband data lines. Cable internet access uses the same lines that bring cable television cable to your house, and DSL (Which stands for Digital Subscriber Line) is a type of high speed data compression which runs over plain old telephone service (POTS) lines.
CMOS: A type of computer chip which is able to operate with a very small amount of electricity from a battery. The term also refers to the contents of a CMOS chip within the computer, which holds information about the computer boot devices, the date and time and its peripherals even while the system is turned off.
Computer Resource: This is a general computer terminology for the components that comprise the processing flow of a computer, including the memory, CPU, etc. You might hear someone say "this program is a resource hog", meaning it takes up a lot of the computer processing ability, and might make the computer run slower overall.
CPU: This stands for Central Processing Unit, and it can mean the box that holds the guts of the computer, or the processor “brain” of the computer. The CPU is the place where all the computer calculations happen.
CPU Sink: CPUs heat up as they work. A CPU sink is a mechanism to keep the CPU cool while it does its calculations. It usually consists of a cooling fan and an aluminum heat sink which draws the heat away the CPU chip.
Defrag: Computers write information to a hard drive by filling in open places on the drive. They don’t write files all in one big block, which means your Word document might be spread out all over your hard drive.
To defrag your computer means to basically rearrange the files on your computer’s hard drive so that file parts are closer together. Once rearranged, the computer will take less time to access the files. Defragging is usually recommended to speed up a slow computer.
Hard Drive: This is the central storage space for your computer. Almost always, the hard drive is designated as C: drive. If the drive is partitioned (i.e., split up into different sections), there might also be a D: drive.
IP address: IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are assigned to each and every computer on a TCP/IP network. They work like your home address. Mail or any other package could not get to you if you
had no address. IP addresses basically insure that data on a network goes where it is supposed to go. IP addresses look something like this: 192.168.1.25.
ISP: Internet Service Provider: This would be the company that provides your internet access.
Malware: a general term for any malicious piece of software, such as a virus, worm, or trojan.
Mother Board: The green board inside of a computer that allows all of the internal computer components to interact. Some would call it the "heart" of the computer. It routes data to and from all the other parts, including the CPU chip, the RAM, the power supply, etc.
Network Interface Card (NIC): This is a part of the computer that allows it to talk to other computers (aka, a network) via a network “protocol” or language like TCP/IP.
Operating system: This is the basic software that a computer runs on. Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, Unix, and Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard are all operating systems.
Peripherals: This is a general term for computer add-ons like printers, mice, keyboards, scanners, monitor, etc..
POST: This stands for Power On Self Test. When you first turn on a computer, it checks to make sure all its parts are working; it makes sure a keyboard is attached, that memory loads, and that in general, its hardware is working and ready to load the operating system. This test is called the POST.
Processor chip (or just processor): This is the brain of the computer. You’ve probably heard the commercials for the "Intel" chip or the "Xeon" chip. They are talking about the "brain" of the computer, which does all the calculations and task processing.
RAM: this stands for Random Access Memory and is used generically as “memory”. This is the memory on a computer that allows you to hold and run a program so that you work with it on the monitor. More RAM is better. At the risk of repeating myself, RAM is dependent on electricity, meaning it is cleared or reset when the computer's power is turned off.
So when your computer loses power or freezes up while you are writing an unsaved document, the document is lost. Train yourself to remember to press Control + S to save your documents when you are working on them. Saving them writes them to the hard drive where they will stay when the computer is turned off.
ROM: Read Only Memory. Usually seen in conjunction with BIOS, as in ROM BIOS. Usually a chip onto which the information is permanently burned. Also denotes memory that can be accessed and read, but not written to.
Routine: A series of instructions written to complete a specific but
limited computing task.
TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol. These are the basic data transmission protocols on which the internet and most commercial networks run.
Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS): A constantly charging battery which will act as a fail safe if the electricity shuts down while you are using your computer. In the event of a total power failure, a UPS usually has just enough charge to power your computer for the time it takes you to save your
work and shut down safely.
URL: Universal Resource Locater. The address of any website on the internet. For instance, my website home page has a URL of http://www.sensible-computer-help.com.
Worm: A worm is a virus that does not infect other programs. It makes copies of itself, and infects additional computers, usually via network connection. It does not attach itself to other programs, but it might alter, install, or destroy files and programs. It's also used in computer terminology as a short word any malware in general.
Program files environment where you can create and edit the kind of document that application makes.
To select an object by pressing the mouse button when the cursor is pointing to the required menu option, icon or hypertext link.
To close a window that has been opened for viewing and / or editing.
A general-purpose machine that processes data according to a set of instructions that are stored internally either temporarily or permanently.
Central Processor Unit (CPU)
This term has two meanings (just to confound beginners, you understand)
1) Central Processor Unit--the main chip on the computer that makes everything go.
2) The box that holds the guts of the computer. A faster CPU is always better than a slower one. You can never have too fast of a CPU.
Your computer or application no longer works correctly and so you "loose" all the work you've done since the last time you saved.
Creating A File
Storing data as a file with an assigned file name that is unique
within the directory it resides in.
To remove an item of data from a file or to remove a file from the disk.
An on-screen representation of a desktop such as used in the Macintosh and Windows operating systems.
Takes over your screen and allows you to "dialog" with the computer.
Directory (AKA Folder, sub-directory)
Allows you to organize files and other folders.
This is the place where your files live. The greater the disk space the more files you can keep. (See also Megabytes) More disk space is always better than less. You can never have much disk space.
Files you create and edit.
Files we care about (memos, letters, pictures, etc.)
To press the mouse button twice in rapid succession without moving the mouse between clicks.
To move an object on screen in which its complete movement is visible from starting location to destination.
To make a change to existing data.
Metaphorically, the hard drive (and other kinds of storage media like floppy disks) which store files and folders.
Folder (AKA Directory, Sub-Directory)
Allows you to organize files and other folders.
Collections of documents and other folders.
In a graphical user interface (GUI), a small, pictorial, on screen representation of an object, such as a document, program, folder or disk drive.
Allows you to see icons of folders and files primarily as icons with little information.
This if the primary text input device. It also contains certain standard function keys, such as the Escape key, tab, and arrow keys, shift and control keys, and sometimes other manufacturer-customized keys.
This is a unit of measure = 1,000. So 1,000 bytes is a KiloByte.
Shows the icons but also orders the icons (often by name, but can sort the list in other ways) and shows more information about them.
The brand name of a family of personal computers (hardware) and an operating system (software) from Apple, introduced in 1984.
Mega = million so Mb is 1,000,000 bytes. It's enough information for the computer to store one character (e.g. "h"), so 1mb text file = 1,000,000 keystrokes in that file. Just to confound the masses, although RAM and Disk Space do something completely different we measure both in megabytes. This leads to confusion.
This stands for MegaHertz. A hertz is an electronics term. 1 hz = one cycle (or wavelength) per second. 1 megahertz = 1,000,000 cycles per second.
In computer jargon, Mhz measures how *fast* your CPU chip runs. Although it's more important to know the chip than the speed, if you're comparing the same kind of CPU chip then a higher / faster CPU speed (measured in MHz) is better than a slower speed.
Displays a list of commands, some with images next to them.
Keys that change the meaning of what you type.
Pointing device that allows you to tell the computer what to do.
Operating System (OS)
System software that allows your computer to work.
Pointer (AKA Cursor)
The name of the arrow (or other shape) that tracks across the screen as you move the mouse (or other pointing device) around.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
This stands for Random Access Memory. You can think of this as the "space" where you computer does its processing. The more space you have the more processes you can run at the same time. More RAM is always better than less. You can never have much RAM.
Place where you put files and folders that you may later want to delete or get rid of. Compare Trash.
Allows you to change the size and shape of a window.
To press the right button on the mouse. (This is Windows specific. On a Mac running System 8 or higher, you hold down the Control key and then click to get the same effect.)
Tell the computer to create a file on disk that has the information you've put into the document (usually typing).
Give the file a name and/or store the file in a certain place.
Allows you to move around through your document.
To quit all applications and turn off the computer.
Instructions that tell the computer what to do.
Allows our computer to work.
Place where you put files and folders that you want to delete or get rid of.
Devices that hold files and folders.
1) The most widely used operating system for personal computers from Microsoft. (Software only. Other companies manufacture the hardware that runs the Windows Operating System.) Compare Macintosh. (Windows with a large "W".)
2) The thing you see on screen that contains a directory listing or the contents of a document. (Window with a small "w".)