Computer Terms

Computer Terms

In 1822, when the first machine to even resemble a computer was invented, there were only a few terms to describe all the pieces and parts of the simplest version of the modern world’s most complex machine. Today, however, hundreds of terms have been added to the official vocabulary of the modern day computer. The following are terms that are commonly used as terminology for hardware, software, and everything in between. Some words are vender-specific, catering to programs such as Microsoft’s Windows. Others are able to be applied to every smart device with a circuit board.

In regards to both the technology many people have in their homes today and the massive network known as the World Wide Web, the terminology discussed in this list covers everything a lay person could possibly want to find out about how computers function and fit together. Information about viruses and other potentially deadly malfunctions are also provided in the text. It may be beneficial to think of the anatomy of a computer like the anatomy of a person. Much of the human microscopic anatomy can easily be compared to the undetectable codes that zoom around a computer’s “brain” every second it is awake.


Applet: An applet is a Java application which functions as a calculator or web drawing program.

Application: An application is a “program” that performs tasks on a computer.

ASCII: (Short for American Standard Code for Information Interchange) is an encoding system for converting key board characters and instructions into binary number code that the computer understands.


Bandwidth: is how much data a network connection can send along. For example, greater bandwidth equals greater Internet connection.

Binary Code: is the most basic code that a computer can understand, and consists entirely of 0’s and 1’s. The code is used to form numbers, letters, punctuation marks, and symbols.

Binary Digits: are the 0’s and 1’s of binary code. They are the smallest pieces of information in a computer, and are comparable to an nucleotide in a human body.

Booting: can be either considered warm or cold. Cold booting occurs when the computer is restarted after the power is turned off. Warm booting occurs when an individual restarts the computer without turning it off.

Browser: Software used to open and surf the Internet is called a browser.

Bug: When a malfunction occurs in a program, or a piece of equipment becomes defective, it is called a bug.

Bits: Most computers use a combination of 8 bits, called bytes, to represent 1 character of data or instruction.


Cache: To reassess data, a computer needs a small memory storage space to place resent information, such as web pages, so that the user can access this information without reconnecting to the web. This space is called the cache.

CAD-CAM: (short for Computer Aided Drawing and Computer Aided Manufacturing) is information stored in the computer that can be translated to a robot. This is often used for laser cutting and assembling cars.

CD-ROM: (short for Compact Disc Read-Only Memory) is sometimes simplified to CD. These are optically read discs designed to hold around 640 megabyte of data. Information such as music and computer software can be transferred via CD-ROM.

CGI: can either refer to Common Gateway Interface or Computer Generated Image.

Chat: By typing dialog into a message box to engage in conversation with one or more people via the Internet, an individual is engaging in a chat.

Chip: A chip is a tiny wafer of silicon with the ability to store millions of bits of information within its miniature electric currents.

Client: Client/server architecture allows many people to use the same data simultaneously. A single user of a network application that is operated by a server is referred to as a client.

Cookie: A file from a web server that gets stored on the hard drive of a computer and then tells the web server about the user, their computer and their activities on their computer is called a cookie.

CPU: A CPU (short for Central Processing Unit) acts as the brain of the computer.

Cracker: Using a network, a person who have destructive intent, can break in to a computer with no authorization. This individual would be referred to as a cracker.

Crash: is a loss of information due to software or hardware malfunctions, and in some cases can cause permanent damage to the computer.

Cursor: A cursor is the position-indicator on the display of the computer that moves with the mouse, and can cause actions to happen.

Cyberspace: Another work for the internet, typically considered slang, is cyberspace, which can be defined as an interconnected computer network that holds information. It continues to expand with time to include more and more information available to users.


DBMS: A collection of related information that is stored in a file is called a database. This information can be created and stored in the database management system or DBMS.

Debug: To debug something is slang for finding and correcting defects in the equipment and malfunctions in the programs.

Default Settings: The original configuration of an application or system that the manufacturer programs for a general set up, default settings can be changed to fit personal preferences.

Desktop: is the directory of user interface. The icons on the desktop display links to the hard drive, network, and recycling bin of delegating materials. It can also display other applications at the user’s direction.

Desktop Publishing: Using a personal computer to make publication quality documents out of text, graphics, and page layout programs is referred to as desktop publishing.

Directory: The place where all flies are stored on the computer is called the directory.

Disk: There are two types with names that refer to the material contained inside it:

Hard Disk: stores large amounts of data, and is usually inside the computer, but can also be a separate peripheral outside of the computer. Made up of rigid coated metal discs, it can hold anywhere from 15 to 30 Gb of information. Floppy discs are a 3.5″ square that have a thin disc inside the plastic square then is inserted into the computer. They can hold up to 1.4 megabytes of data. There is also a bigger size of floppy discs that can hold up to 250 megabytes of information.

Disk Drives: Is the equipment that operates hard and floppy discs.

Domain: represents an IP addressing or set of IP addresses that help to distinguish email addresses and web pages from one another.

Domain Name: appears in a URL’s to identify web pages or email addresses.

Download: something means to transfer information from the Internet onto your computers files.

DOS: (short for Disc Operating System) is an operating system designed for early PC’s that are IMB-compatible.

Drop-Down Menu: that opens vertically to display options specifically for the page or application the individual is on is called the drop-down menu. A drop-down menu is also referred to as a pull-down menu and pop-up menu.

DSL: (short for Digital Subscriber Line) is a way to access the Internet through an individual’s phone line. This does not interfere with landline usage and is faster than a modem.

DVD: (short for Digital Video Disc) is almost identical to a CD-ROM in function. DVD’s are almost always used to hold music and video.


E-Book: is a digitally stored book that can be accessed via an individual’s tablet or computer.

Email: stands for electronic mail. Distance doesn’t matter when sending emails and neither does content. Almost every type of file may be sent via email.

Emoticon: is a text-based expression created from ASCII characters that mimic facial expressions.

Encryption: By scrambling data so that only authorized recipients can view it is known as encryption.

Ethernet: is a LAN type of network.


Firewall: A set of security programs to protect a computer from outside invasions is called a firewall.
A folder is a structure in a computer used for storing electrical files.

Font: is a style or size choice an individual can make for the characters they type on a computer.
When an individual creates and distributes for no charge free-standing software or software meant to add to the functionality of another it is called freeware.

FTP: File Transfer protocol (or FTP for short) is a set format for transferring files from a host to a remote computer.


Gigabyte: One gigabyte equals 1024 megabytes. One gigabyte is also referred to as a gig.

Glitch: would be to blame for an unexpected malfunction in a computer program.

Gopher: is an Internet search tool that allows users to access textual information through a series of menus, or if using FTP, through downloads.

GUI: Graphical User Interface (or GUI for short) save time for the computer user by creating “shortcuts” on the computer screen to take the user to any number if destinations.

Groupware: is software that allows groups of people to work on the same project together.


Hacker: A person with technical expertise who experiments with computer systems to determine how to develop additional features is called a hacker.

Hard Copy: A paper printout of what is displayed on the computer screen is called a hard copy.

Hard Drive: The name for the hard disk that store information on a computer is a hard drive.

Hardware: The actual physical components of a computer, including the circuitry, keyboard, and disk drives, is called the hardware.

Home Page: is the first thing a visitor sees when they enter a sight. Most commonly, the home page is used to provide initial information about the sight.

HTML: Hypertext Markup Language (or HTML for short) helps a browsers interpret the codes to give the text structure and formatting on a page from the Internet.

HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol (or HTTP for short) is the first part of a URL when searching the Internet for a webpage.

Hyperlink: goes into effect when an a mouse curser is placed over text or an image that belongs elsewhere on the web. The link to the webpage will pop up by the curser.

Hypermedia: integrates audio, graphics, and/or video through links embedded in the main program.


Icons: Symbols that appear on the computer screen that indicate computer functions or program files are known as Icons.

Input Device: Any device that is able to input information into a computer, such as a mouse or stylus, is known as an input device.

Instant Messages: allow two people to communicate in real time over the Internet.

Interface: is the main reason people, devises and programs are able to communicate With each other through computers. Hardware interfaces are the cables that connect the device to its power source and to other devices. Software interfaces allow the program to communicate with other programs.

Internet: is a huge, international conglomeration of interconnected computer networks that remains under no single organizations control.

IP Address: is a unique set of numbers used to locate another computer on a network.


Java: allows programmers to create small applets to enhance their software programs.

JavaScript: Or ECMA script is a programming language used almost exclusively to manipulate content on a web page.


KB: 1 kilobyte (K or KB) is equal to 1,024 bytes.


Laptops: and notebooks are small, portable, lightweight, battery powered computers that can fit on an individual’s lap. They have a thin liquid crystal display screen.


Mac OS: is an operating system that has a graphical interface, developed by Apple for Macintosh computers. The current system is System X.1.(10) and this combines with the traditional Mac interface with a underlying UNIX. This combination increases performance and stability.

Macro: is a script that operates a series of commands to perform a function. It is set up to automate repetitive tasks.

Merging: Combining two or more files into a single file is called merging.

MB: A megabyte is equal to one million forty eight thousand five hundred seventy six bytes, but it is usually rounded off at one million bytes which can be called a Meg.

Memory: A temporary storage area for information, including information on applications and documents is called memory. The information stored here must be taken and stored on a permanent device in order to be kept for long periods of time, and through the computer being shut down. Memory is measured in terms of the amount of information it can store, which is measured in megabytes or gigabytes.

Menu: is a context related list of options that can be used to change something about what the user is doing.

Menu Bar: The strip of options across the top of a program’s window is called the menu bar. Each word written across it has a context sensitive drop down menu that contains the features that can can be preformed while the application is in use.

MS-DOS: is an early operating system that was developed by the Microsoft Corporation, and stands for Microsoft Disc Operating System.

MHz: is an abdication of the word Megahertz, or one million hertz. One of these is equal to one million clock cycles per second and is the measure of a microprocessor’s speed. For example, a microprocessor running at 300 MHz executes 300, ill ion cycles per second. If a computer receives a fixated number of clock cycles to carry out, it will therefore make more cycles be higher per second. Thus making the program run faster. This is also a unit used to measure bandwidth.

Mouse: is a hand held device, much like a trackball, that is used to control the placement of the cursor on the display screen; movements of the mouse correspond with the movements of the cursor on the screen.

Microprocessor: is a complete central processing unit, normally referred to as a CPU, that is contained on a singular silicon chip.

Minimize: refers to a GUI operating system that uses windows specifically to reduce a window to an icon or label at the bottom or side of the screen, thus allowing another window to be viewed.

Modem: The device that connects two computers together through a telephone cable by converting the computer’s dated to and audio signal is called the modem. Modem is a contraction for this process: modulated-demodulates.

Monitor: The video display terminal is known as the monitor.

MP3: is a type of compact audio and video file format. The small size makes them easy to down load and email. This format is use for portable playback devices.

Multimedia: Programs that combine text with graphics and sound, video, and animation are known as multimedia. A multimedia personal computer has special hardware to support these capabilities.


Network: A system of many interconnected computers is called a network.


Open Source: A computer program that’s original source code was revealed to the general public so that it could be used to develop openly is called open sourced. Software like this can be freely changed or adapted to new users. The source code for these types of scores is available to the public. Programmers can change and redistribute their code. Since development is open more people can debug the source and I price the code.

Output: refers to the data that comes out of a computer device. An example of this is information displayed on the monitor, sounds from the speakers, and information printed on paper.


Palm: is a handed computer.

PC: means personal computer, and is generally referring to computers running on Windows with a Pentium processor.

PC Board: meaning Printed Circuit board, is a board printed or etched with a circuit and processors. Power supplies, information storage, or changers are attached to this.

PDF: meaning Portable Document Format, is a format that is presented by Adobe Acrobat and allows documents to be shared over many different operations systems. Documents can contain both words and pictures, and may be formatted to have electronic links to different areas on the document or places on the web.

Pentium: chip is the fifth generation of high-speed microprocessors. Pentium means fifth element.

Peripheral: is a external device that attaches to a computer to enhance its operation. Some examples of this are an external hard drive, scanner, printer, speaker, mouse, stylus, and tablet.

Personal Computer: A single persons computer that is for an individual’s own personal use and contains a central processing unit and one or more memory circuits is called a Personal computer (PC).

Petabyte: is a unit used to measure memory and storage capacity and is about one thousand terabytes.

Petaflop: The theoretical measurement of a computer’ speed, and can be expressed as a thousand-trillion operations per second, is called the petaflop.

Platform: The operating system of the computer, such as UNIX, Macintosh, Windows, on which the computer is based is called its platform.

Plug and Play: A piece of computer hardware that comes set up with necessary software so that when attached to a computer, they are recognized by the computer and is ready to use is called a plug and play.

Pop-Up Menu: A window that opens vertically or horizontally on the screen displaying context related options is called a pop-up menu. This can also called drop-down menu or pull-down menu.

Power PC: A competitor with the Pentium chip, the Power PC is a newer generation of powerful sophisticated microprocessors produced by an Apple-IBM-Motorola alliance.

Printer: is a device for printing a computer output on paper. There are three major types of printer:
A dot matrix printer creates the individual letters, it is made up of a group of tiny ink dots by hitting a ribbon with the group of tiny wires.
i. Ink Jet Printer: sprays tiny droplets of ink onto the paper.
ii. Laser Printer: A beam of light is used to reproduce the image of the page. By using a magnetic charge to attract the dry tone, the ink is transferred to the paper and sealed with heat.

Program: A series of instructions in computer language that tell the computer how and what to do is called a program. This is also referred to as and application or software.

Programming Language: is a series of instructions that a programmer writes following the instructions given to them. High level programming languages are completely independent of the device that it will eventually run on; low level languages though are not independent. These languages have to be converted into programs which convert them into language specific operating systems. Common programming languages are BASIC, C, C++, dBASE, and FORTRAN.
Puck: Like a mouse a puck is an input device. This is a drawing tool that allows the user to mark a position precisely when tracing a picture for use with CAD-CAM software.

Pull-Down Menu: A menu that opens vertically on the screen to show context-related options is called a pull-down menu. Other names for this tool include a drop-down menu and a pop-up menu.

Push Technology: is an internet tool that takes specific information to the desktop, and makes it so the user doesn’t need to surf the web to find the information back. PointCast is a popular example of push technology.


QuickTime: is software that allows the internet to deliver audio-visual content to be delivered by email and be viewed on the monitor.


RAID: (short for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a way to spread information out among different disks. There are two main ways to do this: disk striping and disk mirroring.

ROM: (short for Read Only Memory) contains permanent placed by a manufacturer.

RAM: (Random Access Memory) is also referred to as “memory”, and is used to store portions of running programs to make them run faster.

Right-Click: Mouse button can open context-sensitive drop down menus.


Streaming: Taking information, both sound and visual, from the Internet and storing them temporarily on files for continuous play is referred to as streaming.

Storage: Devices that store large amounts of information are referred to storage.

Spreadsheet: Allows a user to calculate numbers in a ledger-like format.

Spider: The process used by search engines to inspect new information is called the spider.

Software Programs: on the computer is another name for an application.

Shareware: Software that is made to be sold at a low price for the express purpose of sharing is called shareware.

Server: A computer that shares its original information with other computers in the network is called the server.

Search Engine: is software that makes it possible to find and retrieve information on the Internet.

Scanner: is a device that is used to scan images, text, photos, or, other graphics on the computer.


User Friendly: Programs or devises that are easy to the user to operate are referred to as user friendly.

USENET: is an online bulletin board that is left unedited and unmonitored.

USB: is a connector that allows USB-compatible devices to connect to the computer.

UPS: (short for Universal Power Supply) provides power to a computer through a battery in order to protect and back-up data, and properly shut down the computer.

URL: (short for Uniform Resource Locator) identifies web addresses or documents on the Internet so hat they are easily accessible.

Uploading: Information refers to the transferring of information from a computer to a website.

UNIX: Used on many applications systems, UNIX is another type of operating system used for applications that would identify themselves as “high-end”.


Virus: A piece of computer code that can be transferred between computers,and destroy saved information or even computer operability is commonly referred to as a virus.

Virtual Reality: Allows user to interact with computer generated images as if they were in a real-life environment.

Video Teleconferencing: A common way for two or more people to speak online using an Internet telephone connection is called video teleconferencing.


WYSIWYG: The acronym WYSIWYG stands for what you see is what you get. This is usually used when talking about word processors, page layout programs, and web page design programs in regards to the words and images looking the same on the screen as they would if they were printed.

Worm: When referring to computers viruses, a piece of computer code that copies itself from one computer to another, destroying information as it goes, is referred as a worm.

Word Processor: A program that allows its user to edit, revise, correct and print text is called a word processor

WWW: The network of servers that is the primary platform of the Internet is commonly referred to as the World Wide Web, and possesses the ability to to display graphics and text.

Windows: The popular operating system from Microsoft allows user to select commands on via the display portion of the system.

Webcams: Video cameras or computer set ups that can take real time images and upload them to a Web browser are known as webcams.

WAV: is a format for sound that allows the computer to recreate noises for the user to hear.