time it takes for a device to access data. The access time, quoted in milliseconds
(ms) for hard disks and nanoseconds (ns) for memory, is usually an average as
it can vary greatly. Together with the transfer rate, it is used to gauge the
performance of hard disks and other devices. The lower the number, the better
An application, or package, is
one or more programs used for a particular task. For example, word processing,
invoicing or spread sheeting.
ASCII (American Standard Code for
Information Interchange )
Usually a synonym for plain text without
any formatting (like italics, bold or hidden text). Since computers naturally
use binary rather than Roman characters, text has to be converted into binary
in order for the processor to understand it; ASCII assigns binary values to Roman
characters. RTFI a Microsoft standard, adds extra formatting features to plain
Compatibility of hardware or software to older versions of the product or
The number of electronic signals that
can be sent along a communications channel every second. In common usage, it is
often confused with bits per second. These days modem speeds are normally measured
in bits per second. (See V and Bit).
PCMCIA. A standard to allow PCs, particularly notebooks, to be expanded using
credit card-sized cards.
BIOS (Basic Input/Output System.)
Software routines that let your computer address other devices like the keyboard,
monitor and disk drives.
Binary digit, the basic binary
unit for storing data. It can either be 0 or 1. A Kilobit (Kbit) is 210
(1,024 bits); and a Megabit is 220, which is just over a million bits.
These units are often used for data transmission. For data storage, megabytes
are more generally used. A megabyte (Mb) is 1,024 kilobytes (Kb) and a Kb is 1,024
bytes. A gigabyte (Gb) is 1,024Mb, A byte (binary digit eight) is composed of
for bootstrap. Refers to the process when a computer loads its operating system
into memory. Reboot means to restart your computer after a crash, either with
a warm reboot (where you press Ctrl Alt Del) or a cold reboot, where you switch
the computer off and back on again. Bus
A "data highway",
which transports data from the processor to whatever component it wants to talk
to. There are many different kinds of bus, including ISA, EISA, MCAI and local
bus (PCI and VL-bus).
Cache On A Stick.
A CD-ROM is
the same as a normal audio CD, except it can store data as well as sounds. A CD-ROM
player can be attached to your computer to read information from the CD-ROM into
the computer's memory in the same way that a domestic CD player reads information
from the CD into your hi-fi. The advantage of distributing information on CD-ROM
rather than other media is that each one can hold up to 680Mbof data: equivalent
to about 485 high-density 3.5in floppy disks.
Central Processing Unit. Normally refers to the main processor
or chip inside a PC, (See Processor.)
Common term, for
when your computer freezes, Can be caused by a power surge, a bug (which is a
fault in software or a GPF. (General Protection Fault)
(Disk Operating System) Once the standard operating system
for PCs, it is now being replaced by Windows 95 and Windows NT.
(Dots Per Inch)Common measure of the resolution on a printer, a scanner or a display.
Drive controller card
An expansion card that interprets
commands between the processor and the disk drives.
Pieces of software that, "drive" a peripheral, They interpret between
the computer and a device such as a CD-ROM. If you have a SCSI CD-ROM drive connected,
you will be able to use it on a PC or a Mac just by loading up the relevant driver
on each machine.
(Extended Industry Standard Architecture) A bus standard
designed to compete with MCA. Now being replaced by PCI.
(E-mail, email) Still the biggest single use of the Internet, When you sign
up with an ISP you are given an email address. Usually you can incorporate your
name, or part of it, into your email address to make it easy to remember.
Circuit boards, which fit inside PCs to provide extra functionality.
For example, one might be an internal modem, providing the same functions as an
external version (which is more common) but sitting inside the PC, Expansion cards
are designed to be fitted and removed by people with little knowledge of PCs.
Floppy disk drive
Practically all PCs come with a floppy disk drive: 3.5in HD thigh densityi 1.44Mb
floppy disks are now the standard. They come in hard plastic cases and have replaced
the older, literally floppy, 5.25in disks.
A font is an
alphabet designed in a particular style. Fonts apply both to screen and printed
letters, Truetype and Type 1 fonts are stored as shape descriptions, scalable
to any size,
To wipe a floppy or hard disk in order to
prepare it to accept data.
General protection fault.
An expansion card that interprets commands from the processor to
the monitor. If you want a better, higher resolution picture or more than your
existing set-up, you'll need to change your graphics card and/or your monitor.
(Graphical User Interface- See Windows)
called a fixed disk, hard disks are hermetically sealed rigid disks able to store
data and programs. Disk capacities increase all the time.
All electronic components of a computer system, including peripherals, circuit
boards and input/output devices.
(Hypertext mark-up language)
The standard language used in the creation of web pages, which can be read by
any PC compatible with DOS. Now tends to mean any PC with an Intel or compatible
processor capable of running DOS or Windows.
Drive Electronics) A control system designed to allow computer and device to communicate,
Once the standard for PC hard disks, now being replaced by EIDE (enhanced IDE~
which offers improved performance and extra features.
of computers interconnected in a global network.
Service Provider) ISPs provide access to the internet. You use your modem to dial
the ISP's modem. The ISP has a high-bandwidth permanent connection to the Internet.
(Infra-Red Data Association) The standard for exchanging
data using infra-red, typically from PDAs or notebooks to a PC or printer.
(Industry Standard Architecture) This was the original bus architecture on
286 PCs. Also known as the AT bus The 286 was known as the AT) it remains in use
today. Slow by modern standards, but so widely accepted that expansion cards are
still made for it, (See EISA, PCI.)
Digital Network) Offers significant advantages over analogue telephone lines,
It can handle multiple transfers on a single connection and is faster, In the
UK, however costs of installation and rental remain high.
Kb (See Bit)
(Local Area Network) (See
PCI (Peripheral Component interconnect),
developed by Inter, is now the standard far local bus architecture, It is faster
than the older VL-Bus (Video Electronic Standards Association local bus) it replaces.
A personal computer made by Apple and which is incompatible with PCs. Developed
as a rival standard, its operating system looks like Windows but pre-dates it.
A specialised chip that handles mathematical
calculations (floating point operations) for the processor, Modern processors
such as the Pentium have a co-processor built into them.
(See Bit) Mb (megabyte) (See Bit)
(Moving Picture Expert
Group) A standard for compressing video, available in several flavours: MPEG 1,
MPEG 2, MPEG 4. JPEG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) is a standard for still
is a group of computers linked together with cable. The most common form of network
is a LAN (Local Area Network), where electronic mail and other files can be exchanged
between users without swapping floppy disks. Printers and other resources can
be shared; All the PCs on a LAN are connected to one server, which is a powerful
PC with a large hard disk that can be shared by everyone.
The operating system communicates with the hardware and provides services and
utilities to applications while they run, such as saving and retrieving files.
Assistant) Small electronic organisers. The Psion 3a is a typical example.
(See Local bus)
Used by your PC to communicate with the outside world, usually via
a printer. Information can travel in parallel along a series of lines, making
it faster than serial ports which can only handle one piece of information at
Fast 32-bit processor with a built-in cache.
Now the standard on PCs, it is been replaced by the Pentium MMX chip which has
extra instructions and a 32Kb cache. The Pentium Pre is a higher-end workstation
CPU with 256Kb cache meant for full 32-bit operating systems like Windows NT.
Pixel Picture element.
The smallest addressable dot displayed
on a monitor.
A standard to allow PCs, particularly
notebooks, to be expanded using credit card-sized cards.
This family of RISC chips is the result of a collaboration between IBM, Apple
and Motorola, It is now used in all Apple Macintosh computers and many IBM workstations.
Chip which does most of a computer's work.
(See Applications) Public Domain
Software that is absolutely free. The
author usually retains the copyright but you can make as many copies as you want.
The name of
a standard English-language keyboard, derived from the first six letters in the
top row. French equivalent is AZERTY.
Memory) (See Memory)
Reduced Instruction Set Computing (See
(Read Only Memory) See Memory)
(Rich Text Format) (See BSCII)
System Interface is a bus that comes as standard in a Macintosh and is beginning
to rival EIDE on PCs.
Serial ports (Com1 and com2)
are used by your PC to communicate with the outside world. Mostly used by modems
and similar devices which communicate quite slowly. Faster communications are
achieved through the parallel port.
A method of distributing
software. It is freely available, but not free of charge. You are honour-bound
to pay a small fee to the software's developer if you continue to use the program
after a set period.
(Single Inline Memory Module) The standard
modules for memory expansion on PCs. Older 30-pin SIMMs have now been replaced
by the 72-pin variety available in capacities up to 16Mb.
tape recorder for backing up data from a hard disk.
(Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter)
Pronounced "you-art", this is
a chip that allows your PC to cope with high-speed communications. V.34 plus,
V.34, V.32bis A series of CCITT standards which define modem operations and error
correction. There are more than 20, but the key ones are: .V.32bis, the standard
for 14.4Kbps (kilobits per secondj modems. V,34, the standard for 28.8Kbps modems
(see Baud). V.34 Plus, the new standard for speeds up to 33.6Kbps.
(See Local Bus)
Video Graphics Array is the name given to a popular display. VGA graphics have
640 pixels horirontally and 480 vertically, and can display 16 colours. SuperVGA
(SVGA) graphics can display 800 x 600 or 1,024 x 768 in as many colours as the
memory in your graphics card will allow: up to -16.4 million, or true colour.
(See Local Bus)
(Graphical User interface) developed by Microsoft. Windows is intended to make
programs easier to use by giving them a standard, mouse-driven interface. · Windows
3,11 16-bit operating system.
Windows NTWindows 95
Robust, fully 32-bit
operating system from Microsoft. The latest, version 4.0, features a Windows 95
Major improvement to Windows 3.11, with
a redesigned interface. Less prone to crashes and easier to use, but requires
Major improvement to Windows 95, with
a interface that can be set to work like the internet. Less prone to crashes and
easier to use, but requires more memory.
for "sockets for Windows". The Winsock.dll is an extension for Windows which is
necessary for connecting to TCP/IP networks.
Service on the internet using special software called web browsers (Netscape
and Internet Explorer are two best-known browsers) to give access to pages of
information with text, pictures and multimedia.
You See Is What You Get": what you see on the screen is exactly what you will
get when you print out your work.
Nothing for X yet unless you know better?
- email: email@example.com
Force) Sockets used for CPU's. Lifting a handle enables you to remove the processor
The common standard for compressing files so that they take
up less space, Zipped files have the extension .zip and are compressed and decompressed
using shareware utilities such as Winzip and PKZip.