Glossary [A]

.INI File
An initialization file, which is used by an application to store configuration data that is read as the program is starting.
To intentionally and prematurely terminate an active computer program or command.
A device which enhances the processing speed of a hardware component, usually by taking over some of the tasks originally assigned to that component. For example, a video accelerator card will take over some of the graphic functions originally assigned to the CPU. By dedicating its processing ability to the graphics, it can perform the functions more efficiently and lessen the load on the Central Processing Unit.
To obtain an open channel of communication with a software or hardware component so that the user can work with it.
Describes an application or file that currently is operational and ready to receive or transmit data.
Active Cell
A spreadsheet or table can be divided into cells, which are the points where the rows and columns intersect (creating small squares or cells). An active cell is the cell that is currently highlighted (chosen) and ready to receive or manipulate data.
Active Desktop
Starting with Internet Explorer IV, Microsoft uses what is called 'push technology' which can change the desktop into a webpage-like interface complete with hyperlinks to your system, network or internet resources.
Active-matrix Display
A type of video display (originally for notebooks or laptops) where each picture element (pixel) is represented by a single transistor. In contrast, a passive-matrix display uses a series of criss-crossed wires with an LCD element at each intersection, and each LCD element represents a pixel. Active-matix displays produce the sharper image and are more expensive to produce.
A high-speed graphics port that produces fast communication between the graphics controller and computer. It allows the graphic card to directly access the computer's main memory and bypass the PCI bus. Video cards in this port can run almost twice as fast as those in a PCI slot. This also helps to reduce the traffic on the PCI bus.
A device which uses a system of unlimited variables to measure or represent the flow of data. In contrast, digital devices are limited to a predetermined numbering system (binary) to represent data flow. If you have five dots on a piece of paper, digital data can be represented by each of the dots. Draw a line to connect all the dots and analog data can be represented by any point along the line.
American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a system of computer code in which all values are given eight digit binary values (max 256 possible values). The first 32 values are for different operational functions such as Escape, Backspace, Carriage Return. The next 96 make up all the characters you have on your keyboard. The first 128 values comprise what is called the standard ASCII character set. The last 128 values (extended ASCII character set) are characters such as ¥, รณ, ½.
A user-configurable text file, in the MS-DOS operating system, that is used to set system variables and load TSRs. During the bootup process in MS-DOS, the command interpreter is loaded into memory and takes over the system. It then locates and executes the command lines in AUTOEXEC.BAT before loading the DOS promp.

Glossary [B]

Backups can be made by copying files under a different name or by copying them to another directory, another drive, or a different storage media. Backups are used to replace or restore files if they should become lost or corrupted.
Backward Compatible
Refers to new hardware and software that is able to support older, existing technologies. People would be a lot less likely to purchase a new piece of hardware or software if it wouldn't support all their old programs or read their previous data files.
Bandwidth is the range of frequencies that a communication cable or channel can carry. In the computer world, it generally refers to the amount of data that can be carried by a specific cable or bus.
An image in which pixels are arranged in a grid format, like a sheet of graph paper. The colors and arrangement of the pixels form the picture. This type f graphic is also called a "raster" image. Examples of bitmapped formats include .BMP (Windows Bitmap) and TIFF (tagged-image file format).
Binary Number System
In our everyday lives we use a decimal numbering system containing 10 digits, 0 through 9. Computers use a binary numbering system which contains only 2 numbers, 0 and 1, called binary digits or bits.
Basic Input Output System - Sometimes called the ROM Bios, this is firmware that controls most of your computers basic input and output functions such as communications with the drives or the system memory.
Bit mapped file. A type of graphics file that is stored and written as a series of binary digits or bits arranged in a grid format. The files have a .bmp extension and can be viewed, changed, or printed from any graphics program that supports that format. See Bitmapped Image.
Boot Record
The boot record on your hard drives are at the beginning of each logical partition and contain info about that drive. If the boot record is on the active or bootable partition then it also contains start up procedure that boots the Operating System. This is different from the Master Boot Record.
Bootable Disk
A floppy disk that contains the necessary system files that will complete the computers boot up sequence and load a basic Operating System.
The process and functions that a computer goes through when it first starts up, ending in the proper loading of the Operating System and preparing it to receive commands.
Writing down everything you can think of about a certain subject. Often, after cramming for an exam, the first thing a student will do once he's seated at the exam centre, is write down as much info as he can remember (tables, dates, names and pertinent memorized data). A braindump after an exam refers to writing down as many of the questions that can be remembered from the actual test. This can help other students to study for the same exam.
A temporary storage area in a computer's memory that holds recent changes and other information to be transferred to another device in larger blocks. This helps tremendously to speed up the computing process. Access to RAM is much faster than access to a hard drive or printer. Instead of accessing a hard drive hundreds or even thousands of times, the information is stored in the much faster buffer until it reaches a pre-determined size. It is then dumped (written) to the drive in a single access. This is repeated continually.
Small graphical elements used to set off items in a list. Instead of numbering each item in a list, you will often see small dots, dashes, arrows, squares, etc. to make each item in a list stand out from the other. These are called bullets.
The electronic pathways that link different devices to each other. In a computer, these pathways can carry data and information in digital form (binary digits or 'bits') to and from each of the different components (CPU, RAM, expansion cards, etc.) The amount of data that can be moved along a bus is determined by the number of lines or connections it has for moving binary information. For instance, a 32-bit bus will have 32 connectors and be able to move 32 bits at a time. It would be considered 32 bits wide.
Bus Speed
The speed (measured in megahertz, MHz) at which information or data can move across the bus on the motherboard.

Glossary [C]

A letter followed by a colon is used to designate a drive (physical or virtual) on your computer. C: drive is usually the hard drive inside the case that your computer boots from (contains the operating system files).
Cab File
A cabinet file contains several or many compressed files. These files are generally used to distribute software on disk and have a .cab file extension. Most of the files for Windows95/98 are in Cab files on the Setup Disk. The Extract command is used to extract one or more files from the cabinet file.
Wires or a bundle of wires in a protective plastic or rubber covering, with connectors used to join the different components, peripherals and resources associated with your computer system.
An area of high speed memory set aside to store frequently accessed data. When data is accessed, a copy (and its address in memory) is stored in cache memory. The next time the CPU looks for information, it first checks the cache. If the data is there (called a hit), it can retrieve it from the much faster cache memory. If it is not, then it accesses system memory, puts a copy of the new data in the cache, and processes the information. Disk caching and memory caching significantly improves the overall speed of the computer but there are limits.
Computer Aided Design - See CAD/CAM.
Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing. The use of computers to design and manufacture a product. The product is designed on a computer (using a CAD program) and then built or assembled using computers designed specifically for that process.
The process of testing a measuring device (such as a joystick) and then manipulating or changing its settings to conform to a set standard ensuring the device is working accurately.
A button in most dialogue boxes in a graphical user interface that will exit the box without making any changes. Any settings that were changed will return to what they were before the box was open.
An electronic component that can store and maintain an electrical charge for a period of time, releasing it cleanly and evenly. Capacitors are used to smooth out the flow of electricity.
A key on the left side of your keyboard. When pressed it changes all typed letters to capitals until it is pressed again. It only affects letters; not punctuation, symbols or numbers.
Refers to a printed circuit board (adapter board or expansion card) that installs into one of the expansion slots in your computer, expanding the capabilities of your system, allowing it to communicate with external devices such as monitors or speakers.
The format of a letter. It can be uppercase (capitalized) or lowercase (not capitalized).
Case Sensitive
A program or function that differentiates between capital and non-capitalized letters or words. Something that is not case sensitive would view 'target' and 'TARGET' as the same word. A case sensitive program would see two different words.
Cathode Ray Tube
The display screen used in most monitors and television sets. An electron gun, at the back of the tube, shoots electrons at a phosphor coated screen, scanning from top to bottom, left to right. This causes the phosphor pixels to glow which creates the picture you see on the screen.
A Compact Disk (CD) device that can write data to a CD. Once written, this data cannot be erased or written over.
A Compact Disk (CD) device that can write or record data to a CD. This CD device can then erase or write over (re-write) the data previously recorded.
Spreadsheets and tables can be broken up into individual columns and rows which intersect forming smaller boxes or cells. Cell C8 would be the box at the intersection of column B and row 8. These boxes can hold different formulas, text or numbers.
Central Processing Unit
The central processing unit (CPU) is an integrated circuit chip (IC) that controls and directs the activities of the computer. Considered the 'brain' of your computer, it is identified by manufacturer, model, and processing speed in megahertz (MHz). Major manufacturers include Intel, Motorola, Cyrix, AMD(Advanced Micro Devices), and IBM. Intel is considered to be the #1 manufacturer and sets the standards for processors.
Centronics Connector
Named after the company that originally developed the standard, this connector can be found on the back of many of today's printers (36 pins). It's a parallel interface that has eight data lines and lines for control and status information. It can also be found on scanners and SCSI devices (50 pins).
Color Graphics Adapter. One of the first color display adapter cards. It had a palette of 16 colors but could only display 4 at a resolution of 320 X 200 pixels. Even in monochrome (one color) it had poor resolution for graphics (640 X 200 pixels).
A chain is a group of clusters on a storage disk, linked together to contain a single file.
A group of microchips that actually control the flow of information on your computer. They are the controllers for the memory, cache, hard drive, keyboard, etc.. These groups of chips direct traffic along the bus and can allow devices to talk to each other without having to go through the CPU.
Circuit Board
Boards used in electronic devices that are made from an insulating material and contain electronic components that are interconnected to form a circuit or group of circuits that perform a specific function.
A computer hooked to a network, that uses data or programs that are located on another computer (server).
Clock Speed
The clock speed is the frequency which determines how fast devices that are connected to the system bus operate. The speed is measured in millions of cycles per second (MHz or megahertz) and is generated by a quartz crystal on the motherboard which acts as a kind of metronome. Devices that are synchronized with the clock may run faster or slower but their speed is determined by multiplying or dividing a factor by the clock speed.
A cluster is made up of one or more sectors and is the smallest allocation unit that your computer can write to a disk. Cluster size (number of sectors/cluster) depends on type and size of your hard drive and the Operating System that you are using. If you write a very small file, it is still going to take up a full cluster on your hard drive. If your file is large then it will be written to a group of clusters that are linked together to form a cluster chain.
Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor. This is one of two technologies used to produce or manufacture microchips. The other is TTL or Transistor Transistor Logic. Although CMOS is a little slower and much more susceptible to ESD or static electricity, it uses less power and generates a lot less heat and has replaced the bulkier chips in PCs. All of today's CPUs and memory chips are CMOS chips. Because your computer's configuration or setup is stored in a CMOS chip, it has sometimes been labeled CMOS setup, or just plain CMOS. So if someone suggests you check your CMOS, they mean you should look in your setup program.
Cache memory is generally hard-wired to the system board. However, you can often add to or upgrade your systems cache by inserting a cache memory module into a socket on the motherboard. These modules are called Cache On A Stick, or COAST modules.
Cold Boot
Starting the computer from a power-off status. If your computer is off, and you turn the switch on, you're performing a Cold Boot.
COM Port
See communications port.
This is the command interpreter that interprets the commands received from the operator (or an application) into something the computer can understand. It can accept commands from the user, launch programs and pass this information to the computer, or the other operating system files.
Communications Port
Serial ports used to connect modems, serial printers and other peripherals to your computer. Each port is assigned its own individual number, IO address, and Interrupt Request Line. COM1 and COM2 are usually the physical serial ports you can see on the back of your computer (9-pin and 25-pin DB connectors). COM3 and COM4 are usually virtual communications ports for internal devices connected via the expansion slots inside your computer.
A process that reduces the size of a graphics file. Sometimes, the more you compress, the less detail you have. Examples of compression algorithms include .LZW and .JPG.
A user-configurable text file, in the MS-DOS Operating System, that usually contains device drivers and system setup files. During the bootup process in MS-DOS, CONFIG.SYS is located and the external device drivers and configuration options in that file are loaded.
Conventional Memory
Relating to the DOS memory map, conventional memory is the memory addresses between 0 and 640K. MS Dos requires the Operating System, Vector Table, and all programs to load and run in this small amount of memory. While trying to maintain backwards compatibility with the older OS, newer programs and Operating Systems have had to deal with what is termed the 640K barrier.
A file written to your hard drive that Web sites use to track visitors. When you visit a Web site, a file (cookie) may be added to your hard drive or updated to include information such as the time and date, which pages you visited, any passwords you might need for the site, and any other information you might have contributed at their request.
A separate chip (or nowadays, a portion of the CPU) that performs a lot of the calculations and number crunching for the microprocessor, relieving the CPU of some of its work and thus enhancing the overall speed of the system.
Corrupted Files
Any file that has been damaged or ruined. This can happen for a variety of reasons; Program glitches, crashes, user error, power failures, power spikes, memory problems.. There are different precautions you can take to reduce the chance of corrupted files, but you will experience them.
See Central Processing Unit.
To delete unwanted portions of an image.
Cross-linked Clusters
Files are stored on your hard disk in chains of clusters linked together. Which clusters are used and how they are linked is stored in an index or directory called the File Allocation Table or FAT. If, through some error, the FAT shows two files using the same cluster, then they are cross-linked.
See Cathode Ray Tube.