Glossary of commonly used terms

An application is a program with a Graphical Interface

Starting up a computer is booting it. If the computer is already running, it is called rebooting

A bug is a mistake in a program. A really severe bug can cause something to crash.

A database is a collection of data.

A desktop computer is designed to sit in one position, not move around. Most computers are desktop systems. Saying a system is a desktop implies nothing about its platform.

Also called a folder, a directory is a collection of files created for organizational purposes.

A device for storing data. Most drives are capable of having new data written to them.

A file is a unit information stored on a computer.

Sort of in-between hardware and software, firmware is a set of modifiable programs inside hardware. One should be careful when updating firmware, since it can literally destroy the hardare if done improperly. Neglecting to apply a firmware update can also destroy the hardware.

The way that data is stored; its organization. For example, VHS and Beta are two different formats of video tape. They are not compatible with each other, but information can be transferred from one to the other with the proper equipment. Computer information can be stored in hundreds of different formats.

Function Keys
On a keyboard, the keys that start with an "F" that are usually found on the top row. They are used to perform user-defined tasks.

Anything visually displayed on a computer that is not text.

The physical portion of the computer.

The Internet is the world-wide network of computers.

Computer programs are written in different programing "languages". There are different languages for different tasks. Common languages include Java, C, C++ and BASIC.

A laptop is a computer designed to do most of the things a desktop system can do but run for a short time on batteries. They are designed to be carried around. They are significantly more expensive than desktop systems and have far worse battery life than PDAs. Calling a system a laptop implies nothing about its platform.

Computer memory is used to store data. The most usual types of memory are RAM, ROM, and flash.

MHz & Megahertz
One megahertz is 1000 kilohertz. The speed of the main processor of many computers is measured in MHz, and is misleadingly used to represent the speed of a computer. A computer's speed is based upon many factors, and since MHz reveals only how many clock cycles the processor has per second, it can really only be used to gauge two computers with similar hardware.

A modem allows a computer to communicate over phone lines. It gets its name from modulate / demodulate, the process in which it converts digital data back and forth for use with a phone line.

A computer mouse is the object used to manipulate the onscreen cursor.

A network is a group of computers working together.

The operating system is the program that runs a computer's resources.

The processor (also called a CPU) is the part of the computer that runs the programs. Advertisers use megahertz numbers as a means of showing a processor's speed. This is usually misleading; megahertz numbers are usually meaningless when compared across different computers.

A program is a group of instructions for a computer, telling it what to do.

Running a program is telling it to do something. The term "execute" is the same thing.

The non-physical part of the computer; the programs.

Binary is a series of 0's and 1's that make up all programs on the computer

Short for web log, a blog is a web site with periodic posts.

It is possible to remove non-vital information or use patterns in data to make a file smaller. Normally when a file is compressed, it cannot be used until it is decompressed.

Domain name service is the way a name (like gets converted into a Internet address.

To download a file is to copy it from a remote location to your own. The opposite is upload.

A driver is a piece of software that tells the operating system how to control a piece of hardware.

The Hypertext Mark-up Language is the language that most web pages are written in.

An Internet service provider is a company that provides Internet.

A million cycles per second, abbreviated MHz.

Due to hardware limitations, sometimes disks have to be divided into smaller pieces. These pieces are called partitions.

The smallest point on a display is called a pixel.

Random access memory is the short-term memory in a computer. Any information stored there will be lost if the computer loses power, but data read from ram is very fast.

A Uniform Resource Locator is just an address for a place on the internet.