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Glossary of Computer Terms and Internet Jargon


This glossary is a work in progress and is no way complete, nor is this an official ASU document. This document was created to answer questions I had about specific words and terms.


bulletThe Dictionary of Computer Acronyms and Jargon
bulletWebster's New WorldTM Dictionary of Computer Terms, Sixth Edition
bulletMark G. Sobell, Hands-On UNIX
bulletJohn R. Levine and Margaret Levine Young, UNIX for Dummies
bulletSAMS Publishing, Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in a Week
bulletEvi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Scott Seebass and Trent R. Hein, UNIX System Administration Handbook, Second Edition

If you are interested in more information, try the following web sites:
bulletASU's Glossary of Web Terms
bulletILC, Glossary of Internet Terms
bulletGlossary of Supercomputing Terms
bulletNetworking Glossary of Terms
bulletFOLDOC (Free On-line Dictionary of Computing)

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In an e-mail address, a symbol used to separate the user name from the name of the computer on which the user's mailbox is stored. Pronounced "at".

A symbol commonly found over the 6 key on computer keyboards. Caret can also be used to stand for the Ctrl key in computer documentation, as in "Press ^C".

10 Base-T
An ethernet Local Area Network capable of transmitting 10 megabits of data per second via twisted-pair cabling.

~ (tilde)
When used with your user ID or login name, shorthand for the pathname to your home directory.

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The right or ability to gain entry to a computer system and make use of its resources.

A precise location of a file/Web site/storage space in a computer system or network.

AFS (Andrew File System)
Networked file system.

ADB (Apple Desktop Bus)
An interface for connecting keyboards, mice, trackballs, and other input devices to Macintosh computers.

ADN (Advanced Digital Network)
Usually refers to a 56Kbps leased-line. A digital phone-line connection (leased line) capable of carrying 56,000 bits-per-second. At this speed, a Megabyte will take about 3 minutes to transfer. This is 4 times as fast as a 14,400bps modem. Seebandwidth, T-1

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line)
A digital phone standard, available in only a few selected markets, that enables download speeds of up to 6Mbps.

A symbolic name for a file. A name, usually short and easy to remember, that is used in place of another name, usually long and difficult to remember.

Anonymous FTP
A convention for providing access to public domain software and information on the Internet, by ftp to a standard guest account with login name 'anonymous' and your electronic mail address or the work 'guest' as password.

ANSI (American National Standards Institution)
A non-profit organization devoted to the development of voluntary standards. ANSI is a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

A small- to medium-sized computer program that provides a specific function. In Java, a mini-program embedded in a Web document that, when downloaded, is executed by the browser.

A proprietary network protocol family developed by Apple Computer, Inc. and available on Macintosh systems.

application heap
In a Macintosh, the area of memory set aside for user programs.

A software tool for finding files stored on anonymous FTP sites. You need to know the exact file name or a substring of it.

Archive site
A machine that provides access to a collection of files across the Internet.

ARPANet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network)
The precursor to the Internet. Developed in the late 60's and early 70's by the US Department of Defense as an experiment in wide-area-networking that would survive a nuclear war.

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)
A seven-bit code for transmitting characters. This is the standard for the code used by computers to represent all the upper and lower-case Latin letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. There are 128 standard ASCII codes each of which can be represented by numbers: 0000000 through 1111111.

A-sized paper
is defined by ANSI as a page that is 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

Communication in which there is no synchronization between transmitter and receiver. Each character is framed by a number of start and stop bits. Used by most terminals and many microcomputers.

In DOS, a batch file that contains instructions to be executed at startup. These include the Path statements that tell where the applications are located and the commands to install the mouse driver if you have a mouse attached. See config.sys

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A high-speed line or series of connections that forms a major pathway within a network. The primary connectivity mechanism of a hierarchical distributed system.

An undocumented way to gain access to a program, some data, or an entire computer system.

How much stuff you can send through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second. The amount of data that can be sent through a communications circuit. A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 15,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video would require roughly 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression. See ADN, T-1

In programming, a common slang term for an excalmation point (!). In HTML, a common slant term for a forward slash (/).

A data encoding method that converts a binary file into plain ASCII text, which can be transmitted via the Internet and other computer network. This encoding method is used in MIME.

BASIC (Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code)
An easy-to-use high-level programming language developed in 1964 for instructional purposes.

Measure of the speed of data transmission. In common usage the baud rate of a modem is how many bits it can send or receive per second. Technically, baud is the number of times per second that the carrier signal shifts value - for example a 1200 bit-per-second modem actually runs at 300 baud, but it moves 4 bits per baud (4 x 300 = 1200 bits per second).

BBS (Bulletin Board System)
A computerized meeting and announcement system that allows people to carry on discussions, upload and download files, and make announcements without the people being connected to the computer at the same time. There are many thousands (millions?) of BBS's around the world, most are very small, running on a single IBM clone PC with 1 or 2 phone lines. Some are very large and the line between a BBS and a system like CompuServe gets crossed at some point but it is not clearly drawn.

bells and whistles
Advanced features that make a program more useful for specialized purposes.

A standard measurement, determined by a benchmark program, that is used to test the performance of different brands of equipment.

Having two states. Representation of numbers by the decimal digits 0 and 1 (Base-2).

BinHex (BINary HEXadecimal)
A method for converting non-text files (non-ASCII) into ASCII. This is needed because Internet e-mail can only handle ASCII. See MIME, UUENCODE

BIOS (Basic Input-Output System)
A set of programs encoded in ROM on IBM PC-compatible computers. These programs handle startup operations such as the POST and low-level control for hardware, such as disk drives, keyboard, and monitor. See CMOS

bit (Binary digIT)
A single digit number in base-2, in other words, either a 1 or a zero. The smallest unit of computerized data. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits-per-second. See byte, kilobyte, Megabyte

BITNET Because It's Time NETwork (or Because It's There NETwork)
A network of educational sites separate from the Internet, but e-mail is freely exchanged between BITNET and the Internet. Listservs, the most popular form of e-mail discussion groups, originated on BITNET. BITNET machines are usually mainframes running the VMS operating system, and the network is probably the only international network that is shrinking.

boot (bootstrap)
The process of starting the computer (cold boot) or restarting (warm boot). This initiates a route that clears the memory, loads the Operating System, and prepares the computer for use. Included in the computer's ROM is the POST, which executes on a cold boot.

BOOTP (BOOTstrap Protocol)
This allows a client to determine its IP address given its hardware address (to some BOOTP server).

boot sector
The first track on an IBM PC-compatible hard or floppy disk (track 0). During the boot process, ROM tells the computer to read the first block of data on this track and load whatever program is found there. If system files are found, they direct the computer to load the OS.

boot virus
A computer virus that infects the crucial boot sector of a disk, so that it is loaded into the computer's memory at the beginning of every operating session. A boot sector virus will subsequently infect any additional disks that are inserted into the system.

bot (roBOT)
In MUDs, a character whose on-screen actions stem from a program rather than a real person. In Internet searching, an automated search agent that explores the Internet autonomously, and reports back to the user when the search conditions have been successfully fulfilled.

bps (bits-per-second)
A measure of the data transfer rate. A 28.8 modem can move 28,800 bits per second. See bandwidth , bit

Network relay equipment which reads, buffers, and sends data from one link to another according to MAC (e.g. ethernet) addresses of the data.

Means of transmitting data such that information is sent to all machines attached to a network at the same time.

A client program (software) that is used to look at various kinds of Internet resources. See URL , WWW , Internet Explorer, Netscape , Mosaic , Home Page (or Homepage)

BTW (By The Way)
A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum. See IAPS , IMHO , TTFN

The information held in 8 bits. A set of Bits that represent a single character. See bit

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CD-ROM (Compact Disc--Read Only Memory)
A read-only optical storage technology that uses compact disks. CDs can be read many times, but recorded only once. CDs can store up to 640M of data in the most commonly used format.

The type of parallel interface used originally on printers made by Centronics Corporation and used by many other manufacturers.

CGI (Common Gateway Interface)
A set of rules that describe how a Web Server communicates with another piece of software on the same machine, and how the other piece of software (the "CGI program") talks to the web server. Any piece of software can be a CGI program if it handles input and output according to the CGI standard.
Usually a CGI program is a small program that takes data from a web server and does something with it, like putting the content of a form into an e-mail message, or turning the data into a database query.
You can often see that a CGI program is being used by seeing "cgi-bin" in a URL, but not always.

In an online information service, BBS, or Internet Relay Chat, to converse with other computer users by exchanging typed lines of text in a real-time conversation. This activity is discouraged at ASU.

Integrated Circuit made of semiconductor materials.

A software program that is used to contact and obtain data from a Server software program on another computer, often across a great distance. Each Client program is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of Server programs, and each Server requires a specific kind of Client. A Web Browser is a specific kind of Client.

CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor)
A special CMOS ROM chip operates the real-time clock included on the motherboard and stores the basic system configuration, including the floppy and hard disk types, amount or installed memory and wait state settings.

coax (coaxial, coax cable)
Types of cables consisting of central conductor surrounded (but insulated from) tube of outer conductor (often foil or braid)--various types of coax include Thick and Thin ethernet.

COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language)
Programming language widely used for business applications.

In computerese, software.

In DOS, a text file that contains the configuration commands that are executed at startup. See autoexec.bat

A cookie is a mechanism by which server side operations (such as CGI scripts) can store and retrieve information on the client side of the connection. In practice, this means that information submitted by a web browser to a web server via a form or other interactive method can be stored on the browser machine and resubmitted when the web server URL is accessed at some point in the future. Examples would include login or registration information, online "shopping carts" or user surveys. Since cookies can store user information (on the user's own computer), they are used to personalize the WWW experience by recognizing and acknowledging the user when reentering a web site. Cookies are typically set to expire after a predetermined amount of time. Cookies *do not* read your hard drive and send your life story to the CIA.

crypto (Cryptosystem, Cryptography)
A system for encrypting and decrypting communications, for privacy and security.

UNIX 'c' shell.

Cyberpunk was originally a cultural sub-genre of science fiction taking place in a not-so-distant, dystopian, over-industrialized society. The term grew out of the work of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and has evolved into a cultural label encompassing many different kinds of human, machine, and punk attitudes. It includes clothing and lifestyle choices as well.

The virtual space created by computer systems. The term grew out of the work of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling in the book Neuromancer.

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DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation)

Digital Equipment Corporation's name for networking protocols and products.

DN(Domain Name)
The unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names always have 2 or more parts, separated by dots. (e.g. See IP name

DNS(Domain Name Server/System)
This is a system of Internet hosts which provide IP name to IP address resolution.

To transfer a file from another computer to your computer by means of a modem and a telephone line. See upload

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The display on the screen of the characters typed on the keyboard.

EEPROM(Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory)

(electronic mail) -- Messages, usually text, sent from one person to another via computer. E-mail can also be sent automatically to a large number of addresses (Mailing List). See listserv

A very common method of networking computers in a LAN. Ethernet will handle about 10 megabits per second and can be used with almost any kind of computer. See bandwidth

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
FAQs are documents that list and answer the most common questions on a particular subject. There are hundreds of FAQs on subjects as diverse as Pet Grooming and Cryptography.

file transfer
Copying a file from one computer to another computer.

An Internet software tool for locating people on other Internet sites. Finger is also sometimes used to give access to non-personal information, but the most common use is to see if a person has an account at a particular Internet site. Many sites do not allow incoming finger requests, but many do.

fire wall
A combination of hardware and software that separates a LAN into two or more parts for security purposes. See network

Originally, flame meant to carry forth in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable debate. Flames most often involved the use of flowery language and flaming well was an art form. More recently flame has come to refer to any kind of derogatory comment no matter how witless or crude. When an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debators, rather than discussion of their positions. A heated exchange.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
A very common method of moving files between two Internet sites. FTP is a special way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of retrieving and/or sending files. There are many Internet sites that have established publicly accessible repositories of material that can be obtained using FTP, by logging in using the account name anonymous, thus these sites are called anonymous ftp servers. See Anonymous ftp

FYI(For Your Information)
An informal abbreviation used in electronic messages.

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The technical meaning is a hardware or software set-up that translates between two dissimilar protocols, for example Prodigy has a gateway that translates between its internal, proprietary e-mail format and Internet e-mail format. Another, sloppier meaning of gateway is to describe any mechanism for providing access to another system, e.g. America On-Line might be called a gateway to the Internet.

GIF(Graphics Interchange Format)
A graphics file used to encode and exchange graphics files on the Internet.

GIGO(Garbage In, Garbage Out)
Motto of the computer/data processing industry meaning that the results produced by a program cannot be given greater credence than the data input to it.

A widely successful method of making menus of material available over the Internet. Gopher is a Client and Server style program, which requires that the user have a Gopher Client program. Although Gopher spread rapidly across the globe in only a couple of years, it has been largely supplanted by Hypertext, also known as WWW (World Wide Web). There are still thousands of Gopher Servers on the Internet and we can expect they will remain for a while.

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Computer equipment (e.g. printer, monitor, keyboard, CPU)

HDD (Hard Disk Drive)
Internal hard drive.

The portion of a packet, preceding the data, which contains source and destination addresses and error-checking fields. Also used to refer to the information at the front of incoming mail messages.

hex (hexadecimal)
Counting by base 16 instead of base 10 using the decimal digits 0 to 9 and the letters A to F.

Home Page (or Homepage)
Several meanings. Originally, the web page that your browser is set to use when it starts up. The more common meaning refers to the main web page for a business, organization, person or simply the main page out of a collection of web pages, e.g. "Check out so-and-so's new Home Page."
Another sloppier use of the term refers to practically any web page as a "homepage," e.g. "That web site has 65 homepages and none of them are interesting."

Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as WWW and USENET. See node

HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
The coding language used to create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. HTML looks a lot like old-fashioned typesetting code, where you surround a block of text with codes that indicate how it should appear, additionally, in HTML you can specify that a block of text, or a word, is linked to another file on the Internet. HTML files are meant to be viewed using a World Wide Web Client Program, such as Netscape or Mosaic. See Server

HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol)
The protocol for moving hypertext files across the Internet. Requires a HTTP client program on one end, and an HTTP server program on the other end. HTTP is the most important protocol used in the World Wide Web (WWW).

Generally, any text that contains links to other documents - words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed.

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IAPS (I Am Pretty Sure)
A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum.

ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol)
This is a control and diagnostic protocol for IP data delivery used within protocols such as TCP, and by programs such as ping.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
Formerly Interactive Mail Access Protocol. Protocol for managing message stores in general (mailboxes in particular) on a server over a network from a client program.

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)
A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum.

A computing system in which continuous contact is maintained between the computer and the user.

The vast collection of inter-connected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the ARPANET of the late 60's and early 70's. The Internet connects independent networks into a vast global internet. Any time you connect 2 or more networks together, you have an internet--as in inter-national or inter-state.

Internet Explorer (Microsoft)
A popular Web browser for Microsoft Windows and Macintosh computers. See internet , network, Mosaic, Netscape

A private network inside a company or organization that uses the same kinds of software that you would find on the public Internet, but that is only for internal use.
As the Internet has become more popular many of the tools used on the Internet are being used in private networks, for example, many companies have web servers that are available only to employees.
Note that an Intranet may not actually be an internet--it may simply be a network.

IP(Internet Protocol)
The network layer which describes a packet format for data to pass on a TCP/IP network (generally over ethernet) and on the Internet.

IP address
A unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots, e.g.
Every machine that is on the Internet has a unique IP number - if a machine does not have an IP number, it is not really on the Internet.

IP name
An English-like name given to an IP host. Most machines also have one or more Domain Names that are easier for people to remember. See Domain Name

IRC(Internet Relay Chat)
Basically a huge multi-user live chat facility. This activity is strongly discouraged at ASU.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)
Basically a way to move more data over existing regular phone lines. ISDN is rapidly becoming available to much of the USA and in most markets it is priced comparably to standard analog phone circuits. It can provide speeds of roughly 128,000 bits-per-second over regular phone lines. In practice, most people will be limited to 56,000 or 64,000 bits-per-second.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)
An institution that provides access to the Internet in some form, usually for money.

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Java is a new programming language invented by Sun Microsystems that is specifically designed for writing programs that can be safely downloaded to your computer through the Internet and immediately run without fear of viruses or other harm to your computer or files. Using small Java programs (called "Applets"), Web pages can include functions such as animations, calculators, and other fancy tricks.
We can expect to see a huge variety of features added to the Web using Java, since you can write a Java program to do almost anything a regular computer program can do, and then include that Java program in a Web page.

A scripting language for Web publishing, developed by Netscape that enables Web authors to embed simple Java-like programming instructions within the HTML text of their Web pages.

A graphics format ideal for complex pictures. JPEG can achieve compression ratios of 10:1 or 20:1. A much better compression ratio than that of the Graphics Interchange Format.

Microsoft's version of JavaScript; it is not completely compatible with JavaScript.

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Security/authentication service.

A popular file transfer and terminal emulation program using asynchronous communications connections.

A thousand bytes. Actually, usually 1024 (2^10) bytes. See byte , bit

UNIX Korn shell.

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LAN (Local Area Network)
A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building or floor of a building. See ethernet

Communication networks for computers may be organized as a set of, more or less, independent protocols, each in a different layer (or level). The lowest layer governs direct host-to-host communication between the hardware at different hosts; the highest consists of user applications. TCP/IP has five layers of protocols; Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) Reference Model has seven: application layer, presentation layer, session layer, transport layer, network layer, data link layer and physical layer.

Refers to a phone line that is rented for exclusive 24-hour, 7-days-a-week exclusive use. The highest speed data connections require a leased line. See ADN, T-1 , T-3

An automated mailing list distribution system. See BitNet , e-mail

Apple Computer's proprietary cabling scheme for connecting Macintosh systems together. The AppleTalk software protocols run over LocalTalk.

Noun or a verb. Noun: The account name used to gain access to a computer system. Not a secret (contrast with Password). Verb: The act of entering into a computer system, e.g. Login to the WELL and then go to the GBN conference. See password

A text-only web browser for UNIX computers. See Internet Explorer, Mosaic , Netscape

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MAC (Media Access Control)
Lower networking layer concerned with ethernet addressing.

Mac (Macintosh)
Apple Macintosh Computer.

TCP/IP package for Macintosh.

Maillist (or Mailing List)
A (usually automated) system that allows people to send e-mail to one address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the maillist. In this way, people who have many different kinds of e-mail access can participate in discussions together.

Megabyte (M, Meg, Mega)
A million bytes. A thousand kilobytes. See bit

MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)
The standard for attaching non-text files to standard Internet mail messages. Non-text files include graphics, spreadsheets, formatted word-processor documents, sound files, etc.
An email program is said to be MIME Compliant if it can both send and receive files using the MIME standard. When non-text files are sent using the MIME standard they are converted (encoded) into text--although the resulting text is not really readable. Generally speaking the MIME standard is a way of specifying both the type of file being sent (e.g. a Quicktime* video file), and the method that should be used to turn it back into its original form. Besides email software, the MIME standard is also universally used by Web Servers to identify the files they are sending to Web Clients, in this way new file formats can be accommodated simply by updating the Browsers' list of pairs of MIME-Types and appropriate software for handling each type. See base64, Binhex , UUENCODE

modem (MOdulator, DEModulator)
A device that you connect to your computer and to a phone line, that allows the computer to talk to other computers through the phone system. Basically, modems do for computers what a telephone does for humans.

MOO (Mud, Object Oriented)
One of several kinds of multi-user role-playing environments, so far only text-based. The use of MOO is discouraged at ASU. See MUD , MUSE

The first WWW browser that was available for the Macintosh, Windows, and UNIX all with the same interface. Mosaic really started the popularity of the Web. The source-code to Mosaic has been licensed by several companies and there are several other pieces of software as good or better than Mosaic, most notably, Netscape. See Internet Explorer, LYNX, Netscape

MUD (Multi-User Dungeon or Dimension)
A (usually text-based) multi-user simulation environment. Some are purely for fun and flirting, others are used for serious software development, or education purposes and all that lies in between. A significant feature of most MUDs is that users can create things that stay after they leave and which other users can interact with in their absence, thus allowing a world to be built gradually and collectively. The use of MUD is discouraged at ASU. See MOO , MUSE

Data representing different types of information: text, static and moving graphics, sound, etc.

MUSE (Multi-User Simulated Environment)
One kind of MUD - usually with little or no violence. The use of MUSE is discouraged at ASU. See MOO

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The etiquette on the Internet.

A popular WWW browser and the name of a company. See Internet Explorer, LYNX, Mosaic

A proprietary networking system developed by Novell, Inc.

Any time you connect 2 or more computers together so that they can share resources, you have a computer network. Connect 2 or more networks together and you have an internet. See Intranet

The name for discussion groups on USENET.

NFS (Networked File System)
IP-based protocol and products for mounting filesystems across (IP) networks.

NIC (Networked Information Center)
Generally, any office that handles information for a network. The most famous of these on the Internet is the InterNIC, which is where new domain names are registered.

Any addressable device connected to a network. See internet

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Information accessable from a terminal. Connected to a communications device or host.

OS (Operating System)
A master control program that manages the computer's internal functions, such as accepting keyboard input, and provides a means to control the computer's operations and file system. E.G. Disk Operating System or DOS.

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A block of information with a defined format containing control information and data.

packet switching
The method used to move data around on the Internet. In packet switching, all the data coming out of a machine is broken up into chunks, each chunk has the address of where it came from and where it is going. This enables chunks of data from many different sources to co-mingle on the same lines, and be sorted and directed to different routes by special machines along the way.

Used in error correction during data transmission.

A code used to gain access to a locked system. See login

In a hierarchical file system such as UNIX or DOS, the route the operating system must follow to find an executable program stored in a subdirectory.

PDF (Portable Document Format)
A portable document format file created by Adobe Systems that makes extensive use of the Postscript printer description language.

PERL (Practical Extraction and Report Language)
A language for extracting and printing information from text files, and also for system management tasks.

Pine (Pine Is Nearly/No/Not yet/... Elm)
UNIX/PC e-mail user agent developed at the University of Washington.

Ping (Packet InterNet Groper)
Utility for checking reachability of Internet host by sending ICMP echo request to target system and reporting reply.

3 meanings. First and most generally, a place where information goes into or out of a computer, or both. E.g. the serial port on a personal computer is where a modem would be connected.
On the Internet port often refers to a number that is part of a URL, appearing after a colon (:) right after the domain name. Every service on an Internet server listens on a particular port number on that server. Most services have standard port numbers, e.g. Web servers normally listen on port 80. Services can also listen on non-standard ports, in which case the port number must be specified in a URL when accessing the server, so you might see a URL of the form:
gopher:// shows a gopher server running on a non-standard port (the standard gopher port is 70).
Finally, port also refers to translating a piece of software to bring it from one type of computer system to another, e.g. to translate a Windows program so that is will run on a Macintosh.

POST (Power-On Self Test)
Internal tests performed by a system (e.g. a PC) on its own components when it is booted. Encoded in ROM, the POST program first checks the microprocessor, then it reads the CMOS ROM, which stores the amount of memory and type of disk drives in your system.

A single message entered into a network communications system. E.g. A single message posted to a newsgroup or message board.

PPP (Point to Point Protocol)
Most well known as a protocol that allows a computer to use a regular telephone line and a modem to make TCP/IP connections and thus be really and truly on the Internet. See IP Address, SLIP

A formal description of message formats and the rules two computers must follow to exchange those messages.

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RAM (Random Access Memory)
Any memory in which data can be written/read to/from arbitrary locations; generally semiconductor memory.

A host which is used to forward terminal characters, files, or electronic mail between networks, making any necessary protocol transformations.

Remote Login (RLOGIN)
Operating on a remote computer, using a protocol over a computer network, as though locally attached.

RFC (Request For Comments)
The name of the result and the process for creating a standard on the Internet. New standards are proposed and published on line, as a Request For Comments. The Internet Engineering Task Force is a consensus-building body that facilitates discussion, and eventually a new standard is established, but the reference number/name for the standard retains the acronym RFC, e.g. the official standard for e-mail is RFC 822.

ROM (Read-Only Memory)
Memory to which data can be written only once but from which data can be read multiple times (or indefinitely). Semiconductor ROMs may be programmed at manufacture, or electronically by blowing fuses at their memory locations.

The path that network traffic takes from its source to its destination. Also, a possible path from a given host to another host or destination.

A special-purpose computer (or software package) that handles the connection between 2 or more networks. Routers spend all their time looking at the destination addresses of the packets passing through them and deciding which route to send them on. See Packet Switching

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search engine
Any program that locates needed information in a database. An Internet-accessable service that enables you to search for information on the Internet. See web crawler, YAHOO

Transmission one bit at a time, using a single physical channel, e.g. a pair of wires or an optical fibre.

A computer, or a software package, that provides a specific kind of service to client software running on other computers. The term can refer to a particular piece of software, such as a WWW server, or to the machine on which the software is running, e.g.Our mail server is down today, that's why e-mail isn't getting out. A single server machine could have several different server software packages running on it, thus providing many different servers to clients on the network.

SIMM (Single In-line Memory Module)
Memory module (usually several memory chips on a small Printed Circuit Board) in Single In-line Package.

SLIP (Serial-Line Internet Protocol)
A standard for using a regular telephone line (a serial line) and a modem to connect a computer as a real Internet site. SLIP is gradually being replaced by PPP. See SMDS

SMDS (Switched Multimegabit Data Service)
A new standard for very high-speed data transfer.

SNA (Systems Network Architecture)
IBM networking protocols.

A mechanism by which programs running on different computers can communicate with each other over a network without having to 'know' anything about the underlying network software and hardware.

Spam (or Spamming)
An inappropriate attempt to use a mailing list, or USENET or other networked communications facility as if it was a broadcast medium (which it is not) by sending the same message to a large number of people who didn't ask for it. The term probably comes from a famous Monty Python skit which featured the word spam repeated over and over.
The term may also have come from someone's low opinion of the food product with the same name, which is generally perceived as a generic content-free waste of resources. (Spam is a registered trademark of Hormel Corporation, for its processed meat product.)
E.g. Mary spammed 50 USENET groups by posting the same message to each.

SQL (Structured Query Language)
Computer language used for extracting information from a database.

A portion of a network, which may be a physically independent network segment, which shares a network address with other portions of the network and is distinguished by a subnet number.

Communication in which data bits follow one another immediately; i.e. no start/stop bits are used. The sender and receiver are synchronized by a common clock signal, transmitted alongside the data.

How the words (or computer language symbols) are arranged.

Sysop (System Operator)
Anyone responsible for the physical operations of a computer system or network resource. A System Administrator decides how often backups and maintenance should be performed and the System Operator performs those tasks.

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A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 1,544,000 bits-per-second. At maximum theoretical capacity, a T-1 line could move a megabyte in less than 10 seconds. That is still not fast enough for full-screen, full-motion video, for which you need at least 10,000,000 bits-per-second. T-1 is the fastest speed commonly used to connect networks to the Internet. See 56k Line , bandwidth , bit , byte , ethernet , T-3

A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 44,736,000 bits-per-second. This is more than enough to do full-screen, full-motion video. See 56k Line , bandwidth , bit , byte , ethernet , T-1

TAR (Tape ARchive)
A UNIX backup utility both local and remote.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
This is the suite of protocols that defines the Internet. Originally designed for the UNIX operating system, TCP/IP software is now available for every major kind of computer operating system. To be truly on the Internet, your computer must have TCP/IP software. See IP Address , Internet

The command and program used to login from one Internet site to another. The telnet command/program gets you to the login: prompt of another host.

A device that allows you to send commands to a computer somewhere else. At a minimum, this usually means a keyboard and a display screen and some simple circuitry. Usually you will use terminal software in a personal computer - the software pretends to be (emulates) a physical terminal and allows you to type commands to a computer somewhere else.

terminal server
A special purpose computer that has places to plug in many modems on one side, and a connection to a LAN or host machine on the other side. Thus the terminal server does the work of answering the calls and passes the connections on to the appropriate node. Most terminal servers can provide PPP or SLIP services if connected to the Internet.

TGIF (Thank God Its Friday)
a.k.a. POETS day.

TIFF (Tagged Image-File Format)
A bit-mapped graphics format for scanned images with resolutions of up to 300 dots per inch (dpi). TIFF simulates grayscale shading.

TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident)
This is a (DOS) program which stays in memory after it is started and allows the user to continue using other DOS programs.

TTFN (Ta Ta For Now)
A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum. See IAPS , IMHO , BTW

A method of conveying traffic of one network protocol over a network running a different protocol.

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A computer operating system (the basic software running on a computer, underneath things like word processors and spreadsheets). UNIX is designed to be used by many people at the same time (it is multi-user) and has TCP/IP built-in. It is the most common operating system for servers on the Internet.

To send a file by telecommunications to another computer user or a bulletin board system. See download

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
The standard way to give the address of any resource on the Internet that is part of the World Wide Web (WWW). A URL looks like this: or telnet:// or news:new.newusers.questions, etc. The most common way to use a URL is to enter into a WWW browser program, such as Netscape, or Lynx.

A world-wide system of discussion groups, with comments passed among hundreds of thousands of machines. Not all USENET machines are on the Internet, maybe half. USENET is completely decentralized, with over 10,000 discussion areas, called newsgroups.

UUENCODE (Unix to Unix Encoding)
A method for converting files from Binary to ASCII (text) so that they can be sent across the Internet via e-mail. See Binhex , MIME

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Vaporware (Vapourware)
Software announced but not yet written.

DEC computer architecture.

Veronica (Very Easy Rodent Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives)
Developed at the University of Nevada, Veronica is a constantly updated database of the names of almost every menu item on thousands of gopher servers. The Veronica database can be searched from most major gopher menus.

VHF (Very High Frequency)
Term used in radio for frequencies in the 30-300MHz range.

A program, designed as a prank or as sabotage, that replicates itself by attaching to other programs and carrying out unwanted and sometimes damaging operations. See boot virus, worm

IBM operating system.

Operating system for DEC VAXes.

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WAIS (Wide Area Information Servers)
A commercial software package that allows the indexing of huge quantities of information, and then making those indices searchable across networks such as the Internet. A prominent feature of WAIS is that the search results are ranked (scored) according to how relevant the hits are, and that subsequent searches can find more stuff like that last batch and thus refine the search process.

WAN (Wide Area Network)
Any internet or network that covers an area larger than a single building or campus. See LAN

A search engine for locating WWW documents.

A virus that's designed to find all data in memory or on disk and alter any data it encounters.

WORM (Write-Once Read-Many)
An optical disk drive with storage capacities of up to 1 terabyte. After you write data to the disk, it becomes a read-only storage medium. See CD-ROM

WWW (World Wide Web or Web)
Two meanings - First, loosely used: the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP, telnet, USENET, WAIS and some other tools. Second, the universe of hypertext servers (HTTP servers) which are the servers that allow text, graphics, sound files, etc. to be mixed together. See browser , URL

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A search engine for locating WWW documents.

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