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Audio Card - This component allows you to connect speakers or headphones to your computer in order to hear the sound coming out of your system. This can either be built into the motherboard or a be an add-on card connected to it.


Bookmark - When you visit a WEB SITE and you want to remember its address, you can save it in your WEB BROWSER. Whatever web browser you use will determine the procedure for doing this. Contact your ISP to learn how to do this.

Binary - Computers use a series of electronic on and off switches to perform every function. The language that tells the computer to switch thing on and off is called binary language. This is expressed by 1's and 0's. 1 means "on" and "0" means "off." This is also known as "machine language." By placing a lot of 1's and 0's together, individual characters can be formed and combined to create PROGRAMS.

Bit - A single piece of BINARY Code that when placed in a group with other bits, forms a single character, such as a letter of the alphabet. The abbreviation for bit in computer language is a small letter "b." It takes 8 bits, or one BYTE, to equal one letter in this glossary.

Byte - A Byte is made up of a group of BITS and is usually used to tell how much memory or storage space a DOCUMENT uses. 8 bits equal one Byte. The abbreviation for Byte is an upper case "B."


CD-ROM - This is similar to the audio CD, but it contains computer programs instead of music. Most computers have CD-ROM drives. As a result, most software is released on CD-ROM rather than FLOPPY DISK because of its greater storage capacity of 650 MB as opposed to 1.44 MB for the floppy disk.

Click - This is pressing and releasing a MOUSE button. This is usually done while the POINTER is located over a GRAPHIC, text or an ICON.

Clipboard - This is a small portion of the computer's memory used to store items that have been placed there with the COPY or CUT function. The item is only saved until another copy or cut function is performed.

Cache - Pronounced "Cash," this is a small amount of memory (separate from RAM) that stores functions and actions you use often as you work. This means the computer does not have to read the HARD DRIVE every time they are performed. When the cache fills up, the oldest or least used functions are deleted and any new ones are added. Some computers have a second cache called an L2 (or level 2) Cache. The cache is usually anywhere from 128 KB to 1 MB. This memory is not SAVED when the computer is turned off.

Compress - This is a way of making a FILE smaller (known as “Zipping” a file) so it doesn't take up as much MEMORY or HARD DRIVE space. Most compression software, like Win Zip, compresses a file by deleting redundant information. The compression software makes note of what was taken out so it can be added back in when the file is decompressed (or UNZIPPED).

Control Panel - This is an area of you SYSTEM that controls the various functions of your computer, such as your audio, display, modem and other items.

Copy - This function allows you to place a duplicate of a selected item in the computer's CLIPBOARD. It does not move or remove the original item. The duplicate may then be placed in another location. This is sometimes done with the PASTE function.

CPU - means Central Processing Unit. This is the PROCESSOR inside your computer. Many people mistakenly call the actual computer tower or desktop unit the CPU. In fact, the CPU refers only to the processor and has nothing to do with the outside case, disk drives, or any circuit board expansion cards plugged into the motherboard.

Cursor - This is the blinking line that appears where you type, such as in a word processor program.

Cut - This function allows you to remove selected text or graphics from a DOCUMENT. The item can then be PASTED elsewhere, even in another document because the item is temporarily saved in the computer's CLIPBOARD.


Desktop - When Windows loads up, or you exit a program, the desktop appears. It may have ICONS on it and the START MENU is usually visible there.

Dialog Box - This is similar to a WINDOW, but there are no icons in it. Instead there is only written information, buttons to click on or small text boxes to type into.

Disk Drive - This is a device that reads from and/or writes to a HARD DISK, CD-ROM's, FLOPPY DISKS, ZIP DISKS or other media. These allow information created on the computer to be SAVED and accessed at a later time. Disks used in disk drives are NON-VOLATILE storage media.

Document - This is what is created when you work in a computer PROGRAM. It can be named almost whatever you want so it may be found more easily. Often windows will automatically SAVE documents in the DOCUMENTS FOLDER or in the same folder as the program that created it.

Documents Folder - This is a folder on the DESKTOP where PROGRAMS and the Windows SYSTEM will sometimes store DOCUMENTS. This usually happens if you don't tell them to put the documents somewhere else, such as on a FLOPPY DISK or in another folder on the HARD DRIVE.

Download - To receive information via the Internet. Anytime information is received, whether it is e-mail, a web site or a file off a web site, it's considered downloading.

Double Click - This is a procedure to open up a file using an ICON. This is accomplished by placing the MOUSE POINTER over the icon and clicking the left button twice in rapid succession. This is unlike the Internet, where selections are made with single clicks.

Drag - This is preceded by CLICKING and HOLDING. The MOUSE is then moved in order to relocate an object on the screen. This is often used to move ICONS, GRAPHICS or text from one spot to another.

Drop Down Menu - This is a menu that appears near the top of the screen in your SOFTWARE programs. It contains choices of tasks to perform. "File," Edit," and "View" appear in most programs.

DVD-ROM - This is similar to the DVD (which stands for Digital Versatile Disk, not Digital Videodisk) disks that you watch movies on, but they contain computer software instead of movies. Software is slowly beginning to be released on DVD-ROM as more computers are purchased with DVD-ROM drives. However, it will be several years before many programs are released in this format as not all new computers are being sold with DVD-ROM drives.


Expansion Card - This is a computer board that plugs into the MOTHER BOARD inside your computer. These can be audio, video, network or modem cards. They usually have connectors that are visible on the back of the computer case.

Extract - to uncompress (or unzip) a file. Files downloaded from the Internet are often "ZIPPED" to make them smaller. This is so they don't take as much time to download or as much space to store on the server.


File - A piece of information saved on a computer DISK DRIVE. This could be a DOCUMENT created in a program, a piece of digitized music, a digital photo, or even a part of the Windows system. File is also a MENU in most programs where you can open, save or even edit the settings of computer files.

Floppy Disk - A small plastic device containing a round, flexible surface that information can be store on. While the outside jacket is usually stiff, the actual readable disk is, in fact, floppy.


GB - This stands for Gigabyte. It is a measurement of memory or storage space that is equivalent to 1024 MB.

Graphic - A graphic can be a computer-generated picture or background that can be used to enhance a DOCUMENT, WEB SITE, or some areas of the computer SYSTEM. - This is a search engine for Internet web sites.

GUI - This stands for Graphical User Interface. This is a way to navigate through computer files using pictures and graphics. Windows is an example of a GUI. DOS is NOT a GUI as it relies solely on commands and file names in the form of text to perform tasks on the computer.


Hard Drive - or Hard Disk is a storage device for information created on a computer. It is called "hard" because the round storage disk inside of the Hard DISK DRIVE is made of a non-flexible material such as metal. These drives are usually not easily removed form the computer and used in another location like REMOVABLE MEDIA can be. Hard drives are NON-VOLATILE storage media.

Hold - CLICKING with the MOUSE precedes this action. Instead of releasing the button after it is pressed, the button is held. This allows you to DRAG objects from one location to another. You can also highlight text by clicking at the beginning of the first letter and holding the button down as you move the pointer across the text.


Icon - This is a small picture that represents a computer file. Usually, DOUBLE-CLICKING on one opens a DOCUMENT or PROGRAM.

Input Device - This refers to the items attached to your computer than allow you to enter information into your computer. The keyboard, mouse, joystick or a scanner would be examples input devices. The printer is not and input device because information comes out of the computer and is printed onto paper.

IP Address - This stands for Internet Protocol Address. This consists of a set of four 2 or 3 digit numbers; each separated by a period (i.e. This address is how computers identify themselves on the Internet or on an internal computer network. Each number is unique to each computer, although many ISP's randomly assign a small number of IP Addresses to only the computers that are actually logged onto the Internet. Every web site is on a computer that has an IP address. The WWW names we type in to get to the sites only tell the Internet what IP address to look for. If you know the IP address of a web site, you can type that in instead of the name. This only works if the web site has it’s own server. If there are multiple sites on the server, they usually all use the same IP address and the server figures out which site you actually want based on the name.

ISP - Internet Service Provider. This is the company with whom you signed up for INTERNET service.


Jumper - This is a small connector on the back of a hard drive which determines the order it loads when the computer boots. The jumper can be moved to switch the mode of the drive which can include Master (boots first and may contain your Windows system), Slave (a secondary drive on the same data cable), Cable Select (the cable connections automatically determine the drive mode) and Single (it is the only hard drive in the computer).


Kb - This stands for Kilobit. This is a measurement used to calculate modem speed. Modem speed is measured in Kilobits per second. The abbreviation for Kilobit (Kb) is often confused with the abbreviation for kilobyte (KB). One Kilobit is equal to 1024 bits, while one Kilobyte is equal to 8192 bits.

KB - This stands for Kilobyte. It's a small measurement of FILE size or MEMORY. It is equivalent to 1024 BYTES.

Keyboard - This is the device with all the letters and numbers on it. It allows you to type in programs on your computer and has special keys that perform various functions. This is considered and INPUT DEVICE.


Local Area Network (LAN) - A local area network consists of computers on an internal network that talk to one another, but don't connect directly to the outside world. Instead, they connect either through a server or an Internet Router that accepts information and distributes it to the internal computers. This allows the LAN computers to share information freely with one another, but still be protected from hackers on the Internet. A computer on a LAN usually has an IP ADDRESS that starts with Usually the server or router is, and the other computers continue with .2, .3, etc.


MB - This stands for Megabyte. This is a measurement of MEMORY, PROGRAM or DOCUMENT size or HARD DRIVE space on a computer. This is equivalent to 1024 KB.

Memory - See also RAM.

Memory Leak - When you open and close PROGRAMS, not everything is cleaned out of the computer's RAM. This can cause your computer to get progressively slower. A cure for this is to restart the system. This usually clears out all those memory fragments that are eating up your RAM. Sometimes you may have to actually shut the system down to fully clear out the RAM. In this case, leave the system off for a few minutes (or until you need to use it), then turn it back on.

Menu - look near the top of your computer screen if you are reading this off the WEB SITE. The words "File", "Edit" and other words with one letter in them underlined should appear there. These are menus. Move the MOUSE POINTER to one of them and click once with the left button. A strip with several options should appear. Anything on the computer that gives you a list of options is a menu.

Menu Bar - This is a strip at the top of a computer program page that has a series of buttons that, when clicked on, perform a certain task. The menu bar also contains DROP DOWN MENUES.

Monitor - This is the device that resembles a television. It displays information from your computer. This is considered and OUTPUT DEVICE.

Mother Board - This is the main circuit board of your computer. Everything plugs into this board. It contains your PROCESSOR, RAM, and allows EXPANSION CARDS to be plugged into it.

Mouse - This is the little device near the KEYBOARD that has buttons and a rolling ball to allow you to perform various functions on the computer. This is considered an INPUT DEVICE.


Network - This consists of two or more computers linked together so they can send and receive information between each other. These computers can be next to one another, in another building, or even across the world. The Internet is actually one big computer network.

Non-Volatile Storage - A way to store information so it is not lost when the computer is restarted, turned off or the storage medium is removed from the computer, as in REMOVABLE MEDIA.


Output Device - This is any device that the computer sends information to. This could be your printer or MONITOR.


Paste - This function places the contents of the CLIPBOARD file in a selected location. Either the CUT or COPY function precedes this.

Pixel - This is a single part of a dot that makes up part of the image on the screen. On a color monitor, a single dot is made up of three pixels. These pixels are red, green and blue. Exciting combinations of these pixels produce various colors. By exciting all three, white is produced. By not exciting any, black is produced.

Pointer - This is the little arrow (or other GRAPHIC) that moves when you move the mouse. This helps you select items and options on the computer screen.

Pop Up Menu - Similar to a drop down menu, this one "pops up" when you click the right side mouse button. Depending upon what you click on, the pop up menu will provide different choices of tasks you can perform.

Processor - This is what controls the flow of information through your computer. It is the device that reads the BINARY code that tells the machine what to do. However, the processor can only read the information as fast as it can receive it, so a faster processor will benefit from a faster SYSTEM BUS.

Program - This is a set of instructions that tell the computer what to do. Without programs, computers would be expensive paperweights. Programs can be as simple as telling the computer how to type the word "Hi" or as complicated as the Windows SYSTEM on your computer.


Quicktime - Quicktime is a media player created by Apple. There is a version of the program for Windows to allow those users to view Quicktime encoded media.

QWERTY - This refers to a keyboard where the first set of letters spells QWERTY.


RAM - This stands for Random Access Memory. When a program is accessed on a computer, as much of it as possible is COPIED from the HARD DRIVE and stored on chips that are attached to the MOTHER BOARD. The information stored on the RAM chips can be accessed much faster than if the computer always had to read it off the hard drive. The more RAM you have, the bigger and greater number of programs you can operate on the computer. Most new computers come with at least 64 MB of RAM. RAM is a VOLATILE storage medium. Any information stored in the computer's memory is lost when the computer is restarted, or turned off, if it is not SAVED to a DISK DRIVE.

Real Player - This is a media player from Real Networks. This program can play MP3s or video encoded in the Real Video format.

Recycle Bin - This is the folder on your DESKTOP where you put files you no longer want on your computer. Right clicking on the Recycle Bin ICON allows you to choose to delete the files inside.

Removable Media - Storage devices, such as a floppy disk, that are placed in a non-removable drive in the computer. These can be removed and taken to another location.

Resolution - This is the quality of the image displayed on your monitor. This is measured by the number of PIXELS displayed on the screen.


Save - This converts a project you are working on in a PROGRAM into a computer file that may be accessed at a later time. Saving prevents information from being erased when you exit a program or a MENU.

Settings - These are instructions in programs that remain constant every time the program is opened. Usually, settings are changed by going into MENUS that allow them to be changed to your liking.

Shortcut - This is copy of the actual ICON for your computer file. It simply allows you to reach a file more easily by putting an icon leading to the file in easy reach, such as on the DESKTOP or the START MENU. Shortcuts may be deleted without hurting the programs they belong to.

Slider Bars - These controls adjust various settings of your system in small increments, such as sound volume or the repeat rate of the keys on your KEYBOARD.

Start Menu - This is the MENU BAR that opens up to show a list of your computer software. It can also direct you to system utilities that allow you to make changes to the way your computer operates. None of the items in the Start Menu are actual programs. They are only SHORTCUTS to them.

System - This is a very large PROGRAM that controls what your computer does whenever it's on. Windows is a system as is the Macintosh OS. Unix and Linux are other systems that compete with Windows.

System Bus - All information goes through the system bus to get to the PROCESSOR. The bus speed of the computer is often referred to as the “clock speed.” The system bus sends information to the processor in small increments known as cycles. The faster the system bus, the faster the processor can receive information. As processor technology gets more advanced, bus speeds get faster. For example, just a few years ago, bus speeds were only 66 Megahertz. Bus speeds are up to 133 Megahertz and faster speeds are coming. Of course, when the bus speeds increased, so did the need for faster RAM that could keep up. That is why most new computers use what is known as PC 100 or 133 Compliant RAM.


Taskbar - This is the center portion of the bar located at the bottom of the screen. It contains buttons that represent each open program in Windows. These can be clicked on to bring each program to the front.


Upload - This is the opposite of "DOWNLOAD". When information is sent out from your computer to a place on the Internet, this is uploading. Information could be e-mail, computer files, or parts of your personal web page, if you have one. Every time you click on a link on a Web Site, a request is uploaded to the server for that information. Most uploading involves small pieces of information, as opposed to downloading which can involve very large files.


Video Card (Graphics Card) - This is a circuit board that plugs into the MOTHER BOARD of your computer. It provides additional RAM to help the computer display graphics on your monitor. Sometimes programs require a lot of memory in order to be displayed properly on your computer screen. A video card helps take a little load of the computer when doing this task.

Volatile Storage - A way to temporarily store information that is lost when the computer is rebooted or turned off.


Web Browser - This is the program you use to view information on the Internet.

Web Page - A single FILE or DOCUMENT on the Internet (like this page) containing information that can be access all over the world.

Web Site - A series of interlinked WEB PAGES that form a single location for information on the Internet.

Wallpaper - This is a background you can place on your DESKTOP to customize it. It can be a photo or a GRAPHIC. It is usually placed over the regular background on your desktop, hence the name.

Window - This is a box that opens when a button, ICON or word in a DROP DOWN MENU or POP UP MENU is clicked on. It contains one or more icons that may vary in size. Sometimes the icons are very small and sit beside the names to form a list. Other times, they take the form of a group of postage stamp sized icons.

WYSIWYG - Pronounced "Wizzy-Wig." This stands for "What You See Is What You Get." Unlike many early computer systems, what you see on your computer screen is usually what the DOCUMENT will look like when printed out.

XY - This is a search directory of Internet Web sites. It also provides other features, such as web-based email, sports information and shopping.


Zip Disk - A 100-MB or 250-MB storage medium that can be removed from the computer and taken to another location.

Zip File - A compressed computer file. Files are compressed by deleting repeating pieces of information to make them smaller. The computer keeps track of what was deleted and replaces that information when the files are "Unzipped."

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