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Internet Terms and Acronyms

Computer Acronyms are an entire language onto itself. They are used throughout the computer and electronic industry for describing various functions, processes, components, and such. It used to be a language only known by computer enthusiasts, however now with the Internet becoming more and more popular, computer acronyms have become part of the vernacular. Do you really understand what they mean? Below is a guide to the most common computer terms with explanations of what they mean.

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A name that is substituted for a more complicated name. For example, a simple alias may be used instead of a more complicated mailing address or for a mailing list.

Describes any information that has been translated into a corresponding physical change, such as electric current - any information may be converted to analog. Technologically inferior to digital because of signal degradation (the signal or data strength is weaker at a distance with analog data).

An acronym for American National Standards Institute. The American body responsible for setting telecommunications standards in the US. Unfortunately these often differ from those set by the ISO, the world standards authority.

A computer program written in Java for transfer over the web.

A search utility used on the Internet to locate files in FTP sites, these files are generally public domain files that anyone can download.

An acronym for Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Where the Internet began; the Advanced Research Projects Agency (of the U.S. Department of Defense) computer network that was the forerunner of the Internet. Has been replaced by NFSNet.

The American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a standard way for computers to use bits and bytes to represent characters. An ASCII file contains simple text without any special formatting codes.

An acronym for Asynchronous Transfer Mode. A method of transmitting bytes across communications links.

An acronym for Acceptable Use Policy of the NSF which prevents the use of the NSFnet backbone for purely commercial use.

A graphical representation of a person in a chat room. The word comes from Hindu mythology in which spirits come down and inhabit bodies.

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A network through which other, smaller networks are connected.

Describes the capacity at which a given communications channel, such as ordinary copper telephone line, can transfer information; increasing bandwidth increases the speed at which data transfer takes place. The greater the bandwidth, the greater amount of data can be transferred.

Baud Rate
A measurement of how quickly a modem transfers data. Although, strictly speaking, this is not the same as bits per second, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

BBS (Bulletin Board System)
A service accessible via modem or other connection through which users may exchange messages privately or post messages to a publicly accessible forum; may or may not have Internet access.

Basic Input Output System.
This is the basic set of instructions that tell the computer how to act. Most computers have these instructions built into a chip that plugs into the motherboard.

Short for binary digit; either a 1 or a 0; the smallest unit into which digital information may be broken.

BPS (Bits per Second)
A measure of the speed of data transmission; the number of bits of data that can be transmitted each second. Modems are generally measured by their BPS rate (14.4K - 14400 BPS, 28.8K - 28800 BPS)

Boot up
The process of turning on the computer, which includes a number of functions that are performed automatically every time the power switch is turned on.

A client software program used to search networks, retrieve copies of files and display them in an easy-to-read, often graphical, format. Browsers such as SPRY Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, and Microsoft Internet Explorer are used to access information on the World Wide Web.

Abbreviation for "By the way" or "in my humble opinion", respectively. Abbreviations such as these are commonly used in email, newsgroups, or listservs.

Bulletin Board System (BBS)
A computer system to which other computers can connect so their users can read and leave messages, or retrieve and leave files.

A collection of eight BITS.

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A program that connects computers on a network for instantaneous, multi-way communication. People who use chat can type messages for delivery to a server, which displays the messages instantly so that users who are logged on to the chat service can respond immediately. On the Internet, chat is sometimes referred to as Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

An acronym for Commercial Information Exchange.

A software program that provides access to network resources by working with information stored on a server.

Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. A CMOS computer circuit consumes very little power and is used in computers to keep track of the system setup information, data, time, type of disk and hard drives, etc. that a computer has installed. The CMOS information is powered by the computer's on-board battery. So if the on-board battery fails, the information in CMOS is lost.

Compressed File
Computer files that have been reduced in size by a compression program. Such programs are available for all computer systems.

Central Processing Unit. This is the brains of the computer. You'll hear computers described in terms of which CPU is installed in them. A 486 computer, and Pentium, a 386DX, etc.

An unexpected shutdown either of a program or the whole system.; sometimes traumatic, always frustrating ; often fixable by turning off the computer and turning it back on; results in losing any unsaved work. Can also be used in instances of a hard disk physically being damaged.

Navigating the Internet by following hyperlinks from one Web site or page to another.

This is an acronym for Computer Supported Co-operative Work, more commonly called groupware. See also Lotus Notes.

A term coined by author William Gibson. It describes the imaginary space in which computer users travel when "surfing" the Internet.

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In UNIX, a program running all the time in the "background" (that is, unseen by users), providing special services when required. An example of a daemon is biff, which lets you know when mail arrives.

US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (now ARPA). One of the bodies which `created' the concept of the Internet and funded the development of Internet facilities for many years.

Dedicated Line
A telephone line that is leased from the telephone company and used for one purpose only. In the early days of the Internet, it was a line dedicated to a server.

Dial-in Direct Connection
An Internet connection that is accessed by dialing in to a computer through a telephone line. Once connected, your computer acts as if it were an Internet host. This type of service is often called SLIP, CSLIP or PPP.

Dial-up Service
A common Internet term for a dial-on terminal connection.

Terms used to describe any information that has been translated into a corresponding series of 1s and 0s; any information - text, sound, image, color, may be digitized.

Discussion Board
A forum on a Web site for the discussion of a specific topic or set of related topics.

Domain Names
A name given to a host computer on the Internet. E-mail names are good examples of domain names (i.e., anyname@netcom.com).

Short for the "period" usually heard in a reference to a url -- "www.webtrail.com"

The process of transferring information from one computer to another, usually from a server to a client. You download a file from another computer to yours.

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An acronym for Electronic Data Interchange. Also referred to as electronic commerce.

Electronic Commerce
The transacting of business electronically rather than via paper.

E-mail (Electronic Mail)
A means of sending typed messages from one computer to another, over a network or the Internet.

Emoticons, or smileys :-) , are used to convey emotion. The expressions and inflections of voice we use to convey emotion, irony, sarcasm, etc. when talking are lost when communicating over the Internet. To make up for that, a system of symbols has developed which uses common keyboard marks.

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Frequently Asked Question. This is often a file which new users can refer to when using a new service or piece of Internet software. It contains answers to frequently asked questions, hence the name.

File Transport Protocol (FTP)
A service for moving an electronic file of any type from one computer to another over the Internet.

Flame Mail
An excessively angry or rancorous message, generally containing personal insults, sent through e-mail.

Someone who writes flame mail. Flamee should be obvious.

Floppy Disk
A removable storage medium that is used in conjunction with a floppy drive, usually 5.25-inch or 3.5-inch in size.

The dedicated area where people come together to discuss issues, hobbies, or news. Also called newsgroups.

Software provided free by its originator. See shareware.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
An area or document dedicated to answering common questions.

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GB (Gigabyte)
1,000 Megabytes. A measure storage space. Hard Drives now are measured in GB capacity.

GIF (Graphic Interchange Format)
One of two popular systems used to compress the size of image files so they require less bandwidth to transfer on the Web.

An Internet service for locating and delivering electronic files. The Gopher interface includes a directory tree and a set of menus which can be used for exploring the Internet and downloading files.

This is an acronym for Graphical User Interface. Examples are Windows and Apple's Macintosh operating system. The concept originated in the early 1970s at Xerox's PARC laboratory.

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Hard Disk
The rigid storage medium located within a hard drive; the relatively large storage area where a computer's operating system, applications, and data usually reside.

Helper App
A "helper application" or add-on program particularly for a web browser that increases the functionality and the type of files that the browser can display. Also see Plug-in.

Home Page
The opening page of a World Wide Web document, sometimes called the welcome page.

A computer connected directly to the Internet. A service provider's computer is a host.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
This is an acronym for HyperText Mark-up Language which is used to format information so that it can be structured and made accessible to the World Wide Web (WWW). The language itself is a simplified derivative of SGML, a widely used standard developed in the mid 1980's. The technique employed is to encase the information in special markers (called tags) which tell the WWW applications how the text is to be interpreted.

A proposed new standard which will supersede html. It is a superset of html which is designed to extend the capabilities of the language to incorporate better support for multimedia objects in documents.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)
The protocol that forms the basis of World Wide Web technology. HTTP is the set of rules governing the software that transports hyperlinked files along the Internet.

In a World Wide Web document, a graphic image coded to form a link to another file. As with hypertext, if you click on a hypergraphic, you will jump to the linked file.

A code which contains an "address," which when clicked, will take you to that address.

Like hypertext except that the concept is extended to multimedia objects such as graphics, video and audio.

Electronic text coded to provide instant access, via links, to other hypertext (or hypergraphics) elsewhere within a document or in a separate document.

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An acronym for Internet Architecture Board

An acronym for Internet Assigned Numbers Authority

Integrated Drive Electronics. An interface used mainly by hard drives and CD-ROM drives to connect to the computer.

An acronym for Internet Engineering Task Force

A collection of networks linked together using a common protocol. The global computer network achieved through the interconnection of smaller computer networks around the world.

IP (Internet Protocol)
The standard protocol used by systems communicating across the Internet.

IP Address
A digital code that precisely locates a computer connected to the Internet.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat)
A software tool that makes it possible to hold real-time keyboard conversations online.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)
Large bandwidth telephone line. Allows you to transfer information quickly.

An acronym for International Organization for Standardization

An acronym for The Internet Society

ISP (Internet Service Provider)
A company that provides a connection to the Internet. Service providers sell access to the network. Services offered differ between ISPs.

An acronym for International Telecommunication Union

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A relatively new programming language developed by Sun Microsystems mainly to enhance the "online experience" of the World Wide Web.

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) Graphic Format
A commonly used compression technique for graphics images on the Internet.

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K (Kilobyte)
1024 bytes

An action that can be taken in Usenet to exclude certain words, phrases, subjects, or even specific individual posters, from the list of messages displayed on your screen.

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LAN (Local Area Network)
The regional server or servers your computer is connected to. These in turn are connected to other servers creating a network in your office, home, etc.

Mailing list that acts as a newsgroup. Messages sent to a listserv address are sent to everyone who has subscribed to the list. Responses are sent back to the listserv address.

Local File
A file stored on the hard disk of your computer, as opposed to a file stored on an Internet server or some other remote computer

Lotus Development Corporation the software company responsible for the Notes line of products.

Reading chat, forum, newsgroup or listserv messages without responding to them.

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Short for "Macintosh"; the other type of personal computer, manufactured by Apple Computer, not a PC

An acronym for Metropolitan Area Network.

Megabyte (MB)
1 million bytes. A measure of the quantity of data. A megabyte is a lot when you are talking about files containing simple text messages, but it's not much when you are talking about files containing color photographs.

An acronym for Multicast BackbONE, an Internet service which gives public access desktop video communications. The quality is poor with only 3-5 frames per second instead of the 30 frames per second of commercial television. Its advantage is that it avoids all telecommunications costs normally associated with teleconferencing. An interesting innovation is the use of MBONE for audio communications and an electronic "whiteboard" where the computer screen becomes a shared workspace where two physically remote parties can draw on and edit shared documents in real-time.

The computer industry giant responsible for DOS, Windows, Windows 95 and assorted business and personal software. Now challenging Netscape is the web browser market with Internet Explorer.

An acronym for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions

Modem (Modulator-Demodulator)
A device that converts digital signals from your computer into analog signals for transmission through a phone line, and vice versa (called demodulation).

A small, handheld device attached to a computer; when moved across any flat surface (such as a desk), it results in the movement of something on the computer screen called a cursor; includes one or more buttons that allow the user to select graphics or text onscreen.

A software application which runs on UNIX, PC and Macintosh computers. It is an interface to the WWW.

MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group)
A video file compression system used on the web.

MUD (Multi User Domain)
A game or simulation in which multiple participants can engage simultaneously through their connections to the same Internet server.

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An acronym for the U.S. National Center for Supercomputing Applications, creator of the first Mosaic (browser) application for the WWW.NCSA - home of Mosaic.

Two or more computers connected to one another for the transfer and sharing of information.

Internet etiquette, the correct form of behavior to be used while working on the Internet and Usenet. It can be summed up as, "Don't waste computer resources and don't be rude."

A computer company in California famous for their Netscape Navigator Internet web browsing software.

An individual new to the Internet. Used with both affection and malice--depending on whether you're being welcomed or being flamed.

Open forums or electronic bulletin boards on the Internet, where readers can share information, ideas, tips, and opinions with each other.

A group of applications from the Lotus Development Corporation which allows organizations to share documents and exchange email messages.

An acronym for National Science Foundation

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Connected. You are online if you are working on your computer while it is connected to another computer. Your printer is online if it is connected to your computer and ready to accept data.

OS (Operating System)
The primary program running on a computer; started automatically when the computer is turned on; all other programs run within the operating system. Examples: DOS, Windows 95, UNIX, OS/2 Warp, and System 7 (Mac). Windows itself is not an operating system.

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PC (Personal Computer)
Usually refers to what 's commonly known as an IBM-compatible computer, made by any one of dozens of manufacturers or backyard entrepreneurs.

Portable Document Format. A document format read by Adobe System's Acrobat viewer. This format is excellent for displaying instruction manuals and other large documents in a "web-ready" state.

An acronym for Privacy Enhanced Mail

A helper application that works within a browser. It adds more functionality to a browser commonly associated with the Netscape Navigator browser software.

Generally, port refers to the hardware through which computer data is transmitted; the plugs on the back of your computer are ports. On the Internet, port often refers to a particular application. For instance, you might telnet to a particular port on a particular host. The port is actually an application.

A message sent to a newsgroup or the act of sending such a message.

The person at a host who is responsible for managing the mail system. If you need information about a user at a particular host, you can usually send e-mail to the postmaster at postmaster@hostname.

PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol)
A protocol that allows a computer to use the TCP/IP (Internet) protocols (and become a full-fledged Internet member) with a standard telephone line and a high-speed modem. PPP is a new standard for this which replaces SLIP.

A set of rules computer programmers apply when writing code for a specific software. Computers and networks interact according to standard protocols, which determine the behavior that each side of a network connection expects from the other side.

An acronym for Postal, Telegraph and Telephone

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A search question that has been asked in a manner the computer's database system can understand and use.

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RAM (Random Access Memory)
The working space within a computer that may be used at one time; increasing the amount of RAM increases the speed at which a computer works because more of a program may be loaded into the working space at one time, so less time is spent accessing parts of the program from the hard drive. Information stored in RAM is lost when the computer's power is turned off.

A capability of Lotus Notes to automatically distributes document databases across physical telecommunications networks. Notes supports a wide range of network protocols including X25 and Internet TCP/IP.

Remote Computer
A computer located somewhere else along a network as, for example, the computer containing the online catalog of your local public library. Remote is a relative term, relative, that is, to the computer immediately at hand (the local computer). A remote computer can actually be located within the same room, or it can be halfway around the world.

ROM (Read Only Memory)
This memory is the core instructions for the computer, it generally cannot be altered (read only) and is burned into the chips making up the specific motherboard.

A system used to transmit data between two computer systems or networks using the same protocol.

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Small Computer Systems Interface. An set of standards used by an input device to interface with the computer. SCSI systems can "daisy-chain" up to 7 seven devices to a single connection. In other words, one device can connect to other device, and to another until it connects to the computer. Because several devices can connect to one single input connection, each device must be properly terminated for the entire chain of devices to work.

Search Engine
A tool used which matches key words you enter with titles and descriptions on the Internet. It then displays the matches allowing you to easily locate a subject. Similar to a card catalog, but not as efficient. Common search engines are Webcrawler, Yahoo, Alta Vista, Infoseek, and Lycos.

A computer or its software that "serves" other computers by administering network files and network operations. Three types of Internet servers are Web servers, e-mail servers, and Gopher servers.

Software that is freely distributed, but the author expects payment from people who decide to keep and use it.

An acronym for Special Interest Group

A short piece of text transmitted with an e-mail or newsgroup message. Some systems can attach text from a file to the end of a message automatically. Signature files contain detailed information on how to contact someone.

SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol)
A protocol that allows a computer to use the Internet protocols (and become a full-fledged Internet member) with a standard telephone line and a high-speed modem. SLIP is being superseded by PPP, but is still in common use.

A symbol in e-mail and newsgroup messages used to convey emotion, or simply amusement. Create smileys by typing various keyboard characters. For example, :-) means happiness. See also, Emoticon.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)
One method a computer uses to send e-mail from one computer to another. Other methods include Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) and Privacy Enhanced Mail (PEM).

SQL, Structured Query Language
an official ANSI language for retrieving information from a database.
Most database software providers add extensions. The "official" pronunciation is "sequel,"

Audio or video transfer of signals in digital form. It is then downloaded on your computer and played back using various tools.

STT (Secure Transaction Technology)
Technology developed by software companies and credit companies to protect financial dealings over the Internet and prevent fraud.

Same as "cruise." The random, aimless exploration of web pages achieved through following links that look interesting within a document.

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T1 Line
A line connecting a computer to a high-speed, high-bandwidth, digital electronic communication carrier.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
A set of protocols (communications rules) that control how data is transferred between computers on the Internet.

An Internet protocol used for logging on to a remote computer, as well as the software that implements it. Telnet makes all Internet hosts appear to the user as if they use the same techniques for presenting information on screen and the same commands for performing tasks (such as typing and editing commands).

Organized according to thread, or line of discussion, in a newsgroup or on a discussion board. A thread is a more or less continuous chain of postings on a single topic.

(submitted by a reader) "Technology without an interesting name"
Actually its the interface used by a input device such as a scanner to import images (generally graphics) into the computer.

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A computer operating system, popular with high-end computer users, academics and the research community. Most hosts connected to the Internet run UNIX.

The process of transferring information from one computer to another, generally from a client to a server. For example, you upload a file from your computer to another.

URL (Universal Resource Locator)
The specific path to a World Wide Web file, including filename and extension.

The "user's network." A large network connected to the Internet. It contains Newsgroups or discussion areas on almost any topic available. Messages are posted publicly for all to see.

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The Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives is a service that's built into Gopher. Veronica allows you to search all Gopher sites for files, directories and other resources.

A program that uses various techniques for duplicating itself and traveling between computers. Viruses vary from harmless nuisances to serious problems that can cause millions of dollars' worth of damage.

VR (Virtual Reality)
A simulated three-dimensional environment, displayed in real time with interactive capabilities. VR applications have been developed for the World Wide Web, although the technology is still at an early stage.

VRML (Virtual Reality Mark-up Language)
Protocol language which allows 3-D representation of graphics. Chat rooms are increasingly using VRML to represent chatters graphically with avatars.

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An acronym for the World Wide Web.

WAIS (Wide Area Information Search)
Software that is used to index large text files in servers. On the client side, it finds and retrieves documents in databases, based on user defined words.

An acronym for Wide Area Network. A larger computer network that is geographically dispersed, such as one that stretches across a university campus.

see World Wide Web (WWW).

Web Page
A single screen (document) on a Web site.

Web Site
The location of published hypertext content. Physically, a Web site can occupy an entire Web server or a part of a server; or it can be spread out among different servers as long as its sections are all linked, directly or indirectly, to the same home page.

WWW (World Wide Web)
An acronym for the World Wide Web. The WWW is a hypermedia retrieval system for information. The newest medium of the Internet. Based on hypertext, the Web provides a quick and easy method of delivering and receiving information files which are read by a browser. The Webs ability to transfer files containing not just text but also graphics, sound, and video makes it the most versatile of all the Internet services.

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
Pronounced "wizziwig," it is a generic term meaning what you see on your screen is what is going to print out on your printer.

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X Windows Protocol
A network terminal standard developed at MIT that enables a user to run and display multiple network applications at the same time.

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A popular search engine used to index the web.

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Electronic magazines, published on the Internet.  

Written by Mark Hasting

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Last Updated on June 26, 2005