Basic Computer Terms

Ever wondered what is meant by some of the Basic Computer Terms you hear?

We've put together some (but definitely not all) basic computer terminology that you are bound to hear from time to time.

Application program: A computer program that accomplishes a task or a group of tasks. Examples are work processors and spreadsheets.

Bit: Stands for binary digit. The amount of information obtained by asking a yes-or-no question. The smallest unit of information on a computer system, stored as a 0 or a 1.

Byte: Data is stored on a computer in bytes. A byte is equivalent to one character, such as a letter or a number. A byte is made up of 8 consecutive bits. 1,000 bytes=1 kilobyte (K or KB) 1,000 KB=1 megabyte (MB) 1,000 MB=1 gigabyte (GB) 1,000 GB=1 Terabyte (TB)

Cache: One of the more often used basic computer terms, cache is another type of memory kindred to RAM. Cache is used by the computer to quickly move data between the RAM and the CPU. basic computer terms

CD-ROM: A removable disk that stores data. A CD-ROM can only be read. You cannot record (save) data onto it. (However, you can record onto a CD-Rewritable disk.) Often called a CD for short. A CD looks like a music CD, but hold data instead of music. However, you can generally play music CDs on your computer CD drive.

Computer: A collection of electronic parts put together so that the computer can run software programs that perform certain tasks. A computer takes input, manipulates data, stores data, and displays data.

CPU: The CPU, or central processing unit, is the brains of the computer. Most new Windows-based programs use a Pentium processor. (Another often-used basic computer terms).

Cursor: A graphical object on the screen that indicates your current position. A mouse has a cursor. Many programs have their own cursors.

DVD (Digital Versatile Disc): A technology that stores more information than a CD-ROM and can be written upon. A DVD has 7 times the storage capacity of a CD-ROM.

File: a collection of data with a name.

Gigabyte: 1,000 megabytes. Abbreviated as GB.

Graphical User Interface (GUI): a program that helps you more easily work with your operating system and application programs by providing pictures and visual clues to help you work. Windows is a GUI. So is Mac OS.

Hard drive: The mechanism that reads the hard disk. (In basic computer terms - the C: drive.)

Hard disk space: The amount of permanent storage of data, measured in bytes. This storage is maintained whether the computer is on or off.

Hard disk: A storage medium for data inside your computer.

Hardware: Any part of the computer that you can physically touch. It includes parts that are attached to the computer, called peripherals (monitor, printer, mouse, keyboard, modem, scanner).

Kilobyte: 1,000 bytes. Abbreviated as K or KB.

Megabyte: 1,000,000 bytes or 1,000 kilobytes. Abbreviated as MB.

Megahertz (MHz): The clock speed of the microprocessor. The higher the number, the quicker the information is processed. MHz relates to how many millions of instructions can be processed per second.

Memory (RAM): The amount of temporary storage of data that you can use at one time. Memory storage closes down when you turn off the computer. You need to save your work before you turn off the computer. Saving transfers data from RAM to a hard disk or cd. Memory is typically measured in megabytes (MBs). When your computer has more memory, it can hold more programs open at one time and handle more complicated processes, such as 3D graphics and animation.

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Modem: A means of transferring data via a phone line, usually via the Internet. It can be attached internally or externally.

Monitor: The screen that displays the data on your computer. Monitors vary not only in their size, but in the resolution they can support. (See Resolution.) There are two monitor types: CRT and LCD. The majority of desktop monitors are CRTs, but the new, thin, and more expensive LCD monitors are appearing on some desktops.

Motherboard: The circuit board that everything in the computer plugs into. The CPU, RAM and cache all plug into the motherboard.

Mouse: A peripheral that you use to point at or move over objects on your screen. You click the button to choose an item on the screen. You double-click to open programs or windows.

Multitasking: the ability to do more than one task at a time. Since you can actually only do one thing at a time, it really means that the computer can have more than one program in memory at one time, but only one can be fully active. However, inactive programs can be processing data or doing other tasks in the background.

Network: A group of two or more computers linked together.

NIC: (Network Interface Card): A card that goes in your computer and lets you connect to a network.

Operating system: tells the computer how to operate. It is a middleman between the hardware and the application programs that you use to do your work. It gives you access to the files on your computer, loads application programs into memory, and closes programs.

Peripheral: Anything that attaches to your computer, such as a keyboard, printer, mouse, or external modem.

Port: A connector on your computer that lets you connect a device, such as a monitor, disk drive, mouse, printer, or keyboard. Some common types of ports are: serial for connecting a modem or mouse; parallel port for connecting a printer, scanner, digital camera, ZIP drive, or other device; SCSI for connecting any device made for a SCSI port; and USB for connecting a scanner, digital camera, printer or any device made for a USB port (most newer PCs have a USB port).

RAM: See Memory.

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Resolution: The degree of sharpness, or clarity, of what you see on a computer screen. The resolution on computer monitors is measured by the number of dots, or pixels, of colour that are displayed across and down the screen. For instance, 800x600-pixel resolution means that there are 800 dots of colour across each of 600 rows down the screen. Most screens today let you work at 800x600 or 1024x768. As you increase resolution, the size of the characters and images gets smaller, allowing for more information to be displayed across a certain screen area. Be sure to confirm that your computer’s card can support the same maximum resolution as your monitor. If your monitor can go up to 1,280x1,024 but your video system can only handle 800x600, you won’t be able to take advantage of the monitor’s 1,280x1,024 resolution.

Scanner: This peripheral can copy written documents, pictures or photographs directly into your computer, converting them to digital files. There are three types of scanners: handheld, hopper-feed and flatbed. Recently flatbed scanner prices have reduced considerably.

Software: any program/application that helps operate the computer or accomplish certain tasks.

Sound Card: This device allows your computer to reproduce music, sounds and voices. Make sure you have a sound card if you're planning to play multimedia games. Many Web sites also include music or sound, requiring a sound card.

System Unit (the computer itself): The box that contains the inner workings of the computer.

Video Card: The part of the computer that sends the images to the monitor.

ZIP drive: A mechanism for reading ZIP disks. ZIP disks are similar to floppy disks but hold a lot more data. They are produced by Iomega, Inc.

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