Expanded version of article originally published
in Small Business News, May 1997 | Version 1.0
Last month a reader called me and said that I should not use computer "jargon" in my columns. This prompted me to tackle computer jargon this month. A sampling of common computer terms are listed here. Please note that this list is not all conclusive as there are a myraid of terms out there. The purpose of this column is to familiarize you with some of the more common terms, and may be most useful to the beginning computer user.
Here are the terms.
Central Processing Unit (CPU) - The part of the computer where all the action takes place. It usually refers to the major chip running the computer. Computer resellers usually refer to the main box of the computer system as the CPU.
RAM - Random Access Memory or RAM for short is memory that comes on a set of microchips which control the number and size of programs and documents that can run on a computer. Information stored in RAM is only there for the duration the computer is on or when a certain program is running. This is sometimes called "static RAM."
Operating System (OS) - A user interface that allows you to run programs on a computer. The most widely used operating system is Microsoft's DOS on which most people run the Windows 3.1. Windows 95 also published by Microsoft is the successor to plain old Windows. The Mac OS runs on Macintosh compatible computers. Other operating systems include Windows NT, Unix, Sun Solaris, and IBM's OS2.
Graphical User Interface (GUI) - A graphical user interface is a monicker used to describe an operating system like Windows and Macintosh. GUI's rely on symbols or icons that represent commands, programs and documents residing on the computer. Icons are accessed by clicking on them with a mouse.
Command Line Interface (CLI) - A system where you have to type in commands to tell the computer what to do. DOS based and Unix computers use CLI's.
Postscript - A computer language used in the display and printing of typefaces and images.
LAN - Short for "local area network," which is a more specific definition than just plain old "network".
Microchip - Most of the circuitry that makes a computer run are on microchips. They are those little black wafer like things soddered onto the circuit boards. Microchips are used for controlling computer functions and memory.
Memory - You hear this one all the time. Basically memory is a set of chips dedicated for storing and running your programs whenever you need them.
Applications - another name for computer programs.
PC - PC is the shortened term that stands for Personal Computer. The typical desktop business and home computers are called PCs. Portable and laptop computers are also referred to as PCs. Also whenever you say PC, most people understand these to be computers that run the Microsoft DOS and Windows operating system.
Mac - A Mac is short for Macintosh, a PC that uses Apple's Macintosh Operating System.
Network - A group of computers and related devices connected to each other to enable users to share work and do common tasks. Most small networks consist of one or two computers connected to a single printer. In larger firms, groups of computers, printers, and other devices are all connected to each other.
Internet - A worldwide network of connected computers that enables users to work with each other, send and receive information and be entertained among other uses. Most people connect to the internet with a device known as a modem. (You are reading this on the internet right now!)
ROM - Read Only Memory, is a type of memory that is permanently stored on a computer chip that cannot be changed or erased by the computer. ROM memory usually contains code to run the basic functions of the computer.
CD-ROM - A set of computer programs, documents, code or whatever stored on a copact disc that cannot be changed or erased.
SCSI - Small Computer System Interface, a protocol used in controlling devices connected to a computer.
Unix - A type of operating system known for its complexity and flexibility.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Believe me there are a ton of other computer terms and jargon out there, probably enough to fill a good sized book or even another website! Anyway, this section was just meant to give you an introduction to some of these terms. A few more will be added in coming weeks and months... who knows, perhaps I may decide to alphabetize this list or even start a whole website on computer related terms... now that would be an undertaking!