Computer Terminology

Analog Modem
An analog modem is a device that enables a computer to transmit data over telephone lines (e.g. 28.8Kbps [kilo bits per second]). Computer information is stored digitally, whereas information transmitted over telephone lines is transmitted in the form of analog waves. Analog modems translate data from digital to analog and back. The fastest analog modems run at 57,600 bps.

Short for ‘binary digit,’ the smallest, most basic unit of computer data. It’s like an atom of information, having two possible states–positive and negative, often defined as ‘on and off’, or ‘one and zero.’

Bps (bits or bytes per second)
The speed at which data is transferred over a network line, defined in bits or bytes.

The software that serves as your interface with the Internet. Microsoft Internet Explorer is the most common.

Technically equal to 8 bits, one Byte of data is the standard unit of measure on the Internet. As data is transferred to the cable modem via broadband technology, some of the data is lost in what is known as "Overhead". Due to the loss in overhead, every 10 bits of data transferred equates to 1 Byte. So, if your display read "43 bits per second", you would be receiving 4.3 bytes of data per second.

Cache (Pronounced cash)
It’s the location in your computer’s memory, or in an independent storage device, reserved for easy, high-speed retrieval of information, known as cache hits. Cache effectiveness is defined by hit rate. Many systems use ’smart caches,’ which recognize and readily supply frequently used data, such as a recently visited web page.

Real-time communication between multiple users over the Internet, like a party line or conference call using text instead of conversation. The text appears as it is typed on all PCs participating in the chat. Internet chat occurs in ‘chat rooms,’ which are usually set up by specific sites for users with a common interest.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)
A protocol for assigning IP addresses to devices on a network from a pool of available IP’s. A dynamic IP address changes each time the device connects to the network (or every 4 hours).

Domain name
The alphabetic address for a web site, usually beginning with the prefix ‘www’ (for ‘world wide web’). The domain name usually contains an identifying name, such as that of a company; a suffix which defines the type of organization; and titles defining the descending layers of a site, narrowing down to a specific page.

For example:

The suffix describes the type of organization, standardized as follows:

  • com: company
  • edu: educational
  • org: non-profit
  • gov: government
  • mil: military
  • net: network changeover path
  • XX: two letter country codes (e.g. United Kingdom = uk)

DNS (Domain Name Service)
A sort of Internet phone book. While we humans recognize a web site by domain name, a network recognizes it by IP address. For example, a DNS might translate the IP address 123.456.789.0 into the domain name

Download (a.k.a. downstream)
The process of transferring files from another computer to your computer over a network or modem line.

A program that controls peripheral hardware devices, such as a printer or modem.

E-mail (electronic mail)
E-mail is the primary means of communication over the Internet, as well as the most frequently used application by Internet users. Users can send each other messages, attaching complete documents, photos, or audio and video clips.

E-mail address
This is where electronic mail is received. It is a combination of a user name and a host name, such as

Ethernet card (a.k.a. NIC, or Network Interface Card)
An expansion board that connects a PC, or PCs, to a network.

Home page
The first page of a web site, usually serving as an introduction and table of contents. The address is usually as simple as the site gets, containing only the site name and suffix.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
The programming language used to create web sites.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)
The protocol that tells the host server what information (web pages, FTP sites, etc.) to send the client.

A regional point of connection between the Internet and its users, such as an Internet Service Provider.

An icon, graphic, or word on a web page that automatically opens another page for viewing.

IP (Internet Protocol)
The protocol that specifies the format of information ‘packets’ transported over the Internet, including how the packets are addressed for delivery.

IP address
The numerical address of a computer or a web page. Internet protocols recognize a specific machine by this address. If, for example, a user obtains their IP address, they can then access their e-mail from any computer.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)
ISPs, such as CNS, provide access to the Internet, be it to individuals or to large companies. Most provide a software package, user name, password and access number for a monthly fee. Equipped with a modem, users can then log on the web and send and receive e-mail. ISPs are connected to one another through Network Access Points (NAPs).

LAN (Local Area Network)
A group of computers connected by a local, usually physical, network, such as that in a single office, building, company or community.

MAC (Media Access Control)
Controls the way multiple devices share a common media channel.

Mail server
A host server, which holds e-mail messages for clients.

Phisher/Phishing Email
Phisher/Phishing emails are e-mails and forged websites intended to trick recipients into releasing financial or personal information, such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers or credit card numbers. They do so by stealing images from legitimate websites and creating a forged look-a-like of familiar brands and/or online stores.

An application, which can be installed into a larger one, such as your browser, to carry out, specialized tasks such as playing audio or video. Plug-ins are designed to integrate automatically with existing programs.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol)
The protocol for incoming e-mail.

A very close relative of Spyware is software that records the behavior of an online user, often without their knowledge or consent. It also "calls home" but it may send back specifics regarding your browsing activity and/or to get more pop up ads.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)
The protocol for outgoing mail.

Spoof Email
Spoofed email is email that is sent appearing to be from one source when, in fact, it came from another. Email spoofing is often an attempt to trick the user into making a damaging statement or releasing sensitive information (such as passwords). Examples are:

  • email claiming to be from a system administrator requesting users to change their passwords to a specified string and threatening to suspend their account if they do not do this
  • email claiming to be from a person in authority requesting users to send them a copy of a password file or other sensitive information

Spyware is another name for Advertising Supported Software. It is a way for shareware authors to make money from a product, other than by selling it to the users. Generally, the product has advertising banners that open when your start the program or browse the internet. In addition to pop up adds, the software may have tracking capabilities and "call home" for new ads.

Static IP
A fixed (non-dynamic) IP address. Your IP address and host name are recorded in the DNS tables, and remain unchanged each log in.

TCP/IP (Transport Control/Internet Protocol)
IP is the protocol, which oversees the transmission of information packets from machine to another. TCP makes sure the packets have arrived and that the message is complete. These two protocols are the basic language of the Internet and are often referred to together as TCP/IP.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
Describes the location and access method of an Internet resource (web page).

WWW (World Wide Web)
The Internet is more a means of sharing information than a tangible entity in itself. The World Wide Web is the information itself, organized into a continually expanding collection of electronic documents.