Basic Computer Terminology

Basic Computer Terminology

access time - The performance of a hard drive or other storage device - how long it takes to locate a file.

active program or window - The application or window at the front (foreground) on the monitor.

alert (alert box) - a message that appears on screen, usually to tell you something went wrong.

alias - an icon that points to a file, folder or application (System 7).

apple menu - on the left side of the screen header. System 6 = desk accessories System 7 = up to 50 items.

application - a program in which you do your work.

application menu - on the right side of the screen header. Lists running applications.

ASCII (pronounced ask-key ) - American Standard Code for Information Interchange. a commonly used data format for exchanging information between computers or programs.

background - part of the multitasking capability. A program can run and perform tasks in the background while another program is being used in the foreground.

bit - the smallest piece of information used by the computer. Derived from "binary digit". In computer language, either a one (1) or a zero (0).

backup - a copy of a file or disk you make for archiving purposes.

boot - to start up a computer.

bug - a programming error that causes a program to behave in an unexpected way.

bus - an electronic pathway through which data is transmitted between components in a computer.

byte - a piece of computer information made up of eight bits.

card - a printed circuit board that adds some feature to a computer.

cartridge drive - a storage device, like a hard drive, in which the medium is a cartridge that can be removed.

CD-ROM - an acronym for Compact Disc Read-Only Memory.

Chooser - A desk accessory used to select a printer, or other external device, or to log onto a network.

Clipboard - A portion of memory where the Mac temporarily stores information. Called a Copy Buffer in many PC applications because it is used to hold information which is to be moved, as in word processing where text is "cut" and then "pasted".

Clock Rate (MHz) - The instruction processing speed of a computer measured in millions of cycles per second (i.e., 200 MHz).

command - the act of giving an instruction to your Mac either by menu choice or keystroke.

command (apple) key - a modifier key, the Command key used in conjunction with another keystroke to active some function on the Mac.

compiler - a program the converts programming code into a form that can be used by a computer.

compression - a technique that reduces the size of a saved file by elimination or encoding redundancies (i.e., JPEG, MPEG, LZW, etc.)

control key - seldom used modifier key on the Mac.

control panel - a program that allows you to change settings in a program or change the way a Mac looks and/or behaves.

CPU - the Central Processing Unit. The processing chip that is the "brains" of a computer.

crash - a system malfunction in which the computer stops working and has to be restarted.

cursor - The pointer, usually arrow or cross shaped, which is controlled by the mouse.

daisy chaining - the act of stringing devices together in a series (such as SCSI).

database - an electronic list of information that can be sorted and/or searched.

data - (the plural of datum) information processed by a computer.

defragment - (also - optimize) to concatenate fragments of data into contiguous blocks in memory or on a hard drive.

desktop - 1. the finder. 2. the shaded or colored backdrop of the screen.

desktop file - an invisible file in which the Finder stores a database of information about files and icons.

dialog box - an on-screen message box that appears when the Mac requires additional information before completing a command.

digitize - to convert linear, or analog, data into digital data which can be used by the computer.

disk - a spinning platter made of magnetic or optically etched material on which data can be stored.

disk drive - the machinery that writes the data from a disk and/or writes data to a disk.

disk window - the window that displays the contents or directory of a disk.

document - a file you create, as opposed to the application which created it.

DOS - acronym for Disk Operating System - used in IBM PCs.

DPI - acronym for Dots Per Inch - a gauge of visual clarity on the printed page or on the computer screen.

download - to transfer data from one computer to another. (If you are on the receiving end, you are downloading. If you are on the sending end, you are uploading ).

drag - to move the mouse while its button is being depressed.

drag and drop - a feature on the Mac which allows one to drag the icon for a document on top of the icon for an application, thereby launching the application and opening the document.

driver - a file on a computer which tells it how to communicate with an add-on piece of equipment (like a printer).

Ethernet - a protocol for fast communication and file transfer across a network.

expansion slot - a connector inside the computer which allows one to plug in a printed circuit board that provides new or enhanced features.

extension - a startup program that runs when you start the Mac and then enhances its function.

fibre channel - as applied to data storage and network topology - link to FC Glossary.

file - the generic word for an application, document, control panel or other computer data.

finder - The cornerstone or home-base application in the Mac environment. The finder regulates the file management functions of the Mac (copying, renaming, deleting...)

floppy - a 3.5 inch square rigid disk which holds data. (so named for the earlier 5.25 and 8 inch disks that were flexible).

folder - an electronic subdirectory which contains files.

font - a typeface that contains the characters of an alphabet or some other letterforms.

footprint - The surface area of a desk or table which is occupied by a piece of equipment.

fragmentation - The breaking up of a file into many separate locations in memory or on a disk.

freeze - a system error which causes the cursor to lock in place.

get info - a Finder File menu command that presents an information window for a selected file icon.

gig - a gigabyte = 1024 megabytes.

hard drive - a large capacity storage device made of multiple disks housed in a rigid case.

head crash - a hard disk crash caused by the heads coming in contact with the spinning disk(s).

high density disk - a 1.4 MB floppy disk.

highlight - to select by clicking once on an icon or by highlighting text in a document.

icon - a graphic symbol for an application, file or folder.

initialize - to format a disk for use in the computer; creates a new directory and arranges the tracks for the recording of data.

insertion point - in word processing, the short flashing marker which indicates where your next typing will begin.

installer - software used to install a program on your hard drive.

interrupt button - a tool used by programmers to enter the debugging mode. The button is usually next to the reset button.

K - short for kilobyte.

keyboard shortcut - a combination of keystrokes that performs some function otherwise found in a pulldown menu.

kilobyte - 1024 bytes.

landscape - in printing from a computer, to print sideways on the page.

launch - start an application.

Measurements (summary) -
*a bit = one binary digit (1 or 0) *"bit" is derived from the contraction b'it (binary digit) -> 8 bits = one byte
*1024 bytes = one kilobyte
*K = kilobyte
*Kb = kilobit
*MB = megabyte
*Mb = megabit
*MB/s = megabytes per second
*Mb/s = megabits per second
*bps = bits per second
i.e., 155 Mb/s = 19.38 MB/s

MB - short for megabyte.

megabyte - 1024 kilobytes.

memory - the temporary holding area where data is stored while it is being used or changed; the amount of RAM a computer has installed.

menu - a list of program commands listed by topic.

menu bar - the horizontal bar across the top of the Mac¹s screen that lists the menus.

multi finder - a component of System 6 that allows the Mac to multi task.

multi tasking - running more than one application in memory at the same time.

nanosecond - one billionth of a second. ( or, the time between the theatrical release of a Dudley Moore film and the moment it begins to play on airplanes).

native mode - using the computers original operating system; most commonly used when talking about the PowerPC can run software written for either the 80x0 systems, or the PowerPC¹s RISC code.

NuBus - expansion slots on the Mac which accept intelligent, self-configuring boards. NuBus is a different bus achitecture than the newer PCI bus and the boards are not interchangable.

operating system - the system software that controls the computer.

optical disk - a high-capacity storage medium that is read by a laser light.

palette - a small floating window that contains tools used in a given application.

partition - a subdivision of a hard drives surface that is defined and used as a separate drive.

paste - to insert text, or other material, from the clipboard or copy buffer.

PC - acronym for personal computer, commonly used to refer to an IBM or IBM clone computer which uses DOS.

PCI - acronym for Peripheral Component Interchange - the newer, faster bus achitecture.

peripheral - an add-on component to your computer.

point - (1/72") 12 points = one pica in printing.

pop-up menu - any menu that does not appear at the top of the screen in the menu bar. (may pop up or down)

port - a connection socket, or jack on the Mac.

Power PC - a processing chip designed by Apple, IBM and Motorola (RISC based).

Power Mac - a family of Macs built around the PowerPC chip.

print spooler - a program that stores documents to be printed on the hard drive, thereby freeing the memory up and allowing other functions to be performed while printing goes on in the background.

QuickTime - the Apple system extension that gives one the ability to compress, edit and play animation, movies and sound on the Mac.

RAM - acronym for Random-Access Memory.

reset switch - a switch on the Mac that restarts the computer in the event of a crash or freeze.

resize box - the small square at the lower right corner of a window which, when dragged, resizes the window.

RISC - acronym for Reduced Instruction Set Computing; the smaller set of commands used by the PowerPC and Power Mac.

ROM - acronym for Read Only Memory; memory that can only be read from and not written to.

root directory - the main hard drive window.

save - to write a file onto a disk.

save as - (a File menu item) to save a previously saved file in a new location and/or with a new name.

scroll - to shift the contents of a window to bring hidden items into view.

scroll bar - a bar at the bottom or right side of a window that contains the scroll box and allows scrolling.

scroll box - the box in a scroll bar that is used to navigate through a window.

SCSI - acronym for Small Computer System Interface.

SCSI address - a number between zero and seven that must be unique to each device in a SCSI chain. Fast and Wide SCSI devices will allow up to 15 SCSI Ids (hexidecimal); however, the length restriction (3 meters) is such that it is virtually impossible to link 15 devices together.

SCSI port - a 25 pin connector on the back of a Mac (native SCSI port); used to connect SCSI devices to the CPU. Some SCSI cards (like the ATTO) have a 68 pin connector.

SCSI terminator - a device placed at the end of a SCSI chain to complete the circuit. (some SCSI devices are self-terminating, or have active termination and do not require this plug).

serial port - a port that allows data to be transmitted in a series (one after the other), such as the printer and modem ports on a Mac.

server - a central computer dedicated to sending and receiving data from other computers (on a network).

shut down - the command from the Special menu that shuts down the Mac safely.

software - files on disk that contain instructions for a computer.

spreadsheet - a program designed to look like an electronic ledger.

start up disk - the disk containing system software and is designated to be used to start the computer.

surge suppressor - a power strip that has circuits designed to reduce the effects of surge in electrical power. (not the same as a UPS)

System file - a file in the System folder that allows your Mac to start and run.

System folder - an all-important folder that contains at least the System file and the Finder.

32 bit addressing - a feature that allows the Mac to recognize and use more than 8MB of memory.

title bar - the horizontal bar at the top of a window which has the name of the file or folder it represents.

upload - to send a file from one computer to another through a network.

Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS)- a constantly charging battery pack which powers the computer. A UPS should have enough charge to power your computer for several minutes in the event of a total power failure, giving you time to save your work and safely shut down.

UPS - acronym for Uninterruptible Power Source.

vaporware - "software" advertised, and sometimes sold, that does not yet exist in a releasable for.

virtual memory - using part of your hard drive as though it were "RAM".

WORM - acronym for Write Once-Read Many; an optical disk that can only be written to once (like a CD-ROM).

zoom box - a small square in the upper right corner of a window which, when clicked, will expand the window to fill the whole screen.

Computer - The box with the on/off switch and slots to put disks in. Anything not physically inside that box is not a computer. Don't point to your monitor and say, "That's my computer." It's not. 

Monitor - The TV thing you see stuff in. A monitor is not a computer. It is a TV thing you see stuff in. It is an output device. It outputs information from the computer so you can see it. Without a monitor, government employees could still download porn but they couldn't see it. 

Keyboard - The thing you type on. It is not a computer. It is an imput device used to put data in the computer. A keyboard requires the user to have an opposable thumb (a beak will work but not as well). 

Mouse - The little oblong thing with buttons that you click, a roller on the bottom and a wire that plugs in the back of the computer. It will always have at least 2 buttons, a left one and a right one. It is an imput device. More than one computer mouse are called mice or one knows for sure. A mouse (notice that I'm trying not to use the plural cause I don't know how) may not have a roller on the may be an optical mouse. You don't need to know what that means. 

Printer - The thing that prints. It is not a computer. It is a peripheral that plugs in to the computer. It is an output device used to display (output) data from the computer. If you have an HP All-In-One printer/scanner/fax and you upgrade to Windows XP, you're screwed. 

Scanner - The thing you put stuff in or on that you want scanned....duh! It is not a computer. It is a peripheral. It is an imput device. There is no need to explain scanners cause, if you're new to computers, you shouldn't be messing around with them. 

Program (application) - Set of instructions that you use to tell the computer what to do. A Word Processor is a program. You use a program to send email and so on. The computer won't do anything without a program to tell it what to do. When you open a program you see a gooey on the screen..... yes, it's called a gooey.....really. A gooey is a GUI (graphic user interface). Everything you see on your screen is a graphic (picture). A gooey allows you to see and use the instructions in a way humans can understand. In other words, the "user" uses "graphics" to "interface" with the programs. Not all humans understand. 

Click - To tap one of the mouse buttons. If clicking doesn't work, try 2 quick taps (double-click). In some instructions, click may mean double-click. If one click doesn't work, try double-clicking. Some mice....mouses..whatever, have more than 2 buttons. I don't care what those other buttons do. 

Right-Click - Clicking the right mouse button while your pointer is resting on something (an icon or whatever) will almost always give you a menu that affects whatever your pointer is resting on. For instance, you can almost always delete something by right-clicking on it and choosing "Delete" from the menu that appears. Same with "Copy" and "Paste" and other options depending on what you right-click on. Somebody told me there was a program that allowed you to right-click on pictures of women and it removed all clothing from the picture. Does anyone know the name of that program? 

Windows - A gooey (again, I'm serious....if you call it a g-u-i, computer people will laugh at you - I know I would...if you say it around non-computer people they will laugh at you to...personally, I never say it at all just to be safe). Windows is an OS (operating system). It gives you tools and commands to use on your computer in the form of pictures you can click on so you don't have to typeC:dir*spit/fart/belch:;del:tr/get*bark,,comattrib,>disprtat the dos prompt in order to instruct your computer to open a program. There are other operating systems besides Windows for home computers but why and who cares? 

XP - The latest version of Windows. It allows you to say, "I have the latest version of Windows." Luckily, it can be configured to look and work just like the older versions of Windows. 

Desktop - When your computer is on, and no programs are open, you are looking at your Desktop. If you work in an office at some boring, life-sucking, dead-end, miserable job, you probably have a desk in your office. On that desk's top are all the pitiful devices that represent the endless string of nothing days and hopeless dreams that have left you empty and taken away all the beauty in your life and all the shining brightness you had ever hoped for. Your computer Desktop is like that desk top except the things you see on it are exciting and fun. That's why you're so happy when you get off work and can come home to your computer. 

Resolution (screen resolution) - The screen is the front of your TV thing. It shows you pictures and stuff by making little dots glow in different colors. There are a lot of dots on there. The dots are called pixels, which is stupid cause they're just dots. I call them dots just to aggravate my snooty, computer geeky friends. Depending on your video card ( later), you can say, "My screen resolution is blahblah X blahblah." The first blahblah is how many dots will fit across your screen horizontally and the second blahblah is how many dots will fit on your screen vertically or, as I like to say, "up your screen." Older computers had a screen resolution of 640X480. Then came 800X600. Newer ones are 1024X756. They're getting bigger every year. That's why you might have to scroll to the right to see all of some websites that were created to be viewed at higher resolutions than yours. They do that to make fun of people with older computers. Screw em! 

Bytes and Bits - People who know about these are no fun. They're nerdy, boring, they know a lot of crap they don't need to know and they suck! Ok, if you must know. Bites hurt, bytes don't. Bytes are made out of bits. There is no reason in hell for you to know what a bit is. Bytes are pieces of information. It takes so many bytes to do anything that we never say "a byte." We refer to bytes in the thousands (kilo) or millions (meg) or billions (gig). You may have a 20 gig hard drive. It will store 20 billion bytes of information. You may have 256 megs of ram that will keep 256 million bytes of information at the ready instead of having to search your hard drive for it. You may have a picture or text file saved in a folder that is 30 kb in size. You may have a 56k dialup internet connection which means 56 thousand bits of information can come from the internet into your computer every second in which case your friends hate you cause your phone is always busy. Get broadband bozo. Incidentally, none of this is true.

Broadband - A very fast internet connection. That's all......that's all it means....don't try to get fancy with the definition. It just means fast download and upload speeds. Webpages load almost immediately, files that take an hour to download with a dialup connection only take a few minutes with broadband. Cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) are broadband connections. With a broadband connection you never have to logon to the internet - your computer is always connected to the internet....unless you have AOL (that's another story). 

AOL - An internet service provider (ISP) for small children and people with learning disabilities. Does not require users to have opposable thumbs. 

Hard Drive - If you remove the hard drive from your computer you will have a computer without a hard drive in it. That's a dumb thing to do so if you do that - put it back in. All the information in your computer is on your hard drive....well, sorta. There is information stored other places but I don't like to talk about that. There was a time, not so long ago, when a great hard drive could store 250 megs of information (bytes) or files. A lot of animals that were alive then are extinct now. Windows XP is bigger than that and wouldn't fit on one of those old ones. Today, new computers come with, at least, 20 gig hard drives. Every time you save something it gets stored on your hard drive. An operating system (like Windows), 4 or 5 big games, Microsoft Office, a graphics editor, your grandmother's genealogy program and Aunt Cassandra's astrology program (all made out of bytes) can start filling up a hard drive pretty fast. So, the bigger your hard drive, the better. 

Ram - (random access memory) Some chips (called sticks by really cool people) that scoop some information off the hard drive and hold it out front for quick use so the computer doesn't have to search through the hard drive so much. It only scoops up stuff related to what you're doing at the time. You can't have too much ram and you never have enough. Buy more, more,'s cheap and just plugs into the motherboard. You can easily install it yourself but you'll probably break it. 

Motherboard - (called mobos by cool computer people - you're not cool yet so don't call them that) If you picture a computer repair man with a soldering iron and little wires and resisters and capacitors and stuff, forget it. Nowadays, everything in there is a component....if it goes bad you pull it out and stick in a new one. If you have a 1/4 inch nut runner and a phillips screwdriver you can fix anything that goes wrong with your computer. Most things in there are held in place by one screw. Just take off the case, pull out every thing that's plugged into the slots in the motherboard and throw it away, then replace it all with new stuff. Of course, I would never do that. 

Video card - If I have to tell you what video means then you're amish and don't have a computer anyway. A video card is a plug in circuit board that makes the video work. Video cards have those meg things we talked about. More megs equal better display on your monitor. I have some old computers with 2 meg video cards. If you don't play games, they're fine but newer computers come with at least 32 meg cards which show naked women in much better detail. This is important to me. If your video card goes bad, pull it out and stick in a new one. How do you know which card it is? It's the one your monitor plugs into....duh! video? 

Sound card - Like the video card but for's the one your speakers plug into. If it goes bad jerk it out and shove in a new one....hey...changing these cards is easy...if you think you have a bad one just do it. 

Modem - Another card. It's the one your phone plugs into. It allows you to connect to the internet at a speed 3 times slower than cold molasse. 

Lan card (ethernet card) - Another card. It allows you to use broadband (faster than molasse) to connect to the internet. It also allows you to connect several computers together in a network. They range in price from about $10 to $200. The ten dollar one works fine. The two hundred dollar one has the advantage of being much more expensive.....I don't know why. 

Software - Things like pillows and quilts and computer programs. Physical components aren't software cause they're hard.

Hardware - Anything that's hard. Programs aren't hardware cause they're not hard......well, some are. 

Files and folders - Let's say you have a file cabinet with only one drawer. You want to see the files from the Jones account. You open the drawer, choose the folder for Jones and in it you find all the Jones files. Each letter, picture, invoice, every piece of paper in that folder is a file. If you want to add a file to the Jones folder, don't just shove it in the drawer. Make sure you put it the Jones folder or you will have a hard time finding it again. Computers are file cabinets with one drawer. When you turn your computer on you have opened the drawer. Inside the drawer you see folders. Inside the folders you see files. Each letter, picture, everything you save and all the different instructions that make up programs are files. I have saved a picture (file) named "Beach" on my computer and I want to see it. It is located in a folder named "Vacation" that I have created on my Desktop. If I open (click on) the folder I will see the file named "Beach." If I click on that file it will open and I will see the picture. I love nude beaches.
more on folders 

Path - Everything on my computer is on my hard drive. The name of my hard drive is "C:" The name of my OS is "Windows." I have a folder named "Vacation" on my "Desktop." In that folder is the picture (file) named "Beach" (same one). If someone was using my computer and asked me where the pictures of naked women were I would tell them the path is C:/windows/desktop/vacation/beach. Someday you may run across something that requires you to use paths. You probably won't know how. 

Save - Save As - Pay attention. This is the number one thing that newbies screw up. Newbie -"I saved a file and now I can't find it.....whine, whine." Trained Monkey - "Well, where did you save it?" Newbie - "I don't know." Trained Monkey - "Well, you have to save things where you can find them and you didn't...that's why you can't find about a nice banana?" Listen up newbie...this is how you save something. You just typed a letter in Wordpad cause you can't afford Microsoft Word and your crappy friends won't give you a copy they cracked off an internet hack site. You're finished with it and it's time to save it. In Wordpad (yuck), click "File." In the menu that appears click "Save As." I'm gonna say that again.In the menu that appears click "Save As." A box named "Save As" (surprise!) will appear. Near the top of the box will be a field (white area with type in it) with the words "Save in" at the left of it. In that field will be the name of a folder. What you're saving is going to be saved in that folder. If you don't want it saved in that folder then click the little arrow button (looks like a tiny upside down triangle) at the right of that field. Choose the folder you want to save it in. Now......near the bottom of the box is a field named "File name." Type the name you want it to have or keep the name that is already there. Now you can click on the "Save' button. Newbie - "Hey! I did that and now I can find it." Trained Monkey - "Great. Have another banana." No matter what you save or where it comes that. If you download something from the internet you're gonna see the same "Save As" box. Use it correctly and you will never lose a file. So, when do you use just plain "Save?" If you open an existing file, that's already saved in the folder where you want it, and you make some changes, you can use just plain "Save" to save the changes. The file will remain in the folder you opened it from and will keep the same name.

Hardware The physical components of the computer system.
Software The programs or instructions that tell the computer what to do.
CPU The brain of the computer or central processing unit.
ROM The permanent memory that is built in your computer. This is read only.
RAM The computer's working memory, sometimes called random-accessed memory.
Megabyte Approximately a million bytes.
Gigabyte Approximately a billion bytes (or 1,000 megabytes).
Input Device The hardware that is used to pass information into the computer.
Output Device The hardware that receives and dislplays information coming from the computer.
Modem The device that allows your computer to talk to other computers over a telephone line.
Monitor A video or computer display device.
Laser Printer A printer that uses both laser and photographic technology to produce high quality output.
Printer The hardware that provides printed output from the computer.
Hard Copy A printed copy of computer output.
Compact Disc A disc on which a laser has digitally recorded information such as audio, video, or computer data.
Hard Disk A fixed, large-capacity magnetic storage medium for computer data.
Floppy Disk A portable magnetic storage medium for computer data that allows users to randomly access information.
Graphical User Interface The use of graphical symbols instead of text commands to control common computer functions such as copying programs and disks.
Icon A small picture or symbol respresenting a computer hardware function or component.
Ink-jet Printer A type of printer that forms letters on the page by shooting tiny electrically charged droplets of ink.

Internet Terminology

Internet computers connected throughout the world
server manages and delivers info. for client computer
PSP Public Service Provider
WWW World Wide Web
Browser software that allows user to access & View web pages
Netscape popular graphical browser
homepage first web page viewed
URL Uniform Resource Locator
HTML HyperText Markup Language
HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol
Hyperlinks highlighted words that take you to another page
Firewall security measures designed to protect network
host computer on the Internet
domain name of computer on the Internet
bookmark keeps a web address handy
Archie finds files on Net
Gopher finds info. by using menus
FTP File Transfer Protocol
Address identification code

Telecommunication Terminology

channel medium through which information travels
receiver person or device that recieves information
source person or device that sends information
telecommunications transmissin of info. from one location to another by electronic means
BBS bulletin board system for posting messages
online directly connected to the CPU
modem device used to connect computer to telephone line
baud the speed of a communications channel
email electronic mail
password way to limit access to computer info.
ATM automated teller machine for banking transactions
EFT electronic funds transfer
Boolean search criteria where two or more conditions must be true for successful search
keywords words using in programming that instruct the computer to perform a function
virus program designed to attach itself to other programs; it can damage data files and cause system failures
hacking persistent efforts to use a computer to gain illegal or unauthorized entry to another computer system
phonefraud illegal use of telephones or lines to avoid charges
satellite earth-orbiting man-made object off of which telecommunicatin signals and computer data are bounced
network system of linked computers and other devices that allows computers to share and exchange info.
SIG Special Interest Group--group of people with common interests who share info. about their interests on a BBS
SYSOP Systems Operator; manages BBS
piracy duplication & distribution of copyrighted software
vandalism damage & destroy computer records, information, or network

Application Files
Program files environment where you can create and edit the kind of document that application makes.

To select an object by pressing the mouse button when the cursor is pointing to the required menu option, icon or hypertext link.

To close a window that has been opened for viewing and / or editing.

A general-purpose machine that processes data according to a set of instructions that are stored internally either temporarily or permanently.

Central Processor Unit (CPU)
This term has two meanings (just to confound beginners, you understand) 
1) Central Processor Unit--the main chip on the computer that makes everything go.
2) The box that holds the guts of the computer.
A faster CPU is always better than a slower one. You can never have too fast of a CPU.

Your computer or application no longer works correctly and so you "loose" all the work you've done since the last time you saved.

Creating A File
Storing data as a file with an assigned file name that is unique within the directory it resides in.

To remove an item of data from a file or to remove a file from the disk.

An on-screen representation of a desktop such as used in the Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

Dialog Boxes
Takes over your screen and allows you to "dialog" with the computer.

Directory (AKA Folder, sub-directory)
Allows you to organize files and other folders.

Disk Space
This is the place where your files live. The greater the disk space the more files you can keep. (See also Megabytes)
More disk space is always better than less. You can never have much disk space.

Files you create and edit.

Document Files
Files we care about (memos, letters, pictures, etc.)

Double Click
To press the mouse button twice in rapid succession without moving the mouse between clicks.

To move an object on screen in which its complete movement is visible from starting location to destination.

To make a change to existing data.

File Cabinet
Metaphorically, the hard drive (and other kinds of storage media like floppy disks) which store files and folders.

Folder (AKA Directory, Sub-Directory)
Allows you to organize files and other folders.

Folder Icons
Collections of documents and other folders.

In a graphical user interface (GUI), a small, pictorial, on screen representation of an object, such as a document, program, folder or disk drive.

Icon View
Allows you to see icons of folders and files primarily as icons with little information.

This if the primary text input device. It also contains certain standard function keys, such as the Escape key, tab, and arrow keys, shift and control keys, and sometimes other manufacturer-customized keys.

Kilo (K)
This is a unit of measure = 1,000. So 1,000 bytes is a KiloByte.

List View
Shows the icons but also orders the icons (often by name, but can sort the list in other ways) and shows more information about them.

The brand name of a family of personal computers (hardware) and an operating system (software) from Apple, introduced in 1984.

Megabytes (Mb)
Mega = million so Mb is 1,000,000 bytes. It's enough information for the computer to store one character (e.g. "h"), so 1mb text file = 1,000,000 keystrokes in that file. Just to confound the masses, although RAM and Disk Space do something completely different we measure both in megabytes. This leads to confusion.

MegaHertz (Mhz)
This stands for MegaHertz. A hertz is an electronics term. 1 hz = one cycle (or wavelength) per second. 1 megahertz = 1,000,000 cycles per second. 
In computer jargon, Mhz measures how *fast* your CPU chip runs. Although it's more important to know the chip than the speed, if you're comparing the same kind of CPU chip then a higher / faster CPU speed (measured in MHz) is better than a slower speed.

Displays a list of commands, some with images next to them.

Modifier Keys
Keys that change the meaning of what you type.

Pointing device that allows you to tell the computer what to do.

Operating System (OS)
System software that allows your computer to work.

Pointer (AKA Cursor)
The name of the arrow (or other shape) that tracks across the screen as you move the mouse (or other pointing device) around.

Random Access Memory (RAM)
This stands for Random Access Memory. You can think of this as the "space" where you computer does its processing. The more space you have the more processes you can run at the same time. More RAM is always better than less. You can never have much RAM.

Recycle Bin
Place where you put files and folders that you may later want to delete or get rid of. Compare Trash.

Resize Box
Allows you to change the size and shape of a window.

Right click
To press the right button on the mouse. (This is Windows specific. On a Mac running System 8 or higher, you hold down the Control key and then click to get the same effect.)

Tell the computer to create a file on disk that has the information you've put into the document (usually typing).

Save As
Give the file a name and/or store the file in a certain place.

Scroll bar
Allows you to move around through your document.

Shut down
To quit all applications and turn off the computer.

Instructions that tell the computer what to do.

System files
Allows our computer to work.

Place where you put files and folders that you want to delete or get rid of.

Volume Icons
Devices that hold files and folders.

1) The most widely used operating system for personal computers from Microsoft. (Software only. Other companies manufacture the hardware that runs the Windows Operating System.) Compare Macintosh. (Windows with a large "W".) 
2) The thing you see on screen that contains a directory listing or the contents of a document. (Window with a small "w".)