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Support / Jargon Buster A - C


A - C | D - F | G - I | J - L | M - O | P - R | S - U | V - X | Y - Z

A: the computer's first disk drive, usually a 3.5" floppy disk drive.

ADAPTEC: A leading manufacturer of SCSI controllers

ADDRESS: Precise memory location used by specific devices.

AGP: (ADVANCED GRAPHICS PORT): This is a special interface designed to speed up 3D graphics processing by the computer. The graphics chip (or video chip) is part of the motherboard and is integrated with AGP capabilities.
Prior to AGP, 3D graphics chips were connected to the PCI BUS. In simple terms, before, all devices e.g. sound, video etc used the same BUS i.e. PCI BUS. This slowed down the system especially if you required sound and video at the same time. The AGP BUS was developed, to give video its own BUS. Instead of using 33MHz speed as in the PCI BUS, since AGP is dedicated to video you can step up the speed by 2x thus giving video a speed of 66MHz plus. This way you can listen and watch any multimedia stream without any distortion.

AMD: Advanced Micro Devices. AMD produce processors like Intel. The K6 processor can be likened to the Pentium, the K6-2 processor can be likened to a Pentium II and the K6-3 can be likened to a Pentium III.

Analog: The technology used by the original mobile phones. Like traditional radio broadcasts, phone conversations and information are transmitted in the form of a continually varying current or radio wave. The transfer of information can be slow, so newer digital technology has largely taken its place.

Apache: A free web server program. Apache is usually associated with Unix/Linux, but is also available for Windows. A web server is the high-powered computer that runs your website.

ATAPI: AT ATTACHMENT PACKET INTERFACE. A subset of EIDE used for controlling CD-ROM drives, and EIDE devices other than hard drives.

ATI: A manufacturer of video cards and video chips.

AUTOEXEC.BAT: A key system file under DOS/Windows 9x that configures the system environment and loads any Terminate Stay Resident (TRS’s) that are needed for the computer to function normally. For example MSCDEX that assigns a drive letter to the CD-ROM.

AWARD: A manufacturer of PC BIOS’.

BAUD RATES: The maximum number of changes that can occur per second in sending and receiving information electronically. This is also used to measure MODEM speeds. See BPS.

BIOS: BASIC INPUT/OUTPUT SYSTEM. This utility is supplied with all computers. The basic hardware operating system is stored on a chip on the motherboard. When the computer is switched on this chip is the first to be accessed so that the instructions are given for the Power On Self-Test (POST) and to start booting the system files. To access the BIOS, you need to press either Ctrl Alt S together or the F2 key or the DELETE key. It varies from model to model, although you will be warned when the computer boots as to which keys you need to press. Changes in the BIOS are only necessary if the hard drive and/or memory have been changed, although most computers nowadays auto-detect anyway. On most of our notebooks, the BIOS is Flash upgradeable, this means that should a problem be found with the BIOS or should hardware be released that requires modification to the BIOS, it can be quickly and easily updated by running an update program. See also CMOS.

BNC: BRITISH NAVAL CONNECTOR. This is a type of socket/plug used to connect coaxial network cables. Usually used for 10Mbps (or slow) networks.

BOOT DRIVE: This is the drive that will be accessed first. In most computers you have the option to boot from either the A drive (floppy disk. If there is no disk in the drive then it will boot from the C drive (hard drive) or the D drive (CD-ROM).

BOOT: The initial sequence that takes place once you turn the computer on.

BPS: BITS PER SECOND. This is a basic measurement of communication speeds. For example Modems these days run at 56kbps (56 kilobytes per second).

Broadband: High speed access to the Internet, generally at speeds of around 512Kbps or faster, such as ADSL or Cable Modem.

BROWSER: This is a program typically Internet Explorer or Netscape, which allows you to browse the World Wide Web. The browser acts as an interface between yourself and the Internet, making the information easy to find and use.

BUS: A computer's bus is for transportation of computer data. Inside your computer, binary data flows from your processor to other components via a data bus. This type of bus is called an external bus. As you would expect, there is also an internal bus. The internal bus is the path on which the data flows inside the processor.
The bus size is a measure of how much data that can be moved through the bus in a single operation. Bus sizes range from 8 bits to 32 bits. Think of a data bus as a road, and the cars as data bits. The wider the road, the more cars that can travel at one time. A road that has 8 lanes moving in one direction can move 8 cars at a time. Therefore, a data bus 8 bits wide can move 8 bits of data at one time. The wider the bus, the better.

C: The computers drive letter typically for the hard disk drive.

Cable modem: A device allowing high speed access to the Internet over the same wiring used by Cable Television networks.

CACHE: A small section, usually 32k to 512k of super fast static RAM chips with its own bus to the central processing unit (CPU), used to store data and code requested by the CPU. Cache memory differs from software cache, due to software cache using space on ordinary RAM to set aside information frequently taken from the disk drives.

CD-ROM: COMPACT DISC-READ ONLY MEMORY. A compact disc that contains up to 700MB of data.

CD: See Compact Disc.

CDR: Compact Disc Recordable. This is a type of CD that can be written to using a special CD-ROM drive called a CD Writer. As with an ordinary CD, a CDR can hold up to 80mins of audio or 700MB of data depending on the media.

CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT: This is the "heart" and the "brain" of the PC. Just like a heart beats in a body, the CPU does the same thing. It has a specific clock speed to ensure the PC is running smoothly. It processes information too, this is why it acts like the brain. Other names for the CPU are "processor" and "chip".

CGI (Common Gateway Interface): This is the mechanism by which a "script" receives the data entered by a web user (when you fill in an online form and click 'submit', for example).


CLUSTER: A group of sectors on a floppy or hard disk treated as a unit by the operating system.

CODEC: The Compression/Decompression system used to reduce the size of media or transmission data for digitised audio or video data.

COLD BOOT: Restarting a computer by turning off the system power and turning it back on again. This should only be done as a last resort as the hard drive may still be active and may be damaged. If a known virus is on the computer, a cold boot has to be done to clear it from the memory.

COM PORT: A serial port for attaching modems, plotters, mice etc. to a system. There are usually 2 COM PORTS on a computer. In the case of notebooks, one port (typically COM 1) is a 9-pin array for a mouse or modem. COM 2 is used for a wireless connection (Infra Red or IrDA). This can be used for printers, mobile phones etc.

COMMAND.COM: This is a command used by DOS based operating systems, e.g. DOS, Windows 3.11 and Windows 9x. It provides the C> prompt and it interprets the users commands and performs the requested operation.


COMPACT DISC: A plastic coated foil disc, 5.25” across that can store 80mins of audio or 700MB of data (media dependent) in digital format.

COMPRESSION: Reduces the size of files. E.g. ZIP files, which are usually found on the Internet, are in compressed format. To view these files you need a piece of software like Winzip or PKZip. Windows XP has the the built in ability to view ZIP files.

CONFIG.SYS: This is the file on a computer which performs memory configuration operations. This also tells DOS which device drivers to load. Its located in the root directory e.g. C:\ of the hard drive.

COOKIE: A harmless text file stored on your hard drive created by a web site you will have visited on the World Wide Web. It is used to store information relevant to the site and possibly to retain some information about your browser. Cookies are the simplest way for a web page to pass information across to another web page or program.

CPU: See 'Central Processing Unit'.

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