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A Computer Glossary

A Computer
Glossary


GLOSSARY
This Glossary is primarily applicable to DOS- and Windows-based machines and applications.
Address:
The coded portion of a disk sector that stores the location of data in an electronic table that lists all
of the data addresses on that disk.
Application Program:
A computer program used to perform a specific task, such as word processing, spreadsheet creation,
or database management.
ASCII:
Acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. A standard set of characters used
to enable compatibility between different computer devices.
Back Up:
The process of making duplicate copies of files, disks, or directories for safekeeping in case of
data/file loss.
Batch File:
A file that contains a series of DOS commands that execute automatically.
Booster Keys:
Keys that do not perform actions by themselves but can be used with other keys to issue commands.
The booster keys are Ctrl, Alt, and Shift.
Boot:
To start a computer and load the operating system into RAM. See also Reboot.
Byte:
The basic unit that measures memory and disk storage capacity. Generally, one byte represents one
character.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The part of a computer that interprets and executes instructions.
Chip:
An integrated electronic circuit consisting of miniature transistors and other circuit elements
contained on a silicon wafer.
Cold Boot:
To start a computer and load the operating system into RAM. See also Reboot.


Command:
An instruction for DOS to perform a specific action.
Command Line Help:
Help that can be accessed by typing a command name followed by the /? Switch.
Command Name:
The component of a command that specifies what action DOS is to perform.
Computer:
An electronic device capable of storing, retrieving, and manipulating information.
Computer System:
A collection of computer-related devices used to input, manipulate, and display output data.
Current Directory:
The directory that DOS is currently using. See also Directory and Subdirectory.
Current Drive:
The disk drive that DOS is currently using. See also Disk Drive.
Cursor:
A symbol on the screen that marks the location where characters will appear as they are typed from
the keyboard. The cursor usually displays as a blinking vertical line in a word processor or as a
blinking underscore.
Data:
Information, usually in the form of alphanumeric characters.
Database:
An electronic file used to store and organize data.
Data Disk:
A disk that contains data created with an application program.
Data File:
A file that contains data to be used with an application program.
Default:
An assumed value or option the computer uses when none is specified. Synonomous with regular,
normal, or primary (as in a printer). Or as in normal or standard settings in an application or
software program. Default in computers has NOTHING to do with finances.


Density:
The data storage capacity of a disk. See also Double-Density and High-Density.
Directory:
An area on a disk where you store a group of related files under an identifying name. Also a list of
files contained on a disk. See also Subdirectory.
Disk:
A circular platter with a magnetic coating on both sides. The most common medium for storing
computer data. See also Diskette and Hard Disk.
Disk Drive:
A mechanism that reads and writes data on a disk.
Diskette:
A removable computer storage medium made of plastic and covered with a magnetic coating. Usually
3_” in size (5_” floppy diskettes are obsolete). See also Disk and Hard Disk.
Disk Operating System (DOS):
The name used for various operating systems. The primary function of a disk operating system is to
control the flow of data to and from the CPU and peripherals.
Double-Density:
The diskette type that holds 720 Kb of data in 3_” diskettes (360 Kb of data in obsolete 5_”
diskettes).
Drive:
A mechanism that reads and writes data on a disk.
Drive Head:
The part of a disk drive that reads and writes data.
Error Message:
An on-screen message resulting from an invalid command from the user or an internal system failure.
Extension:
The optional part of a filename often used by DOS-based systems to indicate the file type. An
extension can contain up to three characters.
External Commands:
Commands stored in program files on a disk, which can only be executed when the program file is
present in the current directory or in a directory, specified in a path statement.


File:
A collection of related data stored on a disk.
Filename:
An identifying name under which DOS stores a file on a disk. A filename can contain up to 255
characters and an optional three-character extension. Characters NOT allowed: @, #, $, %, &, *, /
(forward slash), or \ (backward slash) See also File and Extension.
Fixed Disk
A large capacity storage medium for computer data. See also Disk and Diskette.
Floppy Disk:
A removable computer storage medium made of plastic and covered with a magnetic coating. Usually
3_” in size (5_” floppy diskettes are obsolete). See also Disk and Hard Disk.
Folder:
A named area on a disk drive used to store or organize files or documents, similar to a manilla folder
that is used to store hard copies of files or documents. Also sometimes referred to as a directory.
Format: (Dual meaning)
a) To prepare a disk (or Drive) for data storage by creating sectors and cleaning (erasing) any
and all files.
b) The layout or appearance of a document in terms of fonts, margins, etc. A special formula
will have a certain format (sometimes also referred to as syntax), or appearance.
Hard Disk:
A large built-in storage capacity medium for computer data. See also Disk and Diskette.
Hard Drive:
A large built-in storage capacity medium for computer data. See also Disk and Diskette.
Hardware:
Any of the mechanical or electrical components of a computer such as the CPU, memory chips, disk
drives, keyboard, and monitor.
High-Density:
The type of 3_” diskette that holds 1.44 Mb of data.
Input:
Any data entered into a computer for processing.
Input Device:
A mechanism, such as a keyboard or a mouse, used to give instructions to a computer for processing.
See also Peripherals.


Internal Commands:
Commands that are loaded into RAM with DOS when a computer is booted and which can be
executed whenever the system prompt is displayed.
Kb or K or Kilobyte:
1,024 bytes or characters.
Keyboard:
An assemblage of systematically arranged keys, which when pressed, input data into a computer.
Lock Up:
When a computer does not accept input from the keyboard or any other input device, and the cursor
does not move. A computer that locks up may have to be restarted again.
Mb or M or Megabyte:
1,024,000 bytes or characters.
Memory:
The internal electronic work space where data is stored. See also Random Access Memory (RAM) and
Read-Only Memory (ROM).
Menu:
An on screen list of choices from which you select a command or an application.
Microcomputer:
A stand-alone computer system that typically fits on a desktop.
Microprocessor:
The part of a computer that interprets and executes instructions.
Modem:
Modulator-demodulator. A device that transmits data over a particular medium such as telephone
lines or coaxial cables.
Monitor:
The visual display unit of a computer system.
Mouse:
A small, hand-held mechanism that controls the movement of the cursor or a pointer on a computer
screen.
MS Backup:
A utility program used to back up a large number of files. See also Back Up.


Output:
Data that is generated from a computer after processing.
Output Device:
A mechanism, such as a printer or a monitor, used to retrieve and view data after it has been
processed by a computer.
Parameters:
Components of a command that specify where, or on what, an action is to be performed.
Parent Folder or Directory:
A directory that contains files or subdirectories. See also Directory and Subdirectory.
Peripherals:
Additional components which enhance computer performance.
Power On Self Test:
A series of tests performed by a computer when it is turned on.
Printer:
A device for generating computer output on paper.
Program:
A set of instructions that a computer follows to perform a task.
Program Disk:
A disk that contains application programs such as a word processing program or a spreadsheet
program.
Program File:
A file that contains instructions used by a computer.
Random Access Memory (RAM):
Temporary memory that holds application programs and data which you create and manipulate.
Read-Only Memory (ROM):
Permanent memory that hold the programs which are responsible for the initial phases of starting a
computer.
Reboot:
To restart a computer by turning it off and then on again by pressing Ctrl, Alt, Del, or by pressing a
reset button. See also Boot.
Sector:
A part of the track on a disk where data is stored. See also Track.


Software:
Any set of instructions or data a computer may use. The programs that tell a computer what to do
and how to do it.
Spreadsheet
An electronic grid of rows and columns used to enter, organize and analyze a collection of numbers or
data.
Subdirectory or Subfolder:
A directory that is contained within or is subordinate to another directory. See also Directory.
System Disk:
A disk that contains the DOS startup programs used to boot a computer and load DOS into RAM.
Track:
Concentric circles on the surface of a disk. See also Sector.
Volume Label
A name that is electronically assigned to a disk.
Warm Boot:
To restart a computer by turning it off and then on again by pressing Ctrl, Alt, Del; or by pressing a
reset button; or by choosing Restart from the Start/Shut Down menu. See also Boot. Skips the POST
test.
Wildcard Characters:
Special characters that can be used in most DOS commands as substitutes for other characters. The
asterisk (*) and the question mark (?) symbols are wildcard characters.
Word Processor:
The software used to create, edit, and print text documents such as letters or memos.
Write-Protect:
To prevent data on a diskette from being erased or overwritten.
 

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