Basic Computer Terms and Definitions

Many people these days have an idea of what a computer is, but not what it can actually do for you. With all the technological advancements, there are many things that computers can accomplish for people. In this article you will learn about what a computer is and different components that make up a computing system. There are also many different types of software that allow people to use their computers for a variety of purposes.

Topics in this website have been compiled in order to educate the masses about common computer terms. If there is any topic you would like to know more about, feel free to contact me through my personal email which is found on About page!

Discover Computer Terms

What is a Computer?

A computer is an electronic device that stores and retrieves information. Computers can be found in almost every industry including, but not limited to: medical, scientific, educational and commercial industries. It is used to be reffered as personal computer.

The use of computers has increased over the years due to its convenience and ease of use. There are many different types of computers such as desktops or laptops which have their own benefits and disadvantages. The most popular type of computer today would be the laptop due to its mobility and versatility for different situations like class presentations or office work.

Many people who do not know much about what a computer does may see it as just another machine with buttons on it; however, there is so much more than meets the eye. A computer is a machine that processes data and provides output according to the given input.

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Glossary of Computer Terms

  • Technology Terminology – Technology is a broad and complex subject that can be difficult to understand. The following glossary provides definitions for some of the most common technology terms used in today’s society. This glossary will help you better understand what your friends are talking about when they mention technical jargon such as “Wi-Fi,” “hacking,” or “malware.”
  • Programming Terminology – As a beginner, the world of programming can feel daunting and confusing. There are so many different terms and concepts that it’s hard to know where to start! Fear not: we’re here to help you find your way through this vast new universe. This glossary is meant as an introduction for beginners, but even seasoned programmers will likely find some useful nuggets of information in here!
  • Design Terminology – A glossary of design terms is a collection of words and phrases that are typically used in the field of graphic design. A glossary can contain definitions, explanations, examples or other related information. There are many common design terms that may be found in a typical glossary including: designers, typography, layout technique and color theory. These terms will help you to better understand the world of designing without having to do any heavy reading. If you’re interested in learning more about what these different types of designers do then check out this blog post! We’ll cover all sorts from architects to interior decorators so don’t miss it!

Computer Terminology

In this section, we will introduce basic computer terms in different categories.

Hardware

Computer hardware are any physical objects that can be used by a computer. In terms of hardware for a computer system you have the CPU (Central Processing Unit) which processes all data and performs calculations.

You also have your RAM memory which temporarily stores information that is being processed or retrieved from storage devices such as a hard drive. The most common types of storage devices today would be a solid state drive (SSD) and electromechanical disk drive (typically referred to as “hard drive”).

Another key component in any computer system is the graphics processing unit(GPU), which powers advanced graphical operations. This component is crucial to your computer’s performance and enabled the new standards of graphic fidelity in video games and movies. A peripheral device and a storage device are also included in computer hardware.

  • Motherboard – The main circuit board inside your computer where all the essential components are plugged into. Before everything became so integrated, motherboards used to look like mini-ITX cases because there were so many different types of connectors and chipsets on them! Nowadays most motherboards only have a few chips and ports, with everything else built onto the CPU itself (which has become smaller over time). As such motherboard makers don’t make as many models as they used to, and don’t require as much R&D either.
  • RAM (Random Access Memory) – A type of computer memory that allows programs to temporarily store information for quick access. RAM gets erased when your computer turns off, so it is not a good place to store files you want to keep for an extended period of time. This is why most people use hard drives, SSDs or cloud storage for their long term data needs; though it is also possible to upgrade your RAM in order to speed up certain processes that rely on temporary memory. There’s more than one way to speed up the performance of your machine.
  • Heat Sink & Fan – An electronic device fashioned out metal fins with protruding pins at one end, where you attach your CPU and/or GPU. The pins are designed so that they make good contact with the chips without leaving any gaps or air bubbles between them, which would cause your computer to overheat. Heat sinks and fans help dissipate heat from the CPU and GPU chips, usually by using a fan blowing out hot air into a metal case.
  • CPU (Central Processing Unit) – The brains of the computer! This is essentially an entire computer in one integrated circuit (IC). Intel and AMD make most CPUs today (though IBM once held a majority market share), with each company offering several different product lines for different needs and budgets. It is relatively easy to increase the performance of your machine if you upgrade to a faster CPU, but unfortunately RAM cannot be upgraded.
  • Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) – A type of graphics card integrated into the motherboard where you can’t remove it. This kind of GPU is usually used on laptops, mini PCs and other devices where space is more limited than with standard desktop or tower systems. IGP chips are also sometimes called on-board video cards for this reason; off-board meaning there is no built-in chip on the motherboards themselves (whereas on-board means there is).
  • Network Interface Card (NIC) – The part of your computer that allows it to connect to a network via cables. Older computers had two types of NICs: wired and wireless, whereas newer models tend to have a single wireless card that can do both. Of course, wireless NICs have a limited range and require more power from the battery of your laptop or mobile device.
  • Modem – A small device that lets your computer access the internet via a telephone line (DSL) or cable television line (cable). In most parts of the world, regular broadband connections are faster than dialup even though they use an actual modem to connect on the other side instead of going direct over a standard ISP account. A modem is basically a type of phone jack except for a digital signal on each side instead of analog like with home phones.
  • System unit – System unit is a term used in personal computers that refers to the main computer box, or casing. It is the physical structure that contains most of a computer’s essential components such as keyboard, monitor and central processing unit (CPU). The system unit also holds any peripheral devices connected to the computer such as loudspeakers or digital video disc players.
  • Storage device – Storage device is any computer hardware containing one or more device(s) capable of storing data, hence to be used for the purpose of information storage. It includes both input device and output device.
  • Input device – is a software component that takes input from the user/player and sends it to other programs as directed by the OS. The first widely acknowledged input devices were the keyboard and mouse, which both record the absolute and relative positions of keypresses and mouse movement respectively. These devices often require special drivers, which is a set of code that tells the system how to interact with them.
  • Output device – Output device is any computer hardware or software component that provides visual or tactile output from a machine. It is typically used to transfer information from a computer or other digital electronic device to human senses, mainly sight and hearing. An output device is usually operated by an output function.
  • Floppy Disk – The floppy disk is a type of removable storage medium for storing and transferring data. The term can refer to an item of hardware or the removable medium itself, which is also called a floppy. Floppy disks are written by a floppy disk drive.

Software

Any programs or applications that make your computer do something useful through commands given by the user. Software can be separated into groups based on their functions, such as graphic design software for editing images and video, or word processing software for writing documents. You can also find paid and free software on the internet; though you usually get what you pay for in terms of quality.

  • Operating System (OS) – Computer software that manages your computer’s resources and provides a platform on top of which you can run other programs. The most common OS for personal computers is Microsoft Windows , while Mac OS X is the most common for Apple products. You can also find other operating systems, such as Linux based distributions or Chrome OS.
  • Adobe Photoshop – A popular type of image editing software created by Adobe. Photoshop is used for everything from professional photo retouching to creating icons and logos that will be displayed on your computer screen. It’s also quite expensive, with the current price hovering somewhere around $150 USD.
  • Google Chrome – A web browser developed by Google for use on Windows, OS X and Linux systems (and available in beta form for iOS devices). Chrome features a minimalistic design with clean lines, fast loading speeds and overall ease of use; though some users complain about privacy issues due to how much information Google can track when you’re using their search engine or browsing the internet in general. Some institutions block access to Google products like this in their networks because it makes it difficult or impossible to perform certain functions. This browser can be downloaded to a Windows personal computer via Internet Explorer or Edge.
  • Unreal Engine – An advanced game engine developed by Epic Games that is used to create video games for PC and mobile platforms. You can use the engine to build your own code or download open source content like characters, levels and weapons (or purchase commercial products). Notable titles created with this engine include Gears of War , Mass Effect 2 , Bioshock Infinite , Batman: Arkham Asylum and Borderlands . Google has also used it in their award winning game Ingress .
  • Google Play – The official name of the marketplace where you can download any type of app for free or at a cost onto your smart or tablet device. Apps come in all shapes and sizes, from educational games to apps that let you check your email or follow your favourite celebrities on Twitter. There are also many different types of apps for artists who want to use their devices as an art canvas; though it will depend on what type of device you have since not all models support every type of app.
  • Microsoft Word – The word processing program made by Microsoft to create documents like reports, flyers and letters. Word is very powerful software used to create almost any document imaginable; but because it has so much functionality, people tend to avoid using it for simple tasks because they’re intimidated by the number of tools available (or don’t know that the features exist). People usually go with something like Google Docs , LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org instead for their daily word processing needs; but Microsoft Word still remains the industry standard in the corporate world (though this is slowly changing).

Programming

The process of writing a group of instructions to perform a specific task by using a programming language which is understood by the computer’s processor so it can execute the code and provide the desired output.

Programming allows you to create something out of nothing, or “code” for short. This could be creating an entire video game from scratch, to adding features into existing software that wasn’t there before. Besides computer program, codes can be used to create mobile app, website for the world wide web. It’s not just for engineers and computer science majors either!

Anyone who knows how to read and write in a programming language has the ability to write their own programs, whether it be for entertainment purposes such as games or apps; or simply writing small scripts for work related tasks.

  • Programmer – A person of any background, age or experience who writes computer programs for a living. A programmer doesn’t necessarily have to be a software engineer or work in the tech industry; they could be a teacher, accountant or anything else.
  • Python – A high-level programming language created by Guido van Rossum in the late 1980s which uses an interpreter (a program that executes other programs, such as CPython) to communicate with your computer’s central processing unit (CPU for short). The syntax is easy to learn and read while also being widely used by programmers of all levels.
  • Flutter – An app development platform created by Google that lets you build native mobile apps using just one codebase and shared UI elements. It was designed to allow developers to write their own code without having to know how each individual mobile platform works under-the-hood, and it comes with its own set of software libraries to make it easier to design your app’s user interface (UI for short).
  • CMS – A category of software designed to help you manage, create and edit all kinds of content on the website. For example, WordPress is a very popular CMS that lets you build websites with minimal knowledge or effort, while also letting you add pages to expand your site’s functionality. It can be easily extended using plugins built by other developers; and like any piece of software, it has its own set of pros and cons depending on what features you need.
  • Framework – This is essentially a pre-built “framework” (a fancy word for skeleton) so each time you use it, you don’t have to spend countless hours writing code from scratch to get something basic working. This makes it easier to build prototypes because you can do a lot more in a smaller amount of time since most of the groundwork has been done for you. The two most popular JavaScript frameworks today are AngularJS and React .
  • High-Level Programming Language – A programming language which is designed to be easy for humans to read and write vs a low-level programming language which would require advanced knowledge of how computers work under-the-hood. Most high level languages have their own interpreter so they don’t have to be compiled before being executed by your computer’s CPU. They’re often used as the foundation or backbone that other software programs are built on top of, but high level languages aren’t limited to just that role either!
  • Object Oriented Language – This type of programming language prioritizes organizing code inside “objects” which each have a specific set of attributes and abilities.
  • Compile – This is when a computer programming language file is converted into a machine readable format that the computer can run as an app after it’s been successfully compiled. This process can take a few minutes if you’re trying to do this for the first time since the software has to go through hundreds of thousands of lines of code before converting them into something that can be ran as an actual program.
  • JSON – JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. It is a lightweight data-interchange format based on a subset of the JavaScript Programming Language. JSON’s primary use is as a data interchange language, but it can also be used as an alternative to XML. Data that would typically require multiple lines of code to express in XML, JSON can represent with just one line of text.

Network & Internet

The linking of two or more computing devices together for communication purposes over a shared interface such as the Internet. That means you can use one device to send files to another device through another networked device such as a router or wireless access point. You also might see this term often when buying networking hardware like routers and Wi-Fi access points, though they are essentially the same thing. Hardware manufacturers just like to market them differently for some reason.

Computer networks allow users to share resources such as files, printers and Internet access. It also allows multiple users to play games or share pictures from one central device such as a desktop computer. The main component of a network is the switch which transmits data between different devices. Another important piece of hardware that supports networking is a wireless access point (WAP). WAPs allow your mobile devices to connect to the network via radio waves, instead of using cables like other types of connections would require.

  • WiFi – You’ve probably heard of this one before and it’s a pretty common wireless technology used today to connect devices like mobile phones, tablets and laptops to the Internet. The two standards which bring WiFi to your mobile device are called 802.11a and 802.11g .
  • Cellular Data – This is another way that mobile devices can access the internet wirelessly using radio waves (RF for short), but cellular data is much faster than WiFi because it uses high-speed fibre optic networks which ISPs usually own and operate themselves. So whenever you use LTE or 4G, you’re actually connecting to the Internet over a cellular connection instead of WiFi.
  • VPN – Also known as Virtual Private Networks, they allow users to create secure connections between different sites over the internet. This lets you access a company’s internal network from a remote location and even share files through it. As an example, if your home computer is connected to a VPN, other devices on that same network can see each other while also being able to connect to files on your computer without needing its IP address or DNS settings.
  • Internet – The most famous network in the world that contains all of the sites and services people use on a daily basis. You can think of it as one massive hard drive that anyone with an internet connection can access, such as when you open up your browser and type in a website’s address.
  • WAN – This is just another term for a large-scale internetwork which allows different types of computer networks to connect with each other over long distances. For example, most ISPs operate their own WANs so they can link together many smaller networks and provide them access to the Internet.
  • Download & Upload – As you probably already know, what happens when you access a web page online or download a file from somewhere? Well, when you do this, the file is usually first downloaded from your computer’s current location and then uploaded to another device somewhere on the Internet. Downloading a file is called uploading it as well, just in reverse!
  • Cloud Computing – This means that data can be stored off-site by companies instead of being kept local to their own devices. For example, this lets them access files or run programs from any networked computer all over the world, but cloud computing also offers many other benefits which you can read about here.

Computer Graphics

A computer generated image that looks so realistic, you can’t tell if it is real or fake. Computer graphics are created by mathematically defining the shape and behavior of an object using a process called rendering. The final rendered image can be stored in memory for future use, or displayed directly to viewers on your screen (or other displays).

  • Image – A type of file that lets you see a still image inside the computer’s memory instead of on your screen. The most common types are JPEG and PNG , though you can use many other programs as well such as your operating system’s built-in editor or graphics software like GIMP or Photoshop .
  • Graphics Card – A separate processor that is designed to help with the processing demands of computer graphics. They usually come with their own on-board memory, and some even have their own dedicated power source so they don’t drain away from your computer’s main resources. They’re particularly useful if you work with 3D objects or animations because those require a whole lot more graphical processing power than 2D shapes do.
  • PNG – A type of graphics file that lets you store images in a lossless format which means the image is compressed without being permanently altered to save disk space. It also supports transparency, but if you set it to not support transparency, then it will create an opaque background instead.
  • RGB – The three colors Red , Green and Blue are combined through various methods to make all the other colors on the screen. When using R G B, each number can range from 0 t o 255 . You’ll often see this term used when talking about video games because they require quite a bit more hardware power than other apps.
  • Video Game – A video game is an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. The OS and hardware set the limitations for what types of games you can create or play, though some other factors such as available time & money come into play too.
  • Video – A type of data that is represented as a series of still images, each one slightly different than the other. It’s basically like having an animation without the movement seen on television or movies. Most videos are recorded at 30 fps (frames per second), which means that you will see each frame for 1/30th of a second before it updates to show another frame.

General Knowledge

This general knowledge section has the most terms out of all the sections, but don’t let it intimidate you! I placed them here because they are basic things you need to know for troubleshooting purposes; not necessarily related to computers. You may find these definitions helpful when dealing with other types of consumer electronics besides computers as well.

  • Desktop – This is the main area where all of your computer’s items and icons are located. Instead of starting at the desktop with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, you can also configure your environment to start with a full-screen window instead which will be explained in more detail below.
  • Backup – This process allows you to create another copy of all your data so if something ever happens to it (such as a crash), then you’ll have an extra copy that you can use to replace the old one! You can achieve this using either hardware or software .
  • File – A file is basically just like a physical sheet of paper only it exists inside the computer which makes it easier for humans and computers to work together on tasks since we’re much better at reading & writing than computers are. This term is often shortened to just “file” since it doesn’t take up that many characters.
  • Folder – A type of file that contains other files inside it which makes them easier to manage because you can then use one folder as a container for additional folders. Theoretically, the only limit to the number of subfolders you can have would be due to hard disk space limitations.
  • Reboot – This is when you stop your computer’s current processes so it can start fresh again by closing all running applications and clearing its memory. You’ll want to do this if your computer becomes sluggish or seems unstable, plus each time an app crashes, the more likely another one will crash too! It should also be noted that your computer will automatically reboot itself if it detects a serious problem.
  • Spam – This is when you send out emails to users that don’t want them or have already opted-out of receiving said email. You can avoid this by configuring your email program’s settings so that it doesn’t allow this behavior . If someone accidentally sends spam, then they’ll often follow up with an apology for their mistake and clarification of what happened. Keep in mind that some things are OK to do once but not multiple times since this is considered spam too!
  • Virus – A type of software designed to make copies of itself without the user knowing about it. Viruses are typically spread through downloads & opening files on the computer which makes them extremely dangerous since they can cause all kinds of problems (such as preventing you from using your computer).
  • Search – This is when you use keywords to look for files on the Internet or inside your own computer. Many websites offer search bars which allow their users to instantly search through their site instead of having to manually navigate through it like with Google. The more specific the keywords are, the better chance you’ll have at finding what you’re looking for quickly!
  • Update – A type of software update that makes changes to how certain programs work or adds new features too. You’ll usually need an Internet connection in order to download these updates so it may take a few minutes before everything is finished which can be annoying if you weren’t expecting this behavior.
  • Admin – A shortened version of the word “administrator” which is a user account with additional permissions on your computer. Since most people don’t need to use many advanced features, an Admin account’s abilities will be hidden by default since they can make changes to your entire system if needed.
  • Version – This term refers to a specific release of a software program that has different capabilities compared to older versions which makes them more useful in some cases and less useful in others. You’ll typically find information about what’s new inside each update so you have a good idea as to whether or not they’re worth trying out before spending any time doing so!

Conclusion

Those were just common computer terms that people need to know. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of this blog! And if you have any questions, be sure to let me know in the comments & I’ll try my best to answer them.

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