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Word Definition

2D accelerator Hardware component in a video controller responsible for

performing 2D operations such as drawing lines and filling
shapes, thereby relieving the load on the processor.
3D accelerator Hardware component in a video controller responsible for
performing 3D operations on behalf of the display driver,
thereby relieving the load on the processor.
ACPI Short for Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, an
enhanced power management system designed to control
energy consumption on all devices connected to the
computer. ACPI requires both hardware and operating
system support.
AD bus The 32 wires of the PCI bus used to transfer 32-bit data and
Anode The positive electrode in an electrolytic cell.
API Short for Application Programming Interface, a software
interface used by application and system software to access
the resources provided by the operating system.
APM Short for Advanced Power Management, an energy-saving
function under BIOS control, with which certain components
can be shut down after a predetermined period of inactivity.
Asynchronous communication Communication between two devices without the aid of a
shared clock signal.
AT Advanced Technology, PC architecture introduced by IBM
that uses a 16-bit 80286 processor.
ATA AT Attachment, the official name of the IDE disk drive
implementation standard developed by the Small Form
Factor (SFF) Committee.
ATAPI AT Attachment Packet Interface, an extension to the ATA
standard that enables the interface to support CD-ROM
players and tape drives.
Battery pack Integrated and rechargeable power source used to run a
portable computer independently of a mains electricity
Baud The number of signalling elements that occur each second.
At low speeds, one baud is equivalent to one bit per second.
Bi-directional interface Interface that allows data to be transferred between a
computer and a peripheral in either direction.
BIOS Short for Basic Input/Output System, a sort of miniature
operating system that takes control of the computer when it
is turned on, and is responsible for loading the operating
BIOS setup Screen in which the various BIOS settings can be
configured by the user.
Boot sector The first sector on a hard disk that contains the boot code
required to load the operating system.
Booting Automatic execution of a set of instructions usually held in
ROM when a computer is switched on. Booting ends when
the operating system is loaded.
Bus Similar in function to the body’s nervous system, the bus is a
collection of wires through which data is transmitted from
one part of the computer to another.
Bus master Name used to identify the device currently initiating a data
transfer over the PCI bus.
Bus mastering A feature supported by some bus architectures that enables
a device controller connected to the bus to communicate
directly with other devices on the bus without having to go
through the CPU.
Byte mode Parallel communications mode in which a peripheral device
exchanges data with the computer using eight dedicated
data lines.
Card bus 32-bit bus used to operate PC Cards.
Card Station Toshiba docking station used to run a portable computer in
a desktop environment.
Cathode The positive electrode in an electrolytic cell.
CD Compact Disc, optical storage medium with a capacity of
650 MB.
CD-DA Compact Disc Digital Audio, standard for audio CDs. Also
known as Red Book.
CD-R Compact Disc Recordable, a technology that allows a user
to “master” (record) a CD-ROM. CD-R discs have a blue,
green or gold surface and can only be written once.
CD-ROM Compact Disc Read Only Memory, compact disc that can be
read but not written.
CD-RW Compact Disc ReWritable, a type of CD that can be written
more than once.
Centronics port Unidirectional parallel interface for connecting printers and
other parallel devices.
Chat Online system of communicating with one or more remote
users over a network such as the Internet. Contributions are
entered via the keyboard and can be viewed on screen by
all participants.
Clock speed Also called clock rate, the speed at which a processor
executes instructions. The faster the clock speed, the more
instructions the CPU can execute per second.
Communications controller Specialised control unit for high-speed data transfer via an
IrDA port.
CPU Short for central processing unit, also known as the
microprocessor or processor. The CPU is the heart of the
computer, whose primary task is executing software.
CRT Short for cathode ray tube, the technology used in most
televisions and computer monitors.
CTI Short for computer telephony integration, or the ability of a
computer to act as a telecommunications center, accepting
incoming calls and routing them to the appropriate
Desk Station Toshiba docking station used to run a portable computer in
a desktop environment.
DMI Short for Desktop Management Interface, an API that can
be used to collect information about a computer’s hardware
and software environment.
Doubleword In programming, a doubleword is exactly what its name
implies, two words. On computers with a 16-bit, a
doubleword is therefore equivalent to 32 bits.
DRAM Short for dynamic random access memory, a type of
memory used in most personal computers.
DSTN Short for double-layer supertwist nematic, a technology
used in passive-matrix LCD displays.
DuoView™ S3 multiple display technology enabling simultaneous
display of the same image or different images on LCD/CRT,
LCD/TV, and CRT/TV combinations.
DVD Digital Versatile Disc, the next generation of optical storage
technology with capacity ranging from 4.7 GB to 17 GB.
DVD-Video DVD format for full-length digital movies.
E-mail Electronic mail, a system of exchanging messages and files
between computers on a network.
ECP Short for Extended Capabilities Port, a parallel-port standard
that supports bi-directional communication between a PC
and an attached device (e.g., printer, CD-ROM drive, or
parallel network adapter).
EDO RAM Short for Extended Data Out RAM, a type of RAM that is
faster than conventional RAM.
EISA Extended Industry Standard Architecture, an enhanced
version of the ISA bus architecture designed to speed up the
transfer of data to and from expansion cards.
Electrolyte Chemical substance that conducts the electrical charge
inside a battery cell.
EPP Short for Enhanced Parallel Port, a parallel port standard
that supports bi-directional communication.
Ethernet The dominant local area network protocol with data transfer
rates of 10 Mbps.
Fast Centronics Non-standardised, parallel communications mode which
uses a buffer to achieve a high rate of transfer (up to 500
Fast Ethernet Accelerated version of the Ethernet standard with a data
transfer rate of 100 Mbps.
Feature connector Plug used on a graphics card to connect video peripherals
(particularly video capture cards) directly to the video
memory, i.e., avoiding the system bus.
FET Short for field effect transistors, the transistors used on a
TFT display to control whether the individual pixels allow
light to pass from the rear panel or not.
FireWire Common name for IEEE 1394, a new type of serial bus that
offers much higher speeds than USB.
Flash BIOS Type of BIOS that is recorded on an EEPROM chip and can
therefore be updated when required.
FM synthesiser Sound system component that uses a set of oscillators to
create instrument sounds.
Frame grabber Device used to digitise moving pictures obtained from an
analogue source (TV, camera or video recorder).
GB Gigabyte. Equivalent to 1,073,741,824 bytes of data (2 to
the power of 30).
GDI Short for Graphical Device Interface, a Windows module
responsible for representing graphical objects and
transmitting them to output devices, such as monitors and
GPS Global Positioning System, a positioning or navigation
system that uses information gathered from a series of
satellites orbiting the Earth.
GSM Global System for Mobile Communications, the de facto
standard for digital cellular systems in Europe.
Hub A central connection point used to link various devices. A
typical example is the USB hub designed to connect USB
devices to a computer.
I/O port Interface between the CPU and a register on a hardware
I/O space Address space for the available I/O ports.
iCOMP Index Index published by Intel and used to measure the relative
performance of microprocessors.
IDE Short for Integrated Drive Electronics, an interface for mass
storage devices where the controller is integrated into the
disk or CD-ROM drive, and the device can be connected
directly into an IDE port on the motherboard.
IEEE Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Founded in
1884, the IEEE is an American organisation composed of
engineers, scientists, and students. It is best known for
developing standards for the computer and electronics
industry. Many IEEE standards are mandatory throughout
the world.
Internet International network of computers used for all manner of
digital communications.
Interrupt A signal informing the processor that an event has occurred.
Interrupt signals can come from a variety of sources, e.g.,
when the user presses a key or when a disk operation is
IrDA Infrared Data Association. A group of hardware
manufacturers responsible for the development of a
standard for transmitting data via infrared light waves.
ISA Industry Standard Architecture. The traditional bus
architecture used in IBM-compatible PCs, now being
superseded by the PCI bus.
ISDN Short for Integrated Services Digital Network, an
international communications standard for sending voice,
video, and data over digital telephone lines.
ISO 9660 "Standard file system used on CD-ROMs; can be used
under DOS, Windows and many other operating systems."
Joliet Enhanced version of the ISO 9660 file system specially
developed for Windows 95 and Windows NT.
KB Kilobyte. Equivalent to 1024 bytes of data (2 to the power of
LAN Short for local area network, a computer network that spans
a relatively small area. Most LANs are confined to a single
building or group of buildings. A system of connected LANs
is called a wide-area network (WAN).
LCD Short for liquid crystal display, a generic term used to
describe various types of display where liquid crystals are
used to create the screen image.
Level 2 cache A particularly fast type of memory that resides on a separate
chip located between the processor and the actual main
memory. Cache memory is used to store recently accessed
data from where it can be re-supplied to the processor more
quickly than is possible from RAM.
Lithium ion battery The latest battery technology, introduced in 1994. Lithium
ion batteries do not suffer from the “memory effect”.
Megabyte According to the ISO standard one megabyte equals one
million bytes. In computing, however, one megabyte is
understood as 1,048,576 bytes (2 to the power of 20).
Memory effect The property of some batteries that causes them to lose
their capacity if they are repeatedly recharged before they
have become fully drained.
Mixer Mixes input and output channels on a sound system as well
as adjusting volume.
Modem Modulator/demodulator. A device that enables a computer to
transmit digital data over analogue telephone lines
(modulation), and to convert an analogue signal received
over a telephone line back into digital data (demodulation).
MPEG Short for Motion Pictures Expert Group, an independent
working group set up to develop compression standards and
file formats for digital video.
MPEG 1 / MPEG 2 Digital video compression standards developed by the
Motion Picture Experts Group.
Nibble Half a byte - four bits. A byte is made up two of nibbles: a
low nibble (the lower four bits) and a high nibble (the upper
four bits).
Nibble mode Parallel communications mode in which a printer uses the
status lines to transfer information to the host computer.
Nickel metal hydride battery The second generation of notebook batteries, introduced in
Nickel cadmium battery The first generation of battery packs for portable computers.
Prone to memory effect and no longer used in notebook
Null modem cable A cable configured to allow two computers to communicate
directly via their parallel or serial ports.
OnNow An ACPI-based design initiative from Microsoft that seeks to
create all the components required for a comprehensive,
system-wide approach to system and device power control.
One of the main goals of OnNow is to cut the time it takes
the computer to start.

Page An area of RAM amounting to 4 KB, the smallest unit that

can be operated on by a virtual memory system.
PAL Short for Phase Alternation Line, the dominant television
standard in Europe delivering a resolution of 625 lines at 25
frames per second.
Partition To divide a mass storage medium into separate units
(partitions), on which it is possible to install multiple operating
Partition management utility Software tool used to create and manage partitions on a mass
storage device such as a hard disk.
PC Card Credit card-sized expansion card for portable computers. See
PCI Short for Peripheral Component Interconnect, a local bus
standard used to communicate with 32-bit expansion cards on
Pentium systems.
PCMCIA Personal Computer Memory Card International Association.
The organisation responsible for the standardisation of PC
Cards and PC Card interfaces (hardware and software).
Pit Microscopic depression on a CD or DVD, the smallest unit of
data storage on an optical disc.
Pixel Short for picture element, a pixel is a single point in a graphic
image. Graphics monitors display pictures by dividing the
display screen into thousands (or millions) of pixels, arranged
in rows and columns. The pixels are so close together that they
appear connected.
POST Short for power-on self test, a series of diagnostic tests
performed automatically by the BIOS when the computer is
turned on.
Protected mode A 32-bit execution mode available on Intel processors.
RAM Short for random access memory. In common usage, the term
RAM is synonymous with the computer’s main memory.
Random access memory is volatile, which means its contents
are lost when the power is turned off.
RAMDAC Short for Random Access Memory Digital-to-Analogue
Converter, a part of the video controller used to convert digitally
encoded images in video memory into analogue signals that
can be displayed by a monitor.
Real mode Execution mode available on Intel processors that is used for
16-bit DOS and Windows applications.
Resume mode Ability of a computer to shut down when not in use after
automatically saving the current user environment. The
computer can then be returned to its original status when work
resumes without the need to restart the computer.
ROM Short for Read Only Memory, computer memory which does
not lose its contents when the power is turned off, but which
cannot be overwritten.
RS 232 Short for Recommended Standard-232, a standard defining the
connectors, cabling and protocols used on the serial port of a
Sample A digitally recorded audio sequence.
SCSI Small Computer System Interface. An interface standard used
to connect a wide range of peripherals including external hard
drives, printers and scanners.
SDRAM Short for Synchronous DRAM, a particularly fast but also very
expensive type of random access memory.
Serial port Interface used to communicate with external devices in which
data is sent serially, i.e., as a chain of single bits.
SIMD Single Instruction Multiple Data. Basis for MMX instruction set,
enables one instruction to process several items of data in
Single-speed Basic speed on original CD-ROM drives, equivalent to 150
Sleep mode An energy-saving mode of operation in which all unnecessary
components are shut down. Once “awakened”, the computer
returns almost immediately to its former operating status.
Socket API Programming interface for use on TCP/IP networks such as the
SPP Standard Parallel Port. The original standard for parallel ports
offering a maximum data transfer rate of 150 KB/s.
SRAM Short for static random access memory, SRAM is a type of
memory that is faster and more reliable than the more common
DRAM. The term static is derived from the fact that it doesn't
need to be refreshed like dynamic RAM.
Superscalar pipelining Pentium architecture that enables more than one instruction to
be executed per clock cycle.
Terminal adapter Device used to connect a computer to an ISDN network. Also
called an ISDN modem.
TFT Short for thin film transistor, the technology used to control the
pixel cells in an active matrix LCD display.
Token Ring Popular LAN protocol, more robust than Ethernet but also more
Twisted pair A type of cable that consists of two independently insulated
wires twisted around one another.
UART Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter, the UART is a
component that handles asynchronous serial communication.
Unidirectional port Interface that allows communication in one direction only, e.g.,
from a computer to a peripheral but not the other way round.
USB Universal Serial Bus. A new type of serial bus that can connect
up to 127 peripherals.
V.34 Data communications standard for modems that specifies
speeds of 28,800 and 33,600 bps.
VESA Video Electronics Standards Association. A consortium of
video adapter and monitor manufacturers set up to standardise
video protocols.
Video controller Hardware component that controls the LCD display and
generates analogue signals for an external monitor.
Video memory Random access memory located on the video controller and
used to buffer screen image data before it is sent to the
display. Also known as video RAM.
Virtual memory An imaginary memory area supported by some operating
systems. The purpose of virtual memory is to provide open
applications with more RAM than is physically available on the
Wh Watt-hour, the amount of electrical power that can be supplied
by a power source in one hour.
Word In programming, the natural data size of a computer. The size
of a word varies from one computer to another, depending on
the CPU. For computers with a 16-bit CPU, one word is
equivalent to 16 bits (2 bytes).
ZBR Short for zone bit recording, a technique used to create a
greater number of sectors in the tracks towards the periphery
of a hard disk, than in those towards the centre.
ZV Port Short for zoomed video port, a port that enables data to be
transferred between multimedia peripherals (e.g., CD-ROM
drive, monitor, video camera or sound card), without having to
go through the CPU.