A Few Computer Terms

man holding a card with a question card

Glossaries – and especially computer glossaries – are probably almost as boring as The Olympics

Nevertheless, enough people ask me often enough what certain computer terms mean that I thought it might be worth ambushing you with a few, random, terms in the hope that you may read some of them and that a bit of it might stick.

Blog – A series of web pages that are written over time. The subject matter can be personal, technical, topical, or anything else. The word is short for “web log”.

Blu-ray – A form of high capacity optical disc, capable of holding five times as much data as a standard DVD. Blu-ray was developed to handle the large amount of data required to store a HD (high definition) video on a single disc.

Cable Modem – A modem (qv) that connects a computer to the internet via a cable TV system (as opposed to being connected to the internet via telephone lines).

Cloud – A concept that suggests computer locations (often computer storage) that are accessible to a computer (via an internet connection) but remote from it.

CPU – Central Processing Unit. Also known simply as the “processor”, this is the part of the computer that does the actual work of processing instructions and manipulating data.

Downloading – The process of copying digital information (programs, data etc) from a remote source (such as the internet) onto a computer.

Dual Core Processor – Two CPU’s (qv) in one single chip. A bit like having two brains.

Firewall – A method of preventing unauthorised access either into or out of a computer system. Most routers (qv) include a firewall and most computers are also protected by a software firewall.

ISP – Internet Service Provider. A commercial organisation that provides a connection to the internet

Mail Server – A computer (and its programming) that is dedicated to handling the receipt and delivery of email. To send and receive email, a computer either connects to email servers via a web browser or via a program (called an email client) that is configured to know the names of the mail servers for the specific email account. There may be different email servers handling incoming and outgoing email or they may both be handled by a single server.

Malware – Short for “malicious software”. this is any programming that has got onto a computer and that has “bad intentions” . It may be trying to do damage, or steal information, or mislead the user.

Modem – A device that changes the analog signal that travels down a cable into a digital signal that a computer can handle and that also does the opposite. These processes are called “modulation” and “demodulation”. “Modem” is a contraction of these words. A modem is, typically, a box of tricks that allows a computer to connect to the internet. See “router”.

Olympic rings distorting The ShardOlympolepsy – A condition brought about by the unfortunate conjunction of a quadrennial festival of commercial gluttony masquerading as sport, and the locating of same in one’s home town. The symptoms of olympolepsy include a fear of travel, an aversion to radio and television (particularly the BBC), and a strong desire to spend up to eight weeks duvet-diving. It is probably possible to provide computer support while suffering olympolepsy.

Router – A hardware device responsible for allowing other devices to share and pass information – eg several computers can share an internet connection and/or printer via connections to a router. The connection to the router can be either via a cable (an “ethernet cable”) or via a wireless signal. Most personal computers are connected to the internet via a device that combines a modem (qv) and a router. These days it is common to refer to such a combined “modem/router” as a “router” or “wireless router”.

Uploading – The process of copying digital information (programs, data etc) from a computer to a remote destination, such as “the cloud” (qv).

(Last updated 07/09/2023)