10BaseT: One of several Ethernet adaptations. “T” refers to cable comprising a twisted pair of copper wires up to about 300 feet in length. The network operates at 10 Mbps using baseband transmission (i.e. the “base” in 10BaseT), which means a wire carries one signal, or channel, at a time.

10/100: Refers to the speed of a network or a network card that can operate at 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps.

Alert on LAN: IBM/Intel technology for networked computers that triggers an alert when someone opens the computer’s chassis or unplugs it from the power source or the network. It also warns of problems such as high temperatures and low voltage.

Bandwidth: Information-carrying capacity. Bandwidth applies to network wiring as well as system buses and monitors. It is most accurately measured in cycles per second, or hertz (Hz), but bits or bytes per second also are used.

BIOS: Basic Input/Output System. The BIOS tells the computer how to run a program and manages how information is retrieved from a hard drive or what happens when a key is pressed on the keyboard, etc.

Byte: A unit of storage (memory) capable of holding one character. In most modern computers, a byte equals 8 bits, which are the smallest units of data in computing and have a value of either 0 or 1.

Cache: A cache stores information for quick access.

DMI: Desktop Management Interface. A program (technically an applications program interface) that enables software to collect information about a computer. Essential to remote manageability. DMI 2.0 is pretty well established as the industry-wide standard.

DVD-ROM: DVD stands for “digital video disc” or “digital versatile disc,” depending on whom you ask. (ROM is “read-only memory.”) DVD is a new type of CD-ROM that holds up 17 Gb of data-up to 26 times the data contained on a single CD. Educational software is just beginning to appear on DVD. To use this software, you need a DVD drive, which can also read CD-ROMs.

Gb: Gigabyte. 1,073,741,824 bytes, but commonly thought of as 1 billion bytes.

Graphics Accelerator: A graphics accelerator speeds a computer’s ability to display graphics, which is essential if the computer is to run multimedia programs. An important determinant of capacity is the amount of memory. These days 2 Mb is common and 4 Mb is higher end.

Kb: Kilobyte. 1,024 bytes.

LAN: Local Area Network. A short-distance network used to link a group of computers together. LANs are typically limited to one building and distances of less than 1,500 feet.

Level 2 (L2) Cache: Secondary cache. L2 cache lies between the processor and the main memory (RAM). It’s faster than RAM, but slower than the primary cache. These days L2 cache typically is 256K or 512K in size. (The Pentium Pro has built-in L2 cache.)

Mbps: Megabytes per second

MMX: Multimedia Extensions. In late 1996 Intel introduced the Pentium MMX, an enhanced version of its Pentium processor designed to handle sound, video, and graphics chores. This capability is built into more recent processors, such as the Pentium II.

Motherboard: The printed circuit board that electronically connects the parts of a computer. In a desktop, it is the “floor” of the computer. In a tower, it’s along one of the vertical sides.

Network: Two or more computers linked together, usually by wires, so they can share information.

Network Card: Also Network Interface Card (NIC). A device that allows a computer to communicate with a network.

Peripheral: An external device attached to the computer, such as a printer or monitor or digital camera.

Primary Cache: Level 1 cache. L1 cache is very fast memory built into the processor. The processor stores frequently used data in L1 cache for quick access.

RAM: Officially, Random Access Memory-plain vanilla memory, which is the work area of a computer. Programs and data are called up from permanent storage, usually a hard drive, and operate in RAM.

Remote manageability: The ability to manage a networked computer remotely, over the network, without physically touching the computer.

SMART: Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. An open standard for developing disk drives and software that automatically monitors a disk drive and reports potential problems–ideally, in time to prevent a crash.

Universal Serial Bus: A new type of computer port (those receptors into which you plug your printer cord, etc.) that is replacing serial and parallel ports as the way to connect peripherals to a computer. It has one standardized plug and allows you to connect peripherals without having to reconfigure the computer or worry about add-in cards, DIP switches, or IRQs.

USB port: Universal Serial Bus Connector

Wake on LAN: Technology developed by IBM and Intel that allows a networked computer to be turned on remotely, over the network, when the computer’s power switch is off. The technology is used widely throughout the computer industry, which generally calls it “Wake Up on LAN.”

WAN: Wide Area Network. A system of LANs connected by telephone lines or radio waves. A WAN can cover several buildings, a state, or the entire globe.


This translation of common computer lingo is based in part on the BigYellow glossary


and the CNET glossary