Computer Lingo Revealed

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



Computers and Peripherals Product Guide

Product Guide

Asanté Technologies Inc., 821 Fox Lane, San Jose, CA, 95131, 800-662-9686

ActivMedia, Inc. Conval H.S. Applied Technology Center Business,

Inc., 182 Hancock Road, Peterborough, NH 03458; 603-924-9100

Amera Computer, Inc., 10301 Harwin Dr., Houston, TX 77036; 713-988-1688

Apple Computer, Inc., 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014; 408-974-8508

Audience Response Systems, Inc., 2148 North Cullen Avenue, Evansville, IN,

47715; 812-479-750

CompUSA, Inc., 2480 Fairview Avenue North, Roseville MN, 55113; 612-635-4029

Compaq Computer Corp., 20555 State Hwy 249, Mailstop 580307, Houston, TX

77070; 281-514-1359

Computer City, 300 W. 3rd St., Suite 1500, Fort Worth, TX 76102; 800-843-2489

Dell Computer Corp., 2300 Greenlawn Boulevard, Round Rock, TX 78664;


Gateway 2000, 610 Gateway Drive, N. Sioux City, SD 57049; 800-846-2419

Government Computer Sales, Inc., 710 NW Juniper Street, Suite 100, Issaquah, WA 98027; 800-869-7159 Heathkit Educational Systems, 455 Riverview Drive, Benton Harbor, MI 49022;


Hewlett-Packard Co., 1911 Pagemill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303

800-839-6850 ext. 4043

Hitachi America, Ltd., 2000 Sierra Point Parkway, Brisbane, CA 94005; 800-654-7013

IBM Corp., 4111 Northside Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30327; 800-IBM-4YOU

MediaForm, Inc., 400 Eagleview Blvd., Exton, PA 19341; 610-458-9200

NetSchools Corp., 100 Galleria Parkway, Suite 1340, Atlanta, GA 30339; 770-226-5000

Pace, Inc., 9893 Brewers Court, Laurel Court, MD 20707; 301-490-9860

Pantex Computers, Inc., 10301 Harwin Drive, Houston, TX 77036; 713-988-1688

Periphonics Corp., 4000 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Bohemia, NY 11716;


Plastic Card Systems, Inc., 201 Boston Post Rd. West, Suite 407, Marlboro, MA 01752; 800-742-2273

Scanning Systems, 11413 Valley View Road, Eden Prairie, MN 55344-3617;


Scantron Corp., 1361 Valencia Avenue, Tustin, CA 92780; 714-247-2756

Sequel Technology, 3245 146th Pl. SE,, #300, Bellevue, WA 98007;


Tandberg Educational, Inc., Orchard Ridge Corp. Park – Bldg. One, Fields Lane, Brewster, NY 10509; 914-277-3320


CD Labelcorp, Inc., 3348 Overland Avenue, Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90034

310-287-2001 x804

Compu-Gard, Inc., P.O. Box 469, 1432 G.A.R. Hwy., Swansea, MA 02777;


Epson America, Inc., 20770 Madrona Avenue, Torrance, CA 90503; 310-782-0770

Franklin Learning Resources, One Franklin Plaza, Burlington, NJ 08016;


Hewlett-Packard CO., 1911 Pagemill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303

800-839-6850 ext. 4043

Iomega Corp., 1821 West Iomega Way, Roy, UT 84067; 801-778-3726

KEYTEC, Inc., 1293 North Plano Road, Richardson, TX 75081; 972-234-8617

Logitech, Inc., 6505 Kaiser Drive, Fremont, CA 94555; 510-795-8500

National Computer Systems, 4401 West 76th Street, Edina, MN 55435

PAR Technologies, 14605 N. Airport Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85260;

602-922-0044, ext.109

Pairgain Technologies, 14402 Franklin Avenue, Tustin, CA 92780; 714-730-2334

Pioneer New Media Technologies, 2265 E. 220th Street, Long Beach, CA 90810;


Ricoh Corp., Five Dedrick Place, West Caldwell, NJ 07006; 201-882-5846

Riso, 300 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923; 508-739-3512

Secure-It, Inc., 18 Maple Court, E. Longmeadow, MA 01028; 800-451-7592

Texas Instruments, 7800 Banner Dr., Dallas, TX 75251; 972-917-2935

Digital Cameras

Agfa, Bayer Corp., 100 Challenger Road, Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660;201-440-2500

Casio, Global Products Inc., 2221 Hammond Drive, Schaumburg, IL 60173; 800-633-0633

Epson, 20770 Madrona Avenue, Mail Stop C2-02, Torrance, CA 90509-2843; 800-873-7766

Fuji, 555 Taxter Road, Elmsford, NY 10523; 800-755-3854

Hewlett Packard, 1911 Pagemill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303; 800-839-6850 ext. 4043>

Kodak, 343 State Street, Rochester NY 14650; 800-242-2424

Minolta Corporation, 101 Williams Drive, Ramsey, N.J.07446; 201-825-4000

Nikon, 1300 Walt Whitman Rd., Melville, NY 11747; (800) 645-6687

Olympus America, 2 Corporate Center Dr., Melville, NY 11747;

(516) 844-5000

Ricoh Corp., 475 Lillard Dr., Sparks, Nev. 89434; (702) 352-1600

Sony Electronics, 3300 Zanker Rd., San Jose, Calif., 95134; (800) 352-7669

Toshiba America, 1251 Avenue of the Americas, 41st Floor, New York, NY

10020; (212) 596-0600


Byron Preiss Multimedia to buy New Century Education

If the acquisition of New Century Education Corp., goes through as expected this summer, Byron Preiss Multimedia (BPM) will be poised to give some old-line education software companies a run for their money.

BPM, a publicly held New York corporation (Nasdaq: CDRM), has been quietly transforming itself into an education software powerhouse. The multimedia company has previously been known for consumer entertainment titles such as the CD-ROMs “The X- Files” and “Total Titanic: A Night to Remember.”

But if BPM buys New Century, a respected second-tier interactive curriculum system company, by the end of June, industry insiders predict BPM will become a serious competitor to the likes of Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC), Jostens Learning Corp., The Learning Company, and the school software division of Cendant Corp.

Unusual business matchups

If BMP does go head-to-head with CCC, Learning Company, and others, the situation will make for some unusual business matchups. One of BPM’s subsidiaries is a distributor of popular titles from The Learning Company. And entertainment and communications giant Viacom International could face the prospect of competing against itself. Viacom owns CCC and also holds a 20 percent ownership share of BPM.

“We’re making a move into educational multimedia because we think it’s one of the fastest growing markets out there,” said Paul Kolker, a BPM spokesman.

BPM says it’s pursuing a three-pronged business strategy: (1) developing educational internet products, (2) developing educational software for educational publishers and corporations, and (3) publishing educational software and marketing it directly to schools.

BPM cautions that its New Century purchase is contingent on concluding definitive acquisition agreements and winning stockholder approval. But if the transaction proceeds as planned, the New Century deal could become the latest in an extended string of acquisitions and partnerships designed to refocus BPM’s business strategy away from selling CD-ROMs through retail consumer channels and toward selling electronic instructional materials to schools through direct marketing, field sales, and internet-based marketing, the company said.

In recent months, BPM has acquired educational software developer Dolphin Interactive as well as Multi-Dimensional Communications Inc., the parent company of Orange Cherry/ New Media Schoolhouse, publisher of interactive titles such as “Rain Forest Explorer” and a leading reseller of such education software titles as The Learning Company’s “Reader Rabbit” series.

In March, BPM completed a merger with OnRamp School Productions Inc. of Denver, which became a wholly owned subsidiary of BPM and immediately changed its name to Internet Education Group (IEG). BPM brought in Neal Tomblyn, best known as one of the developers of Yahooligans!, to serve as IEG’s CEO. IEG creates secure web environments for schools. BPM’s latest gambit came on April 15, when the company launched a dedicated internet store ( for the sale of educational software.

‘A good fit’

Kolker said the deal to purchase New Century should be completed by the end of June. He called the merger “a very good fit for us.”

According to Electronic Education Report (EER), a biweekly newsletter published by SIMBA Information Inc., the New Century deal also adds a 13-person sales force to BPM’s marketing team, which will immediately strengthen BPM’s position in the K-12 market.

New Century’s chief product, its Integrated Instructional System, combines curriculum, assessment, and management software into one system. New Century estimates that more than 250,000 students use its program annually.

BPM President Byron Preiss told EER, “We see an enormous opportunity to repurpose and repackage [New Century’s] content, and sell it in new ways.”

BPM plans to leverage New Century’s content into new products, but Preiss said there are no plans to move, cut, or significantly change any of New Century’s operations. New Century President Dennis Tarzian reportedly will remain in charge of the company, which employs about 70 people.

Byron Preiss Multimedia

New Century Education Corporation


This little school district makes big bucks as an ISP: Two-way satellite access provides high-speed internet link

Believe it or not, not all schools are cashing in on the feds’ offer to subsidize their internet access. One school district in rural Illinois has chosen to disqualify itself for the eRate by becoming an internet service provider (ISP) for its community.

The Marshall (Ill.) Community Unit School District C-2 is providing high-speed internet access to more than 200 local residents and businesses. For $20 a month, users can dial in to the school district’s satellite network. Proceeds from the service make it a self-sustaining venture, said Paul Robinson, Marshall’s technology coordinator.

From rotary phones to satellite

Marshall serves a rural area of about 6,000 “out in the middle of nowhere,” said Robinson. Telecommunications capabilities are limited. Locals were still using rotary phones in 1995 when high school Principal Ken Reed saw a high-tech demonstration by Intellicom, a provider of two-way satellite internet access.

Intellicom was showing off the internet using satellite access out of a trailer. The traveling “classroom on wheels” media lab gave school officials the idea to provide cheap, high-speed access between Marshall’s four school buildings and out to the global internet and to provide home use to the community as a fund-raising mechanism.

For an up-front investment of $12,000, the district has so far seen net revenues of $5,500, said Superintendent Russel Ross.

“It’s no different from buying a case of hot dogs at the IGA and then selling them at the football club,” said Ross.

Quantum leap forward

In one year, 1995, Marshall purchased a two-way satellite system from Intellicom and outfitted every classroom in its high school and every media lab in the middle and elementary schools with computers. That year represented “a quantum leap forward for the school district,” says Marshall High School Principal Reed.

The network runs over two satellite dishes. In all but the K-2 building, every classroom is now equipped with a computer. Marshall is still purchasing desktops. With 1,400 students, the district hopes to achieve a 1:4 computer-to-student ratio by next fall.

Ross credits the network for helping Marshall to become a Model Technology Site for the state of Illinois in 1996. The district was one of only three systems outside of the Chicago area to be awarded that distinction.

And Ross gives credit to the school technology coordinator, Paul Robinson, who made it happen. Robinson worked with Intellicom, Cisco, and GTE to design and install the satellite system. The technology coordinator provides all system maintenance and customer service, Ross says.

“The guy is just a wizard.”

Dial-in satellite networking

Marshall began its technology initiative nine years ago with nearly $100,000 in state funds. The district was providing networking capabilities, news services, and automated library services well before they became everyday bywords in schools.

When it came time for internet access, the district could have tapped into the statewide network, said Robinson. But that meant crossing over the lines of several telecommunications companies-each of whom assessed a separate access fee. Dedicated internet access via T1 lines would have cost the district upwards of $2,000 a month just in access fees, Robinson said.

The Intellicom satellite network was set up to achieve the highest access speeds possible at the lowest cost. And it boasts some pretty nifty figures. The junior high school connects to the satellite dish at the high school using wireless “ethernet bridges.” The network achieves a T1 connectivity between the buildings-they’re about 300 feet apart-without wires.

The downlink speed, or how fast data are transferred from the satellite to desktop computers, is 2 Mbps. That’s about 30 percent faster than a standard high-speed T1 line.

The uplink (desktop to satellite dish) is only 64 Kbps. But, as Robinson pointed out, you’ve usually got “more stuff coming in than going out.”

Marshall is ideally suited for the school to act as a local entrepreneur. “For any school, particularly in a rural area where community is a little bit smaller and therefore people know each other a little bit better, it’s a great vehicle for schools to make money while still giving back to the community,” said Rains.

Marshall wanted to encourage all school employees to use the internet at home. So the district offered free access via the satellite to all school employees-not only to teachers, but also to janitors, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers, said Robinson.

Marshall Community Unit School District C-2





3D dissection goes the distance

Thanks to a new application of distance learning technology, Jo Ann Eurell, an associate professor of veterinary medicine, recently gave an unprecedented lesson on the development of a two-day-old chicken embryo to 38 high school biology students sitting miles away in two different classrooms. The project, nicknamed “Chickscope,” was distance learning with a brand-new twist.

It was the first time, according to scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory, that 3-D imaging and a virtual reality environment were transmitted in a two-dimensional form to a classroom via the internet.

Eurell was working with digital images of various views of tissue slices from embryos in a virtual reality environment called an ImmersaDesk, a 4-by-6 foot screen.

Her voice and the picture she was working with were transmitted over the internet to the students. And just as in a regular classroom, the students could ask her questions-requesting that she zoom in on a specific organ to provide a view of the chick’s circulatory system, for instance, or that she rotate the view of the tissue slice by 90 degrees.

The idea of classes being taught over the internet is nothing new, of course. But project leader Clint Potter explained that this was the first time researchers had taken a 3-D image such as the one Eurell was looking at in a virtual reality environment and had been able to transmit it in a two-dimensional form, so students elsewhere could look at it on a computer screen or project it onto a wall.

“This service can bring high technology to people who are separated by great distances, who may not have a lot of money and resources to experience the whole thing right there. This is reaching out to anybody on the web,” said Lisa Childers of the Argonne National Laboratory, which developed some of the technology for the project.

The demonstration was one of the exhibits at the first official gathering of partners in the National Computational Science Alliance, an effort funded by the National Science Foundation to create the communications infrastructure for the next century.

The University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications is the leader in the alliance and developed some of the technology used in the chicken embryo demonstration.

Eurell is an associate professor in the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The students listening to her presentation in one location were members of a biology class at University High School in Urbana, Ill., and students in the other location were members of a computer club at Urbana High School.

Eurell could see the students at University High on a small window on her big screen. They asked quite a few questions-how blood travels through a chicken embryo at that age, how different a human heart is from a chicken embryo, how organs develop.

But at Urbana High School, the project didn’t run as smoothly. The school’s internet connection is too slow, so the students in the computer club saw the images frame-by-frame instead of in constant motion, like a video.

They also had to listen to Eurell’s voice over a speaker phone.

But teacher Jim Peterson thinks lessons such as the one Eurell presented will be common in schools as soon as 10 years from now. And students will be able to download such video and audio presentations from the internet to use in their own studies, he said: “The students will be able to gather things from all over the world.”

Argonne National Laboratory

National Center for Supercomputing Applications

National Computational Science Alliance


‘JetNet’ brings videoconferencing down to earth

A case study of Oklahoma City’s Western Heights School District has taken its rightful place along with Archie Bunker’s chair in the Smithsonian Institution.

Nominated by Intel Corp. for its advanced telecommunications network, Western Heights was one of about 30 K-12 schools or districts to be honored in this year’s Computerworld Smithsonian Awards. For being nominated, each school’s case study was enshrined in the Smithsonian’s Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology. A final winner in the education category will be announced June 8.

Joe Kitchens, the Western Heights superintendent–who was present for the April 6 ceremony in Washington–attributed his district’s technology success to the vision of its community.

“For a community where 69 percent of the children are economically disadvantaged, [this award] says something about our voters’ level of commitment to their children’s education,” Kitchens said. “It’s very gratifying to the people of the district.”

Thanks to the community’s support, the students of Western Heights routinely use computer and videoconferencing technology in their everyday studies. Each building is connected to a main server at the high school campus via fiber optic lines to create a local-area network called JetNet. Five network ports in each classroom bring the internet and videoconferencing to the students. The network is linked to the internet through a speedy T1 line.

Origins of JetNet

Kitchens has been involved in the district’s technology planning since it started four years ago. In the summer of 1994, as assistant superintendent, he served on an advisory committee to study how best to upgrade the district’s technology capabilities. At the time, students were using un-networked Apple IIe computers concentrated in computer labs.

After consulting with engineers and meeting for four months, the committee submitted its plan to the school board, along with a recommendation that a bond issue of $9 million be approved-half for building infrastructure and half for the installation of a network. In March of 1995, the bond issue passed “overwhelmingly,” Kitchens said.

The committee had decided to purchase 17 miles of fiber-optic cable for the network. “If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right,” Kitchens explained, noting that the committee wanted a district-owned backbone that would support its schools well into the future.

A key decision in the committee’s plan was to wire each classroom with five separate network ports. The rationale: Research suggests that for any given classroom, there are five different learning styles common to its students. “We wanted to be able to respond to the needs of all our students,” Kitchens said.

Construction began during the summer of 1996, and by December of the same year, the district had a functioning wide-area network. But even before the first cable had been laid, staff development was under way to ensure that teachers were proficient in the new technology.

Two teachers per building were trained to teach the others how to use eMail, word processing, spreadsheet, and internet applications. Kitchens said the district used teacher trainers so teachers would feel more comfortable learning the new technology from their colleagues, and there would be someone available in each building if anyone needed assistance.

All teachers received 32 hours of training in the spring of 1996 before the network was in place, and they continue to receive up to 60 hours of training each year. Kitchens said the district offers novice, intermediate, and advanced training sessions, typically one night per week for several weeks. The money for training comes from Title 2 or 6 federal funding.


From the beginning of its online history, Western Heights has embraced videoconferencing as just as valuable a tool as internet access.

“Because of the collaborative nature of videoconferencing, we believe it has tremendous potential for education,” Kitchens said. “It fosters cooperative learning experiences between staff and students and allows students to use information from the internet in meaningful ways.”

Kitchens cites a variety of examples of how videoconferencing has transformed education at the district’s schools. For instance, students have collaborated with a school in Bristol, England, seven U.S. senators, and members of the British Parliament to compare the two forms of government; and a meteorologist from a local television station routinely teaches students about weather.

“Those are exciting experiences that really charge the kids,” Kitchens said. He hopes to expand the collaboration with the local TV station to include a sportscaster who can discuss such things as batting averages and the physics of hitting with students.

Perhaps the best example, though, is the student who was wounded in a shooting incident last year and would have missed the entire 1997 spring semester of school. The district installed an ISDN line to his home so he could participate in all of his classes through videoconferencing.

“It only cost us $70 per month for the ISDN line-everything else, we already had,” Kitchens said. “We were able to help him continue his studies without losing any time or credit, and it cost us far less than it would have cost to provide a tutor.”

A moving target

Kitchens said because the district made a large initial investment, it has had relatively few maintenance costs to grapple with. Even so, technology remains an ongoing development.

Western Heights has a five-year technology plan in place. Kitchens said it’s important to make everyone in the community aware of what your own plan is-and to follow through on your promises.

“If we tell the public we’re going to do something, it gets done. That reinforces the public’s trust the next time a bond issue is raised for a vote.”

Western Heights School District