Glossary of Computer/Internet Terms

Compiled by the Genetics Education Center, University of Kansas Medical Center


Archie -- In UNIX-based systems linked to Internet, a program that allows the user to search an index of files available by anonymous FTP. Archie currently indexes approximately 2.1 million files on some 1,200 publicly accessible servers (FTP sites) so they can be searched when you log on.

baud -- A measure of the number of times per second that switching can occur in a communications channel.

baud rate -- Baud rate is frequently used to measure the speed of modems, but almost always, what is actually being described is the modem's bps rate. Technically, baud rate refers to the maximum number of changes that can occur per second in the electrical stat of a communication circuit. 300 baud is likely to equal 300 bits per second (bps), but at higher baud rates, the number of bits per second transmitted is actually higher than the baud rate because one change can represent more than one bit of data. 9600 baud = 4x faster than 2400 baud. 14,400 baud = 6x faster than 2400 baud.

BITNET(Because It's Time Network) -- A wide-area network that links over 1,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe was developed by EDUCOM, a nonprofit educational consortium, for scholarly communication. Services provided include electronic mail and file transfer. BITNET is used heavily by geographically separated scholars who are working jointly in a narrowly defined research area.

bulletin board -- A private telecommunications utility, generally regional in nature or run from a regional or specific perspective. Usually no fee, no customer support. Usually set up by a personal computer hobbyist for the enjoyment of other hobbyists. (Similar to public online service, commercial on-line service.)

CD-ROM -- Compact Disk - Read Only Memory. A read-only optical storage technology that uses compact disks. DC-ROM disks can store up to 650M of data, all of which can be made available interactively on the computer's display. Compression techniques enable you to pack up to 250,000 text pages on one CD-ROM disk.

chat -- In a computer bulletin board system, a special forum or conference that allows two or more callers to engage in real-time conversations with each other.

client -- In a local area network, a workstation with processing capabilities, such as personal computer, that can request information or applications from the network's file server.

cookies -- A feature of many web browsers defined as client-side persisitent information. Cookies allow web sites to store information about your visit to that site on your hard drive. Then, when you return, cookies will read your hard drive to find out if you have been there before.

communications program -- An application program that turns your computer into a terminal for transmitting data to and receiving data from distant computers through the telephone system. Ex: Procomm Plus

cyberspace -- The virtual space created by the technology of computer systems enabling people to communicate with other users located all over the world, redefines social and spacial boundaries.

databases -- A collection of related information about a subject organized in a useful manner that provides a base of foundation for procedures such as retrieving information, drawing conclusions, and making decisions.

e-mail -- Electronic mail. The use of a local or wide-area computer network to send and receive messages. Electronic mail is made possible by computer networking. Linked by high-speed data connections that cross national boundaries, electronic mail allows you to compose a message and transmit this message in seconds to one or more recipients. Unlike a telephone call, it isn't necessary for a recipient to be present when the message is received; the recipient's computer stores the message and displays a message, such as "You have mail waiting," the next time to recipient logs on to the system.

EtherNet -- Back bone connection. A local area network, originally developed by Xerox Corporation, capable of linking up to 1,024 nodes in a bus network. A high-speed baseband communication technique which provides for a raw data transfer rate of 10 megabits per second.

file server -- In a local area network (LAN), a personal computer that provides access to files for all the workstations in the network.

FTP -- File transfer protocol. In communications, a standard that ensures the error-free transmission of program and data files via the telephone system. Can be used in downloading programs and files.

gateway -- In computing, a device that connects two dissimilar local area networks or that connects a local area network to a wide-area network, a minicomputer, or a mainframe. A gateway has its own processor and memory and may perform protocol conversion and bandwidth conversion. Gateways typically are found in large organizations in which more than one local area network protocol is installed.

gopher -- In UNIX-based systems linked to Internet, a menu-based program that helps you find files, programs, definitions, and other resources on topics you specify. Unlike FTP and Archie, the Internet Gopher does not require you to know and use the details of host, directory, and file names. Instead, you browse through menus, pressing Enter when you find something interesting. You usually see another menu, with more options, until finally you select an option that displays information on-screen. You can then read it or save it to your disk storage area.

HTML -- Hypertext markup language. A system for marking-up documents with informational tags that indicate how text in the document should be presented and how the documents are linked together.

hypertext -- The nonsequential retrieval of a document's text. The reader is free to pursue associative trails through the document by means of predefined or user-created links. In a true hypertext application, you can highlight virtually any word in a document and immediately jump to other documents containing related text. Commands also are available that enable you to create your own associative trails through the document.

Information Superhighway -- Term coined by Al Gore approximately 15 years ago.

Internet -- A system of linked computer networks, worldwide in scope, that facilitates data communication services such as remote logon, file transfer, electronic mail, and distributed newsgroups. Internet is not a computer network, as is commonly thought, but rather a way of connecting existing computer networks that greatly extends the reach of each participating system. It grew out of a plan by RAND, a think tank in Santa Monica, who sought ways for computers to be linked during thermonuclear war. Department of Defense ARPAnet technology was used by NSF to develop NSFnet to link academic institutions to exchange information over the Net.

ISP -- Internet Service Provider. A service which provides subscribers with direct access to the Internet. some of the larger ISPs include Netcom, Pipeline, and Panix. Many small, local ISPs exist.

Kermit -- An communications protocol that makes the error-free transmission of program files via the telephone system easier.

local access number -- Sprint Net, etc., dial in with long distance charge.

Local Area Network (LAN) -- The linkage of personal and other computers within a limited area by high-performance cables so that users can exchange information, share expensive peripherals, and draw on the resources of a massive secondary storage unit, call a file server. Local area networks offer the advantages of a distributed computing system in which computational power is distributed to users without sacrificing their ability to communicate.

modem -- A device that converts the digital signals generated by the computer's serial port to the modulated, analog signals required for transmission over a telephone line and likewise, transforms incoming analog signals to their digital equivalents. In personal computing, people frequently use modems to exchange programs and data with other computers, and to access on-line information services. Modem stands for modulator/demodulator. The modulation is necessary because telephone lines are designed to handle the human voice, with warbles between 300 and 3,000 Hz in ordinary telephone conversations (from a growl to a shriek). The speed at which a modem transmits data is measured in units call bits per second (technically not the same as bauds, although the terms are often used interchangeably). 300, 1200, 2400, 9600, 14400, 28800, 36600, 56000 (the higher the number, the faster the modem. 56K modem may need special phone line - ISDN)

MOSAIC -- Graphical browser software for the Internet. Most effective with direct internet protocol address.

MS-DOS -- The standard, single-user operating system of IBM and IBM-compatible computers.

Netscape -- An advanced Web browser from Netscape communications. See Mosaic.

network -- A computer-based communications and a data exchange system created by physically connecting two or more computers. The smallest networks, called local area networks (LAN's), may connect just two or three computers so that they can share an expensive peripheral, such as a laser printer. Some LAN's connect as many as 75 or more computers. Larger networks, call wide area networks (WAN's), employ telephone lines or other long-distance communications media to link the computers together.

node -- In a local area network, a connection point that can create, receive, or repeat a message. In personal computer networks, nodes include repeaters, file servers, and shared peripherals. In common usage, however, the term node is synonymous with workstation.

port -- An entry / exit boundary mechanism that governs and synchronizes the flow of data into and out of the central processing unit (CPU) from and to external devices such as printer and a modems. Synonymous with interface.

PPP -- Point to Point Protocol driver. See SLIP.

server -- Computer with access to all computers on network.

shareware -- Copyrighted computer programs made available on a trail basis; if you like and decide to use the program, you are expected to pay a fee to the program's author.

SLIP -- Serial Line Interface Protocol driver. Modem software running at the operating-system level of your computer, allowing Mosaic and other Internet client applications (e-mail, gopher, telnet) to concurrently, each in their own window. Gateways are provided by Internet service providers, who give SLIP and PPP accounts on an hourly or flat-fee basis.

software package -- A computer application program delivered to the user in a complete and ready-to-run form, including all necessary utility programs and documentation.

SYSOP -- Pronounced "siss-op". Acronym for system operator. A person who runs a bulletin board.

Telenet -- A commercial wide-area network with thousands of local dial-up numbers. Telenet provides log-on services to a variety of commercial on-line computer services, such as Dialog Information Services and CompuServe. When online, gives access to other computers.

UNIX -- An operating system for a wide variety of computers, from mainframes to personal computers, that supports multistations and is ideally suited to multiuser applications.

URL -- Universal Resource Locators. Usually begins with http://. A pointer to some bit of data on the Web, i.e. Web document, a file on FTP or Gopher, a posting on Usenet, or a data record in a database. The URL indicates where you are pointing when browsing at a particular location on the Web.

veronica -- Indexes gopher menus.

virus -- A computer program designed as a prank or as sabotage, that replicates itself by attaching to other programs and carrying out unwanted and sometime damaging operations. When embedded in its host, the virus replicates itself by attaching to other programs in the system, including system software. Like a human virus, the effects of a compute virus may not be detectable for a period of days or weeks, during which time every desk inserted into the system comes away with a hidden copy of the virus. Eventually, the effects manifest themselves. The consequences range from prank messages to erratic system software performance or catastrophic erasure of all the information on a hard disk.

WAIS -- Wide Area Information Server. Pronounced "ways"; acronym for UNIX-based systems linked to Internet, a program that permits the user to search worldwide Internet archives for resources based on a series of key words.

word processing -- Examples: WordPerfect, WORD for Windows, Microsoft Works

World Wide Web (WWW) -- A hypertext-based document retrieval system in the Internet. Originally developed at a particle physics laboratory, WWW is constantly gaining additional information as users contribute more indexed documents and home pages.

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Debra Collins, M.S. CGC, Genetic Counselor, dcollins@kumc.edu


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