Glossary of Terms


ACD: Automatic Call Distribution(ACD) software provides the capability to distribute a large number of incoming calls placed to one or more directory numbers among a fixed group of ACD agents.

ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Exchange. ASCII files are often referred to as “text” files or “plain text” files. They contain no formatting information.


bandwidth: The capacity of a network or data connection to transmit data.

BIOS: Basic Input/Output System.

BPS – bits per second: Measure of data transmission for a modem or network. As the name implies, bits per second is the number of bits that pass a certain point in one second.

browser (or Web browser): An application (such as Mozilla Fierfox or Microsoft Internet Explorer) that locates and displays web pages, allowing the user to interactively jump from place to place by selecting highlighted text or graphics. (See link.)

byte: Abbreviation for binary term, a unit of storage capable of holding a single character . On almost all modern computers , a byte is equal to 8 bits


Cable Modem: A modem designed to operate over cable TV lines.

CBT: Computer-Based Training. A self-training system for software and programming.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory): A compact disc formatted for data storage. Most CD-ROMs can store 650 megabytes of data.

CIO: Chief Information Officer, a common corporate position managing enterprise-wide IT.

Client/server: A network arrangement with a server and one or more clients. Both the server and the clients are stand-alone computers. The server provides resources (such as data management) and allows clients to share information with each other.

CPU: Central Processing Unit. Think of the CPU, or microprocessor, as the brain of a computer system. The CPU is a chip that deciphers and initiates your commands.


DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol): A protocol for assigning dynamic IP addresses to devices on a network. In some systems, the device’s IP address can even change while it is still connected.

DNS (Domain Name Service): In a Web address (URL), the domain name is the portion just after “http://”. For example, in “”, the domain name is “”.  But having these addresses in text format is just a convenience for us humans. Computers see everything as numbers, including addressing information (see IP address). The Domain Name Service is simply a two-way translation so computers can understand the text-based addresses that are convenient for us to use, and so that we don’t have to memorize long strings of numbers.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line): DSL makes use of existing telephone wiring for high-speed connectivity. This allows DSL subscribers to access the Internet and use their telephone on the same line.


Ethernet: A local area network architecture that supports a data transfer rate of 10 Mbps. Ethernet is probably the most common way in which LANs are constructed. One particular implementation of Ethernet is 10baseT. A newer implementation, 100baseT, permits a 100 Mbps data transfer rate.


FireWire: A very fast external bus standard that supports data transfer rates of up to 400 Mbps (in 1394a) and 800Mbps (in 1394b).

firewall: A system, hardware or software designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol. A standard protocol for transferring files between computers over a network.


gigabyte (GB): Amount of computer storage equivalent to approximately 1 billion bytes or 1,000 megabytes. This measurement is often used when measuring the capacity of hard drives or other storage devices.

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format): One of the two most commonly used formats for Web graphics. Best suited for illustrations and graphic art. See also JPEG.

GPL (general public license): The license that accompanies some open source software that details how the software and its accompany source code can be freely copied, distributed and modified.

GUI (Graphical User Interface): The most commonly used computer interface, exemplified by Microsoft Windows and MacOS. Typical elements of a GUI are a mouse interface and a system of visual directories that look like file folders.


hard drive: The main device a computer uses to permanently store and retrieve information. These drives are sealed boxes typically found inside the computer. Also called a “hard disk.”

HTML (HyperText Markup Language): A standardized programming language used to create electronic documents, especially Web pages, that contain connections (links) to other related documents.


IP address (Internet Protocol address): The address of a computer on a TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) network. IP addresses are written as four groups of up to three digits (e.g.,

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network): A high-speed networking infrastructure.


JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): Together with GIF, JPEG (or JPG) is one of the two commonly used image formats on the Web. JPEG format is best suited to photographic images.


Kbps (Kilobits per second): A measure of data transmission speed.

Kerberos password: A highly encrypted code that protects confidential or secure information from being accessed by unauthorized users.

kilobyte (KB): An amount of storage equivalent to 1,024 bytes, or about 1,000 characters of information.


LAN (Local area network): Two or more computers, usually within a single room or building, that are connected so they can communicate and interact with each other.

Linux: An open-source operating system derived from the Unix operating system. It is used most commonly to run servers.


mainframe: A very large computer capable of supporting hundreds, or even thousands, of users simultaneously. In the hierarchy that starts with a simple microprocessor (in watches, for example) at the bottom and moves to supercomputers at the top, mainframes are just below supercomputers.

Mbps (Megabits): One million bits per second. A measure of data transmission speed.

megabyte (MB): A measurement of computer storage that equals 1,048,576 bytes. Bytes are typically represented in computer terminology by an upper case “B.” Colloquially referred to as a “meg.”

MIME type: “Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions” and is a data specification which allows non-ASCII files to be sent over the Internet. Email programs (such as Eudora) and Web browsers are configured to interpret a variety of standard MIME types so they can transmit and receive graphics, audio, video, and formatted text files.


NAM (Network Access Module): A special jack into which a printer or computer is plugged to connect to a network.

netiquette: Short for “Internet etiquette,” netiquette refers to standards of courtesy in electronic communications.

network: A set of conjoined computers that can share storage devices, peripherals, and applications. Networks may be connected directly by cable connection, or indirectly by telephone lines or satellites, and can be part of a small-office system or global web of numerous other networks.


open source: Computer programs or operating systems for which the source code is publicly available are referred to as open-source software. Inherent in the open source philosophy is the freedom of a distributed community of programmers to modify and improve the code. The most widely known example of open-source software is the Linux operating system.

OS (Operating System): The software on your computer that controls the basic operation of the machine. The operating system performs such tasks as recognizing keyboard input, sending output to the monitor, keeping track of files and directories on the disk, and controlling other connected devices such as disk drives and printers.


PDF: Portable Document Format. Refers to a file format in which formatted documents can be transferred over the Internet. PDF files are readable with Adobe Acrobat Reader, an application which can be downloaded from the Adobe Web site at no charge.

platform: A combination of hardware and system software forming the basis for a computer system. Examples include Macintosh, PC, NT, and UNIX. The term “cross-platform” refers to programs and formats that can be used on more than one platform.

POP (Post Office Protocol): A way of retrieving email from an email server (called a POP server).

protocol: A set of formal rules and procedures which your computer must support in order to communicate with other computers on a network or through the Internet.


RAM (Random Access Memory): Commonly considered synonymous with main memory (i.e., the memory available to programs in use on a computer), but this is a simplification of the actual meaning. Physically, RAM consists of memory chips or chip modules (e.g., SIMMs or DIMMs) which attach to the computer’s logic board. Memory modules can continue to be added as long as open slots are available on the logic board.

remote access: A service which makes it possible to connect to a network such as the campus network or the Internet from a distant location (such as your home or your favorite vacation spot).

ROM (Read-only Memory): Refers to computer memory in which data or programs have been permanently encoded and which can be accessed but not altered. For example, a CD-ROM is a compact disc onto which digital information has been “burned”, and the contents of most CD-ROM disc cannot be altered without special equipment.

RTF (Rich Text Format): A document format which allows documents to retain their formatting when transferred between platforms and over the Internet.


server: The control computer on a local-area network (LAN). The server controls software, access to printers, and other parts or functions of the network. The server is usually connected to workstations that share the main system’s resources.

SGML: Standard Generalized Markup Language. A set of standards for document markup tags. SGML rules formed the basis for HTML.

site license: A license that gives permission to use a software package on more than one system. Site licenses are a means of providing a bulk rate to companies and schools that want to use software on many computers.

software: Sets of instructions or data that tell a computer what to do. Software is often divided into two categories: system software, which includes the operating system (e.g., Windows 95, MacOS) and all utilities that enable the computer to function; and applications software, which includes programs that perform specific tasks (e.g., word processors, spreadsheets, and databases).

source code: Computer programs or operating systems are originally written by a human being in a programming language. This is called the source code of the software. To be actually used by a computer, the program has to be translated by the computer from the source code into the machine language that the computer understands and can execute. This translation process is referred to as compiling.

SSL: Secure Sockets Layer. A protocol allowing secure transmission of confidential material via the Internet.


TCO (Total Cost of Ownership): A measure of the value of a product which factors in maintenance expenses as well as purchase price.

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol): Together with Internet Protocol (IP), TCP is one of the core protocols underlying the Internet. The two protocols are usually referred to as a group, by the term “TCP/IP.” TCP enables two computers to establish a connection and exchange information. TCP guarantees delivery of data and also guarantees that information packets will be delivered in the same order in which they were sent.

TIFF: Tagged Image File Format. A widely-supported bitmap image format most often used in print publications.


Unix: A computer operating system developed in the early 1970s. Unix (pronounced “YOU-nicks”) is widely used in high-end workstations and servers. Many variants of Unix have been developed, including Sun Solaris, Free BSD, and Linux.

UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply): A power supply device that you can plug your computer into. Includes a battery to keep your computer running in the event of a power outage. A UPS can usually keep your computer up for several minutes after a power outage, enabling you to save files and shut the computer down safely.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator): Technical term for a Web address.

USB (Universal Serial Bus): An interface standard for connecting peripheral devices to computers. Hardware components for implementing a USB interface include connector ports on computers and cables for connecting peripheral devices to the computer. The USB standard supports data transfer rates of 12 Mbps. A single USB port can be used to connect up to 127 peripheral devices. USB is gradually replacing SCSI as the dominant peripheral interface standard.


VOIP: Voice Over IP

VLAN (Virtual LAN): Allow departments that are dispersed at two or more locations to connect all their users to one departmental network. This overcomes the constraint that is associated with Local Area Networks (LANs), which can only group together users who are located in the same geographical vicinity, such as a small building or one section of a building.

VPN: Virtual Private Network.

VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language): Allows display of 3-dimensional imagery on the Web.


WAN (Wide Area Network): A computer network covering a large geographical area, usually consisting of two or more LANs.

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get): Pronounced “whizzywig”. Characteristic of a program or application which displays formatted material on the screen so that it looks the same as it will appear when printed out.


XML (Extensible Markup Language): Like HTML, XML is a markup language, but unlike HTML, it is not limited to Web documents. Another difference is the markup tags in HTML define how the elements thus tagged are displayed, whereas the tags in XML define the data contained in the tagged elements. XML is expected to eventually bring about great changes in the delivery of information on the Web.



Zip disk: A high-capacity floppy disk developed by Iomega Corporation. Zip disks are slightly larger than conventional floppies and can hold either 100 MB or 250 MB of data.



Source:  UCLA IT Glossary