“Get a Personal Trainer for Your Computer!”©

NOTE:  Items highlighted in RED are defined elsewhere in this Glossary, while items highlighted in BLUE are site links for further information.


A2A: a/k/a Application-to-Application.  A designation frequently applied to organizations, it means that you are sending messages within your own organization (i.e. the VP communicating with Chief of Sales).  The next level of communication, B2B (business-to-business), would be communicating outside of an organization, perhaps to another organization or company (i.e. between the VPs of two different companies).  A B2C web site sells products and services to consumers and the general public.  This dictates the use of different firewalls, security and communications software.

@The symbol used in e-mail addresses to separate the name of an e-mail recipient from the server computer (“Post Office”) where that person receives the mail.  The left of the @ is the “local” part, the right is known as the “domain”.  The explanation for the use of the @ symbol was that Ray Tomlinson at Bolt, Beranek & Newman, who was one of the primary developers of e-mail on ARPANET, looked around the keyboard for symbols that were not in use at that time, and found the @ symbol.  For a detailed history of the @, click HERE.

AAS: Part of an acronym such as SaaS, Paas, etc.  Stands for “as a service.”  See Saas for more.

“A” RECORD: Part of the zone file for a web site.  It is used to point Internet traffic to an IP address.  For example, you can use an A record to designate to send traffic to your web site at IP address (or some other IP address for some other web site).

ABANDONWARE: Software that is no longer sold or supported, or whose copyright ownership may have expired, which can now be freely distributed because it has fallen into the public domain. See, for example,, which calls itself “The biggest free abandonware downloads collection in the universe”.

ABBH: Average Bouncing Busy Hour.  A way of measuring network traffic. See also Ten-High-Day busy period.

ACCESS: The spreadsheet program included in the Microsoft Office suite.

ACCESS POINT: [a/k/a WAP’s - wireless access points]  A hardware device which is plugged into an ethernet switch or hub on a LAN, which permits users to connect their wireless devices to the network.  See DIAGRAM. Also beacons.

ACID3: The third standard (after ACID & ACID2), actually a test, from the Web Standards Project that measures how well a web browser follows certain Web standards, especially relating to the Document Object Model and Javascript. 

ACK: This is the name for an ASCII character that denotes that “a signal has been received successfully”.  If the signal is not successfully received, another ASCII character, the NAK, is sent by the recipient.  The NAK signal is called REJ (“rejected”) or sometimes ARQ (“automatic request for re-transmission”).

ACL: Access Control List.  This data list informs a computer’s operating system which permissions or access rights that each group of user has to a specific system object, such as a directory or file.  The ACL identifies whether the user or group has privileges to read, write or execute that object.

ACPI: Advanced Configuration and Power Interface. An engineering specification that defines power modes or sleep states.  Developed by Intel, Microsoft and Toshiba (and part of later Windows systems) ACPI enables the operating system to control the amount of power given to each device attached to the computer, also allowing the system to turn off devices not being used to save power and to enable the computer to power up as soon as the keyboard is touched.   See also, Sleep.  See Power for troubleshooting ACPI.

ACR: Automatic Content Recognition, a technology embedded in most smart TVs (like those of Samsung, LG and Vizio) since as early as 2012 that monitors the video and audio streams on the TV, then creates a “fingerprint” of the users’ data to send to third parties about everything watched (including broadcast, streaming movies, private DVDs, etc.).  In addition, there has been some concern (by Consumer Reports and others) that, because these TVs accept voice commands, they may also be recording owners’ private conversations through the built-in microphones, also sharing them with third parties.  Companies like Cognitive Networks, Enswers and Gracenote all collaborate with TV manufacturers to embed ACR technology into smart TVs at the hardware level.  Some manufacturers may have software controls to turn off these features, although it may require disabling other features like voice commands.

ACTION SCRIPT: The scripting language built into Adobe’s Flash.  When combined with JavaScript, cybercriminals can craft malware attacks using this.

ACTIVE: Working, as opposed to off-line or off.  Also, referencing equipment, refers to devices which are powered by AC current, as opposed to “passive,” which relies only on whatever power comes through the cable itself.

ACTIVE DIRECTORY:  See Windows Active Directory.

ADA: A combination of computer languages established by the U.S. DOD in the 1970’s, named after first computer programmer Ada Lovelace.

ADAPTER (OR ADAPTOR): A device, the purpose of which is to convert the attributes of a device to another otherwise incompatible device.  For example, an adapter allows WebTV to convert a standard TV into an Internet device, and a serial port adapter enables connections between computer ports having 25 pins and cables having only 9 pins without affecting power or signal attributes.

ADC: Application Delivery Controller.  A computer network device in a datacenter, usually part of an ADN that performs common website administration tasks like load balancing to optimize web servers. See also, WOC, which serves a similar purpose.

AD BLOCKER: See Whitelist.

ADN: Application Delivery Network.  A suite of technologies that provide security, speed and applications on web servers.

ADDRESS: An identifier for a computer or other device (e.g. printer) on a TCP/IP network, used to route messages based on the IP address of the destination.  The format of an IP address is a 32-bit numeric written as four blocks of three numbers between 0 and 255, separated by periods.  For example, could be an IP address.  Private network address can be random, but internet (public) addresses are assigned and registered to avoid duplicates and permit security.  Different ranges of IP addresses are owned by different ISPs.  Click HERE for more.  See also, Network, Host, Internet, Icann, IP, ISP.

Ad Hoc: A type of wireless network established for the duration of one session only, requiring no base station.  Instead, devices usually discover others within range to form a network for those computers.  Not very secure.

ADMINISTRATOR MODE: A way of running a program or changing a system setting that requires the permission of an “administrator” to proceed.  The administrator (or “admin”) is set in the Windows (and other) operating system(s) as the user responsible for managing the system by allowing changes, additions or deletions to be made to the system.  It is the first and “highest” account that is created when an operating system is installed on a new desktop, workstation or server.  Other users set up after the admin may or not have administrative rights.  If they do not, these accounts will see a message prompting them to run in “elevated mode” (i.e. the highest or administrative mode) in order to make the required changes, meaning that they must log on to the system as an administrator, the highest mode for the system.  Until that is done, the user will be operating in “restricted mode” meaning that they are prohibited from making any of the changes that require an administrator to do so.  In later versions of Windows, a right-click on the program icon or start menu description will allow the user to choose to “run as administrator” and that will elevate the mode to run the app (e.g. checkdisk).

ADVERDORSEMENT: An on-line personal endorsement, usually with a photo, the content for which is pulled from reviews that Google+ and Facebook users have posted on their social networking accounts.

Adobe logoADOBE SYSTEMS: A US corporation located in San Jose, CA,  founded by Charles Geschke and John Warnock in December, 1982 which specializes in various graphic and web programs and add-ons.  The name comes from the Adobe Creek which ran behind Warnock’s home in Los Altos, CA.  Apps include Flash (displays animation on web pages) Reader (encrypts and displays documents on line), Photoshop (editing photos and graphics) and many other products.

adobe logo 2ADOBE READER: A program (symbolized by the symbol at left) which is free from Adobe Systems (above) used to read encrypted files (like your bank statement) created with the unique .pdf (“portable document format”) extension, over the Internet.  You can’t edit them, though, unless you purchase the full program and have permission from the sender.

Advanced Persistent Threat (“APT”):   A cybercrime category primarily directed at businesses and high profile individuals which utilitizes the full spectrum of intrusion technologies over a prolonged period in order to seek financial gain and information theft.

AERO: Stands for “Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open”. A graphic feature introduced with Windows 7 which features a aero interfacetranslucent glass design, among other design changes (e.g. Windows Flip, taskbar previews of open windows).  It uses quite a bit of graphic processing power, though, and should be turned off on lesser powered computers.  Also the name of a 2013 startup company (now shut down due to a 2014 Supreme Court decision, see Laws) which picks up  free television signals with antennas, then streams them to (paying) clients.  Broadcasters have appealed to the Supreme Court to stop what they consider copyright violations (see Laws and FAQ #46).  Another similar service is FilmOn.

AES: Advanced Encryption Standard.  See, encryption. AES is the successor specification to the older DES (“Data Encryption Standard”), accepted by the U.S. Nat’l Institute of Standards & Technology (see Associations) in 2001 for encrypting secret and top secret documents at 128-bit and 256-bit strengths, respectively.  AES is based on the Rijndael cipher, developed in 1998 by two Belgian cryptographers, Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen.U.S.

AGGREGATOR: A type of internet software that collects specific areas of  information (e.g. news or reviews) from multiple online sources and displays the results on a website or delivers them to a computer via feeds.

AGILE: A term most often applied to software development methods and practices which describe a collaborative approach between self-organizing and cross-functional teams.  See, e.g. scrum, and about a dozen other methods. It was introduced in the Agile Manifesto (2001), created by the Agile Alliance, which described the practices and philosophy. Others:  Extreme Programming (a software development methodology which creates software using short development cycles and frequent releases in order to improve software quality), Kanban (which concentrates on maintaining delivery dates through just-in-time principles of software development).

AGP:  Accelerated Graphics Port (See also, PCI):  A motherboard port which provides a high bandwidth connection between the graphics device and the system memory, especially 3-D graphics cards which come in 4X and 8X (previously 1X and  2X) transfer rate configurations to fit the main board.

AHCI: (Advanced Host Controller Interface).  The standard hardware interface from Intel for SATA (also SSD) drives, essentially a driver for SATA drives that interfaces with the O/S (see BIOS).  AHCI offers some features (like hot-plugging and native command queuing) not found with IDE/PATA controllers, and the TRIM feature for SSDs.

AI: Artificial Intelligence.  The ability of machines, especially computers, to perform activities normally thought to require complex human thought.McCarthy, John  See, Watson, neural network.  The term was coined by MIT researcher John McCarthy in 1956 when he was detailing plans for the first AI conference at Dartmouth college (kinda looks like Mark Twain, doesn’t he, or is that just me?).  He also invented the computer language LISP, used by the AI programming community. Related: See also, (The) Singularity, Ghost in the Machine, Watson, Augmented Reality (below), Chinese Room. And Seymour Papert, another MIT pioneer of AI as well as the inventor of the Logo programming language. See also Bot(A/I)

Starting in 2016, Apple is using more of AI to propel its line of smart devices using complex computer algorithms to integrate Siri with other apps and data.  For example, Apple, like Facebook, uses automatic facial recognition (via “Memories”) to scan your photos, wherever they’re stored, and then group them together (by face, time and place, etc.) and organize them so you can find them without sifting on your own.  And uses it for more and faster voice integration to surf the net, send messages and texts, set calendar dates and meetings, call an Uber car, etc. Gotta watch out, though, as Apple’s software incorrectly tagged some African Americans as Gorillas and Google only found mugshots of them.  Needs a little work...

AIM: AOL’s Instant Messaging service.  See AOL, below.

AIIM: (Association for Information and Image Management).  See ECM, Associations.

AIFF: Audio Interchange File Format.  A audio format originally developed by Apple Computer for storing high quality sampled audio data, similar to Windows WAVE files.

AIR:  This is a program introduced by Adobe, provider of Adobe Flash, the program that provides animation and interactive content on web sites.  The difference between Flash and Air is that Air is designed to run outside of the browser, making it very attractive to developers.  See the LINKS page for download information. Don’t confuse this with AirPort, which is Apple’s family of Wi-Fi products conforming to the 802.11 wireless standard.

airbnb logoAirbnb: Air (internet) bed and breakfast.  A website started in San Francisco in August 2008 through which people rent out properties like vacation homes, rooms and apartments throughout the world.

AirbudsAirPods: A wireless version of Apple’s earbuds, designed to work with the iPhone 7, which no longer has earphone jacks.  It uses a W1 chip incorporated into the device, which eiminates Bluetooth pairing (it just automatically pairs in about three seconds), ”improves” power and has other unique features like sophisticated syncing (e.g. between two earpieces, a case and an audio source) and sensor inputs (automatically pausing music if you remove one from your ear).  Cons:  You can no longer use it with devices like the Square reader or wired headphones, and the Bluetooth uses up a lot of your phone’s power if it’s not on an Apple device with the W1 chip (even if it uses the chip, it may still use significantly more power; resetting it may solve this problem).  The Bluetooth devices will still work with non-Apple devices, but require manual pairing.  Apple doesn’t indicate that it will license the W1 chip for production on non-Apple products, but other companies are copying the product.

AIR GAPPED: This term refers to preventing remote wireless access via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to a computer for security purposes.  Thus, there’s a gap in the connection in the wireless connection between the computer and a remote device.

AIRPLANE MODE: A mobile phone setting which, when selected, suspends many of the device’s transmission abilities like sending and receiving phone calls and texts, while allowing the use of internal capabilities (like games and music players).  Because it doesn’t use its network capabilities, battery life is also extended.  It’s purpose is to prevent potentially disruptive signals that might adversely effect the avionics on airplanes.  Since 2013, the FAA has relaxed some of these regulations.

AIRPLAY: Released on June 7,2004 as a proprietary protocol app by Apple, it allows wireless streaming of audio, video and photos between devices, including Apple TV.  The audio component, originally named AirTunes, has been licensed to other manufacturers to allow their products to be compatible with Apple’s.

AJAX: Asynchronous JavaScript and XML.  A web development technique on the client side to create interactive web applications.  Actually a combination of technologies as opposed to a single technology.  When combined, they turn Web pages themselves into software, not just incorporating external software scripts (like JavaScript), ushering web development into it current form.

Echo from AmazonALEXA: A personal digital assistant from Amazon similar to Siri and Cortana, but which resides instead in a wireless speaker system known as Echo.  It also has a shorter device, called the Dot.  It accepts voice commands to update calendars, dim lights, play music, search the web, post reminders and even pay credit card bills.

AlfALF: Although this has absolutely noalf2thing to do with computers, i just love this little guy!  (Hey, it’s my website, I can do whatever I want!)  Star of a late 80’s TV series lasting 102 episodes, his name, at least, is an acronym: “Alien Life Form”.  He goes by the  human name “Gordon Shumway” in the series.  See also, Scrat, another of my favorite characters.

AL GORE: See Gore.

ALIAS: The Mac term for shortcut.

AlibabaALIBABA: A Chinese e-commerce company that provides coJonathan Lunsumer-to-consumer and business-to-comsumer sales services via web portals, founded in 1999 by Jonathan Lu and which had the world’s largest IPO offering in October, 2014.

ALLOGRAPH: Two or more glyphs representing the same grapheme.

 ALGORITHM: After “app,” this must be the second most used word in computing.  When used in mathematics and computer science, it is “a step-by-step procedure used to accomplish a task (or solve a problem)”.  It’s like a baking recipe, but for math!  It can be as simple as the steps to make a sandwich or as complex as scheduling takeoffs and landings at an airport.  It’s all the same, just the level of complexity and the number of steps are different. 

 Of course, not all algorithms must be run on a computer, but creating and running a complex algorithm on a computer certainly makes it that much faster.   Algorithms can be expressed in many forms, including natural languages (pseudocode), flowcharts, decision trees and grids, mathematical expressions and programming languages.  Algorithms are absolutely everywhere and popping up more and more: They govern Wall Street trading (e.g. Black-Sholes option pricing - hedging an option removes its systemic risk), shared intelligence among robots to accomplish tasks (Swarm), elevator crowd and inventory management (Bin Packing), formulas that dissect our social relationships (FaceBook EdgeRank,, economics (Uber surge pricing, realtors pricing homes near other FaceBook users) and compressing files and reading data on wireless networks (The Fast Fourier Transform), to name just a few of the more famous algorithms, some of which have won their developers a Nobel prize. I recently read that students at the Technical University of Munich developed machine learning algorithms to answer questions about whether Jon Snow is dead and who will be next to die on the TV show Game of Thrones.

 Programs can be viewed as systems for encoding, naming and then organizing algorithms so that they can be re-used.  Algorithms can be translated into functions, which are then called (run) when software is executed.  That’s why algorithms are build into various programs or are available, usually for free, in libraries.

 The word "algorithm" [or sometimes "algorism"] comes from Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwārizmī (c. 780-850), a Persian mathematician and astronomer who first popularized the procedure and coined the term in his seminal mathematics text.  Truly important or groundbreaking algorithms get their own name, like Euclid’s Algorithm (the simplest way of determining the greatest common divisor for two numbers) or the Dijstra Algorithm.  Then there’s the AI concept dubbed the “greedy algorithm”.  Basically, it’s an algorithm that lazily picks the best immediate choice and never reconsiders its selection.  The opposite type of algorithm is known as “simulated annealing,” where you make a choice (possibly the best immediate choice), but periodically evaluate other available choices at that point, reducing the probability of having made the wrong one at first.

 Here are some simple examples:  The problem: Find the largest number in a list of numbers.  The algorithm: Look at the first number.  Assume it is, in fact, the largest number in the list.  Then look at each of the remaining numbers on the list, one at a time.  If it is smaller than the largest number on the list, ignore it.  If it is larger than the largest item so far, remember it as the largest.  The last noted item is the largest in the list when the process is complete!  Of course, once the algorithm is reduced to its mathematic expression, it looks like a equation, probably a formula (see below), e.g. where “X” = the largest number on the list and the stuff on the right shows how to get there. Here’s another, more useful, example known as RSOD (“Reduced Sum of Digits).  The problem: Verify that a calculation is correct.  The algorithm:  Take a whole number, then add up its digits.  [e.g. 32,987 = 3+2+9+8+7 = 29].   Add up the results until only a single digit remains ([e.g. 2+9 = 11, then 1+1 = 2].  Do the same for each number in the calculation.  Make your calculation the old arithmetic way and get your result.  Then run the RSOD on the result.  It should match the RSOD for the calculation of the individual RSODs.  If it doesn’t, you didn’t add/subtract/muliply/divide correctly, and there’s an error!  There are a few other factors you should know about, click HERE for more.

 If you read about algorithms, you may come across something known as a “big 0 notation” (see that definition for more about this), which is a numerical way to express the computational complexity of an algorithm.  The notation will vary, even for different algorithms solving the same problem, by the number of steps and the time that each step takes to complete, as time complexity can be expressed in several ways, including linear, quadratic, polynomial (e.g. see P = NP) and other ways.  Also, it can vary by whether the actual computer solving the problem is a simple automaton type of computer or a full blown Turing machine.  This can be really heavy duty math stuff, but it’s nice to at least have a general idea what they’re talking about.

 See also, pseudocode, numbers.  And cases for designing algorithms.  Interesting reading:  Automate This:  How Algorithms Came to Rule the World, by Christopher Steiner, Penguin Books (2012)  Also, I wish that I’d read the “Math is Fun” site before I’d figured out most of this stuff on my own.


 >>MORE ABOUT EQUATIONS, FORMULAS AND ALGORITHMS:  These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are differences:  An equation is easy to identify because it is an expression where the value to the left of the “=” sign is always equal (“equates”) to the value on the right, e.g.  “x = (2 + y)z”.  Equations are used to express the relationship between different variables (i.e. values that change or vary).  A formula is a type of equation, but it must contain at least two variables (so “x/(2+7)9” is just an equation, while “x/(2+7)y” is a formula).  (A variable is a symbol like “x” or “~” that stands for a number we don’t know yet or may change.) While formulas are a type of equation, not all equations are formulas, because there may not have sufficient variables.   Formulas are useful for telling us how to calculate things, like the area within a circle (“A = pi R squared”).  An algorithm is, as I said above, a type of formula, but not all formulas are algorithms.  Algorithms are only those formulas that use a step-by-step procedure to solve a problem. The procedure (“instructions”) are then written in math “expressions” (kind of like math “language”) so that they, too, look like a formula to us non-math geniuses.


ALL SEEING EYE (EMOJI): Click HERE for more.

ALPHA: See also, BETA.  Very early, usually internal, release of developmental software.  Typically it is quite buggy, not ready for even limited public “BETA” release for review.  Usually introduced just before the developer release, which is the very first introduction of some software.

Alphabet logoALPHABET: In August, 2015, Google announced a radical restructuring of itself into the corporate entity “Alphabet,” which, it says, reflects the company’s expanded evolution beyond its search engine, which Google executives believe has been holding it back from a more expanded mission while becoming too complacent with its resounding success in that area.  The web search division (which will include YouTube, Android, maps, ads and apps) will be only one of several core divisions.  The other divisions will include Calico (anti-aging research), the Internet of Things (like the Nest thermostat), delivery drones (Project Wing), ultra-fast internet (Google Fibre), futuristic headsets (like Google Glass), driverless cars and the like.  Google X, Google’s research lab, will be free to continue to develop many of these things as well as to continue with ideas under consideration or already completed, like Contact Lens, which can measure glucose levels for people with diabetes, and Project Loon, a swarm of high-flying balloons that could carry antennas which could deliver internet to remote locales.  Also, Google Ventures and Google Capital will continually finance startups and projects through investment.   Unlike Apple, which funnels income almost entirely into its core business, Google wants to use the income from its core business to expand its horizons.  At inception, at least, Sergey Brin, Google Co-Founder, will be Alphabet’s Chairman, while former CEO Eric Schmidt will be executive Chairman.  Sundar Pichai, Page’s deputy and Senior VP, will now become Google’s Chief Executive.  Even Google has its troubles and limits:  It couldn’t secure the domain “,” as it was already owned by BMW (they took “” instead) or the Twitter handle “@alphabet” (also already taken by a man in Cleveland). 

ALT keyALT KEY: A modifier key, much like the CTRL and Shift keys on aOption Key standard computer keyboard.  It is used to change (“alternate”) the function of the other keys on the keyboard when pressed in combination with them.  The alternate function will vary from program to program.  On some keyboards, both ALT keys act in unison; on others they can control different alternates.  On a Mac, since the 1990s, it has been called the “Option” key.  Also, it is sometimes used as a meta key for Linux.

ALTA VISTA:  The first search engine to index every word on a web page and provide a retrieval system to exact relevant information, using it’s search robot (“Scooter”) and indexer (“Ni2”).  Developed by Paul Flaherty, Louis Monier and Michael Burrows of the Digital Research Labs of DEC in 1995 (merged into Compaq in 1998), it was then acquired by Overture in 2003, and became part of Yahoo when it purchased Overture later that year.  Yahoo finally shuttered the site on July 8, 2013.  Alta Vista started one of the first web page language translators, “Babel Fish”.  (See also, Google’s language translator).   Unfortunately, while Alta Vista made its name at a time when search engines were in their infancy, it’s status as a top web search destination went into a rapid decline with the introduction of Google and as the result of it’s passing between multiple owners.  Why the name AltaVista?  The name was chosen in relation to the surroundings of the company in Palo Alto, CA.  The Babel Fish, however,Altavista_logo is a fictional species in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams which could instantly translate any language into any other language.  It may be gone, but there’s lots of history here.

ALTO: Arguably the first “personal computer”.  DeveloAlto computerped and used primarily at Xerox PARC in 1973, it was the first computer to use a desktop GUI, keyboard and mouse.  It ran the BCPL (later Mesa) programming language.  It wasn’t really commercialized, but had a great impact on Steve Jobs, who considered it in developing the Apple computer.  Note that the monitor is in unique “portrait” form. See First Computers.

ALU: Arithmetic Logic Unit.  An integrated digital circuit embedded in a CPU which performs arithmetic and logic operations only on integers (see numbers).  It is a fundamental part of every CPU although, like many circuits, it’s architecture varies with brands and models.

amazon logoAMAZON: If I’ve got to explain this one to you, you must’ve beeJeff Bezos photon living in a cave for the past ten years.  Started in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, and headquartered in Seattle, Washington, a company often called the “world’s largest online retailer.”  The logo has two meanings, aside from mere decoration:  The yellow arrow represents (1) not only the “smile” that customers experience by shopping with Amazon, and also (2) that Amazon sells everything from “A” to “Z” [note that the arrow goes, left to right, from “A” to “Z”].  It would take pages to describe the multiple products and hardware items (Kindle, Fire) that it makes.  As far as the name, Jeff Bezos wanted to call the company Cadabra (short for Abracadabra), but his lawyers heard it as “cadaver,” not a very positive connotation.  So, in 1995, he decided to go with the letter A, highest in the alphabet (popular in the days of the Yahoo directory), and Amazon came up as the first name everyone liked.  But one thing is certain:  Because of its awesome analytics, virtually every interaction and product is geared toward learning as much as possible about its customers and driving even more purchases.  The first book purchased on Amazon was Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts on 4/3/1995 (during Amazon’s Beta version) by John Wainright.

AMAZON CHIME: Amazon’s entry into the video- and teleconferencing market through Amazon Web Services, competing with GoTo Meeting, WebEx & Skype.

AMAZON FIRE TV: Just like Apple TV and others, this service, introduced on April 2, 2014, streams Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Showtime Anytime, Crackle and Vimeo, plus more.  It uses a remote equipped with voice search.

Amazon Prime LogoAMAZON PRIME: Amazon’s membership service where customers pay an up-front membership fee for unlimited free shipping for the year.

Amazon Fresh LogoAMAZON FRESH PRIME: Amazon’s grocery delivery service - see Dash for more.

AMAZON GO: Amazon’s self-pay app, introduced in Dec. 2016, which lets users scan their purchases on their smart phones and then are charged via Amazon account as they leave the store without going through a checkout line.  This is another attempt to avoid tedious lines, the time scanning items and then charging them and waiting for receipts.  It remains to be seen whether this will be better than self-checkout (mostly removed because of problems scanning items and theft), delivery (abandoned by supermarkets as too difficult; On line entities like WebVan, Homegrocer and Kozmo went bankrupt trying the idea, only a stripped-down Peapod remains), and self-scanning (still used, but not as fast as Go).  It works by “tagging” a customer when they enter the store, then uses the smart phones cameras and microphones to track them as they move throughout the store, recording which items they pick up and/or actually keep, then automatically record and charge the total as the customer exits the store.  It uses extremely complex algorithms to distinguish customers by skin tone and voice, including infrared, pressure and load sensors on shelves to determine whether items have been looked at or purchased. 


AMD: American Micro Devices, the second largest computer chip manufacturer after Intel.  Long a distant second in the chip market, it’s share has been steadily decreasing.    In 2008, the company split off GlobalFoundries, which manufactures the silicon for the ships.  Will the AMD chips go the way of the Cyrix chips?  Time will tell.

gene Amdahl photoAMDAHL’S LAW:The slowest device on a network will determine the network’s maximum speed.”  Named after Gene Amdahl, founder of the technology corporation bearing his name in 1970, formerly one of IBM’s mainframe architects.


ANAC: Stands for Automated Number Announcement Circuit. This is a telephone number which connects at the local telephone provider’s central office, which then uses a voice synthesizer to identify the phone number of the line calling in.  Used by telephone technicians through their butt sets.  The most commonly used ANAC numbers are 800-437-7950 (MCI) and 800-444-4444 (AT&T), and there are separate numbers for many area codes as well.

ANALOG: The predecessor to digital technology, analog signals transmitted data as electronic signals of varying frequency or amplitude as opposed to 0s and 1s.  Older broadcast and telephone technology used analog technology.

ANALYTICS: Commonly used with respect to the Web (“Web Analytics”) this term refers to the use of science and statistics in order to solve problems in business and computing, such as what the usage figures from a web server show a company with respect to the success of its web site.  See also, quants, big data, algorithm, Metrics, and Internet Marketing.

ANDREESEN, MARC: Developer of the Mosaic and Netscape Navigator browsers, as head of Netscape Communications Corp.

Marc Andressen lolder photo

Android logo 2ANDROID: An open mobile phone platform that was developed by Google and later by the Open Handset Alliance used on over a billion devices worldwide.  Actually it was developed by engineer Andy Rubin, who cofounded a company named Android, which Google acquired in 2005 for its mobile O/S which later went on to become the world’s most widely used mobile operating system.  Rubin left Google at the end of 2014 to  lead a startup incubator.   It’s actually an “open” software stack, based on the Linux operating system, allowing users to write their own phone applications, as opposed to the “closed” Apple system, which requires all users to go through the iTunes web portal.  In less than one year, it rivaled Apple.  Each Android operating system (after Alpha 1.0 and Beta 1.1) is named after a sweet:  Cupcake (V. 1.5, released 4/30/09); Donut (V. 1.6 rel. 9/15/09); Eclair (V. 2.0/2.1, Rel. 10/26/09); FroYo (V. 2.2/2.2.3, Rel. 5/10/10); Gingerbread (V. 2.3 - 2.3.7); Honeycomb (V. 3.0- 3.2.6, rel, 2/24/11);  Ice Cream Sandwich (V 4.0 - 4.0.4, 2012); Jelly Bean (V 4.1 - 4.3.1, June, 2012); KitKat (after the chocolate candy bar, and not Key Lime Pie, as originally expected; (4.4-4.4.4; 10/31/13)), Lollipop (10/17/14, Ver. 5.0), Marshmallow (10/1/15, Ver. 6.0) and Nouget (8/16, Ver. 7.0) each adding more capabilities (logos for each at right).  Click HERE for more... Look for Android to pop up in lots of other areas as well: Google Maps Navigation (which uses voice guidance and 3-D views), Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book Irina Blok photoreader, MS Outlook compatibility are all offered by Android. [An android is a robot which emulates a human.]  The original green robot logo (supposedly “Andy” (the Android)) was created by Irina Blok (right) and her design team at Google in 2007.  She says it was originally aimed squarely at the developers, like the Linux penguin, but the logo resonated strongly with consumers as well, creating the desired emotional attachment with the brand. 

Andy Rubin android
Google Cupcake logo
Google Donut logo
Google FroYo logo
Eclair logo
Gingerbread logo
Google Honeycomb logo
Google jelly bean logo
KitKat logo
android nouget

ANDROID AUTO: Android’s in-car app for directions, maps, communication and Music.

Google Droid 2So, does the Google Droid (shown at left in front of Google’s headquarters) have a name?  Irina Blok said that when she designed it, it was Andy.  But now there’s some doubt, but most say he’s named “Droid” or “Big Droid,” although some of the developers have named him “BugDroid” or “Mike”.   The little dog at his feet was designed by Finn Eero Aarnio, and he called it “Cool Canine,” but Google supposedly renamed him “Alex”.

ANGELFISH: An electronic device that is used to clone telephone numbers

Angry BirdsANGRY BIRDS: A disturbingly addictive game developed by Finnish company Rovio in 2009 in which players slingshot disgruntled, wingless birds across a screen, hoping to take down the cartoon pigs that stole their eggs.  The apps have been downloaded some 1 billion times, and have spawned spin-offs and toys.  Rovio started business in 2003 and almost went bankrupt just before Angry Birds took off.  The birds were always pretty angry, but the slingshot wasn’t in the original version, added as it became necessary.

ANGLE BRACKETS: These are the “<” and “>” symbols on the keyboard, meaning less than and greater than, respectively.  When pointed upwards, the mark is called a “carat”.

ANI: Automatic Number Identification.  In telephone systems, this software automatically identifies the number of a caller, perhaps on a screen pop.

ANIME (pronounced “anna-may”): Japanese cartoon (literally, an abbreviated pronunciation in Japanese of “animation”), sometimes considered an “art form.” Used in manga (“mon-jah” - Japanese comics).  Anime can be hand drawn or computer graphics and is characterized by colorful art.  There are even types of anime, such as “kuudere” anime, characters who are emotionless and unfazed.  A Weeabo is for the name an American who is feverishly obsessed with Anime/Manga. 

ANONYMOUS:  A hacktivist group started around 2003 which is comprised of a loose coalition of members with no leader and unidentified members which communicate over various imageboards, wikis and blogs and which is generally opposed to censorship and Internet surveillance.Anonymous  In public, its members are distinguished by the wearing of Guy Fawkes masks (see photo).  Over the years, Anonymous has claimed responsibility for actions such as Denial of Service (“DoS”) attacks against entertainment corporations, the Federal government and Scientology. In early 2012, some members were uncovered and jailed for attacks against Paypal.

ANSI: The American National Standards Institute, founded in 1918, and having over 1300 members, including all of the major computer companies.  It’s purpose is to create standards for the computer industry, intended to be applicable to any practice which is typical or broadly done. See Associations.

ANTENNA: An electrical device which is used to convert electrical power into radio waves and the reverse.  In application, a transmitting antenna broadcasts electromagnetic radio waves and the receiving antenna retrieves the signal.  They can be radio or TV waves or more mundane devices like garage door openers, cell phones or baby monitors.  The terms “antenna” and “aerial” are used pretty much interchangeably, but in practice a structure is an antenna while a wire is usually an aerial.  Antennas can range from a cell phone base station tower to the old “rabbit ears” dipole antenna used for TV reception or even a parabolic antenna like those used by SETI for extraterrestrial monitoring.  The word antenna was attributed to Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi in 1895, but the first antennas were built in 1888 by German physicist Heinrich Hertz. For more about electricity and magnetism, click HERE.

ANTENNAGATE: Problems encountered by Apple iPhone 4 users when they held the phone while touching the antenna rim, dampening reception. Apple issued bumpers shortly thereafter to correct the problem.

ANTI ALIASING: The technology used by computers and digital cameras to reduce the visibility of Jaggies, the visible “steps” of diagonal lines or edges in a digital image that become more apparent as the resolution of the image decreases (or conversely, as the magnification increases).  Think about it like this:  If you take a magnifying glass and enlarge the photo on the front page of your newspaper, you begin to see less definition.  The lines and curves on the graphic are less defined, slightly “wavy”.  Enlarge it even more, you see lots of black and white dots, and the edges of the items in the graphic become “bumpy”, showing the curved edges of each dot defining it.  Anti-aliasing makes this appearance “smoother”. 

ANTIVIRUS:  Refers to those programs that are installed on devices like computers and cell phones in order to detect and remove malicious software.  Major providers include McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky, Trend Micro, Panda and others.

AOL:  Short for America On Line,Steve_Case one of the largest ISPs ever.  Started in 1989 by Steven Case, its goal was to offer internet access to the technically illiterate, so users could click on text and graphics, rather than type code.  It also publishes Huffington Post, Engadget, TechCrunch and owns Millennial Media, which has compiled more than 700 million user profiles, some 60 million linking mobile devices and PCs to a single user.  In 2015, Verizon purchased AOL.

AOL running manAOL RUNNING MAN:  One of the most recognized icons in advertising history, he was inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame in 2009.  (Shortly after that, ironically, his role was scaled back at AOL, which became more of a content service.) He was introduced in 1996, featured in the sign-on process for AOL, later he became the icon for the AIM (AOL Instant Messaging service).

AOSP:  Android Open Source Platform.  A cell phone platform created to be open-source for developers and  which incidentally strips out the Google services (where Google makes most of its money) from the Android operating system.

Apache logoAPACHE:  One of the most popular web server software programs available. It is distributed under an open source license and is operable under both Mac (Unix) and Windows server systems.

APEX:  A programming language briefly used by as an experiment to customize its social networking tools.  It didn’t work.

API:  Application Programming Interface”.  Small pieces of software that are written and run in the background so that specific programs or apps will operate (i.e. “interface”) with a particular operating system.  APIs are software “routines” programmed into an operating system so that apps and hardware can work with it transparently, without user input.  Here’s an analogy:  You bring your car to the dealer for service (effectively calling an API) from a list of services, like brake replacement (an API) and, when the car is ready (the API response), the car is returned to you in front of the dealership.  You don’t know and don’t care what happened in the mechanic’s bay, only that you brought your car in and it was fixed and returned to you.  Now, let’s talk about a computer example:  An API for HoloLens might be built into Windows 10, so that if a HoloLens headset is plugged into a computer with a Windows 10 API for HoloLens, that hardware device will automatically work with the operating system.  HoloLens “calls” the API, and the API responds by doing what it’s programmed to do (it recognizes the HoloLens hardware, which then functions as expected) behind the scenes and, again, you don’t know or care what it’s doing.  Quite often, APIs are used to provide interoperability between web services; for example, WSDL is a standardized format for expressing an API. Common API examples:  PC BIOS call interface, Java API, Direct X for MS Windows, Windows API, iPhone API, etc.  [A currently popular type of API is the “restful api,” which is actually named for “representational state transfer API,” relying on a stateless, client/server communications protocol, almost always the common HTTP protocol.]

API-driven apps, composable building blocks which can be used to create entirely new apps like Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, GitHub, Slack, Twilio and others are also quite common. Frameworks like Node.js runtime and JavaScript as well as Google’s Go are common languages and frameworks that can be used to build your own APIs, as is Python and Nginx that is a mainstay for heavily trafficked web sites.  Also common are the “microservices” a/k/a “containers” which have become a big part of how API-delivering apps are composed.  Among them, the most common are Docker, Joyent and CoreOS.  The platform hosting providers for enterprise level APIs are IBM’s BlueMix and Watson, Amazon’s AWS Lambda and Microsoft Azure, of course.  Once built, of course, the sites require management, monitoring and toolsets.  Companies like WSO2, 3Scale, API search and Apigee provide such services.

In an important legal ruling in July, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that developers will have to avoid any API not explicitly licensed as open-source.  In a decision ruling against Google and in favor of Oracle agreeing about the copyrightability of APIs.  Developers must take care when they build on proprietary interfaces like Oracle’s Java APIs, subject to a possible “fair use” defense (but who really wants to go to court).

APK:  The extension for the android application package, the file that is used to distribute and install the application software on Android smart phones.  See sideloading.

APL:  Stands for A Programming Language.  One of the early programming languages upon which many others are based.

APM:  (1) Short for Apple Partition Map.  Unlike PCs, Apple computers don’t use an MBR.  Rather, earlier (non-Intel) Macs use the APM partition scheme, which partitions the disk into blocks which also include the partition map in the first block.  See File System. Also (2) Application Performance Management, software which optimizes e-commerce applications to speed them up.  Finally, (3) Advanced Power Management, an API developed by Intel and Microsoft that allows developers to include power management in BIOSes.

APP:  Short for “application” (below).  As in “e-mail is the killer app on the Internet.”  Or “There’s an app for that” (which was actually a phrase trademarked by Apple in September, 2010).  Apps generally refer to mobile devices, as opposed to desktop computers.  Also, the name Apple gives to it’s widgets for the iPhone, available from the Apple App Store on the Internet.  Not short for Apple, as some have claimed.

APP PLAYER:  See, BlueStacks.  A computer program which lets users play smartphone games, apps and programs on their computer.

APPLETALK:  The built-in networking support built into Apple computersLocalTalk is Apple’s cabling scheme for AppleTalk networks.

APPLIANCE:    Generally a hardware device with its own firmware software, pre-integrated and closed and sealed in order to provide a specific service to a customer, which cannot modify the device.

APPLICATION:  A software program or group of programs designed for end users.

APPLE:  The computer company founded by Jobs, Wozniak, Wayne photoSteve Jobs, Steve Wozniak (“Woz”) and Ronald Wayne on April Fool’s Day in 1976.  See photo of (L to R) Jobs, Wayne & Wozniak at right. [Ron Wayne was a little known partner who helped Jobs convince Wozniak to form the company and played key roles in designing the company logo, writing the computer user manual and drafting the partnership agreement.  However, only days after the contract was signed, Wayne sold his 10% share in the company for $800  because he had failed business ventures in the past and didn’t want to be responsible for the debt if Apple failed.  Had he kept his share, it would now be worth about $63 billion.] [The actual written contract between the three was purchased in January, 2012 in a Sotheby’s auction by Eduardo Cisneros, CEO of miami-based Cisneros Corp for $1.6 million.]  Jobs and “Woz” (photos below) started as friends in the 1970s at UCLA Berkeley, where they figured out how to hack AT&T’s long distance phone lines.  (Their first call was allegedly to the Vatican, although they hung up after reaching the Pope’s personal secretary.)  After that, they collaborated about more legal and useful endeavors.  The first Apple computer to use GUI and a mouse was named “Lisa” after Jobs’ daughter, but due to its high cost and limited software, it was eclipsed scarcely 2 years later by the launch of the Macintosh, shortened to “Mac”.  Jobs “resigned” from Apple (read: forced out) in 1985, was replaced by John Sculley from Steve Jobs2Pepsico, but came back in 1993 to revamp the company, which was teetering on insolvency, and Wozturn it into the consumer electronics powerhouse that it is today, along with self-promotion rivaled only by Donald Trump.  During his tenure, the company branched out into music players, cell phones, pads and other electronic devices, as well as a website (iTunes) to purvey them.  Unfortunately, Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011.  By way of comparison, while Bill Gates invented an operating system (DOS) that made PCs available to the masses, the iconic Jobs and Apple created a (GUI) interface and a simple and beautiful design that made computers intuitive and easy to use for ”the rest of us” [1984 ad for the first Macintosh, see Macintosh for more about this], along with a clean, simple, basic design that has become Apple’s trademark.  [Neither of these men were prolific inventors, despite public perception, click HERE for more...]   It’s probable that much of Jobs’ inspiration at Apple came from his enlightenment from Zen, which embraces minimalism and simplicity.  In fact, Jobs almost left Apple to become a Bhuddist monk after his stint at a Zen monastery in northern California.  See the MAC link for more history and information.

It is generally agreed that the Apple computer became popular almost entirely because of its GUI (“graphic user interface), the first computer to use a common television (monitor) and a keyboard to communicate with the computer and a mouse to click on little pictures (icons) to play games or get work done.  [Many insist that Jobs, in turn, actually borrowed his design from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s ALTO computer (see Old Computers) which was introduced on 3/1/73 and had a mouse-driven graphic interface (“GUI”), with movable overlapping “windows” bitmap graphics.] The Alto desktop is shown below on the left, Apple’s on the right:

Alto desktopApple desktop gui

Prior to that time, computers were neither intelligible nor useable to everyday people and were therefore not mainstream.  Both Apple and PCs were developed and introduced at about the same time.  But Apple developed the GUI first.  For more see Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, and Andy Hertzfeld, the Apple engineer responsible for most of the Mac code and some design in Apple’s early days and Keith Ohlfs.

This didn’t end things.  Being America, it only created years of litigation.  (I remember.  I was there.) Apple licensed certain parts of the GUI to Microsoft for use in Windows 1.0, but in version 2.0 Microsoft added additional features (overlapping windows, for example) that were not included.  As a result, in 1994 Apple sued Microsoft (also HP for its NewWave GUI system) in Federal court (9th Cir.) for copyright infringement for using those features without permission and because the “look and feel” of the Mac O/S was protected by copyright.  [Not to be left out of the game, Xerox also sued Apple claiming that the Mac GUI was heavily based on Xerox’s GUI (see Alto,above).]  Three years later, Apple almost entirely lost it’s suit against Microsoft, and HP and Xerox lost as well.  The court ruled that Apple (as well as HP and Xerox) was not entitled to patent-like protection under the U.S. copyright law for the idea (vs the “expression” of that idea) of a graphic user interface.  The decision was affirmed on appeal in 1994 and the Supremes didn’t accept the appeal, ending the dispute.  Apple’s right to the Recycle Bin (“Trash Bin”), however, was upheld.

These days, at an estimated cost of $500 million, Apple is building CApple Spaceshipampus 2 at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA, dubbed the “Spaceship” intended to bring the company into the future (photo ar right).  The building takes up 2.8 million square feet on the 176 acre site will house more than 13,000 employees and is more than a mile around.  Click HERE for more.

APPLE MUSIC:  Apple’s $9.99/mo. streaming music subscription service, a la Spotify and Rdio, which was introduced with free 90 day trials, which expired in October 2015, and which retained some 6.5 viewers after its expiration.

APPLE PAY:  Introduced in October, 2014 with the iPhone 6, this service is a digital wallet similar to Google Wallet and PayPal wallet, enabling payments via electronic devices like smartphones through NFC at participating retailers.  Here’s how it works:  Users of the Apple iPhone and Apple Watch can use the credit cards that they have on file in their iTunes accounts and add them to the Passbook app on their devices to activate Apple Pay, which  can then be used at any participating store.  No special acquiring network like PayPal is required, since the payment option runs over the existing payments network that includes credit-card companies and banks, as long as the merchant accepts payments through wireless near-field communication (NFC) technology set up at the merchant's checkout stands.  The user simply places their thumb over the Home button, which doubles as a fingerprint scanner.  Every iTunes user has given Apple a primary account number (PAN) for each iTunes purchase. Apple has these PANs on file.  When users ask Apple to activate Apple Pay, Apple communicates the request to the bank that owns the users' credit cards.  If the bank approves the request, the user's PAN is sent to the appropriate network (AmEx, MasterCard or Visa), and the network generates a digital "token" to represent the PAN.  Apple believes that this procedure is better because it is simpler, has security, doesn’t take over the bank’s customer accounts and partners with 80% of U.S. banks that currently process credit card transactions.  Still, many ask, is it that much harder to physically scan your credit card than it is to wave your phone over a scanner at the register?  Time will tell how revolutionary this is.  See also Venmo, popular with Millennials (see Gen).

APPLE PENCIL:  There used to be an employment test question where a tech applicant was asked to sell the interviewer a pencil as if he were Steve Jobs.  It was, of course, a normal pencil, to be made unique and feature-rich in the inimitable Jobs’ presentation manner.  (Actually, it was sometimes a pen.  See this LINK for the fabulous answer.)  No more.  There is actually an Apple pencil.  It’s a stylus to be used with the iPad Pro (Nov 2015).  At a cost of $99, it has two detection spots that can detect position, force, orientation and tilt.  Steve Jobs actually opposed any kind of stylus, responding to a question back in 2007 when he first introduced Apple’s iPhone.  He said “You have to get them and put them away and you lose them.  Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus, so let’s not use a stylus.”  Of course, he was also against making larger iPhones, but Apple introduced the iPhone 5 and 6, both with larger screens.  And, even though he said at a 2010 Apple quarterly earnings announcement that Apple wouldn’t make a pad smaller than ten inches (“It’s meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand their fingers to around one-quarter of their present size”), but then later Apple reversed course, introducing the iPad Mini, an iPad with a 7.9 inch screen, two-thirds the size of the original iPad.

Apple TVAPPLE TV:  A device which Apple started shipping in March 2007 which is a digital media receiver designed to play content not only from the iTunes store but also Netflix, Hulu, iCloud and other apps.  It has gone through three generations. It can stream content from iTunes and video from computers or iOS devices via AirPlay.  Apple faces stiff competition from Google TV and others. Latest version introduced in 10/15.

APPLE WATCH:  Apple’s entry into the smart watchiwatch market.  Apple Watch has unique features for a smart watch, like unlocking doors to Starwood Hotel rooms, checking into airlines, paying for some goods, getting directions and other standard messaging tasks.  It has a unique charging system, several finishes and an innovative system to remove and replace a variety of  bands.  Base (!) price is $349, there are 3 models.  See also smartwatch, metawatch.  [In fall of 2016, Apple is expecting to introduce the Apple Watch 2.]  But you still need the iPhone. And there is a bit of a learning curve for the interface and customization.  If you want a watch that includes a phone, look for the Omate TrueSmart+ that accepts a SIM card to turn it into the world’s first truly smart watch, which is scheduled to ship in November, 2015 for about $169 (pre-orders already sold out).   Downside: It is from an unknown manufacturer, works on 3G (not 4G, which leaves out connecting to the Verizon network and doesn’t have a camera (not a big deal?), but is still a major move in the right direction, as they’re not trying to sell you a phone, too.

APPLET:  A small program, a miniature app, quite often written in Java (script), which usually runs in a web browser, as part of a web page.

APPLOCKER:  A Microsoft application that limits the programs that can be run to only those “white listed” in an attempt to avoid malware unwittingly installed by viruses and spyware.  To do this, the program defines sets of rules by publishers, hash and path rules in order to create a whitelist of acceptable programs.  Included on some but not all versions of Windows 7.

ARCHITECTURE:  In computers, this usually refers to the design of a piece of hardware (like a circuit board) or an entire computer system (either a PC’s CPU or a network design).  Just like you can drive from home to WalMart via a racing car, sedan, limo or SUV and still get there, computers have a variety of architectures to go between points as well.  While each computer can get from A to B, the path that it takes can vary.  That path is the “architecture” (or “design”) built into that device or system.  System architecture can depend on a number of factors, including the type (PC, quantum, chemical computer), whether it’s got a scalar or vector processor, whether the processor has multiple cores or higher cache, the amount of RAM, whether the computer is designed to be a register or a stack machine, if it’s modeled on the Harvard, von Neumann or other design architecture (see Computers), and many other factors.  They all get the job done, between the keyboard and the output, but they certainly don’t take the same path, affecting the time it takes to process the data and produce the desired result.

ARCHIVE: A type of data storage which includes additional information for the purpose of recovery should the original data become lost or corrupt.  It differs from backups, which involve the retention of drive data primarily to enable large scale enterprise recovery when necessary, while archive is used to enable cost effective and rapid access to data on a file basis in the event of accidental erasure or searching for previous versions.  [If you’re lucky enough to have Windows 7 or later, there’s a feature for that (if properly configured before the fact)!  Click HERE for more.]  Because of this difference, archival storage is intended to provide long-term storage of various versions of the same data, while backup storage provides an updated snapshot of all available data, usually erasing previous backups in favor of the latest one.  Storage is a general term for any type (achive, backup, cache, etc.) or extent (full drive, network, file, folder, etc.) of data, generally stored in a separate location from the original one, be it external drives, network drives, the cloud, etc.

ArduinoARDUINO:  An inexpensive (e.g. about $35) open-source computer, introduced in 2005, which is situated on a microcontroller board (and the addition of various “shields” or expansion boards for sensors, motors and such) and which, through the addition of physical board components and code, can be used to provide interactive do-it-yourself controls for physical objects like lights, robots, drones, electronics, etc.  It’s modding hardware.  Click HERE to learn the difference between the Raspberry pi and similar mini-PCs and microcontroller boards like Arduino, and also UDOO for a product that combines these two machines.  So where did this Italian sounding name come from?  Like Postini, does it actually mean something in Italian?   Or is it related to Ettore Arduino, the airship designer of the ill-fated Italia? Sorry to disappoint, although his story is exceptional. But it’s named after a the street (Via Arduino on which a pub, Antica Caffetteria Arduino SRL) is located near the developers’ offices. No one seems to know what the logo symbol means.

ARGUMENT:  A command or instruction to a computer to execute or do something in particular, as in “command line argumentIn programming, it is used inside a function, which when called, executes a block of code that performs some action or value.  See function, Programming for more...

ARIN:  American Registry for Internet Numbers, the RIR for the U.S.

ARM:  Advanced RISC Machine. A 32-bit RISC (“reduced instruction set computer”) architecture which is the most widely used ISA (“instruction set architecture”) used in mobile phones today.  It was originally conceived as a desktop processor for personal computers by Acorn Computers, but was later adapted for cell phones.  See also, SoC, FGPA.

ARP: Address Resolution Protocol. This is a crucial component of IP networking on any operating system.  It links ethernet (IP) addressing to hardware (MAC) addressing, without which a computer couldn’t communicate to the outside world because one addressing scheme couldn’t communicate with the other.  See also ARP Cache, a collection of mostly dynamic entries created when a hostname is “resolved” to an IP address and then the IP is resolved to a MAC address.  Sometimes a bad entry can cause issues with Internet connectivity and web page loading, so it must be “flushed” and rebuilt.  And ARP Spoofing (see Spoofing), used by hackers to intrude on a network.

ARPANET: The precursor to the Internet.  See, DARPA.

ARQ:  See ACK.

ARTIFACT/ARTIFACTING:  In computer science, also natural science and signal processing, digital artifacts are anomalies in the processed digital signals. It is the distortion that is introduced into audio, video or graphic files by the compression algorithm (codec) used for the signal processing. The compressed image, say a .jpg, may have stray pixels (often white dots) that were not present in the original image. Video cards, for example, express artifacts in terms of frames, as in one per 1000 frames.  Depending on the application, this may or may not be important.  For example, in a desktop business computer, it may not be noticeable at all, but in a publishing, photo editing or gaming program, it may be significant.


ARTILECT: A contraction of “artificial intellect”.  Computer Intelligence superior to that of humans in certain or many areas of knowledge, together with the will to use this intelligence.  See, The Singularity.  Artilects are the subject of study by “intelligists” such as Dr. Hugo de Garius.

ASCENDANT:  A word often used before the word “technology,” as in the technology we are pursuing is ascendant (or descendant).  Basically, this means that your peers are either adopting the newer technology or abandoning it.  It is one measure of the trend away from legacy technology and toward cutting-edge.

ASCII: Acronym for American Standard Code For Information Interchange.  This is a code for representing English characters as numbers, with each letter assigned a number from 0 to 127 (255 for the “extended” version), including upper and lowercase and other characters. For example, capital M would be “77”).  Created in 1967 by the American Standards Association (see Associations), ASCII is the “lowest common denominator” representing text on a computer, making it easier to transfer data files between different computers. In addition, there are several methods available for converting non-text files (non-ASCII) into ASCII, necessary because internet e-mail can only handle ASCII.  Examples:  Binhex, Mime, UUENCODE.  See also: How Computers Compute.  See also ACK, NAK.

ASHTON, KEVIN:  A popular technologist and writer who was Kevin Ashton photofamous for coining the phrase “the internet of things”.  In 2013 it was discovered that he had created a completely fictitious, but famous, character named Santiago Swallow who had his own Wikipedia page of accomplishments such as TED and SwSX lectures, as an experiment to see how far he could go.

ASIC:  Application-Specific Integrated Circuit.  Chips built solely to perform one task, such as mining Bitcoins or controlling MEM sensors using IoT.

ASKASK JEEVES:  One of the original search engines, established in 1996 by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen of Berkeley, CA.  It was one of the first focused on the “question and answer” format.  Jeeves was, of course, the character from P. G. Woodhouse’s fictional valet, the “gentlemen’s personal gentleman” (a/k/a/ “valet”) who would fetch answers in ordinary language to any question asked.  Jeeves got rather old and retired on Ask JeevesFebruary 27, 2006 and the site became known only as  It was acquired by InteractiveCorp on July 4, 2008 and has been modified several times since.

ASP:  Application Service Provider.  See also SaaS, Cloud Computing.  A hosted software contractor, providing customers software at its data center through a service contract.

ASPECT RATIO: See, Display Format.

ASP.NET:  Often this shows up as an additional Windows user in User Accounts, to the confusion of users who didn’t recall setting it up.  You can remove it. is a remnant of now-obsolete software, the original version of “.net” which added the account to avoid permission problems.  

ASR:  Automated System Recovery.  A feature of Windows XP and later Windows operating systems that can be used to simplify recovery of a computer’s system or boot volumes.  For a further explanation of exactly what is or is not backed up or restored, click HERE.

ASTERISK: The star (“ * “) typographical symbol or glyph on a computer or telephone keyboard, sometimes also called a “splat”.  It is said that the asterisk originally derives from the need of the printers of family trees in feudal times for a symbol to indicate the date of birth.  It has many uses: On calculators, it means “multiplication” or sometimes “total”.  In computers, it may mean a “wildcard” character, which can stand for any string of characters.  In HTML it may denote “fields” and in other languages it can denote exponentiation, or possibly a corrupt file.  In telephony, the symbol is also sometimes called a “palm” or “sextile” which is used to navigate touch tone voice mail options.

ASYMMETRIC:  The opposite of symmetric, that is, not the same on both sides of a central line.  ExampleUpload and download speeds may come over a central line like DSL phone cable or coaxial cable for Cable, but the upload and download speeds are different.

ASYNCHRONOUS:  Occurring at different times, but not simultaneously.   E-mail is an excellent example of asynchronous communication - the sender and receiver do not have to be connected at the same time. See also, synchronous, isochronous.

ASYNCHRONOUS TRANSFER MODE (“ATM”):  A dedicated connection switching technology that organizes digital data into 53-byte cell units and processes them asynchronously before being multiplexed over the transmission path.  Because ATM is hardware-based (vs. software-based), faster processing and switch speeds are possible, between 155 - 520Mbps to as high as 10Gbps.  ATM is a key component of broadband ISDN (also of SONET (Synchronous Optical Network)).

ASU:  Arbitrary Strength Unit. See cell phone definitions.

JV AtanasoffATANASOFF, JOHN VINCENT: (1903-1995)  An American physicist and inventor, generally credited with inventing the first electronic digital computer (“the Atanasoff-Berry Computer”) in the 1930s. (For more, click HERE.)  His computer pioneered the use of vacuum tubes to speed up calculations.  His credit was confirmed in 1973 when the judge in the Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand lawsuit ruled in his favor.  Of course, the transistor and semiconductor era moved computers forward past the use of vacuum tubes, click HERE for more. 

Atari logoATARI: From the Japanese verb meaning “To Hit the Target”.  The original company was created by Nolan Bushnell (later the creator of the Chuck E. Cheese chain) and Ted Dabney.  Its first product was the popular bar video game Pong, later the Atari 2600 home ROM-cartridge-based game player with a big hit in Space Invaders.  But the company had labor and hardware problems (absolutely NOT the ET game as some believe), missed its big chance to sell to Nintendo and ultimately was acquired and sold by a chain of companies (including Hasbro) and has virtually gone out of existence.  Still, Atari helped define the electronic entertainment industry in the 1970s and 1980s.  [For the first game console, see video game console.]


ATI: The subsidiary of AMD (see above) that manufactures computer graphics cards.

Atlassian logoATLASSIAN: An Australian company which is extremely popular with software developers and software project managers because of the ease of use of its productsIt’s best-known products are Confluence (for team collaboration) and JIRA (for issue tracking).

ATTENUATION:  A fancy word for “reduction,” usually applied to signals (analog or digital).  When a signal is attenuated, it becomes weaker.  It may become so because of dirt, THD, signal interference, surges, etc.

ATTRIBUTES:  Characteristics of a specific item.  As in, the attributes of a font would be its type (Arial), size (points), bold/italic/underline, color, etc.  Obviously, the attributes must vary with the nature of the particular item.

ATX:  A motherboard specification developed by Intel  in which the board has been rotated in the computer’s chassis so that the CPU and RAM sockets have been relocated away from the expansion slots such that all of the slots can now support full-length cards and also allow more space on the back of the computer for connectors. Full size is 305mm x 244mm; mini is 284mm x 244mm. An improvement over the older LPX motherboards.  Every version of a motherboard, like ATX, has its own connectors.  For example, the power supply connector for the ATX board has 4 pins, unlike the 6/8 pin PCI-e configuration of the AT/LPX type motherboards.  They also have either 20 or 24 pin main power connectors.  See also, cases, power supply.

AUDIO:  Sound.

AUGMENTED REALITY:  A technology half way between the real world and virtual reality (none of which is really “real”), augmented reality adds graphics, sounds and other feedback to “augment” the natural world.  While virtual reality is a complete graphic recreation of a real (or other) world, augmented reality uses graphics from the real world, but overlays other data on top of the real-world graphic.   For example, cell phones can overlay information (like  subway stops, restaurants, schools, driving or bus routes) over your map or photographic satellite view of an area; soldiers can view overlays to their camera or drone views of enemy territory, jets have HUDs built into their visors or windscreens, treadmill apps have colorful routes to run through real-world locations. And RunSocial, a treadmill app which uses augmented reality to overlay the runner’s virtual presence via an avatar with a video of real-world routes. And games like PokemonGo. Popular hardware products for both AR and VR include Oculus Rift (VR), Google Glass (AR), HUDs (AR), Microsoft HoloLens (AR)Also, Zeiss VR One (VR), HTC Vive (VR), Samsung Gear VR (powered by Oculus) (VR), Google Cardboard (VR), Epson Moverio BT-300 (AR), Osterhout Design Group R-7 (AR), Sony Playstation VR (formerly Sony Morpheus) (VR)See virtual reality for more...

AUI: Attachment Unit Interface.  A aui diagramtype of connector between a computer’s network interface (“NIC”) card and an ethernet cable.  Also sometimes called a DB-15 interface or a DIX interface (named after the three companies who helped standardize ethernet - Digital Equipment Corp., Intel & Xerox).  Not used very often any more, it is a 15-pin physical connector used to connect 10Base-5 (“thicknet”) cables, as opposed to 10Base-2 (“thinnet”) and other cables where the ethernet cable connects directly to the NIC with a RJ45 plastic connector. See photo at connectors.

AUTHENTICATION: A way to verify that the person attempting access to computer is, in fact, that person.  It includes passwords, smart cards, tokens, biometrics and other types of security and encryption.  Authentication can be more than one “stage” or level:  For example, when you log in to an account, but then before you go to the home page it asks you for the answer to a security question, that would be “two stage authentication”.

AUTOCOMPLETION vs. AUTORESOLUTION: These definitions are related and often confused, usually in MS Outlook:  Autoresolution attempts to match the first few letters typed into a new email with address entries stored in the Contacts folder that is registered with your Outlook profile.  Autocompletion attempts to match the first characters of the e-mail with entries stored in the NK2 file (autocomplete cache) and does not try to match entries in the Contacts (“address book”) file or the MRU (“most recently used”) file.  Both are enabled or disabled by going to Outlook>Tools>Options>Preferences Tab>email Options>, then check “automatic name checking” (for autoresolution) or “suggest names while completing...” (for autocompletion).

Closely related is the terms “autocomplete” (Google Instant) and “autosuggest” (Microsoft Bing) which anticipate what questions you are typing into your web browser and then suggest questions or search terms based on what (millions of) others have already asked.  (e.g. “IS GEORGE CLOONEY...married” or  “WHY ARE AMERICANS...overweight?”)

AUTOMATED INNOVATION:  Trumpeted as the next-new-thing in the early 2000s, this was a software tool relying on computers themselves (instead of engineers and designers) to create products on their own by combining bits and pieces of previously successful products. HP and Pfizer were among the early practitioners, but in the mid-2000s it was pretty much abandoned, as it led to too many dead ends and unsuccessful products.

AUTOSTEREOSCOPIC:  A directional screen which generates 3D images without headgear.

AVATAR:  A graphic identity that is either selected from a group of choices or created independently to represent yourself to others in IM, RPG, etc.  It’s a caricature, not an actual graphic, and may be quite complex.  The term is from Sanskrit  and means “the incarnation of a god on earth,” used primarily in gaming.  You can also have a Blavator, which is an avator associated with a blog.  For the difference between an avatar, a trope and a meme, click HERE. Maegan
 December 2nd, 2008 at 7:53 pm

wait, is this a new feature? I thought you could already do this. Śnow I’m confused.

BLAVATAR (in a blog)


AWG: See, Gauge.

AWS: Amazon Web Services.  See, Cloud.


AZURE:  Microsoft’s 2009 entry into the cloud computing arena.  It’s actually PaaS (See, Cloud).  Now, along with Amazon, one of the biggest cloud players.  See, SaaS.





























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