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


OBJECT ORIENTED PROGRAMMING (“OOP”) (also /DESIGN):  A software programming code or language the primary benefit of which is the ability to reuse and modify the code (in blocks or “objects”) without extensive rewriting, as was required with many early programming languages, which required constant “reinventing of the wheel”.  It is best described as “a filing system for code”.  The first such program was Simula, created at Bell Labs, but the standard for OOPs was Smalltalk, created at Xerox PARC in 1972.  See Programming for more.

OBJECT CODE:  See, source code and compiler, also Programming, for a full explanation.

OCCAM’S RAZOR:  Used in several of these glossary definitions, usually as an explanation for the derivation of one of the terms.  A razor is just a “rule of thumb”.  Very simply stated, Occam’s principle is that the simplest answer is often the correct one.  Named after friar William of Ockham (1287 - 1347).

OCR:  Optical Character Recognition”.  This is a type of software that allows the computer to interpret scanned text as actual editable text, and not just a picture of text.

OCTET:  A unit of digital information basic to computing, consisting of 8 bits. It is used when the term byte might be ambiguous, or as shorthand, such as “an IPv4 address consists of four octets”.  For more explanation, see bits and bytes.

OCTOTHORPE: This is the pound (“#”) typographical symbol or glyph on a computer or telephone keyboard.  It’s also called the hash (or hatch) key, square key, and other words.  This term is frequently used in technical publications, probably to make geeks sound knowledgeable.  It didn’t come into use widely until about 1974, and there are some who think that the term coincides with the need for new symbols for the telephone system developed by Bell Labs in the 1960s.  The most reasonable story I’ve heard is that thorpe is related to trab, which means a small supporting beam in Latin.  Since there are 8 projections, octothorpe makes some sense.  In Twitter and other programs, it’s called the “hash tag”. Who knows...

OCULUS RIFT:  A virtual reality headset used for Oculus Riftgaming, but also being designed for classroom use and learning.  It has a 360 degree field of vision, making it perfect for gaming.  It was demonstrated in March, 2014 at the SxSW conference at an exhibit immersing the user into the life of a Night’s Watch soldier in Game of Thrones.  Purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion, it may revive virtual reality.  But, if you want one, remember that you will have to have some heavy hardware to support it, particularly a high-end ($300+) video card like the Nvidia GeForce 970, an Intel i5 processor, 8Gb of memory and at least 2 USB-3 ports!  It’s expected to be released in 2016 at about $600.  There are rival systems, like the HTC Vive and other gear from Virtuix and Sphero.

ODF: Stands for “Open Document Format,” a standard originally developed by Sun, later continued by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (“OASIS”), requiring a free and open file format for electronic office documents such as spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing, promoting sharing between applications from differing manufacturers.  See, OOXML, below.  Also, FAQ #17

OEM:  Original Equipment Manufacturer, i.e. the company that actually physically builds computers or other hardware or components. This term most often refers to a company (e.g. Dell, HP) that acquires components or products from others (e.g. Intel, Microsoft) and incorporates it into a finished product under its own brand name.  Dell might have built and shipped your computer, but  the hard drive may be from Seagate, and the O/S software from Microsoft, both of which are also OEMs for their own products.  OEM software, like Windows, is software that is sold by Microsoft or others directly to computer builders, which pre-install copies of that software on the computers they build, but do not provide copies to the customer.  Consumers can’t buy OEM software, so beware those who offer to sell it to you at a discount, it’s probably pirated. Almost all companies make two versions of their products, the retail and the OEM versions. 

OFFICE ASSISTANTS: Supposedly helpful but almost universally maligned aids supporting Microsoft Office, for both PCs and Macs, from about 1997 through 2005.  These include some of the icons shown below, including Clippy, PowerPup, Office Logo (jigsaw-like), Dot (a shape and color shifting smiley-faced ball), Hoverbot (a robot), Mother Nature (a globe), Scribble (a cat), and The Genius (similar to Einstein).  Not shown are Will (a Shakespeare like character), Saeko Sensei (a secretary)  and Monkey King (for multilingual packs), Robby (another robot), Kairu the dolphin, Peedy (a green parrot), Merlin (a wizard) Bosgrove (a butler) and Rover (which helped users navigate through Microsoft Bob).  Starting with Office 2007, Microsoft replaced all of the assistants with a new online help system for Office and most other programs.  But Clippy still managed to survive, even after Microsoft featured Tomb of Clippy in a video promo for Office 2010 and again later as the main character of an interactive Microsoft instructional game/tutorial for the new ribbon interface called “Ribbon Hero 2” (a sequel to an original Ribbon Hero), which was released by Microsoft in 2011 but unfortunately discontinued by 2016. [Luckily, someone with foresight has downloaded the game and offers it as part of a series of excellent Excel tutorials, at THIS LINK.]  In the promo/game, Clippy looks for a new job and accidentally goes inside a time machine where he travels to different ages while solving problems with Office programs. Some of the other Office Assistant names are also featured during the “Future Age” as planets of the future solar system. (Who says Microsoft doesn’t have a sense of humor!). Macintosh reportedly used an assistant named Max, in the shape of a Macintosh Plush (I just heard this, couldn’t find an example).  [These would make great Trivial Pursuit answers, wouldn’t they!]

Microsoft Bob Rover

Microsoft Bob’s Rover

Microsoft office logoOFFICE: Refers to Microsoft Office, a business productivity “suite” of interrelated programs which was introduced first in 1989 for Mac and then in 1990 for Windows (bet you didn’t know that).  On 3/27/14 it was introduced for iPad, with Office 365 subscription.  Office has never fallen below 90% of the office applications market, and is worth about $14 billion, and has always been responsible for more than half of Microsoft’s profits. In 2012, for example, it was responsible for 32.5% of Microsoft’s revenue.  Office comes in several versions, but includes such programs as Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, Powerpoint and more.  Before the introduction of Office, and the “suite” concept, because the programs didn’t work together, you had to create a graphic in a separate program like Harvard Graphics, for example, then import the graphic into Word and configure and format it in that program again.  Now, all of the programs work together seamlessly.  It really was a big deal! Predecessors to Office were Word Perfect and WordStar, both still available.  Over the years, Office has evolved.  In the 2007 version, the “ribbon” menu was added, replacing the old drop-down menus.   Introduced on 1/29/13, just in time to work with Windows 8, Office 2013 is a completely new version of Office, with a cleaner design, touch interfaces (taps, swipes and pinch-and-zoom motions for Win8) suitable for tablets (like the Surface) and saving to SkyDrive (Microsoft’s online storage service, now OneDrive).  With it, users can run Office as an app and share files across PCs, Macs, Windows tablets and Windows phones (including using Skype, purchased by Microsoft in May, 2011), and they can tap in to an on online only (Office 365, or Office Online (free), see below) version of Office on virtually any device.  For more click HERE. Office is also linked with Yammer service (bought by Microsoft in 2012), which is similar to Facebook, so that users can open documents and presentations and simultaneously work on projects together.  While users can still purchase the stand-alone Office program, the direction of Office 2013 is that it is a service (with levels of “tiered functionality and pricing,” to which Microsoft will add features as they are developed, instead of waiting years for full-scale updates.  It is also priced as a subscription rather than as a one-time program charge.   See PST, Exchange.  And in April, 2014 Office for iPad was introduced (using Office 365 for editing), which has positive potential implications for the enterprise, collaboration and mobile markets, although it will remain to be seen how much work will actually be done with tablets.  For more discussion, go to FAQ #17.

OFFICE 365:  For more click HEREMicrosoft’s 2011 rebranding of BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) which unifies MS Office, Sharepoint Online, Exchange on line and Lync online onto a cloud platform available for a set monthly fee.  It can be useful for small businesses that want to act like a larger business, because it fully synchronizes Outlook (you’ll see the same Outlook files whether you’re working on your office PC, your laptop or other devices while on the road, your iPad at home), shares calendars and contacts, retrieves voice mail messages as SMS on your cell phone and allows remote document management and file sharing. See also, Delve.  In July 2016, Microsoft introduced important new changes - WordEditor” will improve writing by suggesting changes beyond simple misspelling and grammatical errors, by providing more advanced proofing and editing suggestions, as well as changes in tone, inconsistent language and other common writing errors,.  “Researches,” another feature, will offer a new window meant to help writers research and explore related material from outside sources. Powerpoint will get a “Zoom” feature to create interactive, nonlinear presentations and allow for slide editing.  And Outlook will get the “Focused Inbox” messaging feature that separates the Inbox into two tabs, Focused for important e-mail, the other for the rest.

OFFICE WEB APPS: As of 2014, Office Online.  Microsoft’s free web-based (“cloud”) office productivity suite for personal use.

I know I can read/edit an old Office document in a newer version, but can I do the same with a newer version document and an older Office version?  Yes, you can.  If you don’t have any version of Office and all you want to do is view and print something, download the “viewers” of Word, Excel and Powerpoint directly from the Microsoft site.  If you already have an older version of Office on your computer and you want to edit a file, there is an app named the Office Compatibility Pack that will serve this purpose.  Sinply select the file, then right-click to Open With and select the app.  This is useful if you have an older version of Office (say, 2003) and don’t use it enough to upgrade to a later version or Office 365.

OHA logoOHA: Open Handset Alliance.  See Associations.  An organization started by Google to promote open source development for mobile devices.  Logo at left.

Keith OhlfsOHLFS, KEITH: (1964-2016) The software UX designer at NeXT  who designed the operating system, as well as the iconic “spinning wheel” (comparable to thespinning wheel hourglass on PCs), and the login panel that “shakes” when an incorrect password is entered.  Also, the Apple color panel, with color swatches and transparency.

OLDS: Stands for anyone over the age of 25, in internet terms.  As in “the Memories feature in Snapchat is directed at Olds who want to save their snaps.”

OLED: Stands for “Organic Light-Emitting Diode”.  See, LED.  Also, AMOLED, Active Matrix OLED, for an exceedingly bright screen with high-intensity color, as used on the Samsung Impression, the first cell phone to use this technology.  See SCREENS.

OLEOPHOBIC: Oil and grease resistant, as in the screen of the iPad.  Better than merely hydrophobic, or water resistant.

OLTP: Stands for Online Transaction Processing.

OMNICHANNEL: Refers primarily to retailing, where companies attempt to provide the same shopping experience across multiple channels (storefronts, web, Twitter, FaceBook, etc.)

ON-BOARD: On the motherboard of a computer.  Generally refers to the audio, video, ethernet or other features of a computer that resides directly on the circuitry of the main board (“motherboard”) rather than on additional riser cards which are designed to fit into slots on that motherboard.

One DriveONEDRIVE: Formerly SkyDriveMicrosoft’s cloud storage service.  For business users, it’s essentially unlimited in terms of capacity (although it does have a 20,000 file limitation, which can be troubling for some businesses).  It’s sufficiently large to be free for most home users as well.  Competition:  Amazon’s CloudDrive, Google’s Drive.

One Laptop per childONE LAPTOP PER CHILD (OLPC): There are actually two organizations at work here to fulfill a mission to deliver laptops to children in less-developed countries.  Both were started in about 2006The first is a project of the Miami-based One Laptop per Child Association, Inc., a U.S. non-profit organization set up to create and distribute an affordable computer for use in the developing countries.  It was originally funded by members such as Google, AMD, Red Hat and eBay, among others.  The second, One Laptop Per Child Foundation, is a Cambridge-based non-profit foundation led by Nicholas Negroponte, which focuses on fund raising and the development of future learning technologies for the program. OLPC_logo The overall mission has been to design, manufacture and distribute inexpensive but rugged laptop computers (about 1.6 million so far) having only two cables, a Linux O/S and solid state drives (SSDs) to  less-developed countries such as Uruguay, Rowanda, Haiti and Mongolia.  The theory is that if each of the (2 billion) children in the developing world had his or her computer, the school day would be extended from just a few hours to 12 - 14 hours a day.  See also Raspberry Pi.  Also, in 2014, Microsoft is selling a $99 Win8 tablet, the Nextbook 8, at WalMart.  It doesn’t have a built-in mouse or keyboard, the processor isn’t blazingly fast and it only hs 16Gb of RAM, but it’s a computer.

One Note logoONENOTE: Like EVERNOTE, a note-taking app which lets you quickly organize and connect many items of information — and share them with others who might also need access to that data, in the cloud. Both paid and free versions.  Because OneNote is from Microsoft, it is better suited toward Office applications, where the import and export commands are in the File Menu, while Evernote's default format (.enex), single or multiple HTML web pages (.html), or a Web archive (.mht) are used to import and export.  See the EverNote definition for a comparison of features between the two apps.

onionONION ROUTER: A technique for anonymous surfing and communication over the Internet.  But it’s not really all that anonymous anymore, as law enforcement routinely cracks it.  This is accomplished by encrypting messages within messages repeatedly, such that at each point aloTOR logong the transmission path, that router encrypts the forwarded communication in an unpredictable path while eliminating traces of all of the previous paths.  One of the most popular ORs is TOR, free open-source software.

ONTOLOGY: A philosophical concept applied to computer science, information science, artificial intelligence, biometrics and other sciences.  It is a formal representation of a set of concepts within a “domain” (central concept) and the categorical relationships between those concepts.  It is used to both define the domain and to reason about its properties. Common components of ontologies include classes, sets, attributes, relations, functions, restrictions, rules, axioms and events.  An example of an ontology would be the categorization of living things in biology by category, genus, etc.  In artificial intelligence, the computational models that enable automated reasoning use ontologies to relate the artificial world to the real one.

At left, an example of the ontological structure of a domain.  The domain (in yellow) is interconnected with the other items through rules, attributes, functions, etc. For real life examples, check out  If you look at the output from Palantir, the government surveillance program, you will notice that it creates a “profile” of an individual based on location, phone records, public and private cameras, etc. which looks quite like this.

OomaOOMA: An internet phone system which provides free local and long distance calling for life with charges for only monthly taxes and fees.  There’s also a Premier version with additional services.  But you do have to purchase the hardware “box” which attaches to your computer, and that’s somewhere between $159.99 and $109.99 (discounted).  The MagicJac and NetTalk Duo equipment, though, is cheaper, but the yearly cost of $30 is more.  Actually, they even out from the cost standpoint.

OOP: Stands for Object Oriented Programming, a programming language model organized around “objects” rather than “actions” and data rather than logic. The first step in OOP is to identify all the objects you want to manipulate and how they relate to each other, an exercise known as data modeling.  Next is to generalize the object into a class.  After defining the kind of data the class contains, one must define any logic sequences (known as methods) that can manipulate it.  Finally, objects communicate using well-defined interfaces called messages. OOP languages include Java, Python, C++, Visual Basic, .NET and Ruby.  Historically, Simula was the first OOP language.

OOXML: Stands for “Office Open XML”, a format from Microsoft which purports to allow users support for Open Document Format (“ODF”) but doesn’t really give users the ability to use code to reconfigure Office programs.

OPAL: A new standard for hardware-based full drive encryption (“FDE”).

OPC: Open Platform Communications.  (Originally known as “Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control”) A series of standards and specifications for industrial telecommunications between industrial automation devices, systems like sensors, instruments, controllers, notification devices, alarms and software systems.  It is a client/server technology, where one application acts as the server providing data and the other acts as a client using data.  It is open, without any proprietary restrictions, controlled by the OPC Foundation (see Associations).

OPEN FLOW PROTOCOL:  A protocol that implements SDN , describing how a controller communicates with other network devices.  By reducing the three “planes” of networking equipment (management, control & forwarding), each of which has different manufacturer interfaces, into a single software management controller, a system administrator can control the network with far more efficiency and simplicity, if this protocol catches on.

OPEN SOURCE: Also, Open Standard. A Software program for which the original source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge.  Examples of open source are LibreOffice, Open Office (see FAQ #17), Gimp and Linux.  Or graphics like those provided by Wikipedia Commons.  The opposite of proprietary.   But compare, for example, Microsoft Excel with Open Office’s (v. 4.1.2) Spreadsheet or LibreOffice’s (v 5.1) Calc Spreadsheet and you’ll see how truly similar they are.  Much open source software is developed under “copyleft licenses,” which insure that the code contributed by open source programmers can only be re-used on the same terms.  This, compared to a “permissive” license, meaning that anybody can use the code for commercial purposes.

OpenSSL logoOPEN SSL: Developed by the OpenSSL Project (see Associations) in 1998, it is an open source implementation of the SSL and TLS protocols. Written in the “C” programming language, it’s purpose is to provide basic cryptographic security functions for internet transmissions.  It is used by over two-thirds of web servers, works with many different O/Ss and is constantly being updated.  In June 2014, Google announced its own fork of OpenSSL dubbed Boring SSL, which will also be open source.

OPEN STACK: A brand of cloud operating system which controls large pools of computing, storage and networking resources throughout a data center, all managed through a a dashboard.

OpenwrtOPEN WRT: An embedded operating system based on a Linux distrubution which is increasingly used on devices like routers and IoT devices.  It is popular because it is easily modifiable and is full-featured without much of the usual O/S “bloat”.   Because it is open, it is free and community driven.  Because it is a basic system requiring customization, however, it is essentially usable mostly by developers.

OPERATING STACK: A type of open-source software which is deployed as IaaS (see SaaS) for cloud computing.


OPHONE2OPHONE: A cell phone which can create and send “smell messaging” to a recipient which has the same device.  It’s introduction in July 2014 will include some 350 aromas, from coffee to perfume.  Its inventor, Dr. David Edwards, expects thousands more scents to follow.  Similar to the Scentee plug-in which allows a smartphone user to attach a small device to their phone and receive “smell notifications” when a message arrives, as does Dr. Check, who is developing the worlds first digital smell app, that operates through a device that contains magnetic coils that send electric signals to the brain’s olfactory bulb, and a group at the National University of Singapore that is creating a Digital Taste Simulator that electrically stimulates the tongue to produce a taste sensation that they hope to use with TV and video games.  On the more useful side, NASA has developed technology that can detect chemicals in the air and then digital analyze them, useful for possibly detecting cancer, but also to transform smells into digital signals.

OPTOISOLATOR: a/k/a optical coupler.  An electrical component that uses light to transfer electrical signals between elements of a circuit while keeping them electrically isolated from each other.  They’re used in many communications and control systems which need to keep high voltage from affecting the lower power systems receiving signals.

OPTICAL DISK: Sometimes “laser disk”.  A flat plastic storage medium that can be written to and read while spinning using a low-powered laser beam which reads light and dark “pits” (and not, as commonly assumed, “grooves” like those in a phono record) about one micron wide, which have either a digital value of “0” (where the sensor picks up the reflection of the pit itself) or “1” (where the laser strikes the flat area between the pits).  Created in the late 1960s by James T. Russell, but popularized by Philips and Sony when they began commercially marketing CDs in 1982.  Because of their high storage capacity (about 4 - 7Gb, but up to 27Gb for Blu-Ray for a standard 12cm single-sided disk) resulting from the smaller size of a laser beam over a magnetic head, as well as magnetic resistance and environmental durability, they are frequently used for large music and video files as well as backup storage, a huge improvement over the old 1.44Mb floppy disks.  They come in various storage capacities and types.  For more, see CD/DVDs.

OPT IN: Basically, to “agree”.  A common phrase on web sites and software installs, where a user agrees to accept some sort of action on the part of the provider, such as participating in a loyalty program.

Option KeyOPTION KEY: A key on the Apple keyboard which has essentially the same function as the IBM PC “ALT” key, that is, as a shortcut to various menu options when it is depressed and held along with another key.

ORACLE: Founded and led by the flamboyant Larry Ellison in 1977, Oracle is a leading manufacturer of sophisticated relational database products used by a great number of the Fortune 1000 companies and largest web sites.  Oracle’s relational database was the first to support the Structured Query Language (“SQL”) that later became an industry standard. Oracle also owns Java and in 2016 acquired NetSuite to support its cloud services in competition with Microsoft and Amazon.

Oracle logo
Larry Ellison

ORDINAL: See numbers.

ORGANIC: A word which, when used with respect to Internet searches, means “unpaid” search results, as opposed to “advertised” results.  See also, viral.

OS (or O/S): Stands for your “Operating System”.  This is the computer software (instructions) that turn your computer from a putty-colored paperweight into a “real” computer, ready to accept your commands.  Most residential computers use some version of the Microsoft Windows OS (XP, Vista, ‘98, ‘95, NT etc.).  Mac uses its own OS (OS X right now).  And there are others (e.g. UNIX, VMS, VAX, Linux).  Software that is used after the OS is loaded are commonly referred to as “Application Software”, “Apps”, or simply “Programs” because this type of software is used, through the OS, so that your computer can “apply” itself to various tasks (word processing [“MS Word”], keeping a checkbook [“Quicken”] or drawing a picture [“MS Paint”], etc.).  See kernel for more.  There are also stripped-down O/Ss from sources like CoreOS, Red Hat, VMware, Rancher and Microsoft that are container-focused, cloud scale systems, primarily used for mobile purposes, known as Micro OSs.

OSBORNE EFFECT: Announcing a new product too far ahead of time which unintentionally cannibalizes sales of the currently available product. The term came from Osborne Computer Corporation (see Old Computers, this glossary), which took more than a year to make its announced new product available, causing customers to defer their orders and back up old inventory, causing the company to go bankrupt in 1985. 

OSI MODEL: The Open System Interconnection Reference Model, as developed by the ISO (see Associations).  This model breaks down the various aspects of a computer network into seven layers, each of which envelopes the layers beneath it.  The seven layers are:  Physical (the hardware and cable), Data Link (packet size, transmission, error detection, etc.), Network (the interconnection of more than one network, even different types of network), Transport (addresses, connections, nodes, packets and other communications between computer networks), Session (establishing and maintaining a session for data transmission), Presentation (compression, encryption and other data conversion at each end of the transmission) and Application (techniques that application programs use to communicate with the network). To remember this, you can use the menomic “All People Seem To Need Data Processing.”

Mnemonic - To Help You Remember:











<Upper “HOST” Layers

Provide for the accurate delivery of data between computers on the network

[Each layer uses its own layer protocol]

<Lower “MEDIA” Layers

Control the physical delivery of the messages over the network

OSLO: See, software modeling.

OSP: Outside Plant Cable. Refers to all physical cable and supporting infrastructure between the broadcaster’s (telephone, cable, etc.) switching facility and the customer’s demarc.  It is, of course, usually run outside between buildings.

OS X: Shorthand for Apple’s current computer operating system.

OTT:   Over the Top - Refers to the on-line delivery of video and audio over the Internet, but not through an ISP like Comcast or Verizon.  The content is provided by a third party like Netflix or Hulu through Internet-connected devices such as set top boxes, computers, gaming consoles and the like.  The ISP may be aware of the size and even the content of the IP packets delivered over their network, but they have neither control or responsibility for the content as they do for the content delivered over their own video-on-demand networks.

OUTLOOK: The e-mail application integrated into the Microsoft Office suite (above).  Not to be confused with, which gradually replaces the aging Microsoft on-line Hotmail e-mail service.

OUTLOOK.COM: The program which, starting in late 2012, gradually replaced the aging Microsoft on-line Hotmail e-mail service & Windows Live Mail.  See Hotmail.

OUTPUT: The result of processing the data input to a computer.  Output can be in various formats (e.g. on screen, printed, to disk).

OUTSIDE IN: A document management middleware app from Oracle, most frequently encountered as part of desktop scanner software like NewSoft.

OVERCLOCKING:  Popular with older (-286, -386, -486) computer chips.  Involves any adjustment made to the computer to make its CPU run at a higher clock frequency than intended by the original manufacturers.  Typically involves replacing the crystal in the clock generation circuitry with a higher  frequency one or changing jumper settings or software.  Not ordinarily very reliable, because quite often it results in overheating or partial or complete hardware failure over time.


OVERTURE: Previously, GoTo.  A search engine powered by Inktomi, which only returns one URL per domain in its search results.





























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