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the smallest unit of data that a binary computer can recognize


eight bits grouped together


a named collection of bytes that represent virtually any type of data

system unit

the main case of a computer

circut board

a thin board containing computer chips and other electronical components

computer chip

a very small piece of silicon or other semi-conducting material that contains integrated circuits (ICs) and transistors


the main circuit board inside the system unit


a connector on the exterior of the system unit case that is used to connect an external hardware device

central processing unit (CPU or processor)

the chip located on the motherboard of a computer that performs the processing for a computer

multi-core CPU

a CPU that contains the processing components or cores of multiple independent processsors in a single CPU

clock speed

a measurement of the number of instructions that a CPU can process per second


the amount of data (measured in bits or bytes) that a CPU can manipulate at one time

cache memory

a group of very fast memory circuitry located on or close to the CPU to speed up processing


chips located insided the system unit used to store data and instructions while it is working with them

RAM (random access memory)

memory used to store data and instructions while the computer is running


high-speed memory built into the CPU

ROM (read-only memory)

nonvolitile chips on the motherboard that permenantly store data or programs

flash memory

nonvolitile memory chips that can be used for storage by the computer or the user

BIOS (basic input/output system)

the sequence of instructions the computer follows during the boot process

expansion slot

a location on the motherboard into which an expansion card is inserted to connect it to the motherboard


an electronic path over which data travels

throughput (bandwidth)

the amount of data that can be transfered via the bus in a given time period

expansion bus

a bus on the motherboard used to connect peripheral devices

Universal Serial Bus (USB)

a versatile architecture widely used for connecting peripherals

FireWire (IEEE1394)

a high speed bus standard used to connect devices-- particular multimedia devices like digital video cameras-- to a computer

floating point unit (FPU)

the part of a CPU core that performs decimal arithmetic

control unit

the part of a CPU core that coordinates its operations

prefetch unit

the part of a CPU core that attempts to retrieve data and instructions before they are needed for processing in order to avoid delays

decode unit

the part of a CPU core that translates instructions into a form that can be processed by the ALU and FPU

bus interface unit

the section of a CPU core that allows the core to communicate with other CPU components

system clock

a small quartz crystal located on the motherboard that synchronizes the computer's operations

machine cycle

the series of steps performed by the computer when the CPU processes a single piece of microcode

storage medium

the hardware where data is actually stored

storage device

the hardware where a storage medium is read from or written to

hard drive

hardware used to store most programs and data on a computer

magnetic hard drive

a hard drive consisting of one or more metal magnetic disks permenantly sealed, with an access mechanism and read/write heads, inside its drive


a concentric ring on the surface of a hard disk where data is recorded


a pie shaped section on the surfaceof a hard disk


the smallest storage area on a hard disk formed by one or more sectors


the collection of tracks located in the same location on a set of hard disk surfaces

solid state drive (SSD or flash memory hard drive)

a hard drive that uses flash memory media

disk access time

the total time that it takes for a hard drive to read or write data

disk cache

memory used inconnection with a magnetic hard drive to improve system performance

hybrid hard drive

a combination flash memory/magnetic hard drive

optical disk

a storage medium in the shape of a thin circular disc made out of polycarbonate sustrate read from and written to using a laser beam

optical drive

a drive designed to read optical discs

flash memory card

a small rectangular flas memory medium

USB flash drive

flash memory media integrated into a self-contained unit that plugs into a USB port

remote storage

a storage device that is not connected directly to the user's computer

network attached storage (NAS)

a high performance storage server connected individually to a network to provide storage to computers

storage area network (SAN)

a network of hard drives or other storage devices tha provide storage for another network

online storage (cloud storage)

remote storage devices accessed via the internet

smart card

a credit card-sized piece of plastic that contains a chip and computer circuitry that can store data

storage server

a storage device containing multiple high-speed hard drives connected to the computer system or network

RAID (redundant array of independent disks)

a method of storing data on two or more hard drives that work together

magnetic tape

storage media consisting of plastic tape coated with a magnatized substance

input device

any peice of equipment that is used to enter data into a computer


an input device containing keys used to enter characters on the screen

pointing device

an input device that moves an on-screen pointer used to select and manipulate objects and to issue commands to the computer


a common pointing device that the user slides along a flat surface to move the pointer on the screen


a pointing device similar to an upside-down mechanical mouse with the ball mechanism on top


a pen-like device used for input by writing, drawing, or tapping on the screen

touch screen

an input device that is touched with the finger to select commands or otherwise provide input to the computer

touch pad

a rectangular pad across which a fingertip or thumb slids or taps to control the pointer


an input device that reads printed text or captures an image of an object, and then transfers that data to a computer

dots per inch (dpi)

a measurement of resolution that indicates the qualitynof an image or output


machine-readable code that represents data as a set of bars

barcode reader

an input device that reads barcodes

radio frequency identification (RFID)

a technology that can store, read, and transmit data in RFID tags

RFID tag

a tiny chip and radio antenna attached to an object so it can be identified using RFID technology

RFID reader

a device that reads the data in the RFID tag

optical mark reader (OMR)

a device that inputs data from special forms to score or tally tha data on those forms

optical character recognition (OCR)

the ability of a computer to recognize scanned text characters

biometric reader

a device used to input bio metric data, such as an individual's fingerprint or voice

speech recognition system

heardware and software that enable a computer to recognize voice input

output device

a device that accepts processed data from the computer and presents the results to the user

display device

an output device that contains a viewing screen


a display device for a desktop computer

display screen

a display device built into a notebook computer, netbook, UMPC, or other device

CRT monitor

a display device that uses cathode-ray tube technology

flat panel display

a slim display device that uses electronically charged chemicals or gases to display images

liquid crystal display (LCD)

a type of flat panel display that uses charged liquid crystals to display images

LED (light emitting diod)

a common flat panel technology

organic light emmiting diod (OLED)

a type of flat panel display that uses emmissive material to display brighter and sharper images

interferometric modulator (IMOD) display

a flat panel display techm=nology that uses external light to display images

plasma display

a flat panel display technology that uses a layer of gas between two plates of glass instead of liquid crystals or organic material


the smallest colorable ares on a display device

surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED)

a high definition display technology that is in development

data projector

a display device that projects computer output to a wall or projection screen

hard copy

a permenant copy of output on paper

pages per minute (ppm)

the typical measurement of print speed

multifunction device (MFD)

an output device that can copy, scan, fax, and print documents

laser printer

an output device that forms images with toner powder (essentially ink powder)

ink-jet printer

an output device that forms images by spraying tiny drops of liquid ink from one or more ink cartridges onto paper

barcode printer

a printer used to print barcodes

portable printer

a small lightweight printer that can be used on the go, such as with a notebook computer or a mobile device

3D printer

a printer that uses molten plastic during a series of passes to build a 3D version of the desired output

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