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(Arithmetic Logic Unit) The part of the CPU that performs arithmetic and logical operations on the numbers stored in its registers.31

Analog data

Data that is measured or represented on a continuously varying scale, such as a dimmer switch or a watch with a sweep second hand.22

Anonymizer tools

Software and/or hardware that cloaks the origination of an e-mail or Web page request. 10

Application software

Computer programs that help you perform a specific task such as word processing. Also called application programs, applications, or programs. 16


(American Standard Code for Information Interchange) A code that represents characters as a series of 1s and 0s. Most computers use ASCII code to represent text, making it possible to transfer data between computers. 24

Authentication protocol

Passwords, user IDs, and biometric measures used to verify a person's identity. 34

Binary number system

A method for representing numbers using only two digits: 0 and 1. Contrast to the decimal number system, which uses ten digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. 23


The use of physical attributes, such as a fingerprint, to verify a person's identity. 34


The smallest unit of information handled by a computer. A bit is one of two values, either a 0 or a 1. Eight bits constitute a byte, which can represent a letter or number. 23


(WeB LOG) A publicly-accessible personal journal posted on the Web. Blogs often reflect the personality of the author and are typically updated daily. 6

Brute force attack

A method of breaking encryption code by trying all possible encryption keys. 37

Bulletin boards

One of the original communications and social network technologies used on the Internet. 6


An 8-bit unit of data that represents a single character. 26

Case sensitive

A condition in which uppercase letters are not equivalent to their lowercase counterparts. 35

Central processing unit

(CPU)The main processing circuitry within a computer or chip that contains the ALU, control unit, and registers. 15

Character data

Letters, symbols, or numerals that will not be used in arithmetic operations (name, Social Security number, etc.). 24

Chat groups

A discussion in which a group of people communicates online simultaneously. 6


A computer or software that requests information from another computer or server. 18


Software that translates a program written in a high-level language into low-level instructions before the program is executed. 30


Refers to any task, problem, or product that is able to handle massive amounts of data and complex mathematical calculations. 19


A device that accepts input, processes data, stores data, and produces output according to a stored program. 14

Computer network

A collection of computers and related devices, connected in a way that allows them to share data, hardware, and software. 7

Computer program

A detailed set of instructions that tells a computer how to solve a problem or carry out a task. 15

Control unit

The part of the microprocessor that directs and coordinates processing. 31


In the context of technology, the melding of digital devices into a single platform that handles a diverse array of digital content, such as cell phones which also play digital music and display digital video. 8


(Central Processing Unit) The main processing circuitry within a computer or chip that contains the ALU, control unit, and registers. 15


A term coined by William Gibson and now used to refer to information and other resources offered in virtual "worlds" based on computer networks and the Internet. 7


In the context of computing and data management, data refers to the symbols that a computer uses to represent facts and ideas. 15

Data representation

The use of electronic signals, marks, or binary digits to represent character, numeric, visual, or audio data. 22

Dictionary attack

A method of discovering a password by trying every word in an electronic dictionary. 36

Digital data

Text, numbers, graphics, or sound represented by discrete digits, such as 1s and 0s. 22

Digital divide

A gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not. 12

Digital revolution

A set of significant changes brought about by computers and other digital devices during the second half of the 20th century. 4


To convert non-digital information or media to a digital format through the use of a scanner, sampler, or other input device. 7


The process of transferring a copy of a file from a remote computer to a local computer's storage device. 8


(Extended Binary-Coded Decimal Interchange Code) A method by which digital computers, usually mainframes, represent character data. 25


Messages that are transmitted between computers over a communications network. Short for electronic mail. 6

Extended ASCII

Similar to ASCII but with 8-bit character representation instead of 7-bit, allowing for an additional 128 characters. 24


A named collection of data (such as a computer program, document, or graphic) that exists on a storage medium, such as a hard disk or CD. 15

Gigabit (Gb or Gbit)

Approximately one billion bits, exactly 1,024 megabits. 26

Gigabyte (GB)

Approximately one billion bytes; exactly 1,024 megabytes (1,073,741,824 bytes). 26


A group of social, economic, political, and technological interdependencies linking people and institutions from all areas of the world. 12

Handheld computer

A small, pocket-sized computer that is designed to run on its own power supply and provide users with basic applications. 19

Identity theft

An illegal practice in which a criminal obtains enough information to masquerade as someone. 36


As a noun, the information that is conveyed to a computer. As a verb, to enter data into a computer. 15

Instruction cycle

The steps followed by a computer to process a single instruction; fetch, interpret, execute, then increment the instruction pointer. 32

Instruction set

The collection of instructions that a CPU is designed to process. 30

Integrated circuit

(IC) A thin slice of silicon crystal containing microscopic circuit elements such as transistors, wires, capacitors, and resistors; also called chips and microchips. 27

Intellectual property

A legal concept that refers to ownership of intangible information, such as ideas. 11


The worldwide communication infrastructure that links computer networks using TCP/IP protocol. 6


A program that converts high-level instructions in a computer program into machine language instructions, one instruction at a time. 30

Kilobit (KB)

Approximately 1,000 bytes; exactly 1,024 bytes. 26


(KB) 26

Machine code

Program instructions written in binary code that the computer can execute directly. 30

Machine language

A low-level language written in binary code that the computer can execute directly. 30

Mainframe computer

A large, fast, and expensive computer generally used by businesses or government agencies to provide centralized storage, processing, and management for large amounts of data. 18

Megabit (Mb or Mbit)

1,048,576 bits.

Megabyte (MB)

Approximately one million bytes; exactly 1,048,576 bytes.


The computer circuitry that holds data waiting to be processed. 15


A special purpose microprocessor that is built into the device it controls. 20


An integrated circuit that contains the circuitry for processing data. It is a single-chip version of the central processing unit (CPU) found in all computers. 15

Numeric data

Numbers that represent quantities and can be used in arithmetic operations. 23

Object code

The low-level instructions that result from compiling source code. 30

Online social networks

Web sites that provide ways for people to communicate and socialize. Facebook is a popular example. 6

Op code

(Short for operation code) An assembly language command word that designates an operation, such as add (ADD), compare (CMP), or jump (JMP). 31

Open source

An approach to developing and licensing software in which source code remains public so it can be improved and freely distributed. 12


The part of an instruction that specifies the data, or the address of the data, on which the operation is to be performed. 31

Operating system

The software that controls the computer's use of its hardware resources, such as memory and disk storage space. Also called OS. 16


The results produced by a computer (for example, reports, graphs, and music). 15


A special set of symbols used to restrict access to a user's computer or network. 35

Password manager

Software that keeps track of sites at which a user has registered and the password that corresponds to each site. 40


(Personal Digital Assistant) A shirt-pocket sized computer originally designed to keep track of appointments. 19

Personal computer

A microcomputer designed for use by an individual user for applications such as Web browsing and word processing. 17

Portable media players

Small, lightweight, battery-powered devices designed to store and play audio, video, or image files stored in such formats as MP3 and AAC. 20


The manipulation of data by a computer's microprocessor or central processing unit. 15

Programming language

A set of keywords and grammar (syntax) that allows a programmer to write instructions that a computer can execute. 29


A sort of "scratch pad" area of the microprocessor into which data or instructions are moved so that they can be processed. 31

Semiconducting materials

(Semiconductors) Substances, such as silicon or germanium, that can act either as a conductor or an insulator. Used in the manufacture of computer chips. 27


A computer or software on a network that supplies the network with data and storage. 18


A handheld device that integrates the functions of a mobile phone, PDA, portable music player, or other digital device. 20


In the context of computer hacking, a technique that uses packet sniffer software to capture packets as they are sent over a network. 37


The instructions that direct a computer to perform a task, interact with a user, or process data. 15

Source code

Computer instructions written in a high-level language. 29


The area in a computer where data is retained on a permanent basis. 15

Stored program

A set of instructions that resides on a storage device, such as a hard drive, and can be loaded into computer memory and executed. 16


The fastest and most expensive type of computer, capable of processing trillions of instructions per second. 18

System board

The main circuit board in a computer that houses chips and other electronic components. 28

System software

Computer programs, such as an operating system or utility software, that help the computer carry out essential operating tasks. 16


A 16-bit character-representation code that can represent more than 65,000 characters. 25

User ID

A combination of letters and numbers that serves as a user's "call sign" or identification. Also referred to as a username. 34

Videogame console

A computer specifically designed for playing games using a television screen and game controllers. 17


(1) A computer connected to a local area network. (2) A powerful desktop computer designed for specific tasks. 17

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