Some Basic Internet Terms 

Input- Something put into a system or expended in its operation to achieve output or a result

Output- Anything that comes out of a computer.

Processing- To perform operations on (data).

Peripherals- A computer device, such as a CD-ROM drive or printer, that is not part of the essential computer

Monitor- Another term for display screen. The term monitor, however, usually refers to the entire box, whereas display screen can mean just the screen. In addition, the term monitor often implies graphics capabilities.

Left Click– a tap of the left mouse button

Right click- A tap of the right mouse button

double click- Tapping a mouse button twice in rapid succession (usu. Left)

keyboard- The set of typewriter-like keys that enables you to enter data into a computer

hard disk / hard drive- A magnetic disk on which you can store computer data. The term hard is used to distinguish it from a soft, or floppy, disk. Hard disks hold more data and are faster than floppy disks.

diskette drive- the drive that runs a floppy disk

CD-ROM- A type of optical disk capable of storing large amounts of data -- up to 1GB

DVD- a new type of CD-ROM that holds a minimum of 4.7GB

Modem- A device that connects a computer to a phone line

ISP- Internet Service Provider

Internet- The vast collection of inter-connected networks that are connected using the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the ARPANET of the late 60's and early 70's.The Internet connects tens of thousands of independent networks into a vast global internet and is probably the largest Wide Area Network in the world.

Intranet- A private network inside a company or organization that uses the same kinds of software that you would find on the public Internet, but that is only for internal use.

World Wide Web- A system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents. The documents are formatted in a script called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) that supports links to other documents, as well as graphics, audio, and video files

domain name / internet domains- used to identify computers on the Net. For example:  .gov  identifies US Federal Government entities,  .com    For commercial entities, which anyone, anywhere in the world, can register.    (more info:


HTML- Short for HyperText Markup Language, the authoring language used to create documents on the World Wide Web.

JAVA- A high-level programming language

DHTML- Refers to Web content that changes each time it is viewed.

- animated images or text


.GIF- stands for graphics interchange format, a bit-mapped graphics file format used by the World Wide Web, CompuServe and many BBSs.

.JPG- JPEG is a compression technique for color images.

.bmp- Bitmap graphics format (used in MS Paint & many other programs)

file extensions- identify the type of a file. For example   .html   identifies the file as readable by a web browser (more info:

Zip- A popular data compression format. Files that have been compressed with the ZIP format are called ZIP files and usually end with a .ZIP extension.

Printer- A device that prints text or illustrations on paper

Scanner- A device that can read text or illustrations printed on paper and translate the information into a form the computer can use.

Voice input- Voice input systems can allow a person to access a computer without using a keyboard or mouse.

Bits- an electronic signal which is either on or off (represented by 0 or 1)

Byte- a group of 8 bits grouped together

Megahertz- One MHz represents one million cycles per second.

Software- Computer instructions or data.

Programs- An organized list of instructions that, when executed, causes the computer to behave in a predetermined manner.

OS- The most important program that runs on a computer. Every general-purpose computer must have an operating system to run other programs. Operating systems perform basic tasks

Boot / Boot up- To load the first piece of software that starts a computer

Platform- The underlying hardware or software for a system (MAC, PC)

Application software- A program or group of programs designed for end users.

Mainframe- A very large and expensive computer capable of supporting hundreds, or even thousands, of users simultaneously.

Minicomputers- A midsize computer

PC- Short for personal computer or IBM PC.

Laptop- A small, portable computer -- small enough that it can sit on your lap.

Hand-held- A portable computer that is small enough to be held in one's hand.

Help desk professionals- A department within a company that responds to user's technical questions. Most large software companies have help desks to answer user questions.

IS (information systems)- For many companies, IS is the name of the department responsible for computers, networking and data management.

IT (information technology)- the broad subject concerned with all aspects of managing and processing information, especially within a large organization or company.

Web site designer- designs websites

Web site programmer- programs websites, some design them as well

Applet- A small Java program that can be embedded in an HTML page. Applets differ from full-fledged Java applications in that they are not allowed to access certain resources on the local computer, such as files and serial devices (modems, printers, etc.), and are prohibited from communicating with most other computers across a network. The current rule is that an applet can only make an Internet connection to the computer from which the applet was sent.


See Also: HTML, Java


Archie- A tool (software) for finding files stored on anonymous FTP sites. You need to know the exact file name or a substring of it.


ARPANet- (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) -- The precursor to the Internet. Developed in the late 60’s and early 70’s by the US Department of Defense as an experiment in wide-area-networking that would survive a nuclear war.


See Also: Internet


ASCII- (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) -- This is the de facto world-wide standard for the code numbers used by computers to represent all the upper and lower-case Latin letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. There are 128 standard ASCII codes each of that can be represented by a 7 digit binary number: 0000000 through 1111111.


Backbone- A high-speed line or series of connections that forms a major pathway within a network. The term is relative, as a backbone in a small network will likely be much smaller than many non-backbone lines in a large network.


See Also: Network


Bandwidth- How much stuff you can send through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second. A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 15,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video would require roughly 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression.


See Also: Bps , Bit , T-1


Baud- In common usage the baud rate of a modem is how many bits it can send or receive per second. Technically, baud is the number of times per second that the carrier signal shifts value - for example a 1200 bit-per-second modem actually runs at 300 baud, but it moves 4 bits per baud (4 x 300 = 1200 bits per second).


See Also: Bit , Modem


BBS- (Bulletin Board System) -- A computerized meeting and announcement system that allows people to carry on discussions, upload and download files, and make announcements without the people being connected to the computer at the same time. There are many thousands (millions?) of BBS’s around the world, most are very small, running on a single IBM clone PC with 1 or 2 phone lines. Some are very large and the line between a BBS and a system like CompuServe gets crossed at some point, but it is not clearly drawn.


Bit- (Binary digit) -- A single digit number in base-2, in other words, either a 1 or a zero. The smallest unit of computerized data. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits-per-second.



Browser- A Client program (software) that is used to look at various kinds of Internet resources.


Byte- A set of Bits that represent a single character. Usually there are 8 Bits in a Byte, sometimes more, depending on how the measurement is being made.


See Also: Bit


Client- A software program that is used to contact and obtain data from a Server software program on another computer, often across a great distance. Each Client program is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of Server programs, and each Server requires a specific kind of Client. A Web Browser is a specific kind of Client.


See Also: Browser, Server


Cookie- The most common meaning of “Cookie” on the Internet refers to a piece of information sent by a Web Server to a Web Browser that the Browser software is expected to save and to send back to the Server whenever the browser makes additional requests from the Server.


Cookies are usually set to expire after a predetermined amount of time and are usually saved in memory until the Browser software is closed down, at which time they may be saved to disk if their “expire time” has not been reached.


Cookies do not read your hard drive and send your life story to the CIA, but they can be used to gather more information about a user than would be possible without them.



Cyberspace- Term originated by author William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer the word Cyberspace is currently used to describe the whole range of information resources available through computer networks.




Domain Name- The unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names always have 2 or more parts, separated by dots. The part on the left is the most specific, and the part on the right is the most general. A given machine may have more than one Domain Name but a given Domain Name points to only one machine. For example, the domain names:


See Also: IP Number


E-mail- (Electronic Mail) -- Messages, usually text, sent from one person to another via computer. E-mail can also be sent automatically to a large number of addresses (Mailing List).


Ethernet- very common method of networking computers in a LAN. Ethernet will handle about 10,000,000 bits-per-second and can be used with almost any kind of computer.


See Also: Bandwidth, LAN


Finger- An Internet software tool for locating people on other Internet sites. Finger is also sometimes used to give access to non-personal information, but the most common use is to see if a person has an account at a particular Internet site.

Many sites do not allow incoming Finger requests, but many do.


Fire Wall- A combination of hardware and software that separates a LAN into two or more parts for security purposes.


FTP- (File Transfer Protocol) -- A very common method of moving files between two Internet sites. FTP is a special way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of retrieving and/or sending files. There are many Internet sites that have established publicly accessible repositories of material that can be obtained using FTP, by logging in using the account name anonymous, thus these sites are called anonymous ftp servers.


Gateway- The technical meaning is a hardware or software set-up that translates between two dissimilar protocols, for example Prodigy has a gateway that translates between its internal, proprietary e-mail format and Internet e-mail format. Another, sloppier meaning of gateway is to describe any mechanism for providing access to another system, e.g. AOL might be called a gateway to the Internet.


GIF- (Graphic Interchange Format) -- A common format for image files, especially suitable for images containing large areas of the same color. GIF format files of simple images are often smaller than the same file would be if stored in JPEG format, but GIF format does not store photographic images as well as JPEG.


See Also: JPEG


Gigabyte- or 1024 Megabytes, depending on whom is measuring.


Gopher- A widely successful method of making menus of material available over the Internet. Gopher is a Client and Server style program, which requires that the user have a Gopher Client program. Although Gopher spread rapidly across the globe in only a couple of years, it has been largely supplanted by Hypertext, also known as WWW (World Wide Web). There are still thousands of Gopher Servers on the Internet and we can expect they will remain for a while.


Hit- As used in reference to the World Wide Web, “hit,” means a single request from a web browser for a single item from a web server.


Home Page (or Homepage)- Several meanings. Originally, the web pages that your browser is set to use when it starts up. The more common meaning refers to the main web page for a business, organization, person or simply the main page out of a collection of web pages, e.g. “Check out so-and-so’s new Home Page.”


Host- Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as WWW and USENET.


HTML- (Hypertext Markup Language) -- The coding language used to create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. HTML looks a lot like old-fashioned typesetting code, where you surround a block of text with codes that indicate how it should appear, additionally, in HTML you can specify that a block of text, or a word, is linked to another file on the Internet. HTML files are meant to be viewed using a World Wide Web Client Program, such as Netscape or


HTTP- (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) -- The protocol for moving hypertext files across the Internet. Requires an HTTP client program on one end, and an HTTP server program on the other end. HTTP is the most important protocol used in the World Wide Web (WWW).


Hypertext- Generally, any text that contains links to other documents - words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a

Reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed.


Internet- (Upper case I) The vast collection of inter-connected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the ARPANET of the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Internet now (July 1995) connects roughly 60,000 independent networks into a vast global Internet.


Intranet- A private network inside a company or organization that uses the same kinds of software that you would find on the public Internet, but that is only for internal use.


IP Number- (Internet Protocol Number) -- Sometimes called a dotted quad. A unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots. Every machine that is on the Internet has a unique IP number - if a machine does not have an IP number, it is not really on the Internet. Most machines also have one or more Domain Names that are easier for people to remember.


ISP- (Internet Service Provider) -- An institution that provides access to the Internet in some form, usually for money.


Java- Java is a network-oriented programming language invented by Sun Microsystems that is specifically designed for writing programs that can be safely downloaded to your computer through the Internet and immediately run without fear of viruses or other harm to your computer or files. Using small Java programs (called "Applets"), Web pages can include functions such as animations, calculators, and other fancy tricks.


JavaScript- JavaScript is a programming language that is mostly used in web pages, usually to add features that make the web page more interactive. When JavaScript is included in an HTML file it relies upon the browser to interpret the JavaScript. When JavaScript is combined with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and later versions of HTML (4.0 and later) the result is often called DHTML.



JPEG- (Joint Photographic Experts Group) -- JPEG is most commonly mentioned as a format for image files. JPEG format is preferred to the GIF format for photographic images as opposed to line art or simple logo art.


Kilobyte- A thousand bytes. Actually, usually 1024 (2^10) bytes.


LAN- (Local Area Network) -- A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building or floor of a building.


Leased Line- Refers to a phone line that is rented for exclusive 24-hour, 7 -days-a-week use from your location to another location. The highest speed data connections require a leased line.


Listserv®- The most common kind of mail list, "Listserv" is a registered trademark of L-Soft international, Inc. Listservs originated on BITNET but they are now common on the Internet.


Login- Noun or a verb. Noun: The account name used to gain access to a computer system. Not a secret (contrast with Password).


Mail list- (Or Mailing List) A (usually automated) system that allows people to send e-mail to one address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the mail list. In this way, people who have many different kinds of e-mail access can participate in discussions together.


Megabyte- A million bytes. Actually, technically, 1024 kilobytes.


MIME- (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) -- The standard for attaching non-text files to standard Internet mail messages. Non-text files include graphics, spreadsheets, formatted word-processor documents, sound files, etc.


Mirror- Generally speaking, “to mirror” is to maintain an exact copy of something. Probably the most common use of the term on the Internet refers to “mirror sites” which are web sites, or FTP sites that maintain exact copies of material originated at another location, usually in order to provide more widespread access to the resource.


Modem- (Modulator, Demodulator) -- A device that you connect to your computer and to a phone line, that allows the computer to talk to other computers through the phone system. Basically, modems do for computers what a telephone does for humans.


Netiquette- The etiquette on the Internet.


Network- Any time you connect 2 or more computers together so that they can share resources, you have a computer network. Connect 2 or more networks together and you have an Internet.


Newsgroup- The name for discussion groups on USENET.


NNTP- (Network News Transport Protocol) -- The protocol used by client and server software to carry USENET postings back and forth over a TCP/IP network. If you are using any of the more common software such as Netscape, Nuntius, Internet Explorer, etc. to participate in newsgroups then you are benefiting from an NNTP connection.


Node- Any single computer connected to a network.


Packet Switching- The method used to move data around on the Internet. In packet switching, all the data coming out of a machine is broken up into chunks, each chunk has the address of where it came from and where it is going. This enables chunks of data from many different sources to co-mingle on the same lines, and be sorted and directed to different routes by special machines along the way. This way many people can use the same lines at the same time.


Password- A code used to gain access to a locked system. Good passwords contain letters and non-letters and are not simple combinations such as virtue7. A good password might be:


Plug-in- A (usually small) piece of software that adds features to a larger piece of software. Common examples are plug-ins for the Netscape® browser and web server. Adobe PhotoShop® also uses plug-ins.


Port- 3 meanings. First and most generally, a place where information goes into or out of a computer, or both. E.g. the serial port on a personal computer is where a modem would be connected.


Posting- A single message entered into a network communications system.


PPP- (Point to Point Protocol) -- Most well known as a protocol that allows a computer to use a regular telephone line and a modem to make TCP/IP connections and thus be really and truly on the Internet.


PSTN- (Public Switched Telephone Network) -- The regular old-fashioned telephone system.


Router- A special-purpose computer (or software package) that handles the connection between 2 or more networks. Routers spend all their time looking at the destination addresses of the packets passing through them and deciding which route to send them on.


Security Certificate- A chunk of information (often stored as a text file) that is used by the SSL protocol to establish a secure connection. Security Certificates contain information about which it belongs to, who it was issued by, a unique serial number or other unique identification, valid dates, and an encrypted “fingerprint” that can be used to verify the contents of the certificate.


Server- A computer, or a software package, that provides a specific kind of service to client software running on other computers.


SLIP- (Serial Line Internet Protocol) -- A standard for using a regular telephone line (a serial line) and a modem to connect a computer as a real Internet site. SLIP is gradually being replaced by PPP.


Sysop- (System Operator) -- Anyone responsible for the physical operations of a computer system or network resource.


T-1- A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 1,544,000 bits-per-second. At maximum theoretical capacity, a T-1 line could move a megabyte in less than 10 seconds. That is still not fast enough for full-screen, full-motion video, for which you need at least 10,000,000 bits-per-second. T-1 is the fastest speed commonly used to connect networks to the Internet.


T-3- A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 44,736,000 bits-per-second. This is more than enough to do full-screen, full-motion video.


TCP/IP- (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) -- This is the suite of protocols that defines the Internet. Originally designed for the UNIX operating system, TCP/IP software is now available for every major kind of computer operating system. To be truly on the Internet, your computer must have TCP/IP software.


Telnet- The command and program used to login from one Internet site to another. The telnet command/program gets you to the login: prompt of another host.


Terabyte- 1000 gigabytes.


Terminal- A device that allows you to send commands to a computer somewhere else. At a minimum, this usually means a keyboard and a display screen and some simple circuitry. Usually you will use terminal software in a personal computer the software pretends to be (emulates) a physical terminal and allows you to type commands to a computer somewhere else.


Terminal Server- A special purpose computer that has places to plug in many modems on one side and a connection to a LAN or host machine on the other side. Thus the terminal server does the work of answering the calls and passes the connections on to the appropriate node. Most terminal servers can provide PPP or SLIP services if connected to the Internet.


UNIX- A computer operating system (the basic software running on a computer, underneath things likes word processors and spreadsheets). UNIX is designed to be used by many people at the same time (it is multi-user) and has TCP/IP built-in. It is the most common operating system for servers on the Internet.


URL- (Uniform Resource Locator) -- The standard way to give the address of any resource on the Internet that is part of the World Wide Web (WWW). A URL looks like this:


USENET- A worldwide system of discussion groups, with comments passed among hundreds of thousands of machines. Not all USENET machines are on the Internet, maybe half. USENET is completely decentralized, with over 10,000 discussion areas, called newsgroups.


WAIS- (Wide Area Information Servers) -- A commercial software package that allows the indexing of huge quantities of information, and then making those indices searchable across networks such as the Internet. A prominent feature of WAIS is that the search results are ranked (scored) according to how relevant the hits are, and that subsequent searches can find more stuff like that last batch and thus refine the search process.


WAN- (Wide Area Network) -- Any Internet or network that covers an area larger than a single building or campus.


WWW- (World Wide Web) -- Frequently used (incorrectly) when referring to "The Internet", WWW has two major meanings - First, loosely used: the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP, telnet, USENET, WAIS and some other tools. Second, the universe of hypertext servers (HTTP servers) which are the servers that allows text, graphics, sound files, etc. to be mixed together. ADN

(Advanced Digital Network) -- Usually refers to a 56Kbps leased-line.

Files, etc. to be mixed together.





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