Just So You Know

Computer lingo made easy for technophytes

As information technology permeates our world, so to’ does its vernacular, leaving many of us at a loss as to what goes on in the world beyond our hard drives. However, that need not be the case. While it’s not imperative that you know the difference between gigabit and a teraflop, there are some terms that we should all know and understand.

Autoexec.bat (automatic execute batch): A batch file that is executed when a PC running the Windows operating system is started. The file contains commands that initialize operating system settings, load RAMresident programs and/or automatically call up a specific application.

Bandwidth: The transmission capacity of a computer channel or communications line (i.e., telephone line), which is expressed in cycles per second.

Cache (pronounced “cash”): A dedicated bank of high-speed memory or reserved section of regular memory used to improve system performance. It provides a temporary storage area for instructions and data that is closer to the CPU’s speed. Performance generally increases as cache size increases.

Config.sys: A configuration file that resides in the root directory of IBM-compatible PCs; it is used to load drivers and change settings at startup.

Driver (device driver): A program routine that links a peripheral device, such as a printer or scanner, to the operating system. It contains the precise machine language necessary to activate the device and perform the functions requested by the application. When a new hardware device is added to the computer, its driver must be installed in order to run it.

Parallel port: A socket on a computer used to connect peripheral devices. The parallel interface transfers one or more bytes of data simultaneously.

Serial port: A socket on a computer used to connect a modem, mouse or other serial interface devices. Serial interfaces transfer data one bit after another. Used primarily for communications devices, there are generally two or more serial ports (COM1, COM2) on a computer.

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