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Computer Terms Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 20, 2011

Computer Terms

This study guide focuses on words associated with computers, many of which describe things you probably do every day.

You're too young to remember that far-off historical time before computers existed, although it wasn't really so long ago. Just ask your parents. But you may well remember way back to the day you first sat down at a computer, or better yet, that day when you were first allowed to sit at the computer as long as you wanted and you discovered all the amazing things it could do.

A computer is like a whole universe in a box, a doorway for education, entertainment, and much more. It provides a way for you to communicate with friends, as well as make new ones all over the world. You probably have access to a computer at your school, library, or at home. And you probably know how to do a lot of different computer activities. What you may not know are the definitions of some words associated with computers.

Here's a list of computer words whose precise definitions you need to know. The words may describe things you see or activities you perform frequently on the computer, or they may describe ideas and issues about computers of which you're only vaguely aware. As you read the list, write down other computer-connected words that come to mind, and look them up in a dictionary to make sure you really understand them.

Words That Describe Computer Functions And Activities

1. browser. A computer browser is a program on your computer that lets you view, download, and use sites on the Internet. A browser is also a person who explores, as in a library or on the Internet. I like the browser I've always used to surf the Internet, but my geeky brother wants to switch us to some new one he says downloads ten times faster.
2. copyright law. The law that grants to the author (or other owner of the copyright) the exclusive right to make copies or allow others to make copies of anything created or written, including literary, musical, artistic, audio, or video works. This law applies to almost everything you read on the Internet. For example, you may not copy a newspaper story or an encyclopedia article without getting permission from the author or owner of the article. The committee discovered that Bill broke the copyright law because he downloaded the story and then claimed that he had written it.
3. desktop publishing. The use of computer software on a personal computer to design and produce publications. Our student newspaper now looks like a real paper because we use a desktop publishing program.
4. domain name. An Internet address owned by a person or organization to identify the location of its Web pages. Domain suffixes indicate the type of material on the pages: .com for commercial enterprises; .org for nonprofit organizations; .gov for government websites; .edu for educational institutions. What's the domain name of your school? The website you visit most often?
5. icon. A picture or image that represents something. On a computer, an icon is a picture or symbol for a command, program, or function. The use of icons to represent words and ideas allows users who speak different languages to understand the same information.
6. ISP (Internet service provider). A company or organization that provides access to the Internet, usually for a fee. Service, as electronic signals, may come from a phone company through telephone wires or a cable company through TV cables. I saw lots of TV commercials promising better, faster download time, but I don't want to change my Internet service provider.
7. search engine. Computer software that searches the Internet for documents containing a keyword, phrase, or subject you submit. Many people type their own name into a search engine to see where they appear on the Internet; the results can be surprising.
8. social networking. Websites that enable people to meet and share information. MySpace.com and Facebook.com are two extremely popular and competitive social networking sites.
9. spam. Unrequested commercial messages usually sent as emails. Many computer users complain that unwanted spam messages are a frequent and unpleasant interruption.
10. streaming. To stream is to flow, as in a river. As a computer word, streaming refers to the technology that enables the delivery of a steady stream of information or images, such as a streaming video of a live concert. Viewing streaming video on a computer feels like watching a private showing of a blockbuster film on your own personal movie screen!
11. URL (Uniform Resource Locator). The system used for specifying addresses on the Internet. Each individual file or page has its own URL, which is located on the address bar at the top of your Internet browser window. Be sure to type the information in a URL carefully so your browser knows where to go.
12. World Wide Web (www). The complete set of electronic documents connected over the Internet. Informally, the terms Internet, the Web, and online are used interchangeably. Which term do you and your friends use most often? When you're wandering around the World Wide Web, you can be described as surfing the Web or browsing the Internet.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Computer Terms Practice Exercises

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