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Computers & Data Processing
Definitions / Glossary

BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)

Pronounced "by-ose."  The BIOS is a set of routines (programs) that support the transfer of information between the different system elements such as memory, hard and/or floppy disks, cd rom, tape, and the monitor.  Many computers have their BIOS built into what is called ROM BIOS.

Bit

It ain't something that goes in a horses mouth.  A bit is represented by the number "1" (one/on) or the number "0" (zero/off).  Think of a light switch controlling a light.  You can turn the light On ("1") or Off ("0").  Another analogy is being pregnant.  Either you are pregnant ("1") or not pregnant ("0") - there ain't no in between.   In electronic circuitry, one's and zero's normally indicate a change in voltage or current levels within some type of Electronic Switching Device.

Byte

A byte is eight (8) bits.  There are 256 possible combinations of one's and zero's in a byte.  That is, 2 times itself 8 times -   2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 256.  Bytes are usually specified in Kilobytes, Megabytes and Gigabytes.

Electronic Switching Device

There are all kinds of electronic switching devices such as Transistors,

CD ROM

Is a storage device that uses compact disk technology and is "read only."  See ROM.

COM

Is a serial communications port on a computer normally specified as COM1, COM2, COM3, etc.  These ports are commonly used to connect with a modem, serial printer, etc.

cps (Characters Per Second)

cps is one type of measurement of the output capability of a printer.   There also are other types of measurement in common use such as LPM (Lines Per Minute) and PPM (Pages Per Minute).

CPS (Cycles Per Second)

Is a unit of frequency measurement measuring the occurance recurrence of some periodic event.  Also see Hz (Hertz).

CPU (Central Processing Unit)

The CPU is referred to as the central processing unit - many times called the microporcessor.  The CPU functions as the computing part of the computer's brain, but not the memory part of the brain.  The memory part of the brain is normally RAM (Random Access Memory) or Hard Drive storage devices.

FEB (Functional Electronic Block)

You gotta be an old fogey to remember this one.  It is a term used long ago for some of the first IC's (integrated circuits).  The term is not used any more.

Frequency

Is a measure of the number of periodic event occurances per unit time - normally referring to how many recurring events occur per second.  Frequency is normally referred to in Hz (Hertz) or CPS (Cycles Per Second).

Frequency Measurement

Frequency is commonly measured in KHz (Kilohertz - 1 thousand CPS), MHz (Megahertz - 1 million CPS), GHz (Gigahertz - 1 billion CPS), THz (Terahertz - 1 thousand Gigahertz).... Also see: Frequency

Giga

Is one billion (1,000,000,000)

Gigabyte

Is one billion bytes or 8 billion bits.

Gigahertz

Is one billion Hz (Hertz)

Hard Disk or Hard Drive

Is sort of like a record player on which you can either play or record data.  Even though hard drives are very small, their internal parts can be thought of as a stack of records with a record/play head in contact with each record.  All the records revolve at the same speed (typically 3600 rpm).  Hard drives are sealed to prevent contamination of the drive's environment.

Hz (Hertz)

Is a unit of frequency measurement measuring the occurance recurrence of some periodic event.  One Hertz is one CPS (Cycle Per Second).   See Frequency Measurement.

IC (Integrated Circuit)

IC's are those little flat things you see in your computer with all the centipede legs sticking out of the sides.  An IC is referred to as a "chip."  IC's are constructed by placing electronic circuit elements such as transistors and resistors onto a silicon crystal chip.  Many IC's today contain hundreds of thousands of elements.

Kilo

Is one thousand (1,000).

Kilobyte

Is one thousand bytes or 8 thousand bits.

Kilohertz

Is one thousand Hz (Hertz).

LPT

Is a parallel communications port on a computer normally specified as LPT1, LPT2, etc.  This was intended to be used for a line printer, but is used for many purposes which require a parallel communications port.

Mega

Is one million (1,000,000).

Megabyte

Is one million bytes or 8 million bits.

Megahertz

Is one million Hz (Hertz).

RAM (Random Access Memory)

In its most basic form is memory in the form of electronic circuitry.   The amount of RAM is usually represented in Kilo Bytes (KB), Mega Bytes (MB) and Giga Bytes (GB).

ROM (Read Only Memory)

ROM can be in the form of digital chips internally or externally to the computer or in disk form referred to as a CD-ROM.

Rhymes with "Tom."  Contains data that can be read, but not modified.

ROM BIOS (Read Only Memory - Basic Input/Output System)

Is a BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) that has been built into a ROM (Read Only Memory).