This glossary has been excerpted from the Electronic Computer Glossary by Alan Freedman, which is published by The Computer Language Company of Point Pleasant, Penn. 215/297-8082 (FAX 8424).
32-bit computing - In a PC with a 386 or higher CPU, this refers to programs written for the 386's 32-bit mode, which is its fastest mode of operation. Starting with the 386, Intel CPUs have a split personality in order to maintain backward compatibility with previous CPUs. They can process 16-bits. or two bytes at a time, or process 32-bits, or four bits at a time.
386 - The successor to the 286. Also known as the 386DX, it refers to the Intel 386 CPU chip or to a PC that uses it. The 386 is faster than the 286 and provides a more sophisticated method for running multiple DOS programs. It is more responsive than the 286, but is still slow for Windows and graphics-based applications. The 386 architecture has been followed in all of Intel's subsequent CPUs (486, Pentium, etc.). The 386 is a 32-bit CPU that addresses 4GB of memory, supports a 32-bit data bus and provides enhanced memory to be allocated on demand. In a designation such as 386/25, the second number is the clock rate: the 25 means 25MHz.
Architecture - computer architecture: Design of a computer system. It sets the standard for all devices that connect to it and all the software that runs on it. It is based on the type of programs that will run (business, scientific, etc.) and the number of them that must be run concurrently. It specifies how much memory is needed and how it will be managed (memory protection, virtual memory, etc.) and how big the internal bus must be that transfers data between memory and the processor. It also specifies the word size, or number of bits processed in the registers at one time. If a computer is designed from scratch, its native language, or instruction set, must be created, stipulating what functions the computer performs and how instructions are written to activate them. This is the foundation of the computer and determines how programs will communicate with it forever after. The trend toward large and complicated instruction sets has been reversed with RISC computers, which use simpler instructions. The result is a leaner, faster computer, but requires that the compilers generated more code for complex functions of the computer's architecture. How much should be fixed, how much should programmable. Although contrary to RISC in concept, in time, complex system functions (operating systems, database management, etc.) may be moved from software to hardware for improved performance. Electronic circuits are faster when they don't have to be told what to do. If fault tolerant operation is required, the computer has to be designed with this in mind from step one,as this objective influences everything. Computers used as array processors and database machined require specialized designs in order to acquire their speed. network architecture:: (1) Design of a communications system, which includes the hardware, software, access methods and protocols used. It also defines the method of control: whether computers can act independently or are controlled by other computers monitoring the network. It determined future flexibility and connectability to foreign networks. (2) Access method in a LAN, such as Ethernet, Token Ring and LocalTalk. software architecture: Design of application or system software that incorporates protocols and interfaces for interacting with other programs and for future flexibility and expandability. A self-contained, stand-alone program would have program logic, but not a software architecture.
AUTOEXEC.BAT - (AUTOmatic EXECute BATch) DOS batch file that executes when the computer is started. It must be stored in the root directory. It is used to load various drivers and TSRs that must reside in memory at all times and to customize DOS for the user's requirements.
CAD - (Computer Aided Design) Using computers to design products. CAD systems are high-speed workstations or personal computers usingCAD software and input devices such as graphic tablets and scanners. CAD output is a printed design or electronic input to CAM systems CAD software is available for generic design or specialized uses, such as architectural, electrical and mechanical design. CAD software may also be highly specialized for creating products such as printed circuits and integrated circuits. CAD systems are often turnkey systems which are put together by vendors that may develop or integrate software into standard or optimize hardware. Except in few cases, CAD systems rely extensively on graphics.
CAE - (1)(Computer Aided Engineering) Software that analyzes designs which have been created in the computer or that have been created elsewhere and entered into the computer. Different kinds of engineering analyses can be performed, such as structural analysis and electronic circuit analysis. (2)(Common Application Environment) Software development platform that is specified by X/Open.
Client/server - (1) Architecture in which the client (personal computer or workstation) is the requesting machine and the server is the supplying machine (LAN file server, mini or mainframe). The Client provides the user interface and performs some or all of the application processing. The server maintains the databases and processes requests form the client to extract data from or update the database. The server also controls the application's integrity and security. Client Server architecture is not using a file server as a remote disk drive to hold programs and databases. It implies that processing is done in the server. For example, in a database query, the server performs the search and returns the results to the requesting client machine. If the server were only storing the database, all the records in the database file would have to be transmitted over the network to the client machine doing the search.
Clipboard - Reserved memory used to hold data that has been copied from one application in order to be inserted into another.
CONFIG.SYS - DOS and OS/2 configuration file. It resides in the root directory and is used to load drivers and change settings at startup. Install programs often modify CONFIG.SYS in order to customize the computer for their particular use.
CPU - (Central Processing Unit) Computing part of the computer. Also called the processor, it is made up of the control unit and ALU. A personal computer CPU is a single microprocessor chip. A minicomputer CPU is contained on one or more printed circuit boards. A mainframe CPU is made up of several boards. The CPU, clock and main memory make up a computer. A complete computer system requires the addition of control units, input, output and storage devices and an operating system. In general, the term CPU implies memory as well, since data must be stored in memory in order to be processed.
Distributed computing - Also called distributed processing, it is a system of computers connected together by a communications network. The term is used loosely to refer to any computers with communications between them. However, in true distributed processing, each computer system is sized to handle its local workload, and the network has been designed to support the system as a whole. Contrast with centralized processing and decentralized processing. Solving a single problem with multiple computers or computers made up of multiple processors.
Ergonomics - Science of people-machine relationships. An ergonomically-designed product implies that the device blends smoothly with a person's body or actions.
Executable - Program in machine language that is ready to run in a particular computer environment.
Fault-tolerant - Continuous operation in case of failure. A fault tolerant system can be created using two or more computers that duplicate all processing, or having one system stand by if the other fails. It can also be built with redundant processors, control units and peripherals architecturally integrated from the ground up (Tandem, Stratus, etc,) Fault tolerant operation require backup power in the event of power failure. It may also imply duplication of systems in disparate locations in the event of natural catastrophe or vandalism.
ICR - (Intelligent Character Recognition) The ability to recognize hand printing.
Memory - The computer's workspace (physically, a collection of RAM chips). It is an important resource of the computer, since it determines the size and number of programs that can be run at the same time, as well as the amount of data that can be processed instantly. All programs execution and data processing takes place in memory. The program's instructure are copied into memory from a disk or tape and are then extracted from memory into an electronic circuit for analysis and execution. The instructions direct the computer to input data into memory from a keyboard, disk, tape or communications channel. As data is entered into memory, the previous contents of that memory space is lost. Once the data is in memory, it can be processed (calculated, compated and copied). Then the results can be output from memory to a screen, printer, disk, tape or communications channel. Memory is like am electronic checkerboard, with each square holding one byte of data or instruction. Each square has a separate address like a post office box and can be manipulated independently. As a result, the computer can break apart programs into instructions for execution and data records into fields for processing. Oddly enough, the computer's memory doesn't remember anything when the power is turned off. That's why you have to save your files before you quit your program. Although there are memory chips that do hold their content permanently (ROMs, PROMs, EPROMs, etc.), they're used for internal control purposes and not for the user's data. Other terms for memory are RAM, main memory, main storage, primary storage, read/write memory, core and core storage.
Migration - The task of migrating software from one platform to another. This involves moving the software to different target platforms and making changes to the software as necessary to make it run correctly and as expected. The term "migration" makes no assumptions about whether or not portability was considered when the application was designed and implemented. When portability is not emphasized during the development of software, each migration of that software to a new platform will uncover different problems or areas of concern. Designing and writing portable software is not equivalent to migrating (moving) software. The phrase "portable software" implies that the software was intended for use on a variety of platforms from its conception, and that this factor was considered throughout the design and implementation of the software. This is the only method of ensuring a high degree of portability in any software application.
Multitask - Running two or more programs in one computer at the same time. It is controlled by the operating system. The number of programs that can be effectively multitasked depends on the type of mutitasking performed (premtive vs. cooperative), CPU speed, memory and disk capacity. Programs can be run simultaneously in the computer because of the differences between I/O and processing speed. While one program is waiting for input, instructions in another program are executed. During the milliseconds one program waits for data to be read from a disk, millions of instructions can be executed between each keystroke on the keyboard. In large computers, multiple I/O channels also allow for simultaneous I/O operations to take place. Multiple streams of data are being read and written at the exact same time. In the days of mainframes only, multitasking was called multiprogramming, and mutitasking meant mutithreading.
OCR - (Optical Character Recognition) Machine recognition of printed characters. OCR systems can recognize many different OCR fonts, as well as typewriter and computer-printed characters. Advanced OCR systems can recognize hand printing.
P6 - The code name from Intel for the successor to the Pentium. Also called the 686 by industry analysts, since it follows the Pentium, which was originally to be named the 586. This chip is expected in 1995 with as many as six million transistors using .6 micron technology (transistor elements as small as .6 micron) and be twice as fast as the Pentium.
Packet-switched - A network technology that breaks up a message into smaller packets for transmission. It is the most common form of data transmission technology used in LANs, MANs and WANs. Unlike circuit switching, which requires a constant point-to-point circuit to be established, each packet in a packet switched network contains a destination address. Thus all packets in a single message do not have to travel the same path . They can be dynamically routed over the network as circuits become available or unavailable. The destination computer reassembles the packets back into their proper sequence. Also used to efficiently handle messages of different lengths and priorities in large networks, such as Telenet , Tymnet and AT&T;'s Accunet x.25 is the international standard for such a network. Contrast with circuit switching.
PDA - (Personal Digital Assistant) Handheld computer that serves as an organizer, electronic book or note taker and includes features such as pen-based entry and wireless transmission to a cellular service or desktop system.
Pentium - Currently the fastest CPU in the Intel x86 line. Pentium refers to the Pentium CPU chip or the PC that uses it. The Pentium is the successor to the 486 and was originally to be named the 586. Depending on the clock speed, the Pentium runs from half again to more than twice as fast as a 50MHz 486, while its floating point operations are up to four times as fast. Although its integer performance rivals major RISC-based CPUs (Alpha, HP-PA, MIPS, SPARC, etc.), its floating point performance is generally slower. The Pentium is 32-bit CPU with a 64-bit internal bus. Its base architecture is that of a 386 with enhancements to improve performance.
Point of Sale - Capturing data at the time and place of sale. Point of sale systems use personal computers or specialized terminals that are combined with cash registers, optical scanners for reading product tags and/or magnetic stripe readers for reading credit cards. Point of sale systems may be online to a central computer for credit checking and inventory updating, or they may be stand-alone machines that store the daily transactions until they can be delivered or transmitted to the main computer for processing.
PowerPC - A family of RISC-based CPU chips introduced in 1993 by IBM and Motorola. The PowerPC is designed to span a range from hand-held machines to supercomputers. The first model, the 601 (MPC601) runs initially at 50 and 66MHz and is as fast or faster than a Pentium, but is half the size and uses half the electricity. Upcoming models are a low-power MPC603 for notebooks, a faster MPC604 and a true 64-bit, ultra fast MPC620 with multiple levels of parallelism.
RAM - (Random Access Memory) Computer's primary workspace. Also true of most memory chips (ROMs, PROMs, etc.), "random" means that the contents of each byte can be directly accessed without regard to the bytes before or after it. RAM chips require power to maintain their content. That's why you must save your files to the disk before you turn the computer off. Any running programs and all the data they currently reference, such as the spreadsheet or word processing document you're working on, are lost without power.
Relational databases - Database organization method that links files together as required. In non-relational systems (hierarchal, network), records in one file point to the locations of records in another, such as customers to orders and vendors to purchases. These are fixed links set up ahead of time to speed up daily processing. In a relational database, relationships between files are created by comparing data, such as account numbers and names. A relational system can take any two or more files and generate a new file from the records that meet the matching criteria. Routine queries ofteninvolve more than one data file. For example, a customer file and an order file can be linked in order to ask a question that relates to information in both files, such as the names of the customers that purchased a particular product. In practice, a pure relational query can be very slow. In order to speed up the process, indexes are created "on the fly" when the data is requested. Although a relational database became a popular buzzword in the mid 1980s, the term was coined by Edgar Codd, whose objective was to easily accommodate a user's ad hoc request for selected data. In relational terminology, a file is called a table or relation, a record is called a tuple, and a field is called an attribute.
RFP - (Request for Proposal) Document that invites a vendor to submit a bid for hardware, software and/or services. It may provide a general or very detailed specification of the system.
Router - A computer system in a network that stores and forwards data packets between LANs and WANs. Routers see the network as network addresses and all the possible paths between them. They read the network address in a transmitted message and can make a decision on how to send it based on the most expedient route (traffic load, line costs, speed, bad lines, etc.). Routers work at the network layer (layer 3 of the OSI model), whereas bridges work at the data link layer (layer 2).
Scalable - Capable of being changed in size and configuration.
Speech recognition - same as voice recognition Conversion of spoken words into computer text. Speech that is first digitized and then matched against a dictionary of coded waveforms. The matches are converted into text as if the words were typed on the keyboard.
Speaker-dependent systems must be trained before using, by taking samples of actual words form the person who will use it. Speaker-independent systems can recognize limited vocabularies such as numeric digits and a handful of words. In the telephone companies, these systems will begin to replace the human operator for services, such as collect and credit card calls, for example. In the future, voice recognition systems will be able to understand large vocabularies form just about anybody; however, it could be well past the turn of the century before voice recognition is part of every computer system.
SQL - ( Structured Query Language) Pronounced "SQL" or "see qwill," a language used to interrogate and process data in a relational database. Originally developed by IBM for its mainframes, there have been many implementations created for mini and micro database applications. SQL commands can be used to interactively work with a database or can be embedded within a programming language to interface to a database.
Symmetric multiprocessing - Multiprocessing design in which any CPU can be assigned any application task. One CPU acts as a control processor, or scheduler, which boots the system, distributes work to the next available CPU and manages I/O requests. Contrast with asymmetric multiprocessing.
SYSTEM.INI - a Windows startup file that contains data about the hardware environment (drivers, 386 Enhanced mode settings, etc.)
Systems integrator - An individual or organization that builds systems from a variety of diverse components. With increasing complexity of technology, more customers want complete solutions to information problems, requiring hardware, software and networking expertise in a multivendor environment.
UNIX - Multiuser, multitasking operating system from AT&T.; AT&T; got out of the UNIX business in 1993, and its System V version of UNIX was acquired by Novell. UNIX is written in C, also developed by AT&T;, which can be compiled into many different machine languages, causing UNIX to run in a wider variety of hardware than any other operating system. UNIX has this become synonymous with "open systems." The fact it runs on almost everything is its own Nemesis. There is at least one version, often several, for each hardware platform, making universal shrink-wrapped software an impossibility. Nevertheless, UNIX, with allits variants, continues to grow, because it provides an industrial-strength operating environment. Its TCP/IP communications protocol are used in the Internet, the world's largest network of networks. SMTP provides e-mail, NFS allows files to be distributed across the network, NIS provides a "Yellow Pages" directory, Kerberos provides network security, and X Window allows a user to run applications on other machines in the network simultaneously.
WIN.INI - (WINdows INItialization) File read by Windows on startup that contains data about the current environment (desktop, fonts, sounds, etc.) and individual applications. It is often updated by an install program to provide information for application when it runs.