4teachers.org Tech-along

techalong logo

Technology Glossary
This is a dynamic glossary, whose core entries are based on words in our feature stories. To help us meet your needs, send us your suggestions or ask us to define technical words you just don't know.

We also recommend a similar glossary in Spanish. Enjoy!

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M

N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z



acceptable use policy      This is a policy set up by the network administrator or other school leaders in conjunction with their technology needs and safety concerns. This policy restricts the manner in which a network may be used, and helps provide guidelines for teachers using technology in the classroom.

alias    A file that points to another item, such as a program, document, folder, or disk. When an alias is opened, the original item that the alias points to is opened. This helps in the organizing and accessing of files. Alias is purely a Mac term. The equivalent term for Windows-based computers is a shortcut.

ASCII      American Standard Code for Information Interchange. This international standard contains 128 codes that correspond to all upper and lower-case Latin characters, numbers, and punctuation marks. Each code is represented by a seven-digit binary number: 0000000 through 1111111.

application     A software program that lets you complete a task, such as writing a paper, creating a poster, designing an image, or viewing a Web page.


bandwidth      The amount of information that one can send through a connection, measures in bits-per-second (Bps). A standard page of English text contains about 16,000 bits.

BCC      Blind Courtesy Copy or Blind Carbon Copy. A way to send an e-mail message to more than one recipient, without the parties knowing that an identical message was sent to others. Using the BCC is a good way to avoid the long list of recipients that your correspondents usually have to wade through in the header of a mass-mailing. See CC.

bit      Binary DigIT. A single digit number in base-2 (either a one or a zero). This is the smallest unit of computerized data.

browser      The software application that allows you to view Internet pages.

browser-safe colors      Although there are millions of colors in the computer world, there are only 216 colors that are browser-safe, or are able to be read by any Web browser. These colors will remain true no matter what platform or browser you use, and their hexadecimal codes (numerical names for colors) are made up by using any combination of 00 33 66 99 CC or FF.

BTW      An acronym often used in e-mail messages and chat sessions to mean: "by the way."

byte      A set of 8 bits that means something to the computer, like a letter, number, or punctuation mark. For example, the byte 01001000 signifies the character H. The three-letter word hat requires 3 bytes.


client/server      A term denoting the technology relationship between two types of computers, the client (normally your Mac or PC) and the server (a computer that stores and delivers information or files to you). When surfing the Internet, you are the client, and the pages you are reading come from the server, such as the www4teachers server.

CC      Courtesy Copy, derived from the non-digital Carbon Copy. A way to send an e-mail message to a person other than the main recipient or recipients. The CC'ed party can see that they are not the main recipient of the letter.

command key (apple key)     A key on Mac keyboards only that is used to access commands through the keyboard rather than the menus.apple key commands are commonly shortcuts.

control key (CTRL)     A key used to access commands through the keyboard rather than the menus. CTRL commands are commonly shortcuts.

control panel     A window you can open to adjust various aspects of your computer, such as the volume, fonts, desktop background, mouse speed, and clock.

CPU      Central Processing Unit. The CPU is the hardware that most people consider the "brain" of the computer. It takes instructions from software, makes calculations, and helps run the show!


desktop      The background behind all your windows, menus, and dialog boxes: your virtual desk. You can change the look of your desktop by applying different properties to it through your control panel.

domain name      The unique address name for an Internet site. The part on the left is the most specific, and the part on the right is the most general. Each domain name is associated with one and only one Internet Protocol Number, which is translated by a Domain Name System (DNS).


download      To save a file onto your computer from another source, like the Internet. People often download files, such as free-ware, share-ware, for installations, and sounds, movie clips, text files, or news streams onto their computer for viewing or listening.

DNS      Domain Name System. This is a service that stores, translates, and retrieves the numerical address equivalents of familiar host names that you use everyday (such as the "www.4teachers.org" in http://www.4teachers.org). Each host name corresponds to a numerical address required by standard Internet protocol that the DNS retrieves in order to allow you to remember addresses with names, not numbers. DNS entries are housed on numerous servers worldwide.


Ethernet      A common method of networking computers in a Local Area Network (LAN). Ethernet can handle from 10,000,000-100,000,000 bits-per-second (or 10-100 megabits-per-second) and can be used with almost any kind of computer.


Finder      The Finder is the default open application on a Macintosh, and it's represented by a little, purple, happy face icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Most people think of it as the desktop, however, or as the utility that lets you navigate quickly among open programs. When you click on the Finder, you can designate which of your open applications will be the active one.


firewall      Hardware and/or software that separates a Local Area Network (LAN) into two or more parts for security purposes.

FTP      File Transfer Protocol. A set of rules that allows two computers to "talk" to one another while transferring files from one to another. This is the protocol used when you transfer a file from one computer to another across the Internet. Many Internet sites have publicly accessible repositories of information that can be obtained using FTP, by logging in using the account name "anonymous." These sites are called "anonymous ftp servers."


GIF      Graphics Interchange Format. An efficient method of storing graphics developed for CompuServe in the early 1980s. GIF files take up a small amount of disk space and can be transmitted quickly over phone lines. GIFs can be viewed on any computer platform and are best for illustrations, cartoons, logos, or similar non-photographic graphics.


hard drive      A device for storing information in a fixed location within your computer. The equivalent of a filing cabinet in an office, the hard drive is used for storing programs and documents that are not being used.

hexadecimal code      Also called Hex codes. In HTML, colors are identified by a six-character string of numbers and letters (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,A,B,C,D,E,F) derived from base-16 mathematics. The codes are used to convert RGB (red, red, and red) values into something HTML can understand. Pure red would be #FF0000.

homepage      The page on the Internet which most often gives users access to the rest of the Web site. A site is a collection of pages.

host      The name given to any computer directly connected to the Internet. Host computers are usually associated with running computer networks, online services, or bulletin board systems. A host computer on the Internet could be anything from a mainframe to a personal computer. See also DNS.

HTML      Hypertext Markup Language. This is the coding language used to create sites on the World Wide Web.

hypertext      Generally any text in a file that contains words, phrases, or graphics that, when clicked, cause another document to be retrieved and displayed. Hypertext most often appears blue and underlined in Web pages.


icon    Symbols or illustrations on the desktop or computer screen that indicate program files, documents, or other functions.

IP Number      Internet Protocol number. A unique number consisting of four parts separated by dots, for example This is the number assigned to a host machine which is retrieved by a DNS when a request for an Internet site is made. These numbers usually correspond to unique domain names, which are easier for people to remember.


JPG or JPEG      An efficient method for storing graphic files for transmission across phone lines. Unlike GIF files, JPG files lose a little data when the image is converted, and their files are often much larger than GIFs. However, JPGs are your best choice for photographic images.


kilobyte (KB)      A thousand bytes. Due to the binary nature of computers, it's 210 bytes, technically 1024 bytes.


LAN      Local Area Network. A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building.

Linux      An operating system that is a UNIX clone. It was created by programmer Linus Torvalds, who gave Linux its name. Linux is under special copyright that allows anyone to improve it, but no one to profit from it.

listserv      A very common program used to run a mailing list. Because it is so common, mailing lists are often called listservs, even if they are run with different software.


mailing list      A system that allows people to send e-mail to one address, which is then copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the mail list. In this way, people who may be using different kinds of e-mail access can participate in discussions together.

menu bar      A horizontal strip at the top of a window that shows the menus available in a program.

motherboard      A computer's main circuit board, containing the CPU, microprocessor support chips, RAM, and expansion (bus) slots. Also known as the logic board.


newsgroup      Usenet newsgroups are Internet discussion groups whose topics are about as diverse as you can imagine. If you have an original idea for a newsgroup, and gather some people who want to subscribe, you can probably begin a newsgroup.

network       A group of connected computers that allows people to share information and equipment. Many schools have a Local Area Network and are also connected to a Wide Area Network, such as the World Wide Web.


operating system (OS)      This is the programming that makes your computer run its most basic functions. Some examples are UNIX, Linux, Windows 95, 98, or NT, and Mac OS 7 and 8.5.


personal computer (PC)      A microcomputer with its own processor and hard drive. Although technically this refers to all such computers, including Macs, the term PC is nearly synonymous with only the IBM-compatible microcomputers.

PING      Packet Internet Gopher. A TCP/IP application that sends a message to another computer, waits for a reply, and displays the time the transmission took. This serves to identify what computers are available on the Internet and how long wait-times are.

plain text      This is text without extraneous codes that designate font size, font style, et cetera. See ASCII.

plug-in      A small piece of software that adds features to already existing, usually large, programs.

pulldown menu      A list of options that "pulls down" when you select a menu at the top of a window. For example, the File menu in most programs is a pulldown menu that reveals commands such as open, new, and save.


QBE      Query By Example. A search method for databases in which the user fills out the form by following the examples given.


RAM      Random Access Memory. Readable and writeable memory that acts as a storage area while the computer is on, and is erased every time the computer is turned off. This memory stores data and helps execute programs while in use.

ROM      Read Only Memory. Readable memory that cannot be corrupted by accidental erasure. ROM retains its data when the computer is turned off.


search engine      Any of a number of giant databases on the Internet which store data on Web sites and their corresponding URLs. Some popular search engines are Metacrawler, Alta Vista, and Excite.

server      A computer or software package that provides a specific service to client software running on other computers. The term can refer to a particular piece of software, such as a WWW server, or to the machine on which the software is running, hence the popular phrase: "The server's down."

shortcuts      Key strokes that enact the same commands available in the menus of a program. They are quicker and more direct, and usually involve two or three keys depressed simultaneously. An example is the save shortcut: CTRL + s on a PC or apple key+s on a Mac. To learn more, click here.

solutions integrator       A type of consulting business that helps other businesses integrate new technology into their existing structure. The technology being integrated includes: supply-chain management systems, sales-force automation systems, e-commerce, Internet development telecommunications, computer telephony, etc.

sysop      Systems operator. A person responsible for the operations of a computer system or network. Part of such operations are security checks and routine maintenance.


T-1      One of the fastest leased-line connections used for the Internet. It is capable of transmitting data at roughly 1.5 million bits per second, still not fast enough for full-screen, full-motion video.

TCP/IP      Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The programming protocols invented by individuals in the U.S. Department of Defense to carry messages around the Internet.

technology      The application of scientific discoveries to the development and improvement of goods and services that ideally improve the life of humans and their environment. Such goods and services include materials, machinery, and processes that improve production or solve problems. In schools, technology ranges from pencils, books, and furniture to lighting, transportation, computers, and more. Most common references in schools imply computing or computer-related programs.


UNIX      A multi-user operating system that was used to create most of the programs and protocols that built the Internet.

URL      Uniform Resource Locators. This is the address of any given site on the Internet. The URL of this site is: http://www.4teachers.org/glossary/index.shtml


VGA      Virtual Graphics Array. This standard video graphics adapter was created by IBM and has been since improved in Super VGA, which generally supports "true color" or 16.8 million colors.

virtual   With regard to memory, virtual refers to temporarily storing information on the hard drive. Virtual memory is controlled automatically by the operating system.


WAIS      Wide Area Information Server. A software system intended to search large database servers on the Web, and then rank the findings or hits.

WAN      Wide Area Network. This network connects several computer so they can share files and sometimes equipment, as well as exchange e-mail. A wide area network connects computers across a large geographic area, such as a city, state, or country. The World Wide Web is a WAN.

word processor       The software used to produce documents, such as letters, posters, reports, and syllabi. Common word processors used in schools are MS Works, MS Word, or ClarisWorks.

WYSIWYG       What You See Is What You Get. Monitor output that closely resembles the printed output. Most software now offers WYSIWYG options, like "print preview."


XModem       A file transfer protocol for modems in which data is sent from the Internet to the PC without acknowledgment from the PC.


YMMV       E-mail and chat abbreviation for "your mileage may vary," indicating that your results may vary.


zipped files      Zipped files are files that are compressed and must be "unzipped" to be read. Zipped files download faster because they are smaller than an uncompressed equivalent.

click here to cont@ct us

Return to 4Teachers

Copyright. © 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997 ALTEC, the University of Kansas

This page is Bobby Approved.