Have you ever spent time with a group of computers or IT professionals talking about the store? Terms like “LAN”, “RAM” and “bandwidth” entered the conversation and you had no idea what that meant. It can be a little intimidating to hear all that tech jargon thrown around. But don’t let a small language barrier stop you from enrolling in computer science terms.
Just because you’re new to the game doesn’t mean you need to be left out of the conversation. With a little preparation, you can impress your classmates on the first day of school with your computer know-how.
To get you started, we’ve compiled this basic list of computer terms you should decode before setting foot in class. Brush up on this common vocabulary and you’ll be up to speed with your tech friends’ conversations in no time.
25 computer terms you need to know
Each industry has its own jargon, and computing is no exception. Become familiar with these 25 computer terms to impress your classmates and teachers from day one.
Analog technology is any part of the technology that does its job without processing numbers electronically as a computer does. You might think of analog as “old school” technology, like movie cameras or tape recorders.
This term refers to the amount of information that can be transmitted or processed, wirelessly, or over a wired connection. Internet services will advertise high speeds measured in bandwidth, so it is a well-known component of the IT world.
3. Big data
Big data is a quick way to refer to the huge amounts of data that companies collect on a daily basis. Businesses face a number of big data management challenges, especially when it comes to analytics and security.
Bit stands for “binary binary”, the smallest piece of information used by a computer. Each piece is 1 or 0, which are binary numbers that make up a computer language. Pieces are literally the foundation on which computing is built. Because they are so small, computer wizards require basic technology to think of pieces on a larger scale:
Byte = 8 beats
Kilobytes = 1024 bytes
Megabytes = 1024 kilobytes
Gigabytes = 1024 megabytes
A bug is a programming error that causes wisdom or unexpected problems for the end-user of a program.
6. Cloud storage
Cloud storage is another way to store data in the physical memory of a computer. Information stored “in the cloud” is stored on remote servers that can be accessed anywhere over the Internet.
Code refers to various programming languages used to create, modify, or manage computer programs or applications. Most computer science students specialize in a handful of programming languages depending on the career they would like to pursue.
8. Control panel
Just as it sounds, the control panel is a tool that allows you to change or modify the program’s settings as it looks or behaves.
CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, which is a processing chip and “brain” of the computer.
10. Data security
This is the process of protecting data from unauthorized users or hackers.
Debugging refers to the process of finding and removing errors from the source code of a program. The goal is for programmers to discover and fix bugs before their end-user has problems.
Digital technology is the opposite of analog. It is anything that uses a computer’s binary language to do its job. Digitizing something means converting analog data into digital data that can be used by a computer.
13. Archiving to disk
Disk storage refers to your computer’s hard drive or long-term memory. This is where a computer stores information that is not being used at that time. If disk storage becomes too full, a computer could slow down as it takes some time to wade through all that data.
Ethernet is similar to the Internet. It is a system that connects multiple computers or devices to the same network, enabling fast and monitored data transmission. Ethereal networks have limited network access managed by a handful of sysadmins, making it a secure networking solution for many businesses.
This term can refer to an experienced programmer. But the most common use refers to someone who can gain unauthorized access to, or “hack into,” other computers or networks. IT specialists can get the qualifications to become a certified ethical hacker.
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is a coding language used to write Internet-based documents, such as websites. It is one of the basic programming languages that you will most likely learn early in your computer career.
This device is a central connection for all computers on a network, which is generally based on Ethernet. Information sent to the hub can go to any other computer on the network.
An index is a list of data, such as a group of files or database entries. It is usually saved in a plain text format so that a computer can quickly scan it to retrieve the information it needs.
19. IP address
Also known as “IP number” or simply “IP”, it is a numerical code that identifies a specific computer on the Internet. Think of it as the unique social security number of a computer.
LAN stands for “Local Area Network”. It is a small network of computers, often located in a room. (Think of your high school or college computer lab.)
21. Plain text
Plain text that does not support italics, underlines, bold characters, fonts, or font sizes.
Also known as a microprocessor, this little chip is the heart of a computer. The processor does all the calculations for the computer, which means that it is responsible for every bit of input and output that comes from the computer. Speed matters when it comes to processors and many can handle trillions of calculations per second.
This is an acronym for Random-Access Memory, the place where a computer stores data while it is being used or modified. Think of it as the short-term memory of a computer. It does not have unlimited storage, but it allows quick access to the information you are currently using.
ROM stands for read-only memory. This is a memory that can only be read and cannot be written. Computers use ROM to store important tasks such as startup processes and software instructions.
Vaporware is software advertised and sold from time to time but not yet available. Sometimes the company is still fine-tuning before launching a Steam software product. In some cases, a company knows that a product doesn’t exist (or won’t exist for years), but uses marketing tricks to measure interest.
Take your computing knowledge to the next level
Now that you are ready to impress these computer science terms, you can continue the essential conversation in the first few courses. Most of the curriculum covers most of this vocabulary so you can get one step ahead of your classmates.