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Glossary of Terms

  • Analog Modem
    An analog modem is a device that enables a computer to transmit data over telephone lines (e.g. 28.8Kbps [kilobits per second] and 56Kbps). Computer information is stored digitally, whereas information transmitted over telephone lines is transmitted in the form of "analog" information (ie not 1's and 0's). Analog modems translate data from digital to analog and back. The fastest analog modems run at 57,600 bps.
  • Bandwidth
    The amount of information that can be transmitted over the Internet during a second. Essentially, the size of the pipe.
  • Bit (short for 'binary digit')
    The smallest, most basic unit of computer data. Bits are either on or off (one or zero)
  • bps or Bps (bits or Bytes per second)
    The speed at which data is transferred.
  • Browser
    The application that serves as your interface with the World Wide Web. Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer are the two most common browsers.
  • Byte
    Equal to 8 bits, one Byte of data is the standard unit of measure on the Internet. Each Byte represents one character (such as a letter or number). Often you will see terms like KiloByte (KB), which is one thousand Bytes, or MegaByte (2 MB or 2 Megs), one million Bytes, or GigaByte (eg 2 GB or 2 Gigs) which is one billion Bytes. Now you may even see the term TeraByte, which represents one trillion Bytes!
  • Cache (pronounced "cash")
    The location in your computer's memory, or in an independent storage device, reserved for easy, high speed retrieval of information. Your computer uses cache memory to speed its performance, and web browsers use cached pages (stored on your harddrive) to speed the loading of frequently visited sites.
  • Chat
    Real-time communication between multiple users over the Internet. Like a party line or conference call using text instead of speech. The text appears as it is typed on all PCs participating in the chat. Internet chat occurs in 'chat room' web pages, or in IRC, or using instant messaging programs such as ICQ or AIM.
  • DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)
    A protocol for remotely assigning IP addresses to devices. The device (such as your computer) asks the DHCP server for an address, and the DHCP server grants a lease (meaning that the IP address will expire and need to be renewed by the computer).
  • Domain name
    The human-readable address for a web site. The Internet actually uses numbers (IP addresses) to locate computers, but this isn't the easiest way for people to remember things, so domain names are used. Domains tell some things about the site they point to, such as being a company name ( They can have beginning parts that tell how they are accessed (www for World Wide Web, ftp for File Transfer Protocol), and end in an extension such as the following:
    • com: company
    • edu: educational
    • org: organization
    • gov: government
    • mil: military
    • net: network
    • XX: two letter country codes (e.g. United Kingdom = uk, Canada = ca)
  • DNS (Domain Name Service)
    The method by which IP addresses are translated into domain names and back again. DNS is needed to be able to go to a page using its domain name (ie
  • Download
    The process of transferring files from another computer to your computer over a network connection.
  • Driver
    A program that controls peripheral hardware devices, such as a printer or modem.
  • E-mail (electronic mail)
    E-mail is the primary means of communication over the Internet, as well as its most frequently used application. Users can send each other messages, attaching complete documents, photos, or audio and video clips.
  • E-mail address
    This is where electronic mail is received. It is a combination of a username and a hostname, such as '' or ''
  • Ethernet card (a.k.a. NIC, or Network Interface Card)
    An expansion board that connects a PC, or PCs, to a network.
  • Home page
    The first page of a web site, usually serving as an introduction and table of contents. The address is usually simplified, containing only the site name, and suffix. For example:
  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
    The coding language used to create web pages.
  • HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol)
    The protocol that is used for loading and displaying web pages.
  • Hub
    A device for connecting many computers together. Like the hub of a wheel, it implies connections from one central location to many computers.
  • Hyperlink
    An icon, graphic or word on a web page that opens another page when clicked.
  • IP (Internet Protocol)
    The protocol which specifies the format of information 'packets' transported over the Internet, including how the packets are addressed for delivery.
  • IP address
    The numerical address of a computer or a web page. Internet protocols recognize a specific machine by this address, and use DNS to translate from the IP address to the domain name.
  • ISP (Internet Service Provider)
    ISPs, such as Fauquier Communication Centre Society, provide access to the Internet, be it to individuals or to large companies. Included with access to the internet are usually other services, such as an email address and web page hosting.
  • LAN (Local Area Network)
    A group of computers connected by a network, such as that in a single office, building or company.
  • MAC (Media Access Control)
    Controls the way multiple devices are accessed, both by the computer controlling them and outside devices.
  • Mail server
    A host server which holds e-mail messages for clients. The client (the program you use to get your email) connects to the mail server and retrieves any messages that are waiting for you.
  • Plug-in
    An application which can be accessed via a larger program (such as your browser) to carry out specialized tasks such as playing audio or video. Plug-ins are designed to integrate automatically with existing programs.
  • POP3 (Post Office Protocol)
    The protocol for incoming e-mail.
  • Proxy server
    A machine or program that stands as a go-between for other computers. Your client connects to the proxy, which then connects to the web page you want to access. Pages that have already been accessed by another user are cached, and so popular pages can load much more quickly when using a proxy. Also, the page you are connecting to sees the connection as coming from the proxy rather than your computer, so a layer of privacy is introduced.
  • SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)
    The protocol for outgoing mail.
  • Static IP
    A fixed (non-dynamic) IP address. Your IP address and host name are recorded in DNS, and remain unchanged each log in.
  • TCP/IP (Transport Control/Internet Protocol)
    IP is the protocol which oversees the transmission of information packets from one machine to another. TCP makes sure the packets have arrived and that the message is complete. These two protocols are the basic language of the Internet, and are often referred to together as TCP/IP.
  • Upload The process of transferring files from your computer to another computer over a network connection.
  • URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
    Describes the location and access method of an Internet resource (web page, ftp site). For example, the URL can be interpretted as follows: http is the access method (ie it is a web page), the // tells your computer to look on the internet, is the domain (which also says it is a web page with the www, but this isn't required). /policy is the directory where the file is located, and index.html it the name of the file to load.
  • WWW (World Wide Web)
    The part of the Internet that is the most visible, containing web pages and associated files. Other parts of the Internet include (but aren't limited to): IRC (Internet Relay Chat), mail, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites, Usenet (message groups), Telnet (connecting to a remote computer to run commands), and many others.