AC Adapter: A specialized power cord for plugging a notebook computer, router, or other device into your wall socket. Distinguished from conventional power cords by plugs the size of Milwaukee.
Autoload: The act of a program launching itself when you start your computer, whether you want that program to launch itself or not. Many autoloading programs serve vital and important functions, such as putting pretty little icons in your system tray and finding a use for excess memory.
Backup: A mythical activity that someone, somewhere, might someday actually do.
BIOS: Basic In/Out System. That’s not what it means; get your mind out of the gutter! The BIOS is a chip on the motherboard (see Motherboard) that helps the CPU (see CPU) relate to the world outside (see World Outside). Without the BIOS, your PC wouldn’ know what it’s incompatible with.
Blue Screen of Death: A standard user interface component of Microsoft Windows.
CD-R/RW: Compact Disc-Recordable/Rewriteable (or something like that). A failed attempt to create an acronym more ridiculous that PCMCIA (see PCMCIA). Let me explain: The R in CD-ROM stands for Read, as in “Read-only.” The first R in CD-R/RW stands for not being read-only (although the CDs you wRite with CD-R are occasionally readable). The second R means you can write to it twice.
Cookie: A small text file placed on your computer by a web page to help identify you. Unlike hardware cookies, these generally multiply faster than you can eat them.
CPU: Central Processing Unit. A large and expensive microchip that, like Mick Jagger, tends to overheat and burn out unless supplied with plenty of fans. Computer geeks like to brag about the size and performance of their CPUs.
Display Adapter: Also known as video card, display card, and video adapter. Circuitry that connects your computer to your display monitor (the thing you are looking at right now if you’re reading this online). There are an infinite number of companies making display adapters, each of which has released an infinite number of models. Each model has had, over the years, an infinite number of driver updates. This is why computers don’t work.
EULA: End-User License Agreement. Something you don’t read before clicking “I Agree.” No one knows what follows the first few paragraphs in a typical EULA. Theories range from the typed ramblings of caffeine-crazed legal secretaries to an otherwise undiscovered manuscript by Plato.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions. What is an FAQ? An FAQ is a list of questions, usually available as a web page or text file, containing answers to every question except the one you asked.
Firewall: A device, either software or hardware, that is absolutely essential if you have an Internet connection. It’s job is to keep data from moving in and out of your computer.
HTML: Hypertext Markup Language. A simple, fundamental code used to design and display web pages. Most professional web designers find HTML too limiting, so they augment it with more advanced languages better suited for their acts of espionage and destruction.
Java: One of those more advanced languages. The name is inspired by the great deal of caffeine needed to master its threading model. Java is also noteworthy for the fact that, despite its clumsy and difficult nature, Microsoft wants it to go away.
Internet: A vast, international database of trivia, advertising, and pornography.
Motherboard: The thing inside that metal box that makes it behave like a computer. On the motherboard you will generally find the CP/U, BIOS, RAM, and several pounds of dust.
Multimedia: An umbrella term for a range of technologies designed to reduce workplace productivity.
Object: 1) A defined string of code or data to be manipulated in an object-oriented programming language. 2) An image to be moved about and acted upon in a graphical user interface. 3) A thing to be thrown at the monitor when the computer doesn’t behave as it should.
PCMCIA: Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. Absolutely the stupidest acronym ever invented.
RAM: Random Access Memory. Silicon chips that can store digital data as long as they have electricity going through them. Called random because of their tendency to convert data into strings of arbitrary ones and zeros.
Scroll Lock: A keyboard key with no known function.
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Spyware: A program that takes over your computer and violates your privacy—generally for someone else’s profit. Among the better known spyware programs are Absolute Keylogger, SafeSearch, and Microsoft Windows.
TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. A network protocol that serves as the underlying technology behind the Internet. Many home networks today also use TCP/IP to connect the various computers in the home, and to allow anyone on the Internet access to their credit card numbers.
URL: Universal Resource Locator. An Internet address, referred to as a URL because it causes more confusion than Internet address.
Wi-Fi: Wireless Fidelity. Another name for the popular and accepted IEEE 802 wireless local area networking protocol. Most people call the protocol Wi-Fi because IEEE sounds like a terrified scream.
World Outside: What exists beyond your computer and the Internet. Said to be primarily analog.