Computer Terminology - A

This web page looks at some of the terminology associated with the Computer Industry. This appendix is not to be deemed as complete but does cover a large range of common terminology.

If you find a term not covered in this file you may Email Button and list the word (computer connected terminology ONLY). We will endeavour to locate the meaning and respond to you. If we consider it a common enough term, we will add it to our list. New terminology (with explanation) may also be submitted for consideration.

Index SIZE Numeric 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 (AUP): A formal set of rules that governs how a network may be used. For example, the original NSFnet Acceptable Use Policy forbade non-research use by commercial organizations. AUPs sometimes restrict the type of material that can be made publicly available; many AUPs ban the transmission of pornographic material.

access number: The telephone number used by a subscriber to dial into an Internet Service Provider or online service.

ACK: 1. Acknowledge. Used to confirm one's presence. An appropriate response to ping.
2. When one computer sends a block of data to another over a network, the second computer sends an acknowledgment code back to indicate that the transfer was successful. If there were errors detected in the transmission, the second computer would send a negative acknowledgment (NAK).

Active X: A software technology developed by Microsoft that allows programmed capabilities or content to be delivered to Windows-based personal computers via the World Wide Web. Active X is notable for a complete lack of security controls; computer security experts discourage its use over the Internet.

address: There are three types of addresses in common use on the Internet: email addresses, IP addresses, and Uniform Resource Locators. See also email address, IP address, Uniform Resource Locator.

address book: A feature of some email applications that stores names and email addresses in an accessible format.

ADPCM: Adaptive Pulse Code Modulation

AFK: Abbreviation for Away From Keyboard.

agent: A software process empowered to transparently act for or represent a user by completing transactions, seeking information of specific interest, or communicating with other users and agents. The Firefly online service is a good example of agent technology at work, AI: See artificial intelligence.

alt: 1. A top-level category of "alternative" USENET newsgroups. These unmoderated newsgroups can be started by anyone with the time, equipment, and expertise. The alt hierarchy covers perhaps the widest variety of topics ranging from the informative to the bizarre, and from the politically radical to the explicitly sexual.
2. The Alt key on the keyboard of IBM PC compatibles, typically used in conjunction with other keys.

AltaVista: An Internet search engine at

America Online: The leading commercial online service that serves as an entry point into cyberspace for millions of network newcomers.

Analogue Used to describe a continuously variable signal, as opposed to a discrete or "digital" one, or a circuit designed to handle such signals.

anonymous FTP: A service that allows free public access to archived documents, files, and programs via the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). It's not necessary to have a user ID and password when logging into an anonymous FTP site. The user ID "anonymous" bypasses local security checks; often email addresses serve as courtesy passwords. See also File Transfer Protocol.

API: See Application Program Interface.

Applet: A small self-contained piece of computer code that either runs by itself or within another programme.

Application: A software programme designed to perform a specific task or group of tasks, such as word processing, communications, or database management.

Application Program Interface: (abbreviation: API) A document for programmers that provides the technical specifications for interfacing with an application from another program.

Archie: A database service that automatically gathers, indexes, and catalogues files on Internet servers. The initial implementation of Archie provided an indexed directory of filenames from all anonymous FTP archives on the Internet. Later versions provide other collections of information. Archie was developed by McGill School of Computer Science.

archive site: A server that provides access to an organized collection of files available to the public.

ARPANET: Forerunner of the Internet created by the United States military during the cold war. ARPANET was designed by its founders to be a military command and control center that could withstand nuclear attack.

artificial intelligence: (abbreviation: AI) A branch of computer science that studies how to endow computers with capabilities of human intelligence. For example, speech recognition is a problem being worked on by AI scientists.

ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange. An encoding system for converting keyboard characters and instructions into the binary number code that the computer understands

ASP: This is an SSI term and refers to Active Server pages.

attached file: A file that is embedded into an email message.

AUP: See Acceptable Use Policy.

authentication: The verification of the identity of a person or process.

backbone: The top level of a hierarchical network. The main pipes along which data is transferred. The "Internet backbone" is sometimes referred to, though it doesn't exist.