Glossary of technical terminology

From time to time, you'll encounter terms which you are unfamiliar with, this page mentions some of the common ones, with brief explanations (it's a collection of terms, gleaned over quite some time, not all of them are used by this documentation).

Also, at some stage, you're likely to need to ask for help with something, and it's important that you use the right terms, so that the other person understands what you're talking about.  For instance, if you're having a problem with your news reader program, then call it a “news reader”, not just a “news program”, and mention which particular program that you're using.  A news program is a very vague term, and could refer to a reader, a server, some utility that works with news servers, or anything else.  And various programs work in different ways, so it's difficult to advise without knowing which one that you're using; also, because there are so many different ones, don't expect everybody to be familiar with what you're using.

A Microsoft method of including various system function within a webpage.  Unfortunately, it's insecure, and lets web pages do far too much with your system, handing control of your computer over to a complete stranger (many of whom should not be trusted, at all).  It's also not a “standard” and won't work on other non-Microsoft webbrowsers, unless those browsers go out of their way to include support for this non-standard, and hazardous, system.  Webpages that "rely" on it, will only work with some browsers (those that support it, and those that allow it).
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
An addition to the ordinary PSTN telephone connection, where an additional digital service runs over the same set of wires (circumstances permitting), typically for the use of internet data services.  The asymmetric part refers to the line having different speed capabilities for each direction; you're (usually) able to receive data faster than you're able to send it (which suits the usual use people make of their internet services).
Blue Screen Of Death
A serious error message on the Windows operating system.  So called, because it's usually displayed against a blue background, occupying the entire display screen, and typically not recoverable from.
A temporary (local) copy of something, for more rapid access to the same information.  Fast CPUs commonly use a cache of recently used data, for increasing their operating speed (it's faster to fetch data from its own memory, than the main computer memory).  Web browsers usually keep a local cache of visited pages, so that you can quickly return to previously retrieved resources, without having to re-get them from the internet.  Web proxies commonly also act as a cache, keeping a local copy of a request for the next person, on the same network, who requests the same thing.
Common Internet File System
A filing system developed by Microsoft for Wide Area Networks (e.g. the internet), as development to SMB (CIFS uses SMB and NetBIOS).
A program which does it's job (e.g. a web browser), by connecting to another program, a “server” program (such as a web server) for the information that it needs.
Central Processing Unit
The part of a computer that makes decisions based on information, and performs operations on data; it “processes” data.
Casscading Style Sheets
The best, and current, way to add customised styling (a particular “look”) to webpages.  It's based on techniques used in professional printing, where page content and the style of display are separately handled.  This page uses CSS to make it look prettier than just a plain page.
Disk And Execution MONitor
A program that waits around for a request, then responds to it.  Usually, daemons are “server” processes (e.g. a web page server, that provides web pages, on demand).  Typically it's also controlled by another process (which starts up the daemon, as required, when a connection attempt it made, and deals with connecting them together), rather than running as a stand-alone process (where the server is always running, always waiting for a connection to itself).
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
A system where a LAN's DHCP server is able to provide information to its clients (other devices on the LAN that have DHCP clients) to set the address that the devices use for themselves, and inform them about other addresses being used on the LAN to provide other services (e.g. where DNS and proxy services are located), allowing the clients to be automatically configured.  This also allows the device to be taken to different networks, and be automatically (and correctly) configured for the network that it's currently connected to.
Domain names

An unique internet name that someone registers as being their own, so that any requests for resources related to that domain name, are directed towards whatever services they provide.  The domain name consists of, at least, two names with a dot between them (e.g. or, comprised of their name, plus a top level domain name.  The top level domain name (TLD) is supposed to represent the type of service (e.g. “com” for commercial), or the country (e.g. “au” for Australia).  Anything preceeding that (e.g. “www” as in is not part of the domain name (it's a sub-domain, or hostname), and is under the control of the domain name owner (it's not something that they have to “register” with an outside body).  Put together, a sub-domain and domain name, is called a “fully-qualified domain name” (FQDN).

Strictly speaking, domain names end with a dot, which represents the absolute top level (e.g. “”).  Though it only tends to be things like DNS records that insist on being correctly written.

Domain Name System
The system of relating numerical IP addresses (e.g., to named ones (e.g. server.localhost), and vice versa.
ECMA is an international association of industries, founded in 1961, dedicated to the standardisation of information and communication systems.  The ECMA website makes the information freely available to all interested bodies.
ECMA script
ECMA script”, or more properly, “ECMA-262”, is a standardisation of Netscape's JavaScript, in an attempt to finally get a useful scripting language; one that works in a predictable fashion, on all the different web browsers.
Electronic mail
A network version of traditional mail.  Messages are typed and sent to an internet address, from an internet address.  This addresses are in the form of an account name at a domain name (e.g.  The “account name” may be personal, a nickname, or general query term (e.g. sales, help, etc.) to be answered by anybody dealing with that area.
A system to block access to/from a network.  They can block certain types of traffic (e.g. filesharing), while allowing others (e.g. web browsing).  They can block traffic from certain addresses (e.g. ones on the internet), while allowing others (e.g. ones on your local network).  And various other criteria can be used.  Firewalls are a way to (try and) protect against abuse or attack, (supposedly) without crippling your own use of the network.
File Transfer Protocol
A scheme for transferring files between two places.  There are various ways of transferring files, but FTP is the name given to a particular purpose.  It's used between FTP clients and FTP servers.
Hyper-Text Mark-up Language
The usual language used to write webpages.  It allows the creation of documents that can be easily read on any computer, and for those documents to link to other resources.  The current, ratified, “standard”, definition of HTML is devloped and published by the W3C, and there is also a defined ISO HTMLstandard” (the ISO publishes a standard that has been developed by other bodies).
Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol
The scheme used for transferring data on WWW pages (the links, that you follow, use HTTP to get the resource that you're requesting).  However, it's not restricted to use just on webpages.  Other applications may use the same scheme to interact with web servers, without having to make any use of a “webpage”.
Secure Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol
A scheme used for securely transferring data on the WWW.  It involves using data encryption, and a certificates to prove the identity of the remote party (the certificates are created by some authority which has verified their credentials).
Something that “hosts” a service.  For instance, you may pay a host to serve your webpages to the world.
Internet Mail Access Protocol
A method of accessing your mail box across an internet connection, that caters for keeping your mail in your remote mailbox, so that it can be accessed from any other location (you look at a local “copy”, the message remains on the server, until deliberately removed).
Instant messaging
A messaging system where messages are instantly delivered to the recipient (if they're on-line), who's able to instantly respond.  This is different from systems like e-mail, where messages are sent to their mailbox, waiting to be collected.
International network
A Wide Area Network without boundaries.  Has it's beginnings from ARPAnet (an U.S.A.-only WAN), and Milnet (an U.S.A. military network).
A network of computer systems that are connected to each other, for internal networking rather than being part of the internet.  In some cases, one of them is connected to the internet, and may provide internet access to the rest of them, but the rest of them aren't directly a part of the internet.
IP address
Internet Protocol address
Every network interface on the internet has an unique numerical address, these IP addresses identify the location of that interface.  They don't directly refer to a particular computer, but an “interface” on it (a computer can have more than one interface, and each one of those has their own unique address).
Integrated Services Digital Network
A digital telephone networking system (developed long before ADSL), that allows 64 or 128 kilobits/second communications, for faster, and much more reliable digital communications than using a MODEM over ordinary analogue voice telphone lines.
International Standardisation Organisation
An organisation that is used to define “standard” ways of doing things, and definitions that mean the same thing where ever they're used (e.g. measurements).
Internet Service Provider
A body that provides you with access to internet services.  Typically, a business.
A programming system, designed by Sun Microsystems, so that a program can be run on any type of computer (that a Java engine has been made for), without requiring many different versions of that program.  That ability has been wrecked by Microsoft, by deliberately making their own incompatible Java engine, and coercing the world to use their non-standard system.  Java is typically used to add special features to web services, though it can be used by itself, outside of the WWW environment.

A scripting language for making webpages more fancy, and interactive, than static pre-written HTML pages.  JavaScript is Netscape's baby, though thanks to the usual commercial lack of foresight, and inability to be consistent, it's implementation on different browsers is wildly varying, and can't be relied upon for two different browsers to do the same tricks with the same JavaScript.  More recently, ECMA script has been developed as a “standardised” replacement.

Other than Netscape jumping on Sun Microsystem's bandwagon, copying the word “Java” in the naming of the scripting language (Netscape were originally calling it “LiveScript”), JavaScript has absolutely nothing to do with Java.

Local Area Network
A system that's networked over a small, local, area.  Typically, a collection of personal computers.
Main frame
A powerful computer system that serves a number of users, who operate it from remote terminals.  Typically, it was used by many people, simultaneously (or “sequentially”, in a time shared basis, would be a more accurate description).  This allowed organisations to have one (very good) computer, that was administrated by (alleged) experts, with cheap (and simple) terminals for each user.  This centralised system also meant that each user could use their account, at any terminal; as each “dumb terminal” (being little more than a keyboard and display) was merely a remote access point for the main computer.  IBM's development of the personal computer shifted direction from running one central computer, to each user running their computer.  Then, running LAN's become popular (it was a problem to share resources around an office, between stand-alone computer systems).  Now, the concept of main-frames is becoming popular again (at least as far as having a major server, for a network of PCs).
A device for transferring digital signals (typically computer data), through an analogue systems (typically telephone lines).  It's what a large number of people use to connect their computer to their ISP.  The current technology has a maximum transfer speed of 56 kilobits/second towards the MODEM (on a suitable phone line), and 34 kilobits/second in the opposite direction.
Network Basic Input/Output System
Used by Windows to share resources (e.g. printers and disk space).
NetBIOS Enhanced User-Interface
A Microsoft Local Area Networking protocol used by Windows to share resources (e.g. printers and disk space).  It's a simple scheme (requiring little configuration by the user), and can only work on the same (local) network.  Giving it some security (by default), as it cannot cross over to other networks (e.g. between your LAN and the internet).
Articles published for everyone to read, and often discuss (you can, usually, respond to the same place that you read the article), through news servers using NNTP.  News servers carry a plethora of news groups, each “group” dedicated to specific topics, according to an established hierarchy (a.k.a. “usenet”, short for user network).  Each article is propagated to many networked servers; and users may respond, as well as write their own articles, which will also be disseminated far and wide.  Users are expected to use the correct groups, according to the content of their message, and ignoring the structure is not tolerated (the backlash may be severe; you have been warned).  The structure has to be observed, or the system will not work (there's a massive amount of people on the net, and using the system; it'd be impossible to find what you're looking for, and get appropriate responses, without this structure).
Network News Transfer Protocol
The protocol used for handling news publication across the internet, in “news groups” dedicated to particular topics.
Personal Computer
A fully self-contained computer, that a person might use.  Previously, computers were large main-frame system, where you used a simple (dumb) terminal to operate it remotely (you had little more than a keyboard and a display).  Nowadays, a PC is commonly used to refer to a clone of an IBM personal computer, running Microsoft Windows.
Post Office Protocol
A method of fetching mail from your remote mailbox, to your personal computer, for local reading of messages.
Point-to-Point Protocol
A method of connecting two points of a network using TCP/IP.  Typically used between a personal computer and their ISP over a dial-up connection.
An agent that acts as a go-between, between your system and another.  They're commonly used with web browsers, giving you some degree of isolation (they're sometimes used for privacy or security reasons), and to increase network efficiency when a caching proxy is used (the proxy caches the results of your request, so that the next person to request the same thing, gets the local copy, quickly; rather than re-getting it from the internet).
Public Switched Telephone Network
The ordinary (public) telephone system that we've been using for the last few decades.
Random Access Memory
Memory that can be accessed in any particular order that's required.  Typically, this refers to the memory that a computer uses to operate with.
Read-Only Memory
Memory that has its contents permanently stored within it.  Typically, a computer uses ROM to store the instructions that it needs to start up from first switch on, before it loads instructions stored elsewhere on the system.
An open-source version of SMB/CIFS, allowing non-Microsoft systems to network with Microsoft systems.
Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line
A type of extra digital service on top of an ordinary phone line, it's a similar system to ADSL, but it has the same speed capabilities in both directions.
A program which serves information to clients that request it (e.g. a web server, providing web pages to web browsers).
Server Message Block
A system that Windows uses for resource sharing (files & printers) over a LAN (it uses NetBIOS).
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
The usual method used for sending e-mail between locations.
Snail mail
An uncomplimentary name for the traditional postal service, so called because of its relative slowness, compared to the near-instant e-mail system.
A nickname given to junk mail, which is typically fired towards unexpected recipients in huge volumes.  The nickname has its origins from a Monty Python sketch which descends into chaos when people just start singing the word spam, over and over, overriding everything else that was happening in the scene (same as spam drowns your mailbox in rubbish, ruining your use of it).  Spamming (sending spam) is usually against the terms of services of most ISPs.
Defined ways of doing things, that's understood by (virtually) everybody.  So that they can interact with each other, correctly.  The internet relies on everybody operating in the same way (e.g. e-mail has to go through many different systems between sender and recipient, and can only do that if they operate in a standard manner).  The internet ceases to work properly when someone (e.g. Microsoft) decides to do things differently (usually, to deliberately break things, trying to monopolise them for themselves).
Domain names can be sub-divided, at the whim of the domain name owner, to direct that certain addresses can point to different IP addresses, so that different services (e.g. mail or webpage serving) can be handled by different machines.  Or, they can point to the same IP address, just so that distinctive names can be used for different needs.  Sub-domains prefix the domain name (e.g. “” and “” are different sub-domains of the “” domain).
Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol
The protocol used to transfer data on the internet, and one of the protocols used on LANs.
Top Level Domain (name)
The last one or two words in a domain name don't belong to the domain name owner, but to a higher authority/owner.  They, typically represent the type of service (commerical, organisation, government, etc.), and/or the country code (e.g. “” would be the top-level domain for ”“).
Uniform Resource Indicator
An internet address (one the points to some resource on the internet).  Typically, an address to a web page, but they can be used for many different types of resources.  Also known as an URL, however that term's been depreciated for the use of URI, now, instead.
Uniform Resource Locator
Another term for an internet address (one the points to some location on the internet), now depreciated for the term URI.  They're almost the same thing, near enough that most people can't tell the difference.
User network
An international array of servers which propagate news articles amongst themselves, using NNTP.
User agent
Something which does a task on your behalf, acting as an “agent”.  A web browser is an “user agent”, it gets, and displays, web pages on your behalf.  Likewise, a news client program is a user agent, it gets, and displays, news articles on your behalf.  Various technical documents, like the HTML specifications, usually refer to user agents, rather than webbrowsers, as webbrowsers are merely one type of user agent that can handle the data.
World Wide Web Consortium
A consortium of bodies that develop WWW technologies, including HTML.  For more information, you can visit the W3C website.
Wide Area Network
A system that's networked over a wide area.  Perhaps a whole building, a series of buildings, or the internet (a virtually unlimited area).
World Wide Web
A term referring to the interconnection of many different services across the world, that look somewhat like a spiderweb, if you were to draw a diagram of the network.  It's typically referred to, in regards to web page servers.

Homepage, computing, web authoring guidecontents, glossary, index, previous page, next page.

Main sections:
contact details
business info
personal info
eBay & trading
“sales” ads
“wanted” ads
video production
misc info
website info/help
my computers
general info
desktop publishing
typing skills
WWW authoring
internet primer
turn it off?
electrical safety