Computer Acronyms: What do these Computer Terms Mean?

mid century mainframe

Abbreviations and acronyms flood every technical field there is, be it finance, medicine, or computer science. What's more, experts use these terms with such fluency that you’d think they were speaking another language altogether. However, this over-reliance on technical jargon has alienated hordes of people hoping to get into the field and uncover its secrets.

With that said, we'll try to delve into some of the abbreviations and acronyms popular within the computer community; not only will this help you understand terms that might have flown over your head in earlier times, but it will also empower you should you ever consider building your own computer.

Nevertheless, before we get started, it is worth pointing out that a lot of the definitions can only be understood with reference to another definition: For instance, if you don't know what UNIX and DOS are, you might feel a bit confused when reading about ASCII. As a result, in the event that a certain definition confuses you, don’t fret and read on; odds are the definition you’re looking for is also on this list.

So, without further ado, let's get to it:


A:

AGP: Short for Accelerated Graphics Port, the AGP was first presented to the world in 1996 as a better alternative to the PCI, both of which were types of video interfaces. Yet, with the introduction of the PCI-e, the AGP has become more or less obsolete.

AI: Who hasn’t heard of Artificial Intelligence and all the buzz it’s been stirring for the past few years? Simply put, any time your computer shows signs of intelligence that is beyond strictly following commands, it is using AI.

AMOLED: When it comes to display technology, the Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode, otherwise known as the AMOLED, is popular with mobile devices thanks to its power-saving capabilities.

API: This is one of the more popular terms out there that you’ll here day-in and day-out if you hang around a lot of coders. Simply put, API stands for Application Program Interface, which is a kind of technology that is integral to creating software applications that can tap into the data of an operating system, another application, or any other third-party software service.

ASCII: Alright, so this acronym is a bit longer than usual, but it is still integral to all the coders out there. Standing for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, ASCII defines the appropriate format for text files in two main operating systems out there: UNIX and DOS. These files prove integral in the overall functionality of the operating system.


B:

BIOS: Whenever you boot your computer, the BIOS, which is an acronym for Basic Input Output System, is an integral part of this process. Without getting too technical, it is a piece of software that helps your computer startup as well as identify the main pieces of hardware attached to it, such as the keyboard, the hard drive, the floppy drive, and so on.

BPS: One way to measure computing speed is to use the BPS, otherwise known as Bits Per Second. As the name implies, it is a measure of the number of bits sent from one place to another every second.


C:

CD: Even though this type of technology has been usurped by more advanced memory storage gadgets, including flash drives and cloud computers, there was a time when transferring data, whether music, film or any other piece of software, through Compact Discs, CDs, was the most sensible thing to do. As a matter of fact, we had several types of CDs, among which were CD-R (Compact Disc Recordable), CD-ROMs (Compact Disc Read Only Memory), and CD-RW (Compact Disc Re-Writable). As much as I’d like to delve into each type, the fact that this technology is outdated makes it not worth our time.

CPU: The Central Processing Unit is responsible for any and all computations performed by your computer. Needless to say, this includes running programs, rendering images, and taking input and delivering output.
CPU on a motherboard
A modern CPU sitting atop a socket in the motherboard.
Interestingly, CPUs operate at different frequencies, where the term frequency is used to denote the number of calculations performed every second. Ergo, the higher the frequency of your CPU, the faster it is.


D:

DDR: Your computer system utilizes memory integrated circuits, a category of which is referred to as Double Data Rate, also known as Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory, DDR SDRAM. DDR offers your computer a faster transfer rate of data when contrasted with SDR, Single Data Rate (the conventional type of RAM): twice the rate to be exact. Additionally, there are several different classes of DDR, such as DDR1, DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4.

DIMM: There are two main types of memory chips: Dual In-Line Memory Modules that use a 64-bit bus and Single In-Line Memory Modules, SIMM for short, that use a 32-bit bus.

DMA: Remember the CPU we mentioned earlier? Well, in order to function properly, it needs the assistance of other pieces of hardware as well as software, chief among which is the Direct Memory Access. The DMA is nothing more than code stored on your computer’s operating system, but it proves integral when your CPU becomes overwhelmed with an inordinate amount of data transfer rates. In such a scenario, the DMA helps the CPU perform important tasks that are not related to the data transfer while also designating the duties of accessing the Random Access Memory, RAM, to a specific hardware subsystem.

DNS: Any computer that is hooked up onto the internet depends on the Domain Name System to be identified through its IP (Internet Protocol) address. In a nutshell, every website has its own IP address; however, instead of forcing users to memorize a long list of arbitrary numbers, the DNS translates these long numbers into a specific name: computercaronyms.com for example. Over and above, the DNS can be thought of as a directory of sorts, a phonebook that lists all devices on the internet rather than phone numbers.

DRAM: Even though most RAM, Random Access Memory does the same thing, be in charge of maintaining data that your CPU accesses frequently, what makes the Dynamic Random Access Memory different is how it allocates a single capacitor and transistor for each bit of data. It must be refreshed every so often. DRAM is cheaper than SRAM.

DV: In order to store and transfer audio-visual information, protocols are needed to facilitate matters. For instance, Digital video is a protocol that usually utilizes a Firewire interface to move audio-visual recordings from your camcorder to your computer.

DVD-R: A step above of Compact Discs, you will find Digital Versatile Disc Recordable, optical media with way more storage than what any CD has to offer. DVD-Rs can be recorded onto once, and only once, but reread an infinite amount of times.

DVD-RAM: A unique type of DVDs, Digital Versatile Disc Random Access Memory perform similar functions to your RAM. For starters, not only can DVD-RAMs be rewritten countless times, but they also can check for errors and do other advanced functions. Nevertheless, they are nowhere near as fast as actual RAM, rendering them a less-than-ideal solution to those times when you are running out of RAM.

DVD-RW: Similar to DVD-Rs, Digital Versatile Disc-Rewritable allow for the storage of great amounts of data. However, unlike DVD-Rs, you can record and re-record data onto the disc as many times as you like.

DVI: Anytime you hook up a computer monitor or any other sort of display, the Digital Visual Interface kicks in and acts as a digital interface that helps in the transfer of digital video and ensures the compatibility of the devices by resorting to a unified video standard.


E:

ECC: Error Correction Code is a kind of memory that utilizes a parity bit in order to ensure the correctness of the data being transmitted. Naturally, this self-correcting mechanism comes at a cost: lower speeds and more money. Consequently, ECC is reserved for high-end servers.

EDI: There has to be a set standard during any form of electronic communications, the transfer of data between two terminals. This standard, called the Electronic Data Interchange in this case, makes sure that any document passed around can be opened and consumed, regardless of the operating system or the application that spawned this document in the first place.

EGA: Of the standards pertaining to computer displays, the Enhanced Graphics Adapter was established by IBM to set matters related to display color and resolution type. Furthermore, the EGA defines an array of bit color along with specific pixel aspect ratios.

EIDE: Advancing IDE technology, Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics set new standard protocols when it comes to hard drive communications. For one thing, EIDEs allow for data transfer rates that are twice the speed offered by IDEs. For another, EIDEs use different conductor cables than their more antiquated brethren. Yet, as the circle of life would dictate, EIDEs are being replaced by SATA.

EULA: Any software that is copyrighted has a license that defines how the end-user is allowed to use this technology. Hence, the aptly named End User License Agreement is a sort of contract between the software seller and the user so as to protect the seller’s rights.


F:

FAT: Computer file systems have different architectures, and the File Allocation Table is just one of them. In FAT, files tend to be located on external storage devices, where they can better the performance of any type of operating system.

FAQ: This one is used all over the internet, and you probably know it. But, just in case, it stands for Frequently Asked Questions.

FSB: The simplest way to think of a computer is as a few components, all of which need to communicate with each other in one form or another. With that image in mind, the Front Side Bus is that part of the motherboard that facilitates communication between the CPU and the RAM.

FTP: Just as there are protocols dictating how files ought to be stored, there are also protocols dictating how files ought to be transferred over the internet, the File Transfer Protocol is one of them.

FXP: In order to transfer data from one server to the other without having to go through an intermediary device, network administrators use the File Exchange Protocol for that end.


G:

GIF: Having gained wide-spread popularity on the internet, Graphics Interchange Formats are here to stay. A GIF is a sort of moving image, yet it is not video. What makes it so popular is its versatility along with its ability to function on any browser or operating system. Furthermore, given that GIFs tend to be compressed, they are easy to download, share, or send as attachments. (Also, everyone knows it is pronounced gif, not jif.)

GPU: Whenever the display screen of your laptop, computer, mobile, or any other gadget with a monitor shows you a procession of images, your Graphics Processing Unit is hard at work. The GPU is a small circuit with the sole purpose of managing the production of images.

GUI: In order to make matters easier for the user, the Graphical User Interface uses image icons instead of text commands when navigating the operating system. You depend on the GUI every day when you use your smartphone, when you work on your laptop, or when you play on your tablet.


H:

HDD: Whereas RAM stores temporary memory that is deleted once the session is over, your more permanent memory gets stored on your Hard Disc Drive, which is an array of magnetic discs. The discs allow the user to either store new information or erase old data.

HDMI: The High-Definition Multimedia Interface is a new standard in sending high-definition video and audio that is so popular that it will soon become the ubiquitous standard used in homes and offices. What’s more, this video is transmitted with the help of a single cable, making the whole process simple and straight-forward.

HDTV: In order to watch high-definition video and audio, it’s not enough to have an HDMI cable, you need a High-Definition Television on which to watch it. These new television sets have been replacing standard NTSC sets, rendering them obsolete.

HTML: Of the numerous languages out there, Hypertext Markup Language is specifically designed to be used with browsers, including Internet Explorer, Mozilla, and Google Chrome. The language can define how objects and text should appear on a web page, making it perfect for designing websites.

HTTP: Any time you write the URL of a specific website in your browser, what you are actually doing is sending a request to the server to access this website, and, in return, the server responds by displaying that website for you. Naturally, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this communication with the server is overseen by a standard protocol, which in this case is called Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

HTTPS: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is also a protocol utilized for data communication. However, the difference is that HTTPS offers a more secure connection, which is why it is ideal to use when sending sensitive information across the internet, such as your credit card number. If you want to know the kind of protocol used by the website you are visiting, all you have to do is check it's URL: Websites using HTTPS will have a padlock next to the HTTPS starting at the beginning of their name, whereas websites using HTTP will only have HTTP at the beginning.


I:

I/O: This is the simplest way to denote Input/ Output, which refers to any data going into your computer or coming out of it.

IDE: We’ve already discussed Integrated Device Electronics when we mentioned that they were the more antiquated version of EIDE. See EIDE for more details.

IEEE: If you want someone to blame for this long list of acronyms, then the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is where you want to go. IEEE is an organization composed of engineers from different specialties pertaining to electricity and technology, such as radio engineers and electrical engineers. One of the organization’s main prerogatives is to set standards that can be used on a global scale.

IGP: You want to watch out for this one because IGP actually stands for two things: On the one hand, it can be used to refer to the Integrated Graphics Processor, which is a card that is liable to be found integrated onto your computer’s motherboard and whose purpose is to process video. On the other hand, IGP can also refer to Interior Gateway Protocol, a protocol that comes in handy when moving data between several Local Area Networks, LAN for short.

ISP: With all the debate that’s been happening about net neutrality over the past year, you must have heard the term Internet Service Provider, who, as the name implies, provides you with your internet access.


J:

JPEG: A common image format that is popular on the internet is the Joint Photographic Experts Group. Images in this format are compressed, so they become easy to transfer online. Nevertheless, this compression always proves detrimental to the quality of the image.

JRE: Along with HTML, Java is an integral language to the internet and websites. In fact, plenty of objects in most websites are written in Java. Yet, in order for these objects to work, one of two things has to happen: Either you install Java on your computer or you can rely on the Java Runtime Environment to do the heavy lifting for you.


K:

KB: When referring to data size, we measure them in bytes. Ergo, a Kilobyte is a thousand bytes, whereas a Megabyte, MB, is a thousand KBs. Keeping in the same vein, a Gigabyte, GB, is a thousand MBs, and a Terabyte, TB, is a thousand GBs.

KBPS: While KB measures data size, Kilobits Per Second measures the rate of data transfer within a certain network. Again, the multiples of KBPS are Megabit Per Second (MBPS), Gigabit Per Second (GBPS), and Terabit Per Second (TBPS), each of which is equal to a thousand fold of the unit preceding it, just as in the case of KB.


L:

LAN: Just as the internet connects your computer to other computers all over the world, a Local Area Network connects several computers that are within a certain locality together. The main distinction is that computers that are out of the LAN have no access to the computers on this network. Consequently, establishing a LAN can be an ideal solution for business or any other place where this exclusivity of the network can be an asset.

LCD: With regards to flat screen technology, there are three main types: LCD, LED, and plasma. LCD, an acronym for Liquid Crystal Display, are energy efficient thanks to their reliance on liquid crystal properties that help with the light modulation.

LED: Another type of flat screen technology is theLight Emitting Diode, where each diode is a semiconductor that emits light, and each pixel is made up of three diodes, one for each of the primary colors.

LUN: When using SCSI devices, the Logical Unit Number is a handy tool that assigns each device a number from one to seven, making it identifiable within the computer. Alternatively, LUN can be used to assign an address to a virtual hard drive partition within a RAID array.


M:

MAC Address: The Media Access Control Address is a communication protocol that permits several terminals to send and receive data through a shared medium network, a network that allows for multiple access. The protocol helps with the unique identification of any device connected to the network, devices like network cards and modems. It is worth pointing out that whereas the IP address is used to identify the network device through its software, the MAC address pertains to the hardware itself.

MBPS: Megabits Per Second. See KBPS.

MBR: Any hard drive that contains the operating system must contain a physical section on which the boot sector will be located, called the Master Boot Record. The MBR sector is the first thing the BIOS looks to when starting your computer.

MIDI: Those of you who are musicians will be more familiar with the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a protocol with the purpose of linking computers to musical instruments in order to manipulate the pitch, volume, tempo, and other aspects related to music.


N:

NFS: The Network File System is a protocol that permits users within a network to access other files on the same network as well as share their own.

NIC: For any computer to access a network, it has to resort to the Network Interface Card embedded in it. Whether it is a matter of transmission or reception, NICs function via multiple ques.

NVRAM: Standing for Non-Volatile Random Access Memory, NVRAM is very similar to your everyday RAM except that it holds onto the data stored onto it, even after the device has been shut.


O:

OEM: Each component of your computer is made by a specific Original Equipment Manufacturer, and it is very possible that the laptop or computer you are reading this on has numerous components, each of which has a different OEM. After all, the make of your device is not the same as the OEM of the individual components.

OSD: Any output that is displayed to you on the monitor is dubbed On Screen Display.


P:

P2P: Peer-To-Peer networks are a sort of system architecture where each end user is also a node contributing to the system. Moreover, P2P networks have the added benefit of enabling their users to communicate directly and bypass the need for an intermediary server altogether. Examples of P2P networks are Napster, torrents, and cryptocurrencies.

PC: A PC, short for Personal Computers, is the kind of computer you buy and stash at your place; it is intended for the use of individuals, whereas servers, for instance, serve a much wider base of people. The odds are you are reading this article off of a PC at the moment.

PCB: Regardless of whether it is in a computer or not, any Printed Circuit Board is referred to as a PCB.

PDF: In a concerted effort to standardize the format of documents being sent and received, computer scientists designed the Portable Document Format. This ensured that anybody getting these kinds of documents can read them without experiencing any problems, regardless of their operating system.

PNG: Besides the GIF, the Portable Network Graphic is an image format that is also popular on the World Wide Web. This popularity stems from PNG's reliance on lossless compression.

PPI: When measuring the resolution of a display, the Pixels Per Inch is a measure of the amount of detail that can be portrayed on your screen. Simply put, a screen’s PPI indicates the number of individual pixels within each square inch.

PROM: Your computer's Programmable Read-Only Memory is a section of your computer that is meant to be read-only and is programmed right after the manufacture of your computer. These hard-coded instructions are defined in an integrated circuit and can be used for things like your computer's BIOS.


R:

RAID: Whether it’s in the name of data protection or it's under the umbrella of increasing data access speed, people tend to store their data on multiple hard drives that combine into a single unit. In such a manner, should one hard drive crash, there are redundant drives carrying the same information This method is referred to as creating a Redundant Array of Independent Discs.

RAM: Seeing as accessing the information on the hard drive tends to be relatively slow, computers store information that is utilized frequently on the Random Access Memory. This allows the computer to function much faster than if it had to return to the hard drive every time it needed a piece of information. What’s more, the RAM is usually wiped clean whenever you turn off your computer, which is why your computer’s performance can speed up any time you restart it or shut it off and turn it back on.

RDRAM: A robust costly type of RAM is called Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory, and this type of RAM is manufactured by a company called Rambus.

ROM: Any part of your computer that allows data to be saved on it only once, regardless of whether you are the one to save this data or the computer part came with the data, it is defined as Read-Only Memory. Prime examples of this are CD-ROMs and PROMs.


S:

SATA: With the help of a computer bus interface, the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment connects the host of the bus adapter with a mass storage device, be it an optical drive, a hard drive, or any other drive. The SATA’s main benefit is its ability to facilitate faster data transfer while using a smaller cable than its archaic predecessor, PATA.

SCSI: The Small Computer System Interface is an interface that connects hard drives to motherboards. SCSIs are so fast and reliable that they are usually reserved for high-end servers. Pronounced Scuzzy.

SDRAM: Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. See DDR.

SMART: Occasionally, it is advantageous to be able to monitor the performance of your hard drive so as to be aware of any problems early on. In such occasions, the Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology can prove indispensable.

SQL: Similar to how HTML is specifically designed for creating web pages, Structured Query Language is made for creating and managing databases. The language is usable with different database configurations while not needing any code modifications.

SRAM: Whereas the SDRAM needs to be refreshed regularly, the Static Random Access Memory, also dubbed as cache, does not have that same stringent requirement. As a result, the SRAM presents the CPU with the information it needs in a much faster fashion than the SDRAM. With that being said, the SRAM is also more expensive.

SRGB: The majority of image-related hardware out there uses the same color standard, Standard Red Green Blue. This applies to monitors, scanners, and printers.

SSD: A new mass-storage solution gaining immense popularity that has been presenting itself as a viable alternative to HDDs is the Solid State Drive. In a nutshell, rather than containing an array of discs, SSDs are made up of arrays of flash memory. The upside of this is that the CPU has faster access to the data stored on an SSD, and the drive itself doesn’t slow down upon being fragmented. Conversely, the downsides are the higher cost and the fact that data recovery can be a bit of a hassle in the event of a failed drive.

SSL: Anytime sensitive information is transmitted over a network, like the internet, it is necessary to secure this information with the proper protocols. Ergo, the Secure Sockets Layer utilizes cryptography to encrypt the information that you want to be kept private, such as your credit card number and your bank account specifics. This protocol is usually used in tandem with HTTPS.


T:

TCP/IP: Like everything else in the computing world, data sent or received through the internet is managed by the Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol. It should be mentioned that TCP/IP is a cornerstone of the internet as we know it today.


U:

UPNP: Any device connected to your home network can find other devices on the same network with the help of the Universal Plug and Play, allowing you to close a program on a particular device and open it on another.

UPS: This acronym stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply. It is a battery backup for critical systems. Upon primary power loss, the UPS will keep your computer operational for a time depending on the power used by the computer and the capacity of the battery.

URL: The Uniform Resource Locator is the address you type in your browser whenever you want to visit a specific website.

USB: One of the best ways to facilitate data transmission between your computer and external devices, such as flash drives and external hard drives, is through the Universal Serial Bus, an external bus component that utilizes a combination of protocols, connectors, and cables.


V:

VGA: High-definition videos, which tend to have a resolution of 1080p or higher, are delivered with the help of the Video Graphics Array, an IBM graphics standard that can be found inside a television screen or computer monitor.

VDU: Any instrument used to display the visual output of your computer is named a Visual Display Unit. For instance, monitors and projectors are considered VDUs.

VoIP: Most teleconference applications rely on a Voice over Internet Protocol, a protocol that enables users to make telephone calls over the internet. The Skype VoIP application is so common that it can be found on most devices that facilitate online calls.

VRAM: The Video Random Access Memory is a very specific type of RAM; it stores the visual information that is being processed and transmitted to the monitor.

VPN: A Virtual Private Network is an option favored by people who need to establish a secure online connection or one that is anonymous. It is a private network that utilizes the internet for remote access and uses encryption technologies to guarantee the security.