From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, as applies to computers
Here are some basic computer terms you should know. It’s a quick reference guide, so feel free to look back here as often as you need to ensure you understand the material to follow. We’ll try to keep the guide in as plain an English as possible, but there will be times that the technical terms must be used to convey the best meaning.
Anything in italics is an addendum to the original definition to provide context.
an electronic machine that can store and work with large amounts of information
This includes your desktop and laptop computers, smart phones, and even calculators. Anything that processes electronic information can be considered a computer.
The component of a computer system that performs the basic operations (as processing data) of the system, that exchanges data with the system’s memory or peripherals, and that manages the system’s other components
A device that is used for storing computer data and that contains one or more hard disks
n. connected to a computer but not an essential part of it
This definition by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary considers monitors, keyboards and mice as non-essential because certain types of computers can be operated without these items. However, as a regular user, you should have at least one of each in order to use your computer properly.
A hardware interface by which a computer is connected to another device (as a printer, a mouse, or another computer)
- A device (as a chip) or a component of a device in which information especially for a computer can be inserted and stored and from which it may be extracted when wanted
- Capacity for storing information <512 megabytes of memory>
FYI: We might say the computer has 12GB of memory, which is an amount, or we might say “we need to replace the memory,” which refers to the physical object that stores the memory. Context will dictate how you should interpret it, though we recommend using an expert if you want to add memory to your machine.
- Long-term memory, or ROM, is information written on the hard drive and will be saved even when the computer is turned off.
- Short-term memory, or RAM, is available for use only so long as the computer remains powered on, or if the user saves it to long-term memory.
A set of instructions that tell a computer what to do
The programs that run on a computer and perform certain functions
Like deer or moose, the plural of software is software.
A program (as a word processor or a spreadsheet) that performs one of the major tasks for which a computer is used
A graphic symbol on a computer display screen that represents an object (as a file) or function (i.e. a program or application)
Icons can represent files, programs or links
A small part of a machine that you push to make the machine work
There is no computer-specific definition. This applies universally to physical engines or digital machines, such as applications, programs or web functions.
Any of various rectangular boxes appearing on a computer screen that display files or program output, that can usually be moved and resized, and that facilitate multitasking
A computer program that is used to find and look at information on the Internet
Link / Hyperlink / URL
An identifier attached to an element (as an index term) in a system in order to indicate or permit connection with other similarly identified elements; especially: one (as a hyperlink) in a computer file
Click / Select
To press a button on a mouse or some other device in order to make something happen on a computer.
To de-select a currently checked box so that it is now unchecked
A grayed out menu item is an option which is not currently available for use due either to a lack of permissions or an incorrectly selected object, such as photo options when there is no photo selected.
There are countless computer terms yet to learn, but for people either just getting started or perhaps elders trying to catch up with the racing pace of digital development, this can serve as a solid primer.