Computers are no longer just for specialists. Today, computing is not just a
profession and a hobby; it is also a tool used in virtually all human activities.
That’s why we’ve compiled this book of background knowledge. Its purpose
is to tell you the things other people think you already know.
We design this book to have a convenient size so it can be easily carried
around. In compiling a book this size, we have had to be selective. The
quickest way to identify a word that you can’t find in a book is probably to
do a web search (see SEARCH ENGINE). Also, some terms are almost always
abbreviated, and in that case you should look for the abbreviation rather
than the full term.
Much has changed since the first edition of this book was published
more than twenty ...view middle of the document...
Throughout, we use SMALL CAPITALS to mark important words that are
defined elsewhere in this book. By following cross-references, you can
quickly find many entries that pertain to whatever interests you. Here are
some entries you may wish to start with to learn about particular topics:
• Internet culture: CHAT ROOM
• right and wrong: COMPUTER ETHICS
• safe computing: COMPUTER SECURITY
• solving exceptionally difficult problems: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
• productively using computers in business and daily life: APPLICATION
• listening to music: DIGITAL MUSIC
• taking pictures: DIGITAL CAMERA
• creating web pages: HTML
• writing computer programs: PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE
• software that controls a computer: OPERATING SYSTEM
• how a computer works: COMPUTER ARCHITECTURE
• networking and the Internet: INTERNET
• connecting computers wirelessly: WIRELESS COMMUNICATION
• electronic components: TRANSISTOR
Be sure to notice the visual dictionary of symbols at the end of the book.
If you don’t know what Σ or ≈ or • is called, don’t worry; you can look it
All four of us want to thank The University of Georgia and Seattle
Pacific University for access to facilities and for accommodating us as we
worked on the project. We also want to thank Robert Downing for help with
1960s data processing terminology; Sharon Covington for help with current
Internet culture; and Brantley Coile of Coraid, Inc., for permission to adapt
material from Coraid’s glossary of networking and data storage.
Many of the words used in this book are registered trademarks. We have
made no attempt to determine or report their legal status. For further information
about any product name, consult the manufacturer’s literature.