Computers on the Farm: Glossary of Computer Termsby@takiffsmith
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Computers on the Farm: Glossary of Computer Terms

by Deborah Takiff SmithAugust 23rd, 2022
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Listed below are some of the shorthand or jargon terms in the computer field. Understanding these terms will help you discuss hardware and software systems and their operation.

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USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 2277: Computers on the Farm, by Deborah Takiff Smith is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Glossary of Computer Terms

Glossary of Computer Terms

Listed below are some of the shorthand or jargon terms in the computer field. Understanding these terms will help you discuss hardware and software systems and their operation.

ADDRESS: A number specifying a particular location in the computer's memory.

BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code): A relatively easy-to-use computer language that comes with most small and personal computer systems.

BAUD RATE: The speed at which information is exchanged over communications lines, generally expressed in characters per second. 300 baud is the most common rate. It is equivalent to 30 characters per second.

BINARY: A two-digit numbering system based on the digits 0 and 1. It is the basis for calculations on all computers, and the basis for storing and retrieving information, including alphabet characters.

BIT: The smallest unit of information the computer recognizes. A bit is represented by the presence or absence of an electronic pulse, 0 or 1.

BUG: A fault or error in a computer program.

BYTE: A byte is composed of several bits, and is used to represent one character—such as a letter, number, or punctuation mark. The older microcomputer systems used 8 bits per byte, but the newer ones are based on 16 or 32 bits per byte.

CHIP: A thin silicon wafer on which electronic components are deposited lithographically in the form of integrated circuits.

COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language): A high-level programing language widely used in business applications.

COMPUTER NETWORK: Two or more computers that are connected so they can exchange information.

COMPUTER PROGRAM: A collection of instructions that together direct the computer to perform a particular function.

CP/M (Control Program for Microprocessors): A popular operating system for small computers.

CPU (Central Processing Unit): The part of the computer that controls and organizes the operations of the other parts of the computer and does the calculations.

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CRT (Cathode Ray Tube): A video screen that can be used for viewing output.

DATA: The information, such as numbers or letters, that are put into the computer system.

DEBUG: To remove the errors in a computer program.

DIAGNOSTIC: A program for detecting and isolating a problem or mistake in the computer system; features that allow systems or equipment to self-test for flaws.

DISK: A revolving plate on which data and programs are stored. Also called DISKETTE.

DISK DRIVE: A part of the computer system that reads and writes material on the disk. It can be part of the main hardware or a peripheral attached to the system.

DOCUMENTATION: 1. The instruction manual for a program (software) or piece of hardware. 2. The process of describing a computer program so others using the program can see how it works.

DOWNTIME: Any time a computer is not available or not working because of a machine fault or failure. Downtime includes repair delay time, repair time, and machine-spoiled work time.

EDIT: To change or add data to an existing document or program.

FLOPPY DISK: A small, flexible storage device made of magnetic material. It looks like a soft phonograph record and is usually 5¼ inches or 8 inches in diameter.

FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslation): A computer language widely used to solve scientific and engineering problems, mainly for large commercial systems.

GARBAGE: Meaningless information.

HARD COPY: A printout on paper of information from the computer.

HARDWARE: All the physical parts of the computer system, including the computer itself, the input and output equipment and peripherals, and the physical disk or tape equipment. (The computer programs are software.)

INPUT: The data that are put into the computer, or the process of putting it in.

INSTRUCTION: A group of bits that designates a specific computer operation.

INTEGRATED CIRCUIT: An electronic circuit or combination of circuits contained on semiconductor material, or chip.

INTERACTIVE: A computer system that allows two-way communication between the user and the computer.

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INTERFACE: A piece of equipment used to connect two parts of a computer system that cannot interact directly with each other.

K (kilobyte): A measure of computer memory capacity. Each K of information is 1,024 bytes.

LOAD: To put data or programs into a computer.

MAGNETIC TAPE: A recording device used to store programs and data. It resembles audio tape used in tape recorders.

MEMORY: That part of the computer that stores information. Also, the external material, such as floppy disks, hard disks, or cassette tapes that store information.

MICROCOMPUTER: A small computer in which the CPU is an integrated circuit deposited on a silicon chip.

MICROPROCESSOR: A silicon chip that is the central, controlling part of the computer.

MINICOMPUTER: A computer that is usually larger, more powerful, and more expensive than a microcomputer, but is smaller than a mainframe in memory and functions.

MODEM (MODulator/ DEModulator): A device used to attach a computer or one of its devices to a communication line, often a telephone.

OPERATING SYSTEM: A special group of programs which controls the overall operation of a computer system. It mediates between the hardware and the particular software program.

OUTPUT: The information generated by a computer.

PERIPHERAL: A device, such as a CRT, disk drive, or printer, used for entering or storing data into, or retrieving it from, the computer system.

PRINTER: An output device to print the information from a computer.

PROGRAM: A set of coded instructions directing a computer to perform a particular function.

PROGRAMING LANGUAGE: A special language of words and rules that is used to write programs so the computer can understand them.

RAM (Random Access Memory): The portion of the computer's memory in which data, instructions, and other information are stored temporarily. Also called read-write memory.

ROM (Read Only Memory): The portion of the computer's memory that contains information and instructions that are stored permanently. This memory cannot be altered or added to.

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SEMICONDUCTOR: A material such as silicon with a conductivity between that of a metal and an insulator. It is used in the manufacture of solid-state devices such as diodes, transistors, and the complex integrated circuits that comprise computer logic circuits.

SOFTWARE: A general term for computer programs, procedural rules, and sometimes the documentation involved in the operation of a computer.

SYSTEM: The computer and all its related components, including hardware and software, that work together.

TERMINAL: A peripheral device through which information is entered into or extracted from the computer, usually with a keyboard and an output device such as a CRT or printer.

TIMESHARING: A method by which more than one person can use a computer at the same time at separate terminals.

TURNKEY SYSTEM: A computer system that has all hardware and software installed. Supposedly, all you have to do is turn it on.

WORD PROCESSING: Typing, editing, storing, and printing text with a computer.

The mention of commercial products, services, or companies does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If additional computer services of interest to the agricultural community are available, we would be glad to consider them for inclusion in possible revisions of this bulletin.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain.

Smith, Deborah Takiff. 2019. USDA Farmers: Bulletin No. 2277: Computer on the Farm. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from

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