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CD-ROM: Compact Disc Read-Only Memory. Basically the same as DVI: Digital Video Interface.

Interface. A type of digital video interface that can


any other CD, except referring specifically to a disk that contains be used by computers and other video devices. It was an
computer data rather than music. improvement over VGA, but is starting to be obsolesced by HDMI.

CD-RW: Compact Disc Re-Writable. A CD that can be recorded ECC: Error Correction Code. ECC Memory uses a parity bit to insure
multiple times, and from which data can be deleted and the space re- that data has been transmitted correctly. It is both slower and more
used. expensive than non-ECC memory, but it's more reliable. In order to
use ECC memory, your motherboard must support it, and all of the
CPU: The Central Processing Unit, Microprocessor, or simply memory on-board must be ECC. It's mainly used in high-end servers.
Processor.
EIDE: Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics. EIDE was an
DDR: Double Data Rate. A type of memory that sends and receives improvement over IDE, which used to be the standard protocol for
data twice every clock cycle, and therefore is capable of twice the hard drive communications in most computers intended as
data transfer rate of standard SDRAM. workstations (as opposed to servers). EIDE supported data transfer
rates of up to 16.6 Mbps, which was twice as fast as IDE, and
required an 80-conductor cable (as opposed to the 40-conductor
DDR2: Double Data Rate 2.
cables used for IDE). EIDE drives are being obsolesced by SATA,
but there are still a bunch of them in service.
DDR3: Double Data Rate Type 3.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions.
DDR4: Double Data Rate Type 4.
FSB: Front Side Bus. The part of a computer motherboard that
DIMM: Dual In-Line Memory Module. A type of memory chip that allows the computer's processor to communicate with the RAM and
uses a 64-bit bus, as compared to SIMM chips, which used a 32-bit the other components on the motherboard. Also the part of a bus
bus. where the driver sits.

DRAM: Dynamic Random Access Memory." A type of RAM that GPU: Graphics Processing Unit. The chip on a video card that
stores each bit of data on separate capacitors. processes graphics and video. Sometimes the GPU is integrated on
the motherboard, and sometimes it's part of the CPU itself.
DV: Digital Video. A protocol for the storage and transfer of audio-
visual information, often used to transfer information from a HDD: Hard Disk Drive. An array of magnetic disks that store data
camcorder to a computer, usually over a Firewire interface. until it is intentionally deleted by the user, the system, or a program.

DVD: Digital Versatile Disc. A type of optical media that allows far HDMI: High-Definition Multimedia Interface. A digital standard for
more storage than a CD. transmitting high-definition video and audio using a single cable.
HDMI is rapidly becoming the standard interface for computers and
DVD+R: Digital Versatile Disc Recordable. A type of DVD that can be home entertainment devices.
recorded, but from which information cannot be deleted and the
space it occupied re-used. HDTV: High-Definition Television. The over-the-air television
standard that replaced NTSC in the United States. Tuners are
DVD+RW: Digital Versatile Disk Rewritable. A DVD that can be available that allow HDTV signals to be captured and processed on a
recorded, and from which information can be deleted and the space it computer, enabling the user to watch TV on his or her computer.
occupied re-used.
I/O: Input/Output. Kind of a generic term for data moving into or out
DVD-R: Digital Versatile Disc Recordable. A type of DVD that can be of a computer or component.
recorded, but from which information cannot be deleted and the
space it occupied re-used. ID10T: Pronounced "Eye Dee Ten Tee." Code given to a user by
tech support agent when the user insists on talking to a supervisor.
DVD-RAM: Digital Versatile Disc Random Access Memory. A DVD The user is told to inform the supervisor that they have an ID10T
that can be written, erased, and re-written, and which also are error. That lets the supervisor know that the user he's about to talk to
capable of error-checking and other advanced sorts of stuff that RAM is an idiot.
can do, making them suitable for us as RAM. They are much slower
than real RAM, however, and are starting to fade from use. IDE: Integrated Device Electronics. See EIDE above.

DVD-RW: Digital Versatile Disk Rewritable. A DVD that can be IEEE: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The highly-
recorded, and from which information can be deleted and the space it educated geeks who came up with most of these standards and
occupied re-used. acronyms.
IGP: Integrated Graphics Processor. A video processing unit or video of SSD data transfer speeds. As of this writing, NVMe drives are
"card" that's integrated onto a computer motherboard, or sometimes available with actual data rates approaching 3 GB/s.
onto the CPU.
NVRAM: Non-Volatile Random Access Memory. NVRAM retains its
IRQ: Interrupt Request. This gets complicated, but basically it's a way data even when the computer is powered down.
for a component of a computer to get the processor's attention. Back
in the old days, we had to assign each component an IRQ. Although OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer. The company that
there were standards that were used by default, sometimes conflicts manufactures a computer (or some other thing). If you build your own
would arise when two or more devices tried to share the same IRQ, computer, then YOU are the OEM.
and we'd have to reassign IRQs to eliminate the conflicts. Nowadays,
it's all pretty much automatic and pretty much reliable; so unless
OSD: On Screen Display. Information that is outputted via the
you're an engineer, knowing about IRQs is mainly a nice way to
computer's monitor, such as the settings for the monitor itself.
impress people.
PCB: Printed Circuit Board. Generic term for any phenolic board to
ISA: Industry Standard Architecture. An obsolete expansion
which semiconductors are mounted, not just one in a computer.
interface, which began to be replaced by PCI and AGP in the mid-
1990's.
PCI: Peripheral Component Interconnect. One of the expansion
interfaces that replaced ISA. Many devices are still available for PCI,
LAN: Local Area Network. Network cards are sometimes referred to
and most motherboards still contain at least one or two PCI slots. But
as "LAN cards" or "LAN interfaces."
PCI has largely been replaced by PCIe.

LCD: Liquid Crystal Display. A type of solid-state display technology


PCIe: Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. A newer
used in computer monitors and other electronic displays.
expansion interface designed to replace the PCI, PCI-X, and AGP
interfaces. Not to be confused with PCI-Extended (PCI-X).
LED: Light-Emitting Diode. A semiconductor that emits light. Often
used for indicator lights, panel lights, and to illuminate LED computer
PCI-X: Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended. A higher-
monitors.
bandwidth, 64-bit version of PCI used mainly in servers. Not to be
confused with PCI-Express (PCIe).
LUN: Logical Unit Number. Used to identify SCSI devices. Each
device is assigned LUN ranging from 0 to 7, which identifies the
PCMCIA: Personal Computer Memory Card International
device within the particular computer. Can also be used as an
Association. In practice, defines the interface for laptop expansion
address for a virtual hard drive partition in a RAID array.
cards. In theory, was supposed to set many other standards for
portable computers, but never got around to actually doing it.
MAC Address: Media Access Control Address. The unique
identification number of any network connection device, such as a
PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair. A way that
network card or modem.
one tech support agent tells another that a user is an idiot.

MBR: Master Boot Record. The section of the hard drive located in
PMU: Power Management Unit. The circuitry on a Macintosh
the boot sector, which contains (at a minimum) the partition table and
computer than controls power-related functions.
the bootstrap code.
PROM: Programmable Read-Only Memory. Read-only memory that
MCA: Micro Channel Architecture. An obsolete, IBM-proprietary
is programmed after manufacture.
expansion interface. Few devices were manufactured for the MCA
interface because of its proprietary nature.
PS/2: Personal System/2. An historical IBM designation that still
defines certain computer hardware, most notable the familiar purple
MOBO: A cooler way to say "motherboard."
and green mouse and keyboard connectors still used on some
computers.
NIC: Network Interface Card. Connects a computing device to a
network. Often integrated into the motherboard nowadays and called
PSU: Power supply unit.
simply a network interface or network adapter.
RAID: Redundant Array of Independent Disks. An array of disk drives
NTFS: New Technology File System. The preferred file system for
that are arranged to increase data access speed (striping) and/or
Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, and all Microsoft server
improve fault tolerance (mirroring). Also what SWAT teams do.
systems.
RAM: Random-Access Memory. This is memory that's writable by
NVMe SSD: An SSD drive with a very fast interface. It uses the PCIe
the system and by programs, that stores information while it is
bus rather than the much slower AHCI ATAPI bus, which was
needed for running the system and for the execution of programs.
designed for spinning disk drives and is unable to take full advantage
RDRAM: Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory. A very fast, when the drives become fragmented. On the down side, SSDs are
very expensive, proprietary type of RAM manufactured by a company more expensive than HDDs, have a limited number of read / write
named Rambus. (See? Some things do make sense.) It was very cycles, and may be difficult to recover data from in the event of
good memory, but it never quite caught on because of its proprietary failure.
nature.
UPS: Uninterruptible Power Supply, a type of battery backup that
ROM: Read-Only Memory. This memory is not easily writable. It provides a truly uninterrupted flow of current to the connected
consists of information that is necessary for the system or component devices. Also a company that delivers stuff in brown trucks.
to operate, which is usually called an "instruction set." Some types of
ROM can be "flashed" by the user to change or update the instruction USB: Universal Serial Bus.
set, but it must be done deliberately.
VGA: Video Graphics Array. The analog interface standard for
RTFM: Read the f-----g manual. A not-so-nice way of telling someone attachment of monitors and other VDUs to a computer.
that the question they're asking is answered in the manual
accompanying a hardware device or software routine. Especially
VDU: Visual Display Unit. A monitor, projector, or other device used
used by those who fancy themselves gurus in response to questions
to display or project a computer's visual data.
asked by newbies.
VRAM: Video Random Access Memory. Memory used by the video
SATA: Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. A faster, more
processor to store image data being processed and sent to the
reliable interface that has largely obsolesced the older PATA
monitor.
technology used to connect ATA hard drives to the computer's
motherboard.

SCSI: Small Computer System Interface. Pronounced "skuzzy." A


very fast, very reliable interface used to connect hard drives to a
computer's motherboard. Usually used only in high-end servers.

SIMM: Single In-Line Memory Module. An obsolete type of memory


chip that used a 32-bit bus, as compared to DIMM chips, which use a
64-bit bus.

SMART: Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology. A


technology to monitor a hard drive's performance and hopefully warn
the user of any problems.

SO-DIMM: Small Outline Dual In-Line Memory Module. The form-


factor standard for memory used in laptops and other small form-
factor computers.

SPOF: Single Point of Failure. This refers to one piece of hardware


(or less often, software) which, if it fails, will render something
inoperative. For example, a failed hard drive will render a computer
inop, a failed switch will render a network inop, a failed RAID
controller will render the RAID array inop, a failed engine will render
your car inop, etc.

SRAM: Static Random Access Memory. Pronounced "ESS-ram." A


type of RAM that holds data statically rather than dynamically. Faster
and much more expensive than DRAM, SRAM is used mainly as
cache memory on hard drives and processors.

sRGB: Standard Red Green Blue. The color standard now used by
most image-related hardware, such as monitors, scanners, printers,
and so forth.

SSD: Solid State Drive. A mass-storage device with no moving parts,


which stores data in arrays of flash memory. Although early versions
were painfully slow, currently-available SSD drives have much faster
data access speed than hard disk drives. In addition, because they
are not sequential devices, there is no degradation of access speed