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Computing fundamentals

Terms related to computer fundamentals, including computer hardware definitions and words and phrases about software, operating systems, peripherals and troubleshooting.

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  • onshore outsourcing (domestic outsourcing) - Onshore outsourcing (also called domestic outsourcing) is the obtaining of services from someone outside a company but within the same country.
  • ontology - In general, ontology (pronounced ahn-TAH-luh-djee) is the study or concern about what kinds of things exist - what entities there are in the universe.
  • ooblick - According to Eric Raymond, compiler of The New Hacker's Dictionary, "ooblick" derives from the Dr.
  • open - In information technology, a product or system is described as open when its workings are exposed to the public and capable of being modified or improved by anyone.
  • open system - In a computing context, an open system is an open source operating system, typically composed of coordinated modular components from a number of sources and not reliant upon any proprietary elements.
  • operand - In computers, an operand is the part of a computer instruction that specifies data that is to be operating on or manipulated and, by extension, the data itself.
  • operation - An operation, in mathematics and computer science, is an action that is carried out to accomplish a given task.
  • operations research (OR) - Operations research (OR) is an analytical method of problem-solving and decision-making that is useful in the management of organizations.
  • order of magnitude - An order of magnitude is an exponential change of plus-or-minus 1 in the value of a quantity or unit.
  • Our Favorite Technology Quotations - These are some of our favorite quotations about computers, the Internet, and technology in general.
  • out of the box - "Out of the box" is an expression that describes nonconformal, creative thinking.
  • outsourcing - Outsourcing is a business practice in which a company hires a third-party to perform tasks, handle operations or provide services for the company.
  • overhead - In business accounting, overhead is general operating expenses, including such items as heat and electricity for the premises, that have no direct relationship to the production or selling of a company's goods and services.
  • packet-switched - Packet-switched describes the type of network in which relatively small units of data called packets are routed through a network based on the destination address contained within each packet.
  • page - On the World Wide Web, a page is a file notated with the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
  • pagefile - In storage, a pagefile is a reserved portion of a hard disk that is used as an extension of random access memory (RAM) for data in RAM that hasn't been used recently.
  • paradigm - A paradigm (pronounced PEHR-uh-daim, from Greek paradeiknyai - to show side by side) is a pattern or an example of something.
  • paradox - A paradox is a statement or concept that contains conflicting ideas.
  • parallel - In the context of the Internet and computing, parallel means more than one event happening at a time.
  • parallel processing - Parallel processing is a method in computing of running two or more processors (CPUs) to handle separate parts of an overall task.
  • parallel processing software - Parallel processing software manages the execution of a program on parallel processing hardware with the objectives of obtaining unlimited scalability (being able to handle an increasing number of interactions at the same time) and reducing execution time.
  • PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) - PARC is Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, located in Palo Alto, California, in the high-tech area that has become known as Silicon Valley.
  • parity - Parity is a method of detecting errors in data transmissions between computers, while parity bit and parity checking are used in RAID technology to guard against data loss.
  • PC Card - A PC Card (previously known as a PCMCIA card) is a credit card-size memory or I/O device that fits into a personal computer, usually a notebook or laptop computer.
  • PC philanthropy - PC philanthropy is sharing some of the unused resources of your personal computer, especially unused computer cycles, to benefit a social cause.
  • performance - Performance seems to have two meanings: The speed at which a computer operates, either theoretically (for example, using a formula for calculating Mtops - millions of theoretical instructions per second) or by counting operations or instructions performed (for example, (MIPS) - millions of instructions per second) during a benchmark test.
  • personal operating space (POS) - A personal operating space (POS) is a roughly spherical region that surrounds a portable or handheld digital wireless device operated by a person.
  • personality profile - A personality profile is a knowledge management tool used to provide an evaluation of an employee's personal attributes, values and life skills in an effort to maximize his or her job performance and contribution to the company.
  • pervasive computing (ubiquitous computing) - Pervasive computing, also called ubiquitous computing, is the growing trend of embedding computational capability (generally in the form of microprocessors) into everyday objects to make them effectively communicate and perform useful tasks in a way that minimizes the end user's need to interact with computers as computers.
  • petaflop - A petaflop is a measure of a computer's processing speed and can be expressed as a quadrillion (thousand trillion) floating point operations per second (FLOPS).
  • pharming - Pharming is a scamming practice in which malicious code is installed on a personal computer or server, misdirecting users to fraudulent Web sites without their knowledge or consent.
  • phase-change memory (PCM) - Phase-change memory (PCM) is a form of computer RAM (random-access memory) that stores data by altering the state of the matter from which the device is fabricated.
  • phenomenon - A phenomenon, in a scientific context, is something that is observed to occur or to exist.
  • photometric stereo - Photometric stereo is a computer vision method of analyzing and detailing the contour and reflectivity of a surface in 3D (three-dimensional) space.
  • photonic ink (P-Ink) - Photonic ink (P-Ink) is a substance that can change color electronically.
  • photonics - Photonics is an area of study that involves the use of radiant energy (such as light), whose fundamental element is the photon.
  • physical security - Physical security is the protection of people and systems from damage or loss due to physical events such as fire, flood, disasters, crimes or accidents.
  • pi - Pi is a numerical constant that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter on a flat plane surface.
  • picosecond - A picosecond is one trillionth (10 -12) of a second, or one millionth of a microsecond.
  • pictograph - In graph theory, a pictograph is a graph that shows numerical information by using picture symbols or icons to represent data sets.
  • pie graph (or pie chart) - A pie graph (or pie chart) is a specialized graph used in statistics.
  • pin or PIN - A pin is a pronged contact as part of a signal interface in a computer or other communications device.
  • ping strangeness - Ping strangeness is a term used in troubleshooting to describe the incidence of an unusual pattern of ICMP ECHO_REQUEST packets being sent to a specific network node or an unusual number of error messages returning.
  • pipelining - In computers, a pipeline is the continuous and somewhat overlapped movement of instruction to the processor or in the arithmetic steps taken by the processor to perform an instruction.
  • pixel - The pixel (a word invented from "picture element") is the basic unit of programmable color on a computer display or in a computer image.
  • platform - A computer platform is an underlying computer system on which application programs can run, or, in general, any base of technologies on which other technologies or processes are built.
  • plesiochronous - Plesiochronous (pronounced plee-see-AH-krun-us, from Greek plesos, meaning close, and chronos, meaning time) is an adjective that describes operations that are almost, but not quite, in synchronization - in other words, almost synchronous.
  • plug-in - Plug-in applications are programs that can easily be installed and used as part of your Web browser.
  • polar coordinates - Polar coordinates provide a method of rendering graphs and indicating the positions of points on a two-dimensional (2D) surface.
  • Polish notation (prefix notation) - Polish notation, also known as prefix notation, is a symbolic logic invented by Polish mathematician Jan Lukasiewicz in the 1920's.
  • polled interrupt - In a computer, a polled interrupt is a specific type of I/O interrupt that notifies the part of the computer containing the I/O interface that a device is ready to be read or otherwise handled but does not indicate which device.
  • polynomial - A polynomial is a mathematical expression consisting of a sum of terms, each term including a variable or variables raised to a power and multiplied by a coefficient.
  • portal - Portal is a term, generally synonymous with gateway, for a World Wide Web site that is or proposes to be a major starting site for users when they get connected to the Web or that users tend to visit as an anchor site.
  • portrait - In computer printing, portrait is a mode in which the printer orients content for reading across the shorter length (the width) of the sheet of paper.
  • positional assembly - Positional assembly is a technique that has been suggested as a means to build objects, devices, and systems on a molecular scale using automated processes in which the components that carry out the construction process would follow programmed paths.
  • POST (Power-On Self-Test) - When power is turned on, POST (Power-On Self-Test) is the diagnostic testing sequence that a computer's basic input/output system (or "starting program") runs to determine if the computer keyboard, random access memory, disk drives, and other hardware are working correctly.
  • pounds per square inch (PSI) - PSI is commonly used to measure the pressure of gasses (pneumatic pressure) or liquids (hydraulic pressure).
  • power user - A power user, also called a super user, is someone whose computer skills are better than those of an organization's average end user.
  • predictive technology - Predictive technology is a body of tools capable of discovering and analyzing patterns in data so that past behavior can be used to forecast likely future behavior.
  • printed circuit board (PCB) - A printed circuit board (PCB) is the board base for physically supporting and wiring surface-mounted and socketed components in most electronics.
  • probability - Probability is a branch of mathematics that deals with calculating the likelihood of a given event's occurrence, which is expressed as a number between 1 and 0.
  • process hollowing - Process hollowing is a security exploit in which an attacker removes code in an executable file and replaces it with malicious code.
  • product - In information technology, a product is something (for example, a software application) that is created and then made available to customers, usually with a distinct name or order number.
  • program - In computing, a program is a specific set of ordered operations for a computer to perform.
  • project management - Project management is the discipline of using established principles, procedures and policies to successfully guide a project from conception through completion.
  • project planning - Project planning is a discipline for stating how to complete a project within a certain timeframe, usually with defined stages, and with designated resources.
  • propagation delay - Propagation delay, symbolized tpd, is the time required for a digital signal to travel from the input(s) of a logic gate to the output.
  • propeller head (or propellor head, prop head, prophead) - A propeller head (also spelled propellor head, and sometimes shortened to prop head or prophead) is jargon for someone who is exceptionally, perhaps weirdly bright or knowledgeable, especially in some technical field.
  • proper subset symbol - The proper subset symbol indicates a specific relationship between two set s.
  • proportionality - In mathematics, proportionality indicates that two quantities or variables are related in a linear manner.
  • prototype - In software development, a prototype is a rudimentary working model of a product or information system, usually built for demonstration purposes or as part of the development process.
  • pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) - A pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) is a program written for, and used in, probability and statistics applications when large quantities of random digits are needed.
  • public domain software - Programs that are uncopyrighted because their authors intended to share them with everyone else are in the public domain.
  • public sector - The public sector is the segment of an economic system that is controlled by government; it contrasts with the private sector, which is run by private citizens.
  • pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) - Pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) is the transmission of data by varying the amplitudes (voltage or power levels) of the individual pulses in a regularly timed sequence of electrical or electromagnetic pulses.
  • Q format - Q (number) format is a fixed-point method of coding fractional and whole integers for processing by a computer’s CPU or a digital signal processor (DSP).
  • quality - In an information technology product or service, quality is sometimes defined as "meeting the requirements of the customer.
  • quantum - Quantum is the Latin word for amount and, in modern understanding, means the smallest possible discrete unit of any physical property such as energy or matter.
  • quantum computer - A quantum computer is a machine, as-yet hypothetical, that performs calculations based on the behavior of particles at the sub-atomic level.
  • quantum computing - Quantum computing is an area of study focused on the development of computer technologies based on the principles of quantum theory.
  • quantum internet - The quantum internet is a theoretical system of interconnected quantum computers that uses quantum signals to send information rather than radio waves.
  • quantum microphone - A quantum microphone is an extremely device that detects the smallest particles of sound, such as packets of vibrational energy called phonons.
  • quantum supremacy - Quantum supremacy is the experimental demonstration of a quantum computer's dominance and advantage over classic computers by performing calculations that were previously impossible at unmatched speeds.
  • quantum theory - Quantum theory is the theoretical basis of modern physics explaining the nature and behavior of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level, sometimes called quantum mechanics or quantum physics.
  • quark - A quark is one of two currently recognized groups of fundamental particles, which are subatomic, indivisible (at least as far as we know today) particles that represent the smallest known units of matter.
  • qubit - A qubit is a quantum bit, the counterpart in quantum computing to the binary digit or bit of classical computing.

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