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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Commonly Used Terms Related To The Internet - Part I
May 2nd, 2001

A new user dropped me a line this past week asking how in the world he could understand all the terms and acronyms related to the Internet. He said it was a vicious circle because he needed to be competent with the Internet to understand the terms, but until he understood more of the terms, he couldn't get comfortable with the Internet. I started looking around for a list that explained things in plain language. Most of what I found was fairly detailed and technical. So for the Observer who wrote and for anyone else who needs this information here is Part I of all the things I came up with that I thought could be important. Some of these you will never need, but you may well need to know what they mean.

Applet  - There is no connection between the Apple computer and an Applet. Actually, it is a short computer program usually written in the Java programming language that is usually attached to a Web page. It is what makes messages run across the page, or allows you to switch images by running the cursor over them.
Archive  - Frequently Web sites will archive information so that if readers want to look at older information they can link to one place and view it. Otherwise, Web pages would be overrun with link after link after link that would drive everyone crazy. All of my past columns are archived. Many government sites are required by law to archive. That means that when we publish a new version of a rule or regulation at work, we must archive the previous one(s) so that the public can still get to them.
Bandwidth  - The amount of information that can be transmitted over a network connection. Data travels over bandwidth in bits-per-second. A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits, usually expressed as 16k. The more bandwidth you have, the faster information can be downloaded to you.
Bookmark  - Bookmarks are stored by your browser and let users return to favorite sites easily without typing or remembering the URL addresses. They can be saved in your "Favorites" pull down menu in Internet Explorer, or in the "Bookmarks" pull down menu in Netscape Navigator and OmniWeb.
Broken Link  - The URL no longer connects to an active site. It's like a phone number that has been disconnected.
Browser  - A computer program that retrieves and displays Web pages. The two most common browsers are Netscape and Microsoft Explorer. Both work on a Mac.
Clip Art  - A collection of stock artwork users can insert into documents. Clip Art can be found in collections on CDs or downloaded from Internet sites. Most Clip Art on the Internet is free. It is called Clip Art because you can "clip" it and "paste" it into your document.
Clipboard  - A temporary storage area in computer memory. You can copy or cut information or images from a document and the clipboard holds them for you until you are ready to insert them into another document or in a different location in the first document. The clipboard is used in all your applications, not just the Internet.
Com (.com)  - An Internet domain name for Web sites that are primarily commercial in nature. (See also gov and edu.) Most .com sites originate in the United States.
Dial-up Connection  - The connection from your computer to a host Internet computer over a telephone line with a modem, in which all operations you perform are actually performed on the host computer.
Document  - The name for any file that can be transferred to or from a Web server and a user.
Domain  - A domain is what the techies call a root level URL. That basically refers to the main part of a URL, like,, or The domain usually identifies the entity, company, or organization that is responsible for the content. In an e-mail address the domain follows the @ symbol.
Download  - The process of taking something from the Internet and copying it onto your personal computer.
Edu (.edu)  - When you see ".edu" instead of ".com" you know the site is operated by an educational institute.
E-mail  - Electronic mail. Allows you to communicate with others over the Internet or within a network.
Error 404 – Object Not Found  - This is not an error message connected to your computer itself. Rather it means that the Web page you are looking for is either no longer available or currently not functioning. The first thing to do is check the link you are using to see if there are any errors. This error message is particularly common when using search engines because sites come and go, but once they are linked to a search engine they continue to show up.
Ezine  - An electronically published magazine. The Mac Observer is an Ezine.
FAQ  - Frequently Asked Questions. When learning something new it is a good practice to see if you can find answers to your questions in the FAQ before contacting help sources. For new users particularly, the problems we have are usually universal. A good example of this is found on the various auction sites. New users find those sites daily, and how to bid or how to sell are logical questions for those first time users. Most auction sites explain all the steps in their FAQs.
File  - A collection of related information, such as a document, stored on a computer's storage system.
Firewall  - A tool network administrators use to protect networks from outside contact or attacks. A firewall is a single source of entering or leaving a network and is usually protected by various security measures. This makes it easier to control who has access to what on the network.
Form  - A portion of a Web page that lets a visitor type in formation or answer specific questions. The information gathered from the form is sent to the creators of the site. An order form is a common form that is used by commercial sites. A guest book can also be a form.
Frame  - Web pages that are divided into specific areas that can work independent of each other. You see frames in Web pages when you can scroll on one part of a page without effecting the other parts of it. 
Freeware  - An application that the creator has offered to anyone who wants it without cost. Microsoft Explorer and Netscape are freeware, made available free because the makers want as many users as possible using their products and figure that the freeware will help pull them in. Most freeware comes from small independent developers who are often simply making the programs that they themselves wish to use.
GIF (.gif)  - Graphics Interchange Format. Pronounced to rhyme with Jiff (like in the peanut butter) with a soft "G" sound. These are graphic files most commonly used to display images on the Web site. GIF files are compressed to minimize the times it take for the image to download and appear on a page. GIF files and JPEG files are sometimes interchangeable, but GIFs tend to work best with line art. They can also be animated which is achieved by the programmer who combines a group of individual images that, when shown in rapid sequence, makes the image appear to move. It is the same thing as the cartoon images we watched on Saturday mornings.
Gov (.gov)  - These letters appear in the URL of Web pages run by local, state, or federal governments.
Hacker  - Commonly used to mean a person who breaks into a computer network and tampers with the system without authorization. In reality, a hacker is an affectionate term used by programmers to denote someone who writes very good code. Popular culture has come to misuse the term during the last 10 years.
Home Page  - Home page usually refers to a person or organization's main Web page, the first page displayed on a browser when you arrive at a particular Internet address (URL), which provides links to other pages within the person or organization's Web site.
HTML  - Hypertext Markup Language. The standard code used to create Web pages. It's what controls the layout of a Web page, including the bells and whistles.
HTTP  - Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The http at the beginning of Web addresses tells the browsers what kind of pages they are retrieving from servers.
Internet  - A global computer network with hundreds of thousands of interconnected servers and hosts to which a computer user can attach. Also includes e-mail.
JPEG (.jpg)  - Joint Photographic Expert Group. Pronounced Jay-Peg. Another universally accepted method, like a GIF, that allows the Web to display photographs or pictures. Where GIFs work best with line art, JPEGs work best with photographs and other more complex images.

If you have any questions, comments, or tips, let me know and I may include them in a future column.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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