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Computer Acronyms and Abbreviations

An acronym is an abbreviation where each letter stands for a word. For example, TLA is a Three Letter Acronym. (TLAs are very common.)

  • ATA - Advanced Technology Attachment (originally AT Attachment, after the PC or AT type of computer), a type of hard disk bus. Also known as IDE, and now often called PATA (Parallel ATA) to distinguish it from SATA.
  • ATAPI - AT Attachment Packet Interface, a form of ATA, extended to use with CD-ROM drives and floppy drives instead of just hard disks.
  • CD - Compact Disc. (Or compact disk - both are widely used. At time of writing, Google has 1,600,000 results for "compact disc", and 1,320,000 results for "compact disk".)
  • CPU - Central Processing Unit.
  • CRT - Cathode Ray Tube, the technology behind most older monitors and televisions. It is only in the last year or two that LCD screens have become cheap enough to replace CRTs as the main sort of computer monitor.
  • DVD - Digital Versatile Disk (or sometimes Digital Video Disk). They are "versatile" because they can be used for more than just video.
  • EIDE - Enhanced IDE.
  • FTP - File Transfer Protocol. Used for downloading files over the Internet.
  • HDD - Hard Disk Drive. (Also HD for hard disk or hard drive.)
  • HTML - Hypertext Markup Language. The way web pages are encoded for bold, italics, etc.
  • HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Used for downloading HTML pages, pictures, etc, on the WWW.
  • IDE - Integrated Drive Electronics, see ATA.
  • LAN - Local Area Network. A small network, based in just one house or building. Two computers in the same home sharing a single printer is an example of a LAN.
  • LCD - Liquid Crystal Display. This is what powers the screens of most calculators, digital watches, and flat panel displays. In the last year or two LCD monitors have replaced CRTs as the price of them has dropped markedly.
  • LED - Light Emitting Diode. An electronic device that gives off light, often used to indicate that something like a hard drive is being used, or simply that a device is turned on. In more recent years LEDs have become bright enough that they are now also being used for decoration, such as lighting up the inside of a computer while using a transparent case.
  • Modem - from MOdulator/DEModulator, from what it does to convert the digital computer signal to/from the analogue telephone signal.
  • POP - Post Office Protocol. Used for email over the Internet. A POP account is an email account on a mail server. It is checked for new email by an email program like Mail, Eudora, or Outlook Express.
  • RAM - Random Access Memory. Much more convenient than heap or stack memory, which can only write to or read from the top of the stack. RAM means data can be written to or read from anywhere in the memory.
  • ROM - Read Only Memory.
  • SATA - Serial ATA, a type of hard disk bus.
  • SCSI - Small Computer System Interface. A type of hard disk interface, not used much any more. There are several different sorts, and they used to be common enough that I made an article about the different connectors.
  • USB - Universal Serial Bus. An inexpensive way of attaching peripheral devices. USB was invented by someone working at Entrega, bought by Intel, and popularised by Apple when they used it for their iMac.
  • WAN - Wide Area Network. A large network, over several buildings, or even the whole world. The Internet is an example of a very big WAN.
  • WWW - World Wide Web. Just part of the Internet - there is a lot more to the Internet than just the web.

Note that the Internet is made of lots of different things, such as the WWW, usenet groups, email, ftp, etc.

  • KB - kilobyte, may be 1,000 bytes or 1,024 bytes depending on the context.
  • MB - megabyte. 1 million bytes. The days of 20 MB hard drives are long gone.
  • GB - gigabyte. 1 billion bytes. The days of being able to buy 20 GB hard drives have also gone, although some 20 GB hard drives are still in use.
  • TB - terrabyte. 1 trillion bytes. The biggest (single unit) hard drives have now exceeded 1 TB.