does all the jargon mean?
The world of computing, and the Internet in
particular, is controlled by people who love nothing more than mystifying the rest of us.
They love making up names and acronyms for everything as a way of keeping control of the
magic of technology - think of them as medieval priests who wouldn't let the peasants
learn to read, for fear they'd find out the truth for themselves. What other industry
would come up with the acronym TLA? It means Three Letter Acronym, those combinations of
letters like IBM or XML or HDD.
The following is a brief guide to some of the most
useful bits of jargon. On the right is a list of links to other Internet sites devoted to
explaining the jargon. And, if you come across something you don't understand, don't
hesitate to e-mail Dr Keyboard - just click on the E-mail button on the left, fill in the
form and he'll do his best to explain everything.
||The Worldwide network of computers which
you're using right now. Your link to it is probably down your telephone line to your ISP. Some computers are connected permanently to it, and it's these you
can access from your PC. Some are run by commercial organisations, like
the Walt Disney Corporation. Others are run by non-profit organisations like the Royal
Horticultural Society. Some sites are set up by private individuals, like students - the
Yahoo site which tries to index the whole Internet began like this. (See my page of
recommended links for the address of Yahoo and other useful places). Most give free access
to anyone who wants it, and they're paid for mostly by advertising. No one owns the
Internet - some companies own bits of it, and all the individual sites are owned by
someone. Telephone companies like British Telecom or MCI in the USA own some of the wires
which connect together the different parts of it, but no one person or organisation owns
it all. There are a number of voluntary bodies which help run it, deciding things like who
can have what internet address and how the technology which keeps it all together should
run, but no government has a say in how this is done. Your part in running the Internet is
in paying your monthly subscription to your ISP - your £10 or £15
helps them pay for the machines which connect you and the others to the Internet, and also
to connect their computers to the rest of the Internet. From their offices to which you
connect when you dial up the Internet they probably have a connection to wires owned by
British Telecom which, in turn, connect to the USA and other countries around the world
where the Internet is used. Your ISP pays a subscription to BT to have this connection, so
part of your monthly tenner goes to pay for this too. This is how you can connect to
computers anywhere in the world, from London to New York to Sydney, all for the price of a
local telephone call.
||Internet Service Provider, a company which
you pay to connect you to the Internet.
||IP means Internet Protocol, the basis on
which we find things on the Internet. An IP address is a number which makes sense to
computers on the Internet. Computers aren't very good with words, they much prefer
numbers. Ultimately all your computer can deal with is a series of 1s or 0s, which tell it
whether one of the millions upon millions of tiny switches inside it should be on (1) or
off (0). The Internet address you type in like www.drkeyboard.co.uk
is translated into a number - 126.96.36.199, in this case - which is not nearly as easy
for a human to remember as drkeyboard.co.uk, but which is a cinch for a computer. This
number is the IP address of the Dr Keyboard website, and the translation between words and
numbers is done by something called a DNS or Domain Name Server. When you type in www.drkeyboard.co.uk your computer asks your ISP's
DNS computer if it's ever heard of this address. If it hasn't, and can't translate it into
a number, it goes on up a chain of computers perhaps right up to the top-level domain name
computers which look after the .uk address space, which can tell it where to go.
||A lightweight programming language and/or
operating system.The original idea was to have a language which would allow a developer to
write a programme once and then have it run on every kind of computer - Write Once Run
Anywhere (WORA) - but it's a bit of a dream still and probably always will be because
doing this means using a 'lowest common denominator' approach. Java's very good as 'glue'
between old-fashioned computer systems and modern PCs, and works well in Internet browsers
- the buttons on the left here are all little Java applets (Q.V.)
||Small programme often running inside a browser (Q.V.) window.
||American Standard Code for Information
Interchange, the basic kind of text which most computers can understand.
||Post Office Protocol number three, an agreed
standard for computers to allow users to collect their e-mail.
||HyperText Mark-up Language, the standard
language for making Internet web pages. For more details, see the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) web pages
||(i) A delicious canned meat made from
Shoulder Pork and hAM; (ii) unsolicited junk e-mail and posts to Usenet newsgroups (Q.V.)
||Browse around the World Wide Web, usually
fairly aimlessly. Like window-shopping.
||The programme you use to Surf
(Q.V.) the web (Q.V.)
||20,000-plus world-wide bulletin boards where
you can discuss everything from Star Trek to Star Wars via gardening, philosophy and The
||From the World Wide Web, of which this page
is just one. Invented by Tim Berners-Lee as a way of sharing basic textual information
with his fellow scholars.
||Small text files saved on your hard disc by sites you visit
so they can remember who you are when you go back. This allows them to
offer you items they know might interest you, remember your name, keep
track of what you buy and so on. Don't delete them, they take up very
little space and can't do any harm
list of anti-acronym pages