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Electronics -A glossary of terms.

Many readers confronted with new language terminology in the field of computer and electronics. As a basic guide we are proud to present the most important part of this glossary compiled in England.


Access: To enter data in or retrieve it from memory storage.

Access Time: The length of time required to store or retrieve data, or to access a word in main memory. In other words, the time passing, say, between giving a 'read' signal and the data being available at the output.

Acoustic Coupler: A device which converts data (in digital form) into sequence of tones (analogue signals), so enabling transmission over standard telephone lines. An acoustic coupler is connected by inserting a standard telephone hand set into two rubber cups that are attached directly to the terminal from which data is being transmitted, or to a separate modem. At the receiving end the tones are converted back tot digital form by a modem.

Address: A number of reference, which identifies a unique location in a computer's memory.

ALGOL: The contraction of Algorithmic language, a high level programming language used for scientific computations.

Alphanumeric: Data that consists of numbers and alphabetic characters.

Analogue: The representation in electrical values of non-electric physical quantities. For example, sound (pressure variations) can be represented in analogue form by an alternating voltage derived from microphone.

Analogue Computer: One that performs its tasks, my measuring continuous physical variables (perhaps volume, voltage, pressure, length, flow), manipulating them to obtain a solution and transforming the solutions into a numerical equivalent.

Antiope: The name of the broadcast teletext service of France.

Array: A group of two or more logically related circuit elements, gates for example, identified by a single name (gate array).

ASCII: The acronym of American Standard Code for information interchange, a standard code (of eight bits per character) established by the American National Standards Institute to achieve compatibility between various types of data processing and communications equipment.


Bar Code: A means of representing characters by a series of lines and spaces of varying width which can be read by an optical scanning device.

BASIC: The acronym of Beginners all-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a popular easy to learn programming language used in many microcomputers. Despite its simplicity of use, it contains many advanced features for handling alphanumeric data and information.

Baud: A unit of measurement (after baudot, a telegraph pioneer) that denotes the rate of transmission of signal element per second e.g. a device that transmits 300 bits per second can be said to transmit at 300 baud.

BCD: The acronym of Binary Coded Decimal, the representation of a decimal number in binary code form. In the simplest BCD code, four digits represent each figure.

Binary: Literally of a pair of two parts. A system of communication, particularly counting, using two possible states in coded combinations.

Binary Code: The representation of data by groups of binary digits or, more generally, by any two symbols like the dot and dash of Morse code.

Bit: A contraction of Binary Digit, a digit in the binary number represented by a 0 or a 1. It is the smallest unit of storage in the computer. Groups of bits from other units of storage, such as a byte or word.

Boot (Strap): The term used to refer to the entering of one or more instructions to initiate the execution of permanently stored instructions which then load the operating system or a computer.

Breadboard: A board on which experimental electronics circuits can be laid out.

Bubble Memory: A type of solid state memory device, which uses the magnetic properties of single crystals. Bubble memory is capable of storing very large amounts of data in a very small space. Access time is also very short.

Buffer: An area of storage in a system, which is used temporarily to hold data, being transferred from one device to another.

Bureaufax: The term adopted by the Comite Consultatif International de Telephonie et Telegraphie for the facimiline service operating between postal/telecommunication authorities.

Bus: A main highway in an electrical circuit.

Byte (Bite): A number of bits which as a group encodes a letters, number or part of a word in digital notation.


CAD: Computer Aided Design.

CAM: Computer Aided Manufacture.

Capacitor: A passive electronic component.

Captain: The videotex/viewdata systems of Japan.

CAT: Computer Aided Teaching.

Cathode: in electron tubes, the electrode from which an emission of electrons take place. In photocells and some camera tubes, the electrode from which electrons are released when light is present.

CBMS: The acronym of Computer Based Message System. A term used in the United States to cover the communication of information by electronic mail systems.

Ceefax: The BBC (British) broadcast teletext service.

Chip: Microchip, microcircuit, and integrated circuit, IC). The term for a small wafer of silicon or similar material on which various circuit elements, such as transistors, diodes and resistors, are produced. These circuit elements are connected to form complete (thus 'integrated') electronic circuits.

Closed Lop (Systems): The type of system in which there can be response to feedback from, say, a sensor or control device, without intervention from an operator.

COBOL: Contraction of Common Business Oriented Language, a computer programming language particularly designed to express business data proceessing problems in a recognizable language.


CPU: Central Processing Unit, the heart of the computer, which incorporates the memory, control and airthmatic units.

Crash: The term used to indicate that a computer system has stopped working.

CRT: Cathode Ray Tube. A vacuum tube enclosing an electron gun to generate a beam of electrons, a system of focussing the beam to produce a spot at the point of impact on the phosphor screened, for the electric field deflection electrodes. A television picture tube is perhaps the best known example of a CRT.

Cursor: The character or symbol displayed on a screen, which indicates where the next character to be generated will appear. It can be moved by various keys on a keyboard and positioned to make alternations at that point.


Daisy Wheel: A flat circular print element with two characters on each of the spokes that radiate out from a Center hub.

Database: highly structured computer files that include a wide e range of data and allows programmers or users to access only those items they need.

Datacom: A data communication service connecting major cities in the United States, operated by Western Union.

DBS: Direct Broadcasting by Satellite.

Debug: to trace and correct errors in programming, code or hardware malfunctions in a computer system.

Decoder: A circuit used to interpret a specific code.

Dedicated: Designating a resource that is reserved for a specific programme, function or user.

Deflection: In a cathode ray tube, electron beams are passed through an electric or magnetic field, whereby the beam is deflected from the path that would follow in the absence of such fields. By the use of varying magnetic or electric deflection fields, the beam traces a line of excitation on the phosphor screen. By moving two fields, deflection can be in two directions.

Degauss: To erase data recorded in a magnetic tape.

Digital: Referring to the binary representation of numerical quantities by the number of discrete signals or the presence or absence of them in particular positions.

Disk, Disc, Diskette: An abbreviation for magnetic disk. A storage device consisting of a circular disc with a magnetisable coating on which data is stored on either or both of its sides.

Disk Drive: The unit that reads and writes data stored on a disk.

DMA: Direct Memory Access.

Dot Matrix Printer: A printer that uses a matrix of dots to make up the characters.

Dump: To copy or transfer the contents of a computer file.

Duplex (channel): A communication channel that allows data to be transmitted in both directions simultaneously.


EDP: Electronic Data Processing.

Electronic Mail: The use of electronic methods to capture transmits and delivers information.

Electron: Negatively charged fundamental constituents of the atom.

Electron Tube: An alternative term for the thermion valve.

Electrostatic Printer: A printer which produces characters by means of wires or pins that supply an electrical charge in the desired pattern to aluminum coated paper. Particles of dry ink adhere to the magnetized areas and are then fixed by heat.

Encoder: A circuit, which puts information into a coded form. When a key on a keyboard is pressed it activates a signal which then has to be converted into the corresponding code for that key.

Expert system: These are programmers run on computers, which attempt to store all the known information on a particular subject usually obtained from the experts in that field. In operation these system try to emulate an expert's thought process in order to solve problems i.e. medical diagnosis.


Facimiline (Fax): The transmission over communication lines of an image, in the form of electrical signals, to another locations where they are reproduced as a copy of the original.

Fail-safe: Designating a system that continues to operate after a malfunction occurs.

FEP: Front-end Processor.

Fiber Optics: The technology of transmitting data over communication lines made from thin flexible strands of glass or plastic through which laser or light beams can be passed to transfer data.

File: In computer programs, a collection of logically related records dealt with as one unit.

File protection: method by which a file is protected (usually by means of passwords) from unauthorized use.

Flip-flop: one of the most common circuit in a digital computer that maintains a value of 1 or 0 units a trigger directs it to change. It is thus a unit capable of storing a bit.

Floppy disc: A flexible plastic disc coated with a material that can be magnetized to store bits. Information is written or read from them with the aid of floppy disc drive.

Fortran: Contraction of formula Translator, a computer programming language used to write program dealing primarily with mathematical formulas and expressions.


Gateway: A link between different communications networks enabling information to pass from one to another.

GIGO: Garbage in - Garbage Out. The output of a computer is determined by the input.


Hard copy: Printed material in paper.

Hard disk: A means of storing bits (information in binary form) which takes the form of a disk mode of a rigid base (ceramic, aluminum etc.), coated with a magnetic material.

Hardware: The actual physical equipment and components of a computer system.


IC: Integrated Circuit. A silicon chip containing numerous interconnected electronic component transistors, diodes, resistors, and capacitors.

Image Intensifier: One that operates by striking individual raised characters or wire ends against on inked ribbon and paper.

Information Technology: All the technologies, collectively, that deal with the computer-assisted collection, processing and transmission of information.

InfraRed: Radiant energy, mainly heat, at wavelengths longer than visible red.

In - Line (processing): The processing of items in the order in which they were input, without sorting, editing or grouping.

Intelligent (terminal): One that can perform certain processing functions on data before it is transmitted to the computer.

Interactive: A two- way system that enables both the sending and receiving of information.

Interface: This means of interactions between two devices or systems that handle data in different ways.

IP: Information Provider. A term used to refer to those providing information for teletext, viewdata and database services.

I / O: Input Output.

ISO: International Standards Organization, a voluntary organization concerned with international standards for data communication.


K: Abbreviation for Kilo

Keyword: A significant word in a title or text that describes the content of text.


Laser: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, a device that emits a very intense, narrow beam of light formed of waves that have been amplified and concentrated.

LCD: Liquid Crystal Display, where the crystals are sealed between two pieces of glass and are activated by an external light source. Used in calculators and digital watches.

LED: Light Emitting Diode, a semiconductor device that emits light when a current is passed through it.

Line format: The number of lines used to compile a TV picture. The present UK standard is 625.


Machine (code or language): Each computer has its own machine language and codes.

Memory: As the name implies, the part of computer which stores information in a retrievable form. The information may be stored in variety of ways.

Menu: A displayed list of the various functions, which can be selected on a terminal.

Microcomputer: A small computer.

Microprocessor: The essential active working part of a microcomputer.

Minicomputer: A computer of a size between a microcomputer and mainframe model.

Modem: Modulator-Demodulator, a device that converts signal from one form to another and allows data to be transmitted over telephone circuits. An acoustic coupler (q.v.) is a type of a portable modem.

MPU: MicroProcessor Unit.

Multiplexing: The process of using a single device to handle simultaneously several similar, but separate devices or operations by altering its attention amongst them.


OCR: Optical Character Recognition.

On-line: To describe a terminal that is communicating with and subject to the control of a central computer.

Oracle: The British Independent TV Companies teletext service. In addition to providing news and information it is used for advertisements and subtitling some TV programs.


Pascal: A computer programming language designed to support the concepts of structured programming with each programming following to precise form.

PCB: Printed Circuit Board.

Peripheral (unit): Equipment, such as printer, which adds on to the computer.

Petal Printer: Synonymous with daisy wheel printer.

Pixel (or pel): A picture element on a display (e.g. TV) Screen.

Printed circuit: An electronic circuit formed by applying conductive material in fine lines or other designs to an insulating sheet, so reducing the need for wiring connections.

Prestel: The British Telecom public Videotex of view data service.

Printout: The type-on-paper output from a computer.

Program: The instructions, which determine the action of a computer.

Prompt: A message that requests the operator to enter information.

Protocol: A set of rules governing the communication and transfer of data between two or more devices in communication system.


Qwerty: The standard typewriter keyboard.


RAM: Random Access Memory, a re-writable memory in which any location can be accessed directly without having to follow a sequence of storage locations.

Redundancy: The amount of that can be eliminated from an item of data without losing the information to be conveyed.

Relay: In circuits, an electronically operated switching device for opening or closing a circuit path or changing circuit characteristics.

ROM: Read Only Memory, one which can not easily be overwritten and is only accessible, by the user, i.e. where permanent information is stored.


Semiconductor: A material, which has an electrical conductivity between that of an insulator and a good conductor like copper. Silicon and germanium are typical semiconductors whose conductivity are poor at low temperatures, but is improved by minute additions of certain substances, or by the application of light heat or voltage.

Software: The programs, routines and documentation for computers and data processing equipment.

Solid state: Pertaining to semiconductor electronic devices. Opposite to thermionic device.


Telefax: The CCITT term used in Europe for public facimiline services via public telephone networks.

Teleprinter: A typewriter-like device activated by a data communications link.

Teletex: High speed Telex type service using telephone or data lines rather than the (slower) telegraph network.

Teletext: A one way broadcast transmission of information using part of information using part of Television signal's spare capacity. It enables a number of pages of information (text and basic pictorial material to be transmitted and received on a suitably adapted domestic TV receiver.

Telidon: The videotex/viewdata system of Canada.

Telset: The Finnish videotex/viewdata system.

Terminal: A receiving device in a communication system.

Transistor: A semiconductor device, which can act as an amplifier or switch.

Transponder: A transmitting-receiving system that on receipt of an interrogation signal will transmit generated or stored signals.

Turnkey: A Turnkey system in a complete one, ready to work when it is turned on.


User Friendly: A description for equipment or computer programs, which are simple and easy to use.


VDU: Visual Display Unit.

Videotex: A Disc used for the storage of audio and visual information. Their capability for storage immense.

View data: A generic term for British videotex type services that utilizes public telephone lines and low cost receivers based on the technology of TV sets.

Vista: Name given by Bell Company of Canada to their videotex system.


Winchester (disk): A direct access storage device that uses hard disks, which cannot be removed. The storage capacity, speed of access and transfer rate is much greater than floppy discs.

Word Processor: A device incorporating a VDU, enabling text to be entered, edited and corrected while in preparation from a typewriter style keyboard, and then stored for subsequent study or automatic print out via an associated printer mechanism.




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