Technology Glossary: Geek Speak

September 1, 1999

Thanks to evolving technologies, the English language inflates at a rate of 150 terms a year, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary editor Jim Lowe. Of the 150 terms added last year, about one-third were computer related. Here we’ve defined many of the terms that you’ll find in other REALTOR® Magazine articles, in your own product research, and underlined in this guide.

Alphanumeric messaging: The ability to receive messages with text and numbers on your phone’s or pager’s screen.

Bandwidth: The amount of data that can be transferred over a given network connection, generally expressed in bits per second (bps). Beta: A term for a product not ready for sale but complete enough for user testing. Many companies release their beta software to a fraction of their users to get feedback on bugs and features.

Bit: The smallest unit of measure in a computer. Graphics are often described in bits. A 1-bit image is monochrome; an 8-bit image supports 256 colors or levels of gray scale; and a 24- or 32-bit graphic supports true color. A byte, which contains eight bits, is a measure of memory storage capacity, usually expressed in kilobytes per second (KBps) or in megabytes per second (MBps).

Bit map: A type of image format that indicates the number of pixels and their color. GIF, JPEG, and TIFF files are bit maps.

Bus: A collection of wires--think of it as a highway--through which data is transmitted from one part of a computer to another.

CPU (central processing unit): The brains of the computer where most calculations take place.

Data synchronization: A software or utility that synchronizes information between two devices. For example, it allows a user to update files automatically in a PC to reflect files in a laptop or vice versa.

Digital phone: A new type of wireless phone that transmits and receives digital, rather than analog, signals. About 28 percent of cell phone users have digital phones, according totheCellular Telecommunications Industry Association, but they’re not available in every market.

Download: To transfer data from a remote computer or the Internet to your local machine.

Dpi (dots per inch): A measurement of image resolution.

Encryption: To translate data into a secret code--the most effective way to achieve data security.

Export: To take data from one program and save it in a format that’s easier to manipulate in order to pull it into a different program.

Extensible Markup Language (XML): An evolving language standard for creating interactive Web pages. Similar to HTML in concept but substantially more powerful. Supported by Microsoft’s version 4 and higher browsers. Not yet supported by Netscape.

File format: The language in which a file is saved. GIF and JPEG are examples of standard graphical file formats.

GIF (graphics interchange format): A popular way to save and compress images.

Home networks: Interconnected home computers and peripherals that can automate lights, thermostats, and appliances, and feed cable and video to TVs and monitors, from a dedicated player.

Import: To pull data into a program, often for use in a database program or for adding images to text files.

Intranet: A restricted-access network that works like a Web site. Usually owned and managed by a corporation, an intranet enables a company to share resources with its employees--and, in the case of One Realtor Place®, members--without releasing proprietary information to everyone with Internet access.

ISDN (integrated services digital network): A high-speed, high-cost telephone network that integrates voice and data communications on a single line. Like ISDN, ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) uses standard phone lines to deliver high-speed data communications. But whereas ISDN’s transmission speed is limited to 128 Kbps, ADSL technology can deliver speeds of 640 Kbps from the user and speeds of more than 6 Mbps to the user.

ISP (Internet service provider): A company that gives its customers access to the Internet, usually through a local phone call.

Java: A programming language designed to produce programs that can operate on any type of computer; used to add interactivity to Web pages or stand-alone applications.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): File format that reduces color image file sizes to about 5 percent of their normal size but loses some detail in the process.

Kbps (kilobits per second): A modem’s speed is measured in the number of bits it can transfer in a second. Modems rated in kilobits per second are now the standard.

LAN (local area network): A network that connects computers in a relatively small area, usually within a building. A piece of hardware called a hub serves as the common wiring point, enabling data to be sent from one machine to another over the network.

Lithium ion: A type of lightweight, powerful, rechargeable battery for wireless phones; more expensive than nickel-cadmium batteries but longer lasting.

Mbps (megabits per second): Used to describe data transmission speeds, such as the rate at which information travels over the Internet. Several factors influence how quickly data travels, including modem speeds, bandwidth capacity, and Internet traffic levels.

MHz (megahertz): A measure of the speed at which CPUs operate. Today’s new computers are 266–400 MHz. Also measures the frequency or sound waves of phones.

Modem: A device or program that enables a computer to transmit digitally stored data over telephone lines.

OCR (optical character recognition): Technology that allows computers to “read” text using a graphical representation--usually a scanned image.

PCS (Personal Communications Service): A two-way, 1,900 MHz digital wireless service that’s typically packaged with calling features such as call waiting, voice mail, and caller ID.

PDA (personal or portable digital assistant): A small handheld device that’s a cross between an electronic organizer and a pen-based computer. Can transmit data for paging, data messaging, E-mail, and faxing.

Pixel: A single point in a graphic image. Graphics monitors display pictures using thousands (or millions) of pixels, arranged in rows and columns. A screen size of 800 x 600 means that the screen is 800 pixels across and 600 pixels from top to bottom.

Plug-in: A module that adds a specific feature or service to a larger software system. Example: Netscape Navigator plug-ins enable it to display audio or video messages.

Port: The spot where information passes in and out of a computer (printer port, modem port).

RAM (random access memory): The place in your computer where programs reside when running. The improved DRAM is common in today’s systems. An even newer technology, SDRAM, synchronizes the speed of the memory to the speed of the processor for greater efficiency.

Remote access: A means of contacting a remote network using a modem.

Resolution: The sharpness and clarity of an image. Often used to describe monitors, printers, and bit-mapped images. In printers and scanners, resolution is measured in dpi.

Roaming: Using your wireless phone outside your coverage area, for which you’re usually charged higher rates.

Search engine: A Web program that searches documents for specified keywords and returns a list of the documents where the words were found.

Server: A computer that manages network resources. A file server is dedicated to storing files; a print server manages one or more printers; a network server manages network traffic; and a database server processes database queries.

Spam: Unsolicited electronic junk mail or newsgroup postings.

TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol): The mother tongue of the Internet. TCP/IP establishes a connection between two hosts so that they can send messages back and forth.

TIFF (tagged image file format): One of the most widely supported file formats for storing bit-mapped images on both PCs and Macs.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator): Addresses on the World Wide Web.

Virtual tours: Photo-realistic, panoramic walk-throughs of property listings via a Web site. These virtual reality tours aren’t the goggle-wearing variety.

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