Most writers place a glossary of terms in an appendix at the back of the book. It occurred to me that if we’re writing primarily to people who are concerned about someone else’s use of the computer, we may be using terminology here that we just assumed the reader would understand. It may be the case that you don’t use the computer at all.


So we’ve placed this list of terms here at the beginning. You can skip to the first chapter if you’re familiar with the way things work. There are also a few terms here that aren’t used in the book, but they may help you become more conversant on this topic.


application – a program in your computer that ‘kicks in’ when you want to do something else; for example Adobe Acrobat is a program that lets you read what are called ‘pdf’ files, containing pictures, Windows Media Player or Quicktime are applications that let you listen to music or watch movies

auto complete – the computer remembers previous search and website criteria and offers to “fill in the blanks” from a listing of previously selected choices

blog – short for “web log,” it refers to an online diary or a type of website that can be updated frequently

browser – a computer program that is designed for searching for and then displaying internet web sites, of which Explorer and Firefox are currently two of the most popular; also, I think, a great name for a dog

buffering – the time and action being taken by the computer to receive (usually) image files such as pictures or movies that you are going to view right away, but not keep permanently (compare to “download”)

chat – live conversation using a keyboard instead of a telephone; however VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology means that with a microphone, the internet can become a telephone substitute

cookies – device whereby the website (see “sites”) you’re visiting finds out from your computer who you are, sometimes resulting in a subsequent barrage of unwanted e-mail; may also refer to what you eat with a glass of milk while using the computer

download – the act of receiving a file (see “files”) over the internet connection for either permanent or temporary storage

e-mail – electronic mail requires connection to the internet, but doesn’t necessarily require a web browser, so it’s possible to keep e-mail, but disable connection to websites

extension – files and website addresses (see definitions) always have a name followed by a dot, followed by two or three letters; with the internet it tells you something about the kind of website: .com is the most common (the British equivalent is; Canada often uses .ca) while .edu indicates an educational institution; .gov is government, .org is often (but not always) charitable agencies, etc.

file – anything you want to store on the computer: text, images, movies, etc.

file sharing – a means whereby some computer users can both upload and download (see individual definitions) files; some file sharing sites are used to pass around illegal content

forums – places on the internet where people with a particular interest go to discuss that interest with other like minded people; you read previous comments and then write your own

hard drive – the part of the computer that stores files that have been downloaded in order to ‘keep’ them permanently on the computer

history – the computer’s memory of websites (see “sites”) it has been to lately; some also keep a record of the different search criteria (see “search”) that you’ve typed in trying to find something; in some circumstances (ranging from everything to online shopping preferences to possible police monitoring of pornography) it’s possible that an external history of your website visits is being compiled; ‘Big Brother’ may be truly watching you!

home page – the initial display that greets you when you arrive at a website; it will usually offer choices or further direction as to how to move further into that website; though some sites may consist only of a single page which may be short and simple or may take several minutes to be fully visible

link – a line or text or picture on a website that will, if you click on it with the computer mouse, take you to another website; usually appears underlined and in a different color if found in text; using the browser’s “back” button on the screen takes you back to where you linked from, however sometimes a picture itself may be a link

online – being connected to the internet, as opposed to using the computer’s own internal programs; if you’re on dialup, it’s the time spent using the phone line with the computer; if your internet is on cable or is a high-speed connection, your computer is technically online all the time

page – a single website (see “sites”) may contain many different pages; some are quite complex and offer a variety of choices once you arrive at the site

pop-up – a second (or third) web page that opens after you open another one; it may appear as a half size ‘window’ and usually contains advertising; some web browsers are set to block these; in this context, someone may be reading a risqué text-only (no pictures) site, and a pop-up will appear on the screen containing explicit photographs

post – similar to “uploading;” one posts something to the internet; a post can also be a comment or article; think of it as posting a notice on a utility pole or a bulletin board at the grocery store

search – a key element of this discussion, knowing how to efficiently list search criteria is the means by which internet users find what they are seeking

search engine – a particular type of website (viewed in a browser) used to search the internet; Google and Yahoo are currently the most popular, but there are many other choices

sites – if the internet is an information highway, sites or websites refers to all the shops, offices, houses, parks and other buildings you pass along the way

surfing – using a web browser (see definition) to look for websites that meet a particular search criteria; as opposed to simply typing in the address of a website you already know; or simply using links to jump from site to site

upload – obviously, the opposite of “download;” it’s how the content of websites gets on the internet in the first place; but anyone can think in terms of uploading a comment to a discussion site

web – there was once a subtle difference, but nowadays you can think of the ‘world wide web’ (from which we get that whole ‘www’ thing), and the internet as being one and the same

websites – same as “sites,” we use the terms interchangeably; some additional explanations are given in the chapter of the same name in this book



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