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Handy Computer Acronyms and Abbreviations

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LAN: Local Area Network. Network cards are sometimes referred to as "LAN cards" or "LAN interfaces."

LCD: Liquid Crystal Display. A type of solid-state display technology used in computer monitors and other electronic displays.

LED: Light-Emitting Diode. A semiconductor that emits light. Often used for indicator lights, panel lights, and to illuminate LED computer monitors.

LUN: Logical Unit Number. Used to identify SCSI devices. Each device is assigned LUN ranging from 0 to 7, which identifies the device within the particular computer. Can also be used as an address for a virtual hard drive partition in a RAID array.

MAC Address: Media Access Control Address. The unique identification of any network connection device, such as a network card or modem.

MBR: Master Boot Record. The section of the hard drive located in the boot sector, which contains (at a minimum) the partition table and the bootstrap code.

MCA: Micro Channel Architecture. An obsolete, IBM-proprietary expansion interface. Few devices were manufactured for the MCA interface because of its proprietary nature.

NIC: Network Interface Card.

NTFS: New Technology File System. The preferred file system for Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, and 7.

NVRAM: Non-Volatile Random Access Memory. NVRAM retains its data even when the computer is powered down.

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer. The company that manufactures a computer (or some other thing). If you build your own computer, then YOU are the OEM.

OSD: On Screen Display. Information that is outputted via the computer's monitor, such as the settings for the monitor itself.

PCB: Printed Circuit Board. Generic term for any printed circuit board, not just one in a computer.

PCI: Peripheral Component Interconnect. One of the expansion interfaces that replaced ISA. Many devices are still available for PCI, and most motherboards still contain at least one or two PCI slots. But slowly, PCI is being replaced by PCIe.

PCIe: Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. A newer expansion interface designed to replace the PCI, PCI-X, and AGP interfaces. Not to be confused with PCI-Extended (PCI-X).

PCI-X: Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended. A higher-bandwidth, 64-bit version of PCI used mainly in servers. Not to be confused with PCI-Express (PCIe).

PCMCIA: Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. In practice, defines the interface for laptop expansion cards. In theory, was supposed to set many other standards for portable computers, but never got around to most of them.

PMU: Power Management Unit. The circuitry on a Macintosh computer than controls power-related functions.

PROM: Programmable Read-Only Memory. Read-only memory that is programmed after manufacture.

PS/2: Personal System/2. An historical IBM designation that still defines certain computer hardware, most notable the familiar purple and green mouse and keyboard connectors.

RAID: Redundant Array of Independent Disks. An array of disk drives that are arranged to increase data access speed (striping) and/or improve fault tolerance (mirroring).

RAM: Random-Access Memory. This is memory that's writable by the system and by programs, that stores information while it is needed for running the system and for the execution of programs.

RDRAM: Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory. A very fast, very expensive, proprietary type of RAM manufactured by a company named Rambus. (See? Some things do make sense.)

ROM: Read-Only Memory. This memory is not easily writable. It consists of information that is necessary for the system or component to operate, which is usually called an "instruction set." Some types of ROM can be "flashed" by the user to change or update the instruction set, but it must be done deliberately.

SATA: Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. A faster, more reliable interface designed to replace the older PATA technology used to connect ATA hard drives to the computer's motherboard.

SCSI: Small Computer System Interface. Pronounced "skuzzy." A very fast, very reliable interface used to connect hard drives to a computer's motherboard. Usually used only in high-end servers.

SIMM: Single In-Line Memory Module. An obsolete type of memory chip that used a 32-bit bus, as compared to DIMM chips, which use a 64-bit bus.

SMART: Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology. A technology to monitor a hard drive's performance and warn the user of any problems.

SO-DIMM: Small Outline Dual In-Line Memory Module. The form-factor standard for memory used in laptops and other small form-factor computers.

SRAM: Static Random Access Memory. Pronounced "ESS-ram." A type of RAM that holds data statically rather than dynamically. Faster and much more expensive than DRAM, SRAM is used mainly as cache memory on hard drives and processors.

sRGB: Standard Red Green Blue. The color standard now used by most image-related hardware, such as monitors, scanners, printers, and so forth.

SSD: Solid State Drive. A mass-storage device with no moving parts, which stores data in arrays of flash memory. Better-quality ones have better data access speed than hard disk drives. In addition, because they are not sequential devices, there is no degradation of access speed when the drives become fragmented. However, SSDs are more expensive the HDDs, have a limited duty life, and may be difficult to recover data from in the event of failure.

UPS: Uninterruptible Power Supply.

VGA: Video Graphics Array. The analog interface standard for attachment of monitors and other VDUs to a computer.

VDU: Visual Display Unit. A monitor, projector, or other device used to display or project a computer's visual data.

VRAM: Video Random Access Memory. Memory used by the video processor to store image data being processed and sent to the monitor.


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