General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology & Practice Guide


How many times have you found yourself in a conversation with a technophile and had no idea what he or she was talking about? Did you smile and nod, and then extract yourself from the conversation as soon as possible? Lingo, a standing column of Technology and Practice Guide, demystifies the technological terminology that everyone seems to be using with abandon these days, paying special attention to the words and phrases used in this issue.

Backup. A duplicate copy of data that is stored away for the purpose of providing a safeguard against the corruption of the current data or a system failure. Can also refer to the procedure which directs the computer to duplicate data.

CD-ROM. Stands for compact disk. The laser imprinted disk, much like the familiar music compact disk, used to store digital data, especially where very large capacities are required. Typical applications include large reference databases; multimedia applications incorporating sound, data and video; and distribution of large application software packages. ROM stands for Read Only Memory because CD ROM disks can be read from but not written to. However, new technology is being developed that will allow CD-ROM disks to be written to.

Download. To transfer a file from a remote computer system via a communication channel such as a telephone link to the receiver’s computer.

E-mail. Stands for electronic mail. The electronic transmission of letters, memos, reports, and messages over a telecommunication network. In an electronic mail system, the recipient of an e-mail message need not be present to accept the information, because the computer will store and forward the information when the recipient accesses the system.

Encryption. Any procedure used in cryptography to prevent any but the intended recipient from reading data. There are many types of data encryption, and they are the basis of network security. Common types include Data Encryption Standard and public-key encryption.

FAQ. A frequently asked question or a list of frequently asked questions, often found on Websites.

File server. The computer in a network dedicated to storing information or providing resources such as printers, fax machines, and modems that are used by other workstations.

File transfer protocol. File transfer protocol (FTP) is a client- server protocol that allows a user on one computer to transfer files to and from another computer over a network. Also, the client program the user executes to transfer files.

Flame. An e-mail or Usenet news message intended to insult, provoke, or rebuke, or the act of sending such a message. Sometimes a flame will be delimited by marks such as "flame on...flame off."

Hardware. The generic term applied to all computer equipment. Contrast with software and firmware.

Integrated Software. Programs designed for different applications that are also designed to work together by sharing data. For example, a spreadsheet program that analyzes data and draws a chart that is easily placed in a word processor document.

Internet Service Provider. An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that provides other companies or individuals with access to, or presence on, the Internet. Most ISPs are also Internet Access Providers. Extra services include help with design, creation, and administration of Websites; training; and administration of intranets.

Laptop. A portable computer small enough to use on your lap.

List Serve. An automatic mailing list server. List Serve is a user name on some computers that processes e-mail requests for addition to or deletion from mailing lists. Some List Serves provide other facilities, such as retrieving files from archives and database search. Full details of available services can usually be obtained by sending a message with the word HELP in the subject and body to the List Serve address. Two other major mailing list processors are majordomo and listproc.

Modem. Stands for MODulator-DEModulator. A peripheral device that translates the digital information used by a computer into sound (modulation), which can be transmitted via telephone lines and reconverted (demodulation) back to digital information by a computer at the other end of the line.

Netiquette. The conventions of politeness and etiquette recognized in List Serves and newsgroups, such as refraining from commercial advertising outside of designated areas. The most important rule of netiquette is, "Think before you post." Other examples include: Personal messages to one or two individuals should not be posted to newsgroups, use private e-mail instead; reread and edit your posting carefully before you post; keep your lines to less than 70 characters; before asking a question, read the messages already in the group and read the group’s FAQ.

Network. Two or more computers and/or peripherals that are set up to communicate with each other.

Newsgroup. A topic group or forum. Newsgroups can be "unmoderated" (anyone can post) or "moderated" (submissions are automatically directed to a moderator, who edits or filters and then posts the results).

Operating system. The low-level software that schedules tasks, allocates storage, handles the interface to peripheral hardware, and presents a default interface to the user when no application program is running. The facilities an operating system provides and its general design philosophy exert an extremely strong influence on programming style and on the technical cultures that grow up around the machines on which it runs. Windows is an example of an operating system.

Peer-to-Peer LAN. A local area network that provides point-to- point communications between two computers on the network without the help of an arbitrator or controller.

Search engine. A remotely accessible program that lets you do keyword searches for information on the Internet. There are several types of search engines; the search may cover titles of documents, URLs, headers, or the full text.

Upgrade. To purchase or change to a more recent release of a computer peripheral or software so as to obtain a new or more powerful capability.

Virus. A program that was designed to disrupt the normal processing function of an infected computer system, such as to corrupt data. A virus normally is transmitted from infected programs to programs on other disks.

Windows 95. Microsoft’s successor to their Windows 3.11 operating system for IBM-compatible computers. In contrast to earlier versions, Windows 95 is a complete operating system rather than a graphical user interface running on top of MS-DOS. The graphical user interface, while similar to previous Windows versions, is significantly improved.

Workstation. A general-purpose computer, designed to be used by one person at a time, that offers higher performance than normally found in a personal computer, especially with respect to graphics, processing power, and the ability to carry out several tasks at the same time. n

Source: Compiled from various sources, including: The Dictionary of Computer Terminology, Computers and Computer Law Committee, ABA Young Lawyers Division; and the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (http://wombat.

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