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Kens - dictionary of Computer Standards
Category: Technical and IT > Computer Standards
Date & country: 13/09/2007, USA
Words: 109

A software program or system of programs designed to fulfill a specific user requirement. Categories of applications include Spreadsheets for bookkeeping, Word Processors for documents, and Databases for recordkeeping.

1. The American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Originally a 6 bit computer code representing capital English (Roman) letters and punctuation, expanded to 7 bits to include lower case and additional symbols. The Open Systems competitor to EBCDIC, IBM's proprietary text code. Also known as ISO 8859-1 (Latin-1), ANSI X3.4-1968, and ANSI X3.110-1983. 2. A consortium of Value Added Resellers. 3. A large Japanese firm, also with the same name.

1. The ATA Programmer's Interface. A set of SCSI-like commands designed to address a CDROM drive over an IDEinterface. Allows users to install and use a CDROM drive in much the same manner as a hard disk.

Base Address
An industry-wide specification for the documentation of I/O Ports where the total number of addresses is never mentioned, only the first, or Base Address.

A quantifiable, reproducible measurement of computer system operation. 2. Marketing A way to make your product look better, usually by way of unfair comparison. For example, comparing 350mg aspirin to 500mg, or application performance on Intel Win/NT versus on PowerPC Win/NT, but running in Intel emulation mode, etc.

Beta Test
A phase of Product Delivery allowing users to report bugs in a commercial program. Also, for Device Drivers, a release strategy, where unfinished drivers are released to the public, in the hopes that knowledgeable individuals will dissassemble, repair them, and return their efforts for free.

A base 2 numerical system, using any of several notational systems. Ideally suited to computer use. Negative numbers can be internally represented in fixed-size binary systems using one's complement or two's complement notation, the latter winning out in modern computers due to simplicity of hardware implementation. 2. Any kind of computer data that is not plain readable text (such as ASCII or EBCDIC). Usually, but not necessarily, compiled executable code.

A specification for a 16 Bit program that boots 32 and 64 bit PC's, and cannot contain a boot manager, diagnostics, or command line monitor. The BIOS specification also requires that PC's cannot boot directly off of alternate disk partitions, alternate disks, CD ROMS, tapes, Bernoulli's, flopticals, or other storage devices.

A system for connecting one or more CPUs to various peripherals and I/O devices, involving parallel data transfer through standardized connectors to multiple devices. All modern computers are based on the Von Neumman bus architecture, which accesses memory and peripherals in the same logical manner. The Harvard bus architecture is used on most computer systems that have CPU's greatly faster than their peripherals. While appearing logically the same, RAM is accessed on one bus at a much faster sp…

Cascaded Interrupt
An Interrupt Request line reserved by the system (in the IBM PC architecture) for notifying the first interrupt controller that the second has received an interrupt. Used by VGA cards for the Vertical Retrace Interrupt, and the default IRQ setting for most LAN cards.

Consultative Comittee International Telephone and Telegraph. A defunct European standards organization, made up of state-controlled Telephone Companies and no commercial entities, that rubber-stamped delineations of existing European telephony practices.

Compact Disk Read Only Memory. A storage medium based on the digital music recording specification. There are two basic specifications, High Sierra, and ISO 9660, which may be made interoperable with the Rock Ridge extensions.

CD ROM drive
A device used for loading large programs from CD ROM and sharing interrupts with LAN cards. Newer CD ROM players allow you to replace a Hard Disk with a CD ROM drive and search endlessly for device drivers when upgrading to Win95.

The environment in which a process runs, including it's set of register values within the CPU, the current stack values, which instruction is being executed, and the allowable memory access boundaries. A context switch is a sudden change in these, for example, a function call which modifies the stack, registers, and instruction pointer simultaneously, or a CPU's switch from executing one process to another, which produces similar effects.

Context Sensitive Help
Information about where you are in the application, which is not where you want to be. Often describes how to use the mouse and the menus to select things you don't want (required in User Friendly software).

Cost Plus
1. The ultimate goal of every government contractor. 2. The foundation of the USA's military-industrial complex. 3. A type of contract where all Research & Development expenses are charged to the government, whatever they are, in addition to fees.

Commercial Off The Shelf. A government purchasing term requiring commercial availability of products bought on contract. An attempt to avoid 'cost-plus contract' minded defense contractors from making custom systems that only they can maintain.

Central Processing Unit 1. The Microchip containing the Arithmetic Logic Unit, Decoder, registers, etc. that decodes and executes machine-level commands inside the Computer System. 2. The set of circuit boards of a mainframe containing these elements. 3. slang The system case containing the above. CPU's are classified by their instruction set width, integer data register size, data bus width, address bus width, and the clock speed at which they access data.

CPU Cache
Fast Static RAM that provides 0 wait state (next clock cycle) access to memory for the CPU. The number of wait states is calculated by the reciprocal of the clock speed, e.g. 1/33MHz = .000 000 030 S or 30+ NanoSeconds. For a Pentium 100, 1/100MHz = .000 000 010 S or 10 nS. However, advertising standards require 100 MHz Pentiums to claim 0 wait state caches when implemented with 15 nS SRAMS.

Device Driver
Low-level software that provides an interface between Operating Systems and the hardware devices. Created to allow for device-independent applications, they must be replaced whenever a new or updated application is installed. 2. A mechanism of planned obsolesence, where new operatings systems released without device driver support for older hardware.

Direct Memory Access. The ability of an I/O device to write directly to the computer's RAM, bypassing the slow, CPU intensive Port I/O. On the PC architecture, DMA channels come in 8 bit and 16 bit varieties. Some are prereserved by design (for example, the floppy drives), while others at system configuration time, like for a sound card.

The Extended Industry Standard Architecture. A computer expansion bus used in high end 386 and 486 PC's and some Hewlett-Packard Workstations. A non-proprietary industry-wide attempt to counter IBM's MicroChannel bus. A bus width of 64 bits allowed a 33 MB/S transfer rate, making it ideal for file server computers with high disk I/O rates. Unfortunately the 8.25MHz bus speed made for high latency in small transfers, leading to poor video performance compared to the 32 bit, 33 MHz VESA Local bus.…

A picture built out of ASCII characters, often sideways, used in human-to-human electronic communications, such as e-mail, chat, and IRC. The use of emoticons is intended to compensate for the lack of evocative, emotional content in computer text. The most popular type of emoticon is the smiley face.

Flash BIOS
An user-upgradable memory device (required not to have the usual BIOS identification code and therefore undetectable by memory managers) that is mapped into a PC's upper memory and conflicts with programs that the memory manager loades over top of it. Used to implement Plug-n-Play and other quickly changing specifications.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The object of marketing campaigns launched by otherwise uncompetitive companies.

FUD Factor
The threshold of confusion in a market sufficient to allow an uncompetitive company to prepare products, while users delay purchasing. See White Paper.

Grammar Checker
An application feature that is used precisely once in the lifetime of an application. Grammar Checkers explain to the user in Post-Graduate level English why the writing is at a Third Grade level.

HyperText MarkUp Language. The standard language for publishing text on the World Wide Web. Using an ASCII text editor or HTML editor, an author 'Marks Up' text with formatting codes and codes for hypertext links to other material. These codes are interpreted by the user's browser, not the publisher's server, with the intent of providing device-independent output. As such, HTML was not intended to precisely control page layout, which fonts are used, etc. Standards include original HTML (sometime…

Integrated Drive Electronics. A standard for interfacing Hard Disks to PC, placing the controller on the drive itself, like SCSI drives. From a programming standpoint, it is another ST-506 compatible system, based on the interface for the original 5 Megabyte Shugart hard disk of the 8 bit PC. Unlike SCSI, only two disks are allowed per IDE interface, though a tape or CDROM may be added to a secondary IDE interface. Installing a second drive causes the transfer rate of IDE to drop. On manually co…

The process of configuring new hardware, software or both to work on a computer. See Support.

An application feature that automatically changes the abbreviation MHz (for Mega Hertz) incorrectly to Mhz.

Internal Modem
A telecommunications device that renders your mouse inoperative and cannot be used at the same time as your LAN card.

Interrupt ReQuest. A set of 16 lines on the PC Bus, that when asserted by the I/O device, notifies the CPU that the device is in need of servicing. IRQ's 2 and 9 are ganged, as this is the way that the PC architecture was extended from the 8 bit 8 IRQ 'PC/XT' bus to the 16 bit 286 'AT' bus. On most 32 bit protected mode operating systems, peripherals cannot share an IRQ, as the OS would not know which of the two peripherals needed servicing. All internal modems installed on Com3 or Com4 are atte…

The International Standards Organization, the European version of ANSI, but driven primarily by government-controlled Telephone Companies. The group responsible for OSI.

Job Control Language. The batch file and script language of the IBM 360, 370, 390 and ES/9000 family mainframes, though the acronym was used by other manufacturers as well. It's role has been assumed on other architectures by DOS Batch, UNIX's Bourne shell and PERL, and Windows'... oops.

Ken's Law
An axiom by Ken, namely, 'No matter how fast your new CPU, software has all ready been written to make it seem slow.' 1986

An input device used heavily by computer professionals and optimized for use by non-typists. Most of the industry loosely follows the typewriter-styled 'IBM 101' standard introduced with the PS/2. DEC uses its own TFTISDOTRJPUEKLTKWTSSB standard, or 'Twelve Fingered Twelve-Inch-Spread Dual Opposable-Thumb Reverse-Jointed-Pinky Unmarked-Escape-Key / Less-Than-Key-Where-The-Shift-Should-Be'. Computer keyboards usable by touch-typists are made only by the nearly defunct Northgate, Inc.

LAN Manager
A LAN OS rumoured to be used by some companies, perhaps in foreign countries.

The amount of time that passes before something starts to happen. An important consideration in performance evaluation, where high throughput computer devices often postpone tranfers due to protocol transaction overhead, contention and other factors.

Local Bus
1. A high speed internal data-transfer component of modern computers, operating at the external clock speed of the CPU. 2. Marketing Any bus which runs faster then the 8 MHz ISA bus. 3. A bus in 133 MHz Pentium PC's, designed to share one interrupt between all of the heaviest I/O devices. All modern Local Busses are advertised to run at CPU speed. Current Local Bus standards include PCI (32 bit bus w/ MicroChannel type connector) and VESA (32 bit bus, extended ISA connectors). Specified speeds o…

1. A large computer featuring downloadable microcode, rich I/O paths, substantial integrity enforcement, degradated mode capability, multiple virtual machines, and terabyte address spaces. 2. The central patch panel for a facility's cabling system. 3. slang Any computer bigger then a PC or Macintosh. See also MiniComputer.

1. A commercial entity that imports, labels, and markets goods, expecting VAR's to support them. See OEM. 2. A factory for hire in a developing country, with accomodating labor and environmental laws.

1. A computer designed for use by a single user, employing a single chip Processing Unit with fixed microcode and a single-user operating system. 2. An embedded system employing a single chip CPU.

Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions. A developing standard, specified in RFC 1521. MIME compliant mailers allow a user to encode an object and specify a viewer type for that object, and then mail the object to someone who has neither the proper decoder nor viewer on their own MIME-compliant system.

1. Any multi-user computer employing one or more single chip CPU's, fixed microcode, memory management unit and multitasking operating system. 2. A computer larger then a MicroComputer but smaller than a Mainframe.

An input device designed to increase the hand-eye coordination of the user. Also, the required subject of 40 to 50% of User Friendly documentation.

MS Windows
See also Win95. Any of five versions of a graphical operating environment that enables Task Switching between Productivity Applications. Also, an extended memory manager that allows DOS to load four Megabyte EXE's plus 10 Megabytes of DLL's for one application (see Word Perfect for Windows.) See also Ken's Law.

1. A pejorative used against UNIX type systems, as in, 'you really don't want the overhead of a multi-user OS.' 2. The ability to remotely log-in, diagnose and repair software problems.

The ability to download software from the Internet while running productivity applications. 2. n. A multiple process Operating System scheme which relies on computer hardware to efficiently and safely share computer resources between applications. See Task Switching.

Sun Microsystem Inc.'s Network Extensible Windowing System, an obsolete desktop metaphor User Interface manager, superceded by OpenWindows, which in turn has been replaced by OSF/Motif. After DEC and IBM adopted MIT's X Windowing System and funded the OSF to write Motif, Sun saw it's Postscript-based NeWS relegated to proprietary status, with only minor UNIX Workstation players like Sony and AT&T licensing it. Sun then adopted X but opted to write their own Window Manager and high level API for …

adj A mathematical term used to describe the installation of network software on MS Windows.

Novell Netware
A LAN OS highly optimized for network disk emulation that is installed to do everything else.

Object Oriented
Used to describe software that is highly geared towards distributor level marketing. Since all software is written for financial gain, the 'Object' is sales, and the packaging is 'Oriented' to achieving this. Also used to mistakenly identify early-binding programming environments that are not quite totally unlike Eiffel.

Original Equipment Manufacturer. 1. n. A manufacturer of unbranded products. 2. A reseller that brands unbranded products. 3. adj. Unbranded. 4. v. To brand and resell an unbranded product. By definition, no post-sale support or driver updates are available for OEM products.

Sun Microsystem Inc.'s desktop metaphor manager for the X Windowing System. It features three-click cut and paste incompatible with most existing X applications that need only one click per operation. It also features an API different than Sun's SunView and NeWS, the first two obsolete Sun Graphical User Interfaces.

The Open Systems Interconnect family of specifications, an attempt by the ISO to dictate TelCo style networking standards for non-existent products. Taken up by the U.S. Government in the form of GOSIP (Government OSI Purchasing/Profile), this initiative failed when only two US manufacturers came up with non-interoperable products. All higher-level network protocols have been totally supplanted by the TCP/IP family.

PC Card
A Hardware and Software specification for small add-in cards for portable PC's. It builds on the old PCMCIA technology that failed to work correctly.

A Hardware specification for PC's that dynamically changes the DMA, IRQ, I/O Ports and Memory Mapping of computer devices to settings that non plug-n-play devices occupy, or where either device drivers or applications are unable to use. Plug and play works by having each PnP card output a bit stream containing a unique serial number for its type, into I/O Port 203 bit One. Each card re-reads the port, and stops the stream when the number differs. Eventually, all the cards back off except for one…

1. Post Office Protocol, levels 1, 2 and 3. A protocol that should allow Internet users to access their SMTP-compliant server's mailbox from any client. 2. A system that doesn't work when any one part of the ISP's hardware is down or misconfigured. 3. Point of Presence. A location where an ISP or TelCo has an access point for a particular service.

Point Of Presence. A location where a phone company or Internet ISP provides access to their equipment, typically through a modem bank. Ideally, an ISP has one or more POPs local to each area code that they market to.

Product Conception
The realization that a marketing opportunity exists.

Product Delivery
A series of steps taken to bring a product to market, usually encompassing Conception, Introduction, Research & Development, Product Release, Testing, and Obsolescence.

Product Introduction
The second phase of Product Delivery, where glossy photographs and tentative specifications are released to magazines.

Product Obsolescence
The last phase of Product Delivery, where the only options for product disposition are warehousing, charitable contribution or markets in developing nations.

Product Release
A phase of Product Delivery, when products ship from the manufacturer to distributors and VAR's. Often confused with Product Introduction.

Product Testing
Sometimes the fifth phase of Product Delivery, occuring only when VAR orders decline sharply due to the unusability of the product.

A description of a product's development status during the release phase, marking the end of Research & Development. The same as Beta Test, except that there exists no mechanism for users to report bugs.

Productivity Application
Spreadsheets, functional WYSIWYG Word Processors, and other software that contributes directly to the success of a commercial enterprise. Does not include Word Perfect for Windows.

A standardized method of communication and negotiation. Every type of computer data transfer and network communication, internal or external, is done according to one or more protocols.

Protocol Stack
(Derived from Stack of Cards, a reference to House of Cards) A group of continually growing programs and drivers that are installed in every possible permutation in attempts to give multiple network protocol support to MS Windows. See ODI, NDIS, NDIS2, NDIS3, VLM, CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, .386, .SYS, TSR, LH, DEVICEHIGH, and Packet Driver.

1. The theoretical concept of delivering superior products, usually through some sort of statistical control method. 2. Marketing Countering bad reviews and user complaints by loudly extending the warranty period for new purchasers only.

1. The product of a System Analyst's analysis of user's needs. 2. Arbitrary constraints for a computer system, including financial limits, preferential and experiential judgements, contracting loopholes, compatability with legacy systems, and security concerns. 3. A list of a computer system product's capabilities defined after product release.

Research & Development
1. Marketing The process of procuring legal opinions on infringement, liability and restraint of trade. 2. Engineering The process of determining which off-shore manufacturer to choose. 3. v. Contracting Building company infrastructure through R&D-billed spending, at the expense of the client.

Reduced Instruction Set Computer. Computer studies in the late 1970's showed that production CPU's spent most of their non-productive time in store and fetch operations to main memory (primary storage). By reducing the functionality and complexity of the instruction set, RISC CPU architectures take only one clock cycle per instruction, insuring that almost all of the processor time is spent waiting for fetch and store I/O.

The Santa Cruz Operation. 1. The official archiver of obsolete flavors of UNIX. 2. The company behind the failure of the ARC initiative, when it discovered it didn't know how to port UNIX SVR4 to the MIPS R4000 RISC CPU. 3. A company partly bankrolled by Microsoft to promote UNIX in a way favorable to Microsoft. 4. The company that dropped 90 day installation support on it's flagship product because it was costing them too much money. 5. A company whose UNIX has a fraction of the device driver s…

Scroll Arrow
A graphical pseudo-device MS Windows users learn to employ after giving up on the Scroll Bar.

Scroll Bar
A graphical psuedo-device, the required subject of at least 10% of the content of User Friendly documentation. Used as an aid to build MS Window's users' hand-eye coordination (see Mouse). Also, (X/Motif only), a useful graphical psuedo-device nearly independent of user skill.

The Small Computer Systems Interface. 1. A parallel Input Output bus used on most mini-computers for attaching peripherals such as disks, CDROMS, tape drives, and other high throughput devices. The original SCSI specification allows for at least one Host Adapter (the interface to the CPU), and six other Controllers on the bus, each of which can control devices or be another CPU's Host Adapter. A Controller in turn may control several devices, each of which may be a Host Adaptor to another SCSI b…

The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. 1. A specification given in RFC #821 for UNIX-style e-mail to be exchanged via several kinds of network transfer services, usually TCP.

A product of SunSoft, a division of Sun Microsystems Incorporated (SMI). An SVR4.0 based operating system for SPARC CPU RISC workstations, the product of a collaboration between AT&T and Sun. This collaboration allowed AT&T to reintroduce many of the ancient System V bugs that had been weeded out of Sun's formerly BSD-based code, along with introducing some new ones.

Solaris 86
A product of SunSoft, division of Sun Microsystems Incorporated (SMI). An attempt by Sun to limit support problems for PC Unix by a.) limiting the supported machines to a single obsolete configuration, and b.) making it unaffordable to the average PC user by requiring 32 MB of RAM just to boot. This product is most curious because Sun purchased Interactive's SVR4.0 UNIX, took it off the market, re-released Interactive SVR3.2, and made people wait a few years before reintroducing SVR4.0 as Solari…

Sound Board
A device that synthesizes tones and shares interrupts with printer ports.

Spell Checker
An application feature that users rely on to correct their grammar. The de facto industry standard requires the Spell Checker's dictionary to contain all the words in the English language except computer terminology and competing vendor's product names.

The purveyors of, an organization that feels that weekly router collapse and daily ongoing packet delays of 30 seconds to 3 minutes is an acceptable level of service.

Stepwise Principle
Releasing hardware-supporting software for the previous generation of hardware. antonym, Beta Testing. The industry standard software support model for PC Operating Systems and some Video Card vendors. For example, a 32 bit Video Accelerator is introduced with 16 bit drivers, and stable 32 bit drivers are shipped only when 64 bit V.A.'s are introduced (also with 32 bit drivers). Stable 64 bit drivers will be available for the 64 bit hardware only when the 128 bit video hardware ships, and so on.…

Sun Microsystem Inc.'s original desktop metaphor User Interface manager. SunView, like MS Windows, was not operable over a network in Client/Server fashion (where the display server and the application server are different machines.) Threatened by innovative machines like the Apollo, Sun wrote NeWS to replace SunView. XView is a compatility library Sun has released into the public domain, enabling developers who didn't port to NeWS or OpenWindows to port old SunView programs to the X Windowing S…

Super Scalar
A type of RISC CPU that executes multiple instructions simultaneously. This type of CPU must recognize intruction sequences that are sequentially dependent and suspend operation of the dependent instruction. Optimizing Compilers that reduce these dependencies are very important for the best performance of super scalar CPU's. This type of multiple instruction processing is not considered multi-processing, because instructions are typically within the same context or thread.

1. The business activity that turns profitable products into unprofitable ones, and vice-versa. 2. The process of reducing user questions into three categories, a.) known problems with answers, b.) unsupported configurations, and c.) further profitable opportunities.

Task Switching
The ability to start to downloading software from the Internet, and then watch a productivity application crash. 2. n. A multiple process scheme which relies on each application to cooperatively yield the CPU to allow other applications to run simultaneously. See Multitasking.

The X Windowing System (X Windows)
A graphical network protocol specification with reference implementation maintained by MIT. X Windows was thrust into the limelight when DEC and IBM sought to kill Sun's postscript-based NeWs (Network Extensible Windowing System) before it became an industry standard like Sun's NFS did. The Open System Foundation was formed and funded by Sun competitors to write OSF/Motif, a higher-level programming API and user interface (window manager) for X, now the predominate standard. X applications can b…

Third Party
1. Any company that is not Microsoft or IBM. 2. Any small company that pioneers an innovative technology, which will be immediately countered with a White Paper and later be superseded by an inferior version bundled in the Operating System.

1. One of several paths of execution inside a single process or context. Threaded programs allow background and foreground action to take place without the overhead of launching multiple processes or inter-process communication. Also known as Light Weight Processes. 2. A series of supposedly related articles posted to one or more Usenet newsgroups.

Two dot Oh
The threshold at which experienced professionals begin to consider purchasing.

A boot strap program written to load an adventure game on a DEC PDP-8, modified by an astronomer, an archer, and a mathematician to demonstrate that all computing can be done on a PDP-11 in less then 10 keystrokes. Trademark of X/Open, Ltd. Modern reference implementations available include Berkely Source Distribution 4.4, by UC Berkeley, and SVR4.3, 32 bit by SCO and 64 bit by Hewlett Packard.

1. Universal Serial Bus. n. 1. A cooperative vendor standard (Compaq, Digital Equipment Corp, IBM, PC Co., Intel, Microsoft, NEC and Northern Telecom.) designed to support higher transfer speeds to Plug-n-Play peripherals than current serial (RS232C) and parallel ports, at lower cost than SCSI. 2. An implementation of such on a PC Motherboard with no connectors, software, or USB hardware to take advantage of it.

1. A person trying to derive usefulness out of an application. 2. Someone not functioning primarily as a programmer, marketer, installer or maintainer of software. 3. Theoretically, the originator of requirements. 4. The financial foundation of the computer business.

User Friendly
1. Specification for software to include Context Sensitive Help, three manuals and twenty hypertext documents on how to use the mouse, menus and buttons. Does not address documentation about installation errors, crashes, or actual functionality. 2. Software designed to be easy to learn and comprehend, with absolutely no thought to speed of use, ease of repetitive actions, or workflow. Also adj. a sales term, see Object Oriented.

Value Added Reseller. A commercial entity that expects the manufacturer to support the products it sells.

The Video Electronics Standards Association, home page. An industry association responsible for designing the VESA Local Bus specification and standardizing various aspects of PC video cards and video programming interfaces. Standards are available for download in Adobe Acrobat format.

Video Accelerator
A hardware component on a Video Card that is designed to consume all Local Bus bandwidth. Video Accelerators' software device drivers are often released according to the Stepwise Principle.