Appendix D: Glossary

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X -- Z ]


addressing: A method of identifying a resource (such as a program) or piece of information (such as a file) on a network. Methods of addressing vary considerably from network to network.

ADJ: The Boolean ADJACENT operator, used by WAIS to indicate that the two terms on either side of an ADJ tag should sit next to each other in found documents.

Adventure: One of the earliest text adventure games written for computers. It is the forerunner of the popular Zork series from Infocom.

America Online: A popular commercial information service with a graphical interface.

AND: The Boolean AND operator, used by WAIS to indicate that found documents must contain both terms that appear in the question.

AOL: Shorthand for America Online. Each letter is pronounced separately.

.ARC: An older DOS archiving format.

Archie: An invaluable Internet service that maintains, and allows users to search, a large database of materials stored on anonymous FTP sites.

archive site: A site that archives files for users to retrieve, via either FTP or email.

ARPA: Advanced Research Projects Agency. The governmental organization responsible for creating the beginnings of the Internet.

ARPAnet: The proto-Internet network created by ARPA.

ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange. In the context of a file, an ASCII file is one that contains only "text" characters -- numbers, letters, and standard punctuation. Although ASCII text can contain international characters available in Windows ("upper-ASCII"), these characters are not commonly supported by Internet services such as email, Gopher, and FTP. In FTP, it's a command that tells FTP that you will be transferring text files (which is the default).

atob (pronounced "a to b"): A Unix program that turns ASCII files into binary files. The btoa program does the reverse.

attachments: Files that linked to a specific email message, just as you might paperclip a clipping to a snail mail letter.


bandwidth: Information theory used to express the amount of information that can flow through a given point at any given time. Some points have narrow bandwidth (indicating not much information can flow through at one time), and others have high bandwidth (indicating a great deal of information can flow through at one time). This term is commonly used in reference to "wasted bandwidth," indicating that some (or most) of the information flowing by a point is of no use to a user. "Wasted bandwidth" might include overloading a site's network connection (thus curtailing other users' use of the lines) or including lengthy signature files in Usenet postings or discussion groups. "Wasted bandwidth" is often relative: What one person views as wasteful might be essential to someone else.

bang: The exclamation point! Used to separate machine names in UUCP bang-style addressing, which isn't all that common anymore.

baud: A measure of modem speed equal to one signal per second. 300 baud equals 300 bits per second (bps), but at higher speeds one signal can contain more than one bit, so a 9,600 baud modem is not a 9,600 bps modem. (The terms often are incorrectly used interchangeably). See also bps.

BBS: Bulletin Board System. A computer system that provides its users files for downloading and areas for electronic discussions. Bulletin board systems usually are run by and for local users, although many now provide Internet, UUCP, or FidoNet mail.

Binary: In the context of a file, any file that contains nontextual data. (Images and applications are examples of binary files.) In FTP, a command that tells FTP to transfer information as an arbitrary stream of bits rather than as a series of textual characters.

BinHex: The standard format used by Macintosh computers for converting a binary file into an ASCII file that can pass through email programs. (For those of you wondering how to pronounce it, "Bin" rhymes with "tin," and "hex" rhymes with "sex," and the accent is on the first syllable.) See also uucode.

BITFTP: A program that provides email access to FTP sites for BITNET users. See also mailserver.

BITNET: An academic large-scale computer network, primarily connecting academic institutions. BITNET is often expanded as the "Because It's Time" Network. A friend notes, "Actually, it seems that the definitive answer to what the BIT stands for is 'It has varied, and depends on who you asked and when.'"

BIX: The online commercial information service called the BYTE Information Exchange, although I have never heard anyone use the full name in favor of BIX.

body: The part of an email message where you type your message, as opposed to the header or the signature.

BOOTP: Bootstrap Protocol. A mechanism for a device to acquire its permanent IP address from a server. Originally intended for diskless workstations that had no place to store an IP address, it is now more common for IP address management. IP addresses can be maintained on a BOOTP server.

bounce: What email does when it doesn't go through.

bps: Bits per second. The measurement of modem transmission speed. Not comparable to baud after 300 bps.

Brownian motion: With apologies to Douglas Adams, the best example is indeed a really hot cup of tea. It has something to do with internal movement within a hot liquid.

browser: A client program that enables one to search, often somewhat randomly, through the information provided by a specific type of server. Generally used in relation to the World Wide Web.

btoa (pronounced "b to a")[sp]A Unix program that turns binary files into ASCII files for transmission via email. The atob program decodes such files.

BTW Abbreviation for the expression "By the way."


Call For Votes: What you do after discussing whether a new newsgroup should be created.

CEO: Chief Executive Officer. The head honcho of a company, who has little time to learn computer systems. CEOs generally earn a lot more money than you or I.

CERN: The birthplace of the World Wide Web, although in real life the people at CERN do high-energy physics research. Located in Geneva, Switzerland. CERN doesn't stand for anything any more, although it once was an acronym for a French name.

CFV: See Call For Votes.

channel: In IRC, an area that theoretically has a specific discussion topic. See IRC.

charter: The document that lays out what topics a newsgroup will cover, what its name will be, and other relevant details.

chat script: A simple conversation (you hope) between your computer and your host machine that allows you to log in automatically. Chat scripts usually involve a series of send and expect strings. Your host sends a login prompt; your computer responds with your username. Your host sends a password prompt; your computer responds with your password.

chiasmus: A term from classical rhetoric that describes a situation in which you introduce subjects in the order A, B, C, and then talk about them in the order C, B, A.

CIS: Stands for CompuServe Information Service, or simply CompuServe. Wags often replace the S with a $. See CompuServe.

ClariNet: An alternate hierarchy of newsgroups that uses the same transmission routes as Usenet, but carries commercial information from UPI and others. You, or your provider, must pay to read ClariNet news.

client: The program or computer that requests information from a server computer or program. Used in terms of client/server computing. See also server.

CMS: Short for Conversational Monitor System. The part of the operating system on certain IBM mainframes with which you interact. Not at all conversational.

command line: Where you type commands to an operating system such as DOS or Unix. Command-line operating systems can be powerful but are often a pain to work with, especially for those used to a window interface.

Compress: Generically, to make a file smaller by removing redundant information. Specifically, the Unix compress program that does just that. Files compressed with the Unix compress command end with a .Z suffix (always a capital Z). Compressed files may be expanded with the Unix command uncompress.

CompuServe: One of the oldest and largest commercial online services. Sometimes abbreviated as CIS.

connect time: The amount of time you are actually connected to and using a computer. Because connect or telephone charges are based on this amount of time, you want to keep it as low as possible.

CREN: Corporation for Research and Educational Networking.

cross-posted: What happens to a Usenet posting when you put several newsgroup names in the Newsgroups line. More efficient than posting multiple individual copies.

CSLIP: Compressed SLIP. A type of SLIP account that uses compression to increase performance.


daemons: Small programs in Unix that run frequently to see whether something has happened -- if so, they act as they were programmed; if not, they go back to sleep.

DARPA: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Replaced ARPA and had a more military bent. Has since been renamed ARPA again. See also ARPA.

DEC: Digital Equipment Corporation. Also known as Digital, this company produces the popular VAX line of computers and the VMS operating system.

DHCP: Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. A mechanism for a device to acquire an IP address from a server. Like BOOTP, it allows for central management of IP addresses. However, it is far more flexible in that IP addresses are leased rather than owned. A device may get one IP address in one session but a different IP address in another session.

dial up: To call another computer via modem. The term is often lumped together as one word except when used as a verb.

dialup: A connection or line reached by modem, as in "a dialup line."

digest: A single message that contains multiple individual postings to a mailing list or newsgroup.

domain: A level of hierarchy in a machine's full nodename. For instance, is in the com domain, as are many other machines.

domain name server: A computer that keeps track of names of other machines and their numeric IP addresses. When you refer to a machine by name, your domain name server translates that information appropriately into the numeric IP address necessary to make the connection.

domain name system: The system that makes it possible for you to think in terms of names such as, whereas computers think in terms of

DOS: The ubiquitous operating system that is frequently enhanced by Microsoft Windows. Currently at release 6.22.

download: To retrieve a file from another machine, usually a host machine, to your machine.

downstream: Usenet neighbors that are downstream from you get most of their news from your machine, in contrast to machines that are upstream from you.


80x86: The class of processors brought to you by Intel Corporation. These chips are the heart and soul of DOS and Windows. Frequently, the initial 80 is dropped in casual conversation: "My 486 sports more megahertz than yours."

electronic mail or email: Messages that travel through the networks rather than being committed to paper and making the arduous journey through the U.S. Postal Service.

emoticons: A rather silly name for smileys.

Ethernet: A network specification developed by DEC, Intel, and Xerox which provides 10 megabits per second transmission speeds (theoretically). Think of this as 1,000 times faster than a 9,600 baud modem. Most PCs can use Ethernet by adding an Ethernet expansion card.

expire: After a certain amount of time, Usenet postings can be set to expire, which means that they will be deleted even if they haven't been read, so that they don't waste space.


FAQ: Frequently Asked Question. Lists of commonly asked questions and their answers, often posted in newsgroups to reduce the number of novice questions. Read a FAQ list before asking a question, to make sure yours isn't a frequently asked one.

Fax: Slang for facsimile. A technology that takes paper from the sender and produces more paper that looks just like it at the recipient's end. You can use fax modems to eliminate the paper step at one end or both, but they may be less reliable than stand-alone fax machines. Email is cleaner, often cheaper, and more environmentally friendly, and the results are more useful in other programs. However, you can't easily send signatures or existing paper documents via email.

Federal Express: A company that can transport paper mail overnight for a hefty sum of money. Email is far faster and cheaper.

feed: Shorthand for a connection to another machine that sends you mail and news. I might say, "I have a mail feed from Ed's machine."

Fidonet: A network of cooperating bulletin board systems that has some links to the Internet.

filename extension: A three-letter (usually) code at the end of a filename that indicates file type. Common extensions include .txt for text files, .exe for application files, and .ini for initialization files.

fileserver or file server: A machine that provides files via a network. Perhaps because of time spent working on BITNET, I tend to use it as a synonym for mailserver, or a machine that returns files that are requested via email.

file site: Another name for archive site or FTP site. A computer on which files are stored for anyone on the Internet to retrieve.

Finger: A Unix program that helps you find out information about someone else on the Internet.

firewall: A term for any device that would prevent undesirables on the global Internet from getting at your or your company's network. It also often prevents or controls users from getting out to the Internet from your local network.

flame war: A conflagration in which lots of people jump in on different sides of an argument and start insulting each other. Fun to watch briefly, but a major waste of bandwidth.

flaming: The act of calling into question someone's thoughts, beliefs, and parentage simply because you don't agree with them. Don't do it.

followup: An article on Usenet posted in reply to another article. The subject should stay the same so that readers can tell the two articles are related.

forms: In the World Wide Web, online electronic forms that you can fill in if you have a forms-capable Web browser such as Netscape Navigator 1.0 or NCSA Mosaic 2.0.

Freenet: An organization whose goal it is to provide free Internet access in a specific area, often by working with local schools and libraries. Ask around to see if a Freenet has sprung up in your area. The first and preeminent example is the Cleveland Freenet. Freenet also refers to the specific Freenet software, and the information services that use it.

freeware: Software that you can distribute freely and use for free, but for which the author often retains the copyright, which means that you can't modify it.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol. One of the main ways in which you retrieve, umm, well, files from other machines on the Internet.

FTPmail: A method of retrieving files stored on FTP sites via email.

FYI: Abbreviation for the expression "For your information."


gateway: A machine that exists on two networks, such as the Internet and BITNET, and that can transfer mail between them.

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format. A platform-independent file format developed by CompuServe, the GIF format is commonly used to distribute graphics on the Internet. Mighty battles have been waged over the pronunciation of this term, and although Robin Williams notes that it's pronounced "jiff" in her book Jargon, both of my glossary proofreaders flagged it as being pronounced with a hard g, as in "graphics." I surrender; pronounce it as you like.

.gif: The filename extension generally given to GIF files.

GNU: With apologies for the circular reference, GNU stands for GNU's Not Unix. Developed by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, GNU is (or will be, when finished) a high-quality version of the Unix operating system that is free of charge and freely modifiable by its users. GNU software is distributed at no cost with source code. Many GNU applications and utilities are mainstays of the Unix community.

Gopher: An information retrieval system created by the University of Minnesota. In wide acceptance on the Internet, Gopher is one of the most useful resources available.

Gopherspace: The collection of all available Gopher servers.

.gz: An extension used by GNU's version of ZIP, called gzip.


header: The part of an email message or Usenet posting that contains information about the message, such as who it's from, when it was sent, and so on. Headers are mainly interesting when something doesn't work.

home page: In the World Wide Web, the document that you access first after launching a Web browser.

host: The computer you connect to for your Internet access.

HTML: HyperText Markup Language. The language used to mark up text files with styles and links for use with World Wide Web browsers.

HTTP: HyperText Transport Protocol. The protocol used by the World Wide Web.

hypertext: A term created by visionary Ted Nelson to describe nonlinear writing in which you follow associative paths through a world of textual documents.

HYTELNET: Stands for HyperTelnet. Essentially a database of Telnet sites and other Internet resources that can link to other programs when you want to connect to a site you've found. Interesting, but not as useful as Gopher.


IAB: See Internet Architecture Board.

IBM: International Business Machines. IBM remains one of the most powerful companies in the computer industry despite numerous problems in recent years. Developer of numerous mainframes and operating systems, many of which are still in use today. Codeveloped OS/2 with Microsoft (which has since bowed out to concentrate on Windows NT).

IETF: See Internet Engineering Task Force.

IMAP: Interactive Mail Access Protocol. A new protocol for the storage and retrieval of email (much like POP, the Post Office Protocol). It's not in wide use yet.

IMHO: Abbreviation for the expression "In my humble opinion."

information agent: A software program (currently only an interface to frequently updated databases) that can search numerous databases for information that interests you without your having to know what it is searching. Archie and Veronica are current examples of information agents.

internet: With a lowercase i, it's a group of connected networks.

Internet: The collection of all the connected networks in the world, although it is sometimes better called WorldNet or just the net. More specifically, the Internet is the set of networks that communicate via TCP/IP. If you're still confused, go back and read chapters 1 through 8.

Internet Architecture Board: A group of invited volunteers that manages certain aspects of the Internet, such as standards and address allocation.

Internet Engineering Task Force: A volunteer organization that meets regularly to discuss problems facing the Internet.

IP: Internet Protocol. The main protocol used on the Internet.

IP number: A four-part number that uniquely identifies a machine on the Internet. For instance, my IP number for is People generally use the name instead.

IRC: Internet Relay Chat. A worldwide network of people talking to each other in real time over the Internet rather than in person.

IRS: Internal Revenue Service. If you live in the United States and are not aware of them, you might want to watch out.

ISOC: The Internet Society. A membership organization that supports the Internet and is the governing body to which the IAB reports.


JANET: Joint Academic Network. Great Britain's national network. In true British fashion, JANET addresses work backwards from normal Internet addresses. They work from largest domain to the smallest, as in Luckily, most gateways to JANET perform the necessary translations automatically.

jargon: The sometimes incomprehensible language used to talk about specialized topics. If you need help with computer jargon, check out Jargon, by Robin Williams, a lighthearted and detailed trip through this industry.

Jolt cola: All the sugar and twice the caffeine of normal colas. First suggested as a joke by comedian George Carlin, later developed and marketed by Carlin and a food industry entrepreneur.

jordanism: An attempt at sounding intelligent, but ending up wasting peoples' time and coming off like an idiot.

JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group. A group that has defined a compression scheme that reduces the size of image files by up to 20 times at the cost of slightly reduced image quality.

.jpg: A filename extension used to mark JPEG-compressed images. On many sites, the file extension may be .jpeg.

Jughead: A searching agent for Gopher, much like Veronica, but more focused.


Kermit: A file transfer protocol actually named after the popular Kermit the Frog. Kermit is generally slower than XMODEM, YMODEM, and the top-of-the-line ZMODEM.

Knowledge Navigator: A video of John Sculley's anthropomorphic vision of an information agent. Information agents probably will be more successful if they don't look like people, because computers cannot currently meet the high expectations we have of people.


LAN: See local area network.

leaf site: A machine on Usenet that talks to only one other machine instead of passing news onto other machines.

line noise: Static on a telephone line that causes trouble for modems and sometimes leased-line connections.

LISTSERV: A powerful program for automating mailing lists. It currently requires an IBM mainframe, but that requirement may change in the near future.

local area network: Often abbreviated LAN. Two or more computers connected together via network cables. A Windows for Workgroups setup is a typical local area network.

login: The process by which you identify yourself to a host computer, usually involving a userid and a password.

lurkers: Not a derogatory term. People who merely read discussions online without contributing to them.


mail bombing: The act of sending hundreds or thousands of messages to someone you think deserves the punishment for transgressions against the Internet. Highly discouraged as it chews up bandwidth unnecessarily.

mailing list: A list of people who all receive postings sent to the group. Mailing lists exist on all sorts of topics.

mailserver: A program that provides access to files via email. See also fileserver.

mail transfer agent: A program, typically running on a Unix server, that delivers mail to another machine on an IP network.

man pages: The Unix manual pages. You must go to the man pages to find out more about a Unix command. Accessed through use of the man command followed by the command whose description you want to view.

MCI: A large telecommunications company that provides an email system called MCI Mail.

Microsoft: That programming machine out in Redmond, Washington that continues to define trends in personal computers. Their applications division includes some of the most popular software to date, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Works. Their systems division, of course, is responsible for bringing Windows, Windows for Workgroups, and Windows NT to the world.

MIME: Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions. An Internet standard for transferring nontextual data, such as audio messages or pictures, via email.

mirror site: An FTP site that contains exactly the same contents as another site. Mirror sites help distribute the load from a single popular site.

modem: Stands for modulator-demodulator, because that's what it does, technically. In reality, a modem allows your computer to talk to another computer via the phone lines.

moderator: An overworked volunteer who reads all of the submissions to a mailing list or newsgroup, to make sure they are appropriate, before posting them.

monospaced font: A font whose characters are all the same width. Courier New is the most common monospaced font in Windows, but you can find others like Letter Gothic, Courier, and Orator. You generally want to use a monospaced font when reading text on the Internet.

MPEG: Motion Picture Experts Group. More commonly, a compression format for video. Files compressed with MPEG generally have the extension .mpg, although it may be .mpeg on some sites.

MTU: Maximum Transmission Unit. A number that your system administrator must give you so that you can configure SLIP.

MUD: Multi-User Dungeon, or sometimes Multi-User Dimension. A text-based alternate reality where you can progress to a level at which you can modify the environment. Mostly used for games, and extremely addictive.

MX record: Mail Exchange record. An entry in a domain name server database that tells mail transfer agents where they should route mail.


NCSA: National Center for Supercomputing Applications. A group that has produced a great deal of public domain software for the scientific community. They wrote NCSA Telnet and have completed NCSA Mosaic for Windows, X-Windows, and Macintosh.

net heavies: Those system administrators who run large sites on the Internet. Although they don't necessarily have official posts, they wield more power than most people on the nets.

NetBEUI: Stands for NetBIOS Extended User Interface. It is the common networking protocol of Windows for Workgroups. Meant for small local area networks, it is sometimes difficult to get a PC to "talk" NetBEUI at anything else.

NetBIOS: Network Basic Input/Output System. NetBIOS is a very basic applications interface to allow an application to communicate on a network.

NetWare: The most popular of PC local area networks by Novell, Inc. Rather than using TCP/IP as its "standard" protocol for intercomputer communications, it uses IPX/SPX. It is sometimes difficult to get a PC to "talk" TCP/IP and IPX/SPX at the same time.

Network Information Center: An organization that provides information about a network.

Network Time Protocol: A protocol for transmitting the correct time around the Internet.

network time server: The machine from which you set your clock using Network Time Protocol.

news: Synonymous with Usenet news, or sometimes just Usenet.

newsgroup: A discussion group on Usenet devoted to talking about a specific topic. Currently, over 9,000 newsgroups exist.

.newsrc: The file that Unix newsreaders use to keep track of which messages in which newsgroups you've read.

newsreader: A program that helps you read news and provides capabilities for following or deleting threads.

NIC: See Network Information Center.

nickname: An easy-to-remember shortcut for an email address. Sometimes also called an alias.

nixpub list: A list of public access Internet providers, created and maintained by a man named Phil Eschallier.

nn: A popular Unix newsreader.

NNTP: Net News Transport Protocol. A transmission protocol for the transfer of Usenet news.

nodename: The name of a machine, such as

NOT: The Boolean operator NOT, which WAIS uses to limit the found documents to ones that contain one term but not another.

Notepad: Windows application that allows you to view (and edit) ASCII text files. Typically use with files of the .txt extension.

NREN: National Research and Education Network. The successor to the NSFNET.

NSF: National Science Foundation. The creators of the NSFNET.

NSFNET: National Science Foundation Network. The current high-speed network that links users with supercomputer sites around the country. Also called the interim NREN.


offline: Actions performed when you aren't actually connected to another computer.

online: Actions performed when you are connected to another computer.


page: In the World Wide Web, the name for the basic document type.

PDIAL list: Peter Kaminski's list of public providers that offer full Internet access. Currently quite out of date.

Pentium: Class of processor brought to you by Intel Corporation. It is the latest entry in the long list of processors of the 80x86 family. Think of it as an 80586 (hence Pent-ium -- for five). Some batches calculate floating-point numbers incorrectly, but Intel says that you should only run into this problem once every 27,000 years. A program was posted on the Internet that allows you to run into the problem whenever you want.

PEP: Packetized Ensemble Protocol. Telebit's proprietary method of increasing throughput when two of Telebit's modems connect to each other.

PKZIP or PKUNZIP: Suite of utilities from PKWARE for compressing and uncompressing DOS and Windows files. Uses the .zip extension.

POP: Post Office Protocol. A protocol for the storage and retrieval of email. Eudora uses POP.

port: In software, the act of converting code so that a program runs on more than one type of computer. In TCP/IP networking, a number that identifies a specific "channel" used by network services. For instance, Gopher generally uses port 70, but occasionally is set to use other ports on various machines.

post: To send a message to a discussion group or list.

PPP: Point to Point Protocol. A protocol such as SLIP that allows your computer to pretend it is a full Internet machine using only a modem and a normal telephone line.

Program Group: A mechanism in the Windows Program Manager that allows you to collect like applications. For instance, you could have a group consisting of all WinSock applications. Groups are not nestable, in that you cannot have groups within groups.

Program Item: An executable entity in the form of an icon that lives in a Program Group of the Windows Program Manager. Typically, double-clicking on these will launch applications, but in some cases the icon can launch documents or batch files.

Program Manager: Windows default shell or interface. The Program Manager, unless you've replaced it with something better, like PC Tools for Windows, allows you to launch other Windows applications.

proportionally spaced font: A font whose characters vary in width, so that, for example, a W is wider than an i. Proportionally spaced fonts often work poorly when you're reading text on the Internet.

protocol: A language that computers use when talking to each other.

public access provider: An organization that provides Internet access for individuals or other organizations, often for a fee.

public domain: Software that you can use freely, distribute freely, and modify in any way you wish. See also freeware and shareware.


quoting: The act of including parts of an original message in a reply. The standard character used to set off a quote from the rest of the text is a column of > (greater-than) characters along the left margin.


ranking: The method by which WAIS displays found documents in order of possible utility.

rec.humor.funny: A popular moderated newsgroup devoted to jokes judged funny by the group's moderator. Set up by ClariNet creator Brad Templeton because the rec.humor group became overrun with jokes that no one found funny and discussions about how unfunny they all were.

relevance feedback: A method WAIS uses to "find me more documents like this one."

Request for Comments: Documents containing the standards, proposed standards, and other necessary details regarding the operation of the Internet.

Request for Discussion: The part of the newsgroup creation process in which you propose a group and discussion begins.

RFC: See Request for Comments.

RFD: See Request for Discussion.

rn: A popular, if aging, Unix newsreader. Perhaps the most common newsreader available under Unix -- if a Unix machine has a newsfeed, it almost certainly will have rn.

root directory: The topmost directory that you can see. Under DOS the root directory is typically c:\. Each volume or disk drive will have its own root directory.

rot13: A method of encoding possibly offensive postings on Usenet so that those who don't want to be offended can avoid accidentally seeing the posting. Works by converting each letter to a number (a = 1, b = 2, and so forth), adding 13 to the number, and then converting back into letters, rendering the file unreadable without deciphering.


scripting language: A programming language to instruct how one computer should communicate with another computer. Typically, you would use a scripting language to cause your computer to automatically connect to a host computer, validate your user id and password, and then processes desired commands (like initiate SLIP).

self-extracting archive: A compressed file or files encapsulated in a decompression program, so you don't need any other programs to expand the archive. A self-extracting archive will always have an extension of .exe since this is consistent with application files under DOS and Windows.

server: A machine that makes services available on a network to client programs. A file server makes files available. A WAIS server makes full-text information available through the WAIS protocol (although WAIS uses the term source interchangeably with server).

setext: Structure-enhanced text. A method of implicitly marking up text files to make them both easy to read online and readable by special browser software offline.

shareware: A method of software distribution in which the software may be freely distributed, and you may try it before paying. If you decide to keep and use the program, you send your payment directly to the shareware author.

Shell: A common interface -- either command-based or graphical. Typical Unix Shells are csh, ksh, and sh. The Macintosh Shell is the Finder; the DOS Shell is COMMAND.COM; and the Windows Shell is the Program Manager.

signature: Several lines automatically appended to your email messages, usually listing your name and email address, sometimes along with witty sayings and ASCII graphics. Keep them short, and leave out the ASCII graphics.

.sit: The filename extension used by files compressed with StuffIt, a popular Macintosh archival and compression program.

SLIP: Serial Line Internet Protocol. Like PPP, a protocol that lets your computer pretend it is a full Internet machine using only a modem and a normal phone line. SLIP is older and less flexible than PPP but somewhat more prevalent.

smileys: Collections of characters meant to totally replace body language, intonation, and complete physical presence. ;-)

SMTP: Simple Mail Transport Protocol. The protocol used by mail transfer agents on the Internet to transfer mail. Eudora uses SMTP to send mail.

snail mail: The standard name on the Internet for paper mail because email can travel across the country in seconds, whereas my birthday present from my parents took a week once.

source: In WAIS jargon, a database of information. Used interchangeably with server in the context of WAIS.

spamming: The act of sending hundreds of inappropriate postings to Usenet newsgroups and mailing lists. Do it and you'll seriously regret it.

StuffIt: A family of programs originally developed by Raymond Lau and now published by Aladdin Systems. Also the compression format used by those programs. Typically used only in the Macintosh world, the extension is .sit.

system administrator: The person who runs your host machine or network. Also known as the network administrator or just plain administrator. Be very nice to this person.


T-1: A high-speed network link used on the Internet (1.54 megabits/second).

T-3: An even higher speed network link used on the Internet (45 megabits/second).

.tar: The filename extension used by files made into an archive by the Unix tar program.

TCP: Transmission Control Protocol. It works with IP to ensure that packets travel safely on the Internet.

TCP/IP: The combination of Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol. The base protocols on which the Internet is founded.

Telnet: Both a terminal emulation protocol that lets you log in to other machines, and programs that implement this protocol on various platforms.

terminal: A piece of hardware like a VT100 that lets you interact with a character-based operating system such as Unix.

terminal emulator: Software that allows one computer to act like a dedicated terminal, such as a VT100, to another computer.

text: In terms of files, a file that contains characters only from the ASCII character set. In terms of FTP, a mode that assumes the files you will be transferring contain only ASCII characters. You set this mode in FTP with the ASCII command.

thread: A group of messages in a Usenet newsgroup that all share the same subject and topic, so you can easily read the entire thread or delete it, depending on your specific newsreader.

TidBITS[sp]A free weekly newsletter distributed solely over computer networks. TidBITS focuses on the Macintosh and the world of electronic communications. I'm the editor, so I think it's neat. Send email to for subscription information.

timeout: After a certain amount of idle time, some connections will disconnect, hanging up the phone in the case of a SLIP connection.

.txt: The filename extension generally used for straight text files that you can read (as opposed to text files that have been encoded by BinHex or uuencode).


UART: Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter. The chip used in the serial port of most computers and communications equipment. In PCs it is most common to have an 8250 UART, which typically has a maximum throughput of 19,200 bps. The 16550 UART is far more suitable for faster communications.

Ulaw: An audio file format native to Sun workstations but in common use on the Internet.

Unix: An extremely popular and powerful, if utterly cryptic, operating system in wide use on computers on the Internet. Other operating systems work fine on the Internet, but Unix is probably the most common.

UPI: United Press International. ClariNet gets much of its news from this wire service.

upload: To send a file to another machine.

upstream: Machines that send you most of your Usenet news are said to be upstream from you. Machines that get most of their news from you are downstream.

URL: Uniform Resource Locator. An efficient mechanism for identifying specific resources on the Internet. See chapter 8.

Usenet: An anarchic network of sorts, composed of thousands of discussion groups on every imaginable topic.

Usenet news: The news that flows through Usenet. Sometimes abbreviated Usenet or news.

userid: The name you use to log in to another computer. Synonymous with username.

username: See userid. They're generally the same.

.uu: The filename extension generally used by uuencoded files.

uucode: A file format used for transferring binary files in email, which can only reliably carry ASCII files. See also uuencode and uudecode.

UUCP: Unix to Unix CoPy. UUCP is a small pun on the fact that the Unix copy command is cp. UUCP is a transmission protocol that carries email and news.

.uud: A filename extension sometimes used by uuencoded files.

uudecode: A Unix program for decoding files in the uuencode format, turning them from ASCII back into binary files.

.uue: Yet another filename extension sometimes used by uuencoded files.

uuencode: A Unix program that turns binary files into ASCII files for transmission via email.


v.34: Currently the fastest standard modem protocol, although others may appear soon. Although not required, almost all v.34 modems support all sorts of other protocols, including v.32, v.32bis, v.42 error correction, and v.42bis data compression. Don't worry about the specifics; just try to match protocols with the modems you call.

Veronica: An information agent that searches a database of Gopher servers to find items that interest you.

vi: An extremely powerful Unix editor with the personality of a junkyard dog. Much-beloved by many Unix aficionados.

VMS: Digital Equipment Corporation's main operating system for their VAX computers.

VT100: Originally, a dedicated terminal built by Digital Equipment Corporation to interface to mainframes. The VT100 became a standard for terminals, and as a result almost all terminal emulation programs can emulate the VT100. The VT100s make excellent footstools these days and will be outlived only by DataMedia terminals that can withstand being dropped out a window without losing a connection.


WAIS: Wide Area Information Servers. A set of full-text databases containing information on hundreds of topics. You can search WAIS using natural-language queries and use relevance feedback to refine your search.

WAN: See wide area network.

wide area network: A group of geographically separated computers connected via dedicated lines or satellite links. The Internet enables small organizations to simulate a wide area network without the cost of one.

wildcards: Special characters such as * and ? that can stand in for other characters during text searches in some programs. The * wildcard generally means "match any number of characters in this spot," whereas the ? wildcard generally means "match any character in this spot."

Windows: Extremely popular operating system for PCs. Released in 1986 with poor reception. It redeemed itself in 1989 with the release of Windows 3.0 by providing such revolutionary features as overlapping window panes and better memory management (yes, we can get over that 640K limit). Currently at release 3.11.

Windows for Workgroups: Version of Windows that supports local area networks. Resources such as disks and printers can be shared among users within a workgroup. Windows for Workgroups also includes workgroup software such as electronic mail and scheduling. Currently at release 3.11.

Windows NT: Windows New Technology. The 32-bit, multitasking version of Windows. Code was generalized to run on a plethora of microprocessors, including Intel 80x86, Pentium, Digital Equipment Corporation's Alpha, and PowerPC. Currently at release 3.5.

WinSock: Windows Sockets (WinSock) is a TCP/IP extension to the Windows Applications Interface (API). It essentially allows Windows applications to run independently of the hardware underneath. It is just like the device independence you gain with a Windows graphics program -- it can run independently of your video board. Currently at release 1.1.

World Wide Web: The newest and most ambitious of the special Internet services. World Wide Web browsers can display styled text and graphics. Often abbreviated WWW.

worm: A program that infiltrates a computer system and copies itself many times, filling up memory and disk space and crashing the computer. The most famous worm of all time was released accidentally by Robert Morris over the Internet and brought down whole sections of the net.

WWW: See World Wide Web.

X -- Z

Xerox PARC: The Xerox research lab that invented the graphical interface among many other things, including the mouse and Ethernet.

XMODEM: A common file transfer protocol.

YMODEM: Another common file transfer protocol.

.Z: The filename extension used by files compressed with the Unix compress program.

.z: A filename extension used by files compressed with the Unix gzip program.

.ZIP: The filename extension used by files compressed into the ZIP format common on PCs.

ZMODEM: The fastest and most popular file transfer protocol.