Creative Computing's Dictionary of Computer and Internet-Related Terms and Abbreviations

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BTW : by the way
CU/Cya : see you
FWIW : for what it's worth
FYI : for your information
IMHO : in my humble opinion
IMO : in my opinion
JOOC : just out of curiosity
LOL : laughing out loud
OTFL : on the floor laughing
OTOH : on the other hand
PMFBI : pardon me for butting in
ROTFL : roll on the floor laughing
RTFM : read the ---- manual
TIA : thanks in advance
TTFN : ta ta for now
An Internet service that searches anonymous FTP sites, listing the files that are available at each site.


The original backbone of the Internet, created in 1969.

American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Numbers, letters, punctuation marks, symbols and control codes are assigned numbers from 0 to 127 so that they can be easily transferred over networks.


The amount of data that can be handled by a data communication link.


The speed of a modem. 300 baud means 300 bits per second (bps) but at high speeds 14,400 baud does not mean 14,400 bps. This is why baud and bps are often confused!

Bulletin Board System. A modem and appropriate software are required to log into BBSs. There are now bulletin boards that operate via the Internet network, such as FirstClass.


A Macintosh file that has been converted to ASCII so that it can be transferred as email. BinHex files have the extension .hqx


Software programs that enable you to access Internet resources, particularly used in relation to the World Wide Web (WWW). Examples of browsers include Netscape, Internet Explorer, Mosaic, MacWeb/WinWeb, Cello, Chimera, WebExplorer.



Common Gateway Interface. CGI is used to write scripts/forms for use on the Internet.


Online Chat
To chat with other people in "realtime" using a program such as Homer, mIRC or POWWOW.


Compression Formats
There are many programs available to compress and decompress files. It helps to know what the extensions are so that you can figure out how to decompress the file.

.ZIP - PkZip (most common)
.ARJ - Arj
.LZH - Lha

.sit - Stuffit Expander
.hqx - Stuffit Expander
.pit - Packit

.Z - Compress
.z - Pack
.shar - Shell archive
.tar - Tar

.zoo - zoo210 (various platforms)

At times you may see a file that has two of these extensions. This means that it has been compressed twice using two different programs.



Domain names
A domain name tells you the name of the specific computer you have accessed on the Internet. For example, the domain name of the WWW server I use is

There are various levels to the domain. The two worth noting are the last two levels. In the example above, this would be

edu tells us what class the host computer is. For example :

  • edu - educational
  • com - commercial
  • gov - government
  • org - non-profit organisation
  • net - public network

au tells us what country the host computer is in. For example :

  • at - Austria
  • au - Australia
  • ca - Canada
  • ch - Switzerland
  • de- Germany
  • es - Spain
  • fi - Finland
  • il - Israel
  • it - Italy
  • jp - Japan
  • kr - Korea
  • se - Sweden
  • tw - Taiwan
  • uk - United Kingdom
  • us - United States

Note that if there is no two letter code at the end, the host computer is in the United States.



Email is an electronic mail system - you can send messages electronically via Internet. Like traditional mail (called snail-mail or smail by some), you need an address before you can send email.

The standard email address is of the form user@hostname

For example, my email address is :

Breaking this down tells you:








mail server domain name



class of computer




If you are trying to email someone and you don't have their correct username but you know the host is correct, you can send email to postmaster@hostname, providing as much detail as you can about the person. Hopefully you will receive a response telling you the correct username.


Below are some of the common symbols people use to show emotion electronically. You need to turn you head sideways to see most of them.


Smiley, sometimes seen as <g> or :->


Sad face


Smiley wearing glasses


A wink




A look of shock


Tongue stuck out

Talking emotions, when you type in ALL CAPITALS on the Internet, people interpret you as SHOUTING at them :-)


Frequently Asked Questions - files maintained by people so that those starting out have a rich source of information. You should read any related FAQs before posting questions to newsgroups.


A worldwide public amateur network of personal computers. Over 10,000 BBSs participate in this network, based on FirstClass technology.


A security system which :
  1. prevents intruders from entering LANs.
  2. prevents users from getting out to the Internet.

Firewalls are common in large universities and organisations, and are becoming more common in schools.

FirstClass is an easy to use communication system for Windows and Macintosh computers. With FirstClass you can send and receive electronic mail, share files, use electronic conferencing and participate in on-line chats. FirstClass can be accessed via the Internet, or via dial-up modem.


File Request

File Transfer Protocol - the Internet standard protocol for moving files from one computer to another. FTP programs allow you to transfer files from remote servers to your local hard disk. (eg. automatic downloading of software)

When creating Web pages, you need to use FTP to transfer your files from your local hard disk to a WWW server (or host computer).



  1. The computer that gives you access to the Internet.
  2. A system by which two incompatible networks or applications can communicate with each other.

Gopher is a menu based system that helps find Telnet and FTP sites, as well as a large number of text based resources on the Internet. It offers pages with menus, but they aren't as rich as web pages.

Graphic Interchange Format. This is the most widely recognised graphic format on the Web. Gif Converter (Macintosh) or LViewPro (Windows) are useful programs that allow you to convert other images into GIF images, to use in WWW documents.


Graphical User Interface, such as Macintosh and MS-Windows systems. In programming this refers to the front-end of the program or that part which you view while using it. All the menus, buttons and pull-down menus are part of the GUI.


graphic file formats
*.gif, *.jpeg and *.xbm are the graphic file formats supported by Netscape.



Home Page
The first (front) page to a WWW site that is 'owned' by a user is often referred to as their ''home page'. This phrase is slowly being replaced by 'Web Site' or 'WWW Site'.

A host computer is one that is connected directly to the internet. The host name will look something This contains various domain levels.


HyperText Markup Language - a subset of SGML. You need to learn html to be able to produce WWW pages. It involves the use of 'tags' and is not much different to the early days of word processing.

There are many HTML tutorials available on the Web. My collegues and I have written several online tutorials to help you learn how to write WWW pages. You will find an index to these and other tutorials located at

The tutorials relevant to writing WWW pages include :

HyperText Transfer Protocol - the protocol used by the WWW for displaying information.

Hyperlinks can be text or graphic and provide a means of moving between files on the WWW. Text links are usually a different colour and underlined; graphic links may have a coloured box around them. If you're not sure whether something is a link, move your mouse arrow over it. If the arrow becomes a hand, you know it as a link. When you click on a hyperlink, it takes you to the new location.

Links used to be easily identified as either blue or purple, but people designing WWW pages can now control the colour of the links.



Netscape can open *.gif, *.jpeg, and *.xbm file formats.

A web of thousands of interconnected networks of computers that can communicate with each other. The Internet originated in 1969 in the United States, when they were trying to find a way of enabling computer networks to survive military attacks.

The Internet is made up of lots of sub-systems, including the World Wide Web, FTP, gopher, email, Usenet news, telnet, IRC and WAIS.


An Intranet is an Internet type network running locally. That is, the "Internet" running within a local area network, which means Internet style activities can be undertaken without actually having an Internet connection.


Internet Protocol - the standard protocol used by systems communicating across the Internet.


IP addressing
A number that identifies a network and host computer on the Internet. Each computer on Internet needs a unique IP address. Most host computers will have and IP number and name associated with it. For example, the host machine I use on the WWW is known as or


Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a world-wide network of people talking to each other in real time over the Internet. IRC discussions are frank, uncensored and most times unmoderated. People using IRC often 'take on' different personalities and communicate with language and behaviours that you would not normally expect to see.


Integrated Services Digital Network - allows you to use a special telephone line for data and voice simultaneously. Access to the Internet via an ISDN line is much faster than via modem. It is also more expensive.


Internet Service Provider - a company that charges you a fee in return for access time to the Internet. Fees and services offered vary enormously from one ISP to another.


A client-side language based upon C++ which allows programmers to write one program code for all platforms of computers which make up the Web. These applets as they have been so named, access JAVA code libraries on local clients.


Joint Partner Experts Group or Joint Photographic Experts Group. A variable compression image format that supports true color images. It compresses images better than GIF images, but does not support transparent images.




  1. Reading news in newsgroups for some time before posting to a newsgroup. This is a good idea and can save embarrassement.
  2. Reading messages from electronic mailing lists but not contributing to that list yourself.


A unix program for browsing the Web but, unlike Netscape, supports only text.



Mail Etiquette
Unwritten guidelines for sending email messages. Some examples include :
  • The use of ALL CAPS is regarded as SCREAMING !!
    Use _underline_ to emphasise something.
  • In replying to mail, use quotes. If they are long, edit them, but write [snip] to alert the reader that you have edited the original message.


A URL (or hyperlink) that begins with this enables you to send email via Netscape.


Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions - a system that lets you send computer files as email.


Multi-User Dungeon, Multi-User Dimension, Multi-User Database. Describes an area on the Internet where people create 'virtual worlds' by taking on a different, often unusual, personalities and interact together in this world.



The informal set of rules for using the Internet, ignoring them may result in being flamed or mail-bombed.

Netscape is classified as browsing software. It is by far the most popular software used to view the WWW.

Protocol for presenting Internet newsgroup articles (used by Usenet newsgroups).


A system similar to bulletin boards, where people can post and reply to messages on just about any topic of interest. There are thousands of special interest groups where people from around the world send information to each other about their particular interest. Newsgroups are often referred to as USENET news.


Newsgroup News Transport Protocol.




Post Office Protocol - a protocol for the storage and retrieval of email.

Point-to-Point Protocol - a method for connecting computers to Internet via telephone lines and a modem. It effectively makes your computer a part of the Internet. PPP is similar to SLIP.


A protocol is a language that computers use to communicate with each other (across platforms and within platforms).





Small Computer System Interface. Any external components are called SCSI devices.


Standard Generalised Markup Language. HTML is a subset of SGML.


Search Engine
Search engines in simple terms, are computer databases that ATTEMPT to catalogue all the information on the Internet. The various search engines use different methods to 'catalogue' information, and many of them employ different rules, which makes it hard to give generic instructions for all search engines.

Searching for information on the Internet, more specifically on the WWW, is not an easy task. At best, it is a time-consuming and frustrating activity. However, the rewards in terms of the type of information you can access is overwhelming.

As a starting point when using search engines, use as many keywords as possible, separating each keyword with a space. Also use all lowercase letters, unless you are sure that the word would appear with a capital letter.

Serial Line Internet Protocol - a method for connecting computers to Internet via telephone lines and a modem. A newer method for doing this is to use PPP.


Simple Mail Transport Protocol - the protocol used on the Internet to transfer mail.


Snail Mail - the name Internet users use to refer to paper (postal) mail because it's so slow compared to email :-)


Sending loads of unacceptable commercials (or other rubbish mail) to public newsgroups, email lists, etc.



Telnet is the Internet standard protocol for connecting to remote computers. Telnet is often used to connect to and search remote databases, such as university library databases.


A thread is a link between an article in a newsgroup and any responses to that article.


Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol - a communications protocol which allows computers with different operating systems to communicate with each other. TCP/IP controls how data is transferred between computers on the Internet.



Uniform Resource Locators - also referred to as a location or address. URLs specify the location of files on servers. A general URL has the syntax protocol://address

For example, specifies that

  • the protocol is http and
  • the address is

The address is actually broken down into

  • the server part and
  • the path & filename pd/index.html

A news URL is slightly different in that it does not use slashes (/). For example,

There are a number of protocols other than http, including :

  • ftp
  • gopher
  • news

A collection of all the newsgroups. Newsgroups are designed for people to communicate news with one another on special interest topics.


Uuencode is a program used to convert a computer file of any kind (sound, spreadsheet, etc) into an ASCII file so that it can be transmitted as a text message.



Virtual Reality Modelling Language. A vector based 3-dimensional modelling language that sends ASCII text files over the internet to be translated by the VRML viewing engine at the other end. VRML is the next generation to HTML.


Wide Area Information Server - a server system specialised in searching databases for documents containing information you want.


Web Browsers
See Browsers


Web Crawler
One of many search engines used to locate information on the internet.

World Wide Web - almost always referred to as the WWW or Web. The World Wide Web (sometimes mistakenly called Netscape, Mosiac or Lynx) is the fastest growing service on Internet. Its easy to use graphic interface allows you to move around the Internet using a simple 'point and click' interface. By clicking on certain images or words (called hyperlinks) you are able to move from one document to another with ease. You can specify the exact location of any document on the WWW, through Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). You can also search for information located on the WWW. To view the WWW you use a program called a browser.


WWW Server
Another name for the 'host computer'. Your files need to be loaded onto a WWW server (via FTP) so that other people are able to access them via the WWW. The server is usually left on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.




One of many 'catalogues' on the Internet. It is also a search engine.



The fastest and most popular modem file transfer protocol.