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  1. alternating current (AC)
    Current that cycles back and forth rather than traveling in only one direction. In the United States, the AC voltage from a standard wall outlet is normally between 110 and 115V. In Europe, the standard AC voltage from a wall outlet is 220V.
  2. amp
    A measure of electrical current.
  3. antistatic wrist strap
    See ground bracelet.
  4. ATX
    (Advanced Technology Extended) The most common form factor for PC systems presently in use, originally introduced by Intel in 1995. ATX motherboards and cases make better use of space and resources than did the earlier AT form factor.
  5. ATX12V power supply
    An ATX Version 2.1 power supply that provides a 12V power cord with a 4-pin connector to be used by the auxiliary 4-pin power connector on motherboards used to provide extra power for processors.
  6. BIOS
    (basic input/output system) Firmware that can control much of a computer’s input/output functions, such as communication with the keyboard and the monitor.
  7. BIOS setup
    The program in system BIOS that can change the values in CMOS RAM. Also called CMOS setup.
  8. central processing unit
    (CPU) Also called a microprocessor or processor. The component where almost all processing of data and instructions takes place. The CPU receives data input, processes information, and executes instructions.
  9. CMOS setup
    See BIOS setup.
  10. DB-15 port
    A 15-pin female port that transmits analog video.
  11. desktop case
    A computer case that lies flat and sometimes serves double-duty as a monitor stand.
  12. DIMM
    (dual inline memory module) A miniature circuit board installed on a motherboard to hold memory. DIMMs can hold up to 16 GB of RAM on a single module.
  13. direct current
    (DC) Current that travels in only one direction (the type of electricity provided by batteries). Computer power supplies transform AC to low DC.
  14. DisplayPort
    A port that transmits digital video and audio (not analog transmissions) and is slowly replacing VGA and DVI ports on personal computers.
  15. DVI
    (Digital Video Interface) port A port that transmits digital or analog video.
  16. electrostatic discharge
    (ESD) Another name for static electricity, which can damage chips and destroy motherboards, even though it might not be felt or seen with the naked eye.
  17. expansion card
    A circuit board inserted into a slot on the motherboard to enhance the capability of the computer.
  18. FireWire port
    A port used for high-speed multimedia devices such as camcorders. Also called an IEEE 1394 port.
  19. firmware
    Software that is permanently stored in a chip. The BIOS on a motherboard is an example of firmware.
  20. floppy disk drive
    (FDD) A drive that can hold either a 5½ inch or 3¼ inch floppy disk. Also called floppy drive.
  21. form factor
    A set of specifications on the size, shape, and configuration of a computer hardware component such as a case, power supply, or motherboard.
  22. hard disk drive
    (HDD) See hard drive.
  23. hard drive
    The main secondary storage device of a computer. Two technologies are currently used by hard drives: magnetic and solid state. Also called hard disk drive (HDD).
  24. HDMI
    (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port A digital audio and video interface standard currently used on televisions and other home theater equipment and expected to ultimately replace DVI.
  25. heat sink
    A piece of metal, with cooling fins, that can be attached to or mounted on an integrated chip (such as the CPU) to dissipate heat.
  26. internal components
    The main components installed in a computer case.
  27. main board
    See motherboard.
  28. MicroATX
    (MATX) A version of the ATX form factor. MicroATX addresses some new technologies that were developed after the original introduction of ATX.
  29. microprocessor
    See central processing unit (CPU).
  30. modem port
    A port used to connect dial-up phone lines to computers.
  31. motherboard
    The main board in the computer, also called the system board. The CPU, ROM chips, DIMMs, RIMMs, and interface cards are plugged into the motherboard.
  32. multimeter
    A device used to measure the various attributes of an electrical circuit. The most common measurements are voltage, current, and resistance.
  33. network port
    A port used by a network cable to connect to the wired network.
  34. ohm (Ω)
    The standard unit of measurement for electrical resistance. Resistors are rated in ohms.
  35. parallel port
    An outdated female 25-pin port on a computer that transmitted data in parallel, 8 bits at a time, and was usually used with a printer. The names for parallel ports are LPT1 and LPT2. Parallel ports have been replaced by USB ports.
  36. PCI
    (Peripheral Component Interconnect) A bus common to desktop computers that uses a 32-bit wide or a 64-bit data path. Several variations of PCI exist. One or more notches on a PCI slot keep the wrong PCI cards from being inserted in the PCI slot.
  37. (PCIe)
    • PCI Express
    • The latest evolution of PCI, which is not backward-compatible with earlier PCI slots and cards. PCIe slots come in several sizes, including PCIe x1, PCIe x4, PCIe x8, and PCIe x16.
  38. POST
    (power-on self test) A self-diagnostic program used to perform a simple test of the CPU, RAM, and various I/O devices. The POST is performed by startup BIOS when the computer is first turned on, and is stored in ROM-BIOS.
  39. power supply
    A box inside the computer case that receives power and converts it to provide power to the motherboard and other installed devices. Power supplies provide 3.3, 5, and 12 volts DC. Also called a power supply unit (PSU).
  40. processor
    See central processing unit (CPU).
  41. RAM
    (random access memory) Memory modules on the motherboard containing microchips used to temporarily hold data and programs while the CPU processes both. Information in RAM is lost when the PC is turned off.
  42. S-Video port
    A 4-pin or 7-pin round video port that sends two signals over the cable, one for color and the other for brightness, and is used by some high end TVs and video equipment.
  43. S/PDIF (Sony-Phillips Digital Interface) sound port
    A port that connects to an external home theater audio system, providing digital audio output and the nest signal quality.
  44. self-grounding
    A method to safeguard against ESD that involves touching the computer case or power supply before touching a component in the computer case.
  45. serial port
    A male 9-pin or 25-pin port on a computer system used by slower I/O devices such as a mouse or modem. Data travels serially, one bit at a time, through the port. Serial ports are sometimes configured as COM1, COM2, COM3, or COM4.
  46. startup BIOS
    Part of system BIOS that is responsible for controlling the computer when it is first turned on. Startup BIOS gives control over to the OS once it is loaded.
  47. system board
    See motherboard.
  48. tower case
    The largest type of personal computer case. Tower cases stand vertically and can be as high as two feet tall. They have more drive bays and are a good choice for computer users who anticipate making significant upgrades.
  49. USB
    (Universal Serial Bus) port A type of port designed to make installation and configuration of I/O devices easy, providing room for as many as 127 devices daisy-chained together.
  50. VGA
    (Video Graphics Adapter) port A 15-pin analog video port popular for many years.
  51. video memory
    Memory used by the video controller. The memory might be contained on a video card or be part of system memory. When part of system memory, the memory is dedicated by Windows to video.
  52. volt
    A measure of potential difference in an electrical circuit. A computer ATX power supply usually provides five separate voltages: +12V, –12V, +5V, –5V, and +3.3V.
  53. watt
    The unit of electricity used to measure power. A typical computer may use a power supply that provides 500W.
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