Algorithm: A set of instructions, like recipes, that perform functions or solve mathematical problems.
Part of the TRN category Data Structures and Algorithms.

Architecture: The arrangement of components within computers, software and networks.
A TRN category.

Artificial Intelligence: The branch of computer science devoted to making computers draw conclusions based on observation (reason), recognize patterns and make predictions based on experience (learn), and ultimately become self-aware.
A TRN category.

Artificial Life: Programs that behave like living beings by reacting to their virtual environments, reproducing and dying. Because these "beings" pass on traits, populations of them can evolve.
Part of the TRN category Artificial Life and Evolutionary Computing.

Bayes' Theorem: A formula for calculating conditional probabilities or recalculating probabilities based on additional information. Bayes' Theorem is used for inferential and predictive reasoning in Artificial Intelligence and predictive routing in Networking.

Binary: The base 2 number system, where all numbers are represented by combinations of the digits 0 and 1. Computers use binary numbers because electrical circuits in integrated circuits have only two values, on (1) and off (0), and magnetic fields in disk drives have only two values, positive (1) and negative (0). Today's digital systems use binary numbers.

Biological Computing: The experimental field of computing that aims to use genetically manipulated organisms, like bacteria and individual cells, to perform the basic logic operations of computing or to carry out programmed instructions like detecting toxins or releasing insulin. Also used as a synonym for Bioinformatics, which is applied computing for biology.
Part of the TRN category Biological, Chemical, DNA and Molecular Computing.

Bit: The smallest unit of computer processing and data storage. A bit is a single binary digit, with a value of 0 or 1. Data transfer rates, including network speeds, are most often measured in bits per second. The phrase "flipping a bit" refers to changing a bit's value from 0 to 1 or 1 to 0. A kilobit (Kb) is 1,000 bits, a megabit (Mb) is one million bits and a gigabit (Gb) is one billion bits.

Boolean Logic: A form of algebra in which all values are either true or false and the operators are NOT, AND, OR, NAND (not AND), NOR (not OR), XOR (exclusive OR) and XNOR (exclusive not OR). NOT inverts values from true to false and vice versa. For variables A and B, AND results in true if both are true, OR results in true if either or both are true, NAND results in true if either or both are false, NOR results in true if both are false, XOR results in true if either but not both are true, and XNOR results in true if both are either true or false. Boolean Logic is particularly useful for computing because the true/false values correspond to the 1's and 0's of the binary system on which virtually all digital computers are based.

Byte: A set of eight bits. Bytes, which break long strings of binary numbers into smaller units, are comparable to words in human languages. Stored data is most often measured in bytes. A kilobyte (KB) is 1,000 bytes, a megabyte (MB) is one million bytes and a gigabyte (GB) is one billion bytes. Each alphanumeric character is stored as a 1 byte binary number. One megabyte holds about 350 pages of text, three 6 by 4 in. JPEG format color pictures at 72 pixels per inch resolution, or about 10 seconds of color QuickTime video.

Chaotic Systems: Systems whose behavior cannot be predicted by mathematical models; any system whose initial condition cannot be known with absolute precision.
Part of the TRN category Chaotic Systems, Fuzzy Logic and Probabilistic Reasoning.

Chemical Computing: The experimental field of computing that aims to chemically produce molecule-scale switches and wires for computer chips. Alternatively used for applied computing for chemistry.
Part of the TRN category Biological, Chemical, DNA and Molecular Computing. See also Molecular Computing.

Compiler: Software tool that translates code generated using programming languages into the binary machine language that computers execute. Each type of computer processor has its own binary machine language.
Part of the TRN category Programming Languages and Compilers.

Computer Chip: See Integrated Circuit.

Computer Learning: See Machine Learning.

Computer Vision: The way computers gather and interpret visual information about the physical world, usually accomplished with digital cameras and pattern recognition software.
Part of the TRN category Computer Vision and Image Processing.

Cryptography: Using mathematically generated, highly complicated algorithms to scramble information in order to keep it secret. Information that has been scrambled using cryptography is "encrypted." Ideally, encrypted data can only be read by people who possess the code or "key" that unscrambles or "decrypts" the data. However for weaker encryption algorithms, like those used in common software programs, computers can be used to try every possible number until the key is found. Stronger encryption algorithms, like the U.S. government's 56-bit Data Encryption Standard (DES), can only be broken or "cracked" by supercomputers. Encryption algorithms that use 128-bit keys have yet to be broken.
Part of the TRN category Cryptography and Security.

Database: Large collection of data, typically stored on computers. Also refers to Database Management Systems software, which organizes information on computers for storage and retrieval.
Part of the TRN category Databases and Information Retrieval.

Data Structure: The way data is organized within software programs. Data structures and algorithms are the two basic elements of software.
Part of the TRN category Data Structures and Algorithms.

Digital: Pertaining to devices that manipulate and store information encoded as numbers. Today's digital systems use binary numbers but devices that use other numbering systems are theoretically possible.

Distributed Computing: Using more than one computer connected by a network to solve a problem or perform a function. Distributed computing allows people to aggregate the processing power of multiple computers in different places, including across the Internet. Distributed computing is slower but less costly than using parallel systems.
A TRN category.

DNA Computing: The experimental field of computing that aims to manipulate strands of DNA to solve mathematical problems. Particular DNA strands are selected to represent components of a problem and are then combined in massive quantities, yielding every possible combination including the correct answer. Using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), strands matching a characteristic of the correct result are "amplified." After successive amplifications for different characteristics, the incorrect combinations are weeded out. DNA computing has the potential to solve brute-force problems, like code breaking, much faster than today's supercomputers.
Part of the TRN category Biological, Chemical, DNA and Molecular Computing.

Embedded Systems: Computers built into other machines in order to monitor and control their operations. Embedded Systems are used in machines ranging from coffeemakers to the space shuttle.
Part of the TRN category Real-time and Embedded Systems.

Evolutionary Computing: Using algorithms that mimic the genetic and evolutionary processes of natural selection to produce software programs or solve problems. The process of natural selection uses many copies of a piece of code (which corresponds to a biological species' DNA), introduces random changes (mutations), allows the best results to continue (survival of the fittest), mixes their traits (reproduction), and repeats the cycle many times (evolution).
Part of the TRN category Artificial Life and Evolutionary Computing.

Extensible Markup Language (XML): A simplified version of SGML designed to make it easier for people to create and use electronic documents with new sets of characteristics referred to as document types. The standard document type for electronic hypertext documents is HTML. XML by itself is similar to HTML, and XML documents can be read by most HTML browsers. However, support for the new document types that XML allows people to create must be added to the browser software before the browsers can handle them. The promise of XML is that new types of Internet software can be written to support capabilities that are beyond HTML, like electronic funds transfers and sharing raw scientific data.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP): A network protocol that allows computers to send and receive files over IP networks, including the Internet.

Floating Point Arithmetic: Binary arithmetic that approximates decimal numbers, including negative numbers and numbers between 0 and 1, within a fixed number of bits. For example, in a 32-bit "word" the first bit indicates whether the number is positive or negative and the next eight bits determine where the decimal point lies in the number represented by the remaining 23 bits. Floating point arithmetic is the basis of numerical computation.

FTP: See File Transfer Protocol.

Fuzzy Logic: A system of logic that includes the concept of partial truth in order to accommodate uncertainty and imprecision.
Part of the TRN category Chaotic Systems, Fuzzy Logic and Probabilistic Reasoning.

Graphics: A medium for displaying information that uses geometric shapes as opposed to text, sound or video. Sequences of graphics that convey movement or the passage of time are animations.
A TRN category.

Hamiltonian Circuit: A path that forms a closed loop and that passes through each point in a finite set of points once and only once. The classic traveling salesman word problem yields a Hamiltonian Circuit: the traveling salesman must find a route that allows him to visit each of a set of cities without passing through any of the cities more than once. Calculating Hamiltonian Circuits is often used to measure the capabilities and performance of computer systems.

Hexadecimal: A base 16 numbering system. The 16 hexadecimal digits are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E and F. Hexadecimal is particularly useful in computing because the 16 possible combinations of four bits can be represented by the 16 hexadecimal digits. This allows a byte to be represented by two hexadecimal digits, making it more concise and easier to read than binary machine language.

Hidden Markov Model: A method for inferring a hidden state in a system where the hidden state generates a sequence of observable events. This sequence of observable events is a Markov chain. For example, many speech recognition software programs use the sequence of phonemes in a segment of speech to infer a spoken word. In this example, the system is a person speaking, the condition of the system is a particular spoken word, and the observable events are the phonemes that make up the word.

HTML: See Hypertext Markup Language.

HTTP: See Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

Human-Computer Interaction: Any way people and computers communicate with each other. Today most people communicate with computers via keyboards, pointing devices like the mouse and speech recognition software; most computers communicate with people via visual displays of text and graphics and audio output of sound, music and synthesized speech. The Human-Computer Interaction field of computing is focused on making computers easier to use by making this communication faster and more natural for people. For example, researchers are working on giving computers the ability to recognize gestures and facial expressions and engage in dialogue comparable to human conversation.
A TRN category.

Hyperlink: A specified word or image in an electronic document that contains commands for the viewing software, typically a Web browser, to retrieve other documents. Readers select a hyperlink with a computer input device such as a mouse.

Hypertext: A way of organizing information in electronic documents that embeds links to further information. Readers retrieve related and supporting documents by selecting hyperlinks. Hypertext is the main organizing principal behind the World Wide Web.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): The standard set of instructions for creating hypertext documents. HTML tags text, graphics and images with instructions that tell a browser how to present them in electronic documents. HTML instructions include tags about appearance, like bold and centered text, and hyperlinks to other documents. HTML is a specific document type derived from the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML).

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP): The standard network protocol for retrieving hypertext documents. HTTP allows computers to send and receive HTML files over IP networks, including the Internet. HTML files are located by addresses called Universal Resource Locators (URLs).

Image Processing: Sorting and analyzing digitized images via specialized software. Image processing tasks range from compressing image files to sorting images by color to recognizing shapes within images.
Part of the TRN category Computer Vision and Image Processing.

Integrated Circuit: A wafer of semiconducting material filled with tiny, densely packed pathways and electronic devices, including transistors and diodes, created via photolithography. Also known as computer chip.
A TRN category.

Internet: The global network of computer networks that allows any two or more computers connected to it to transfer files and exchange electronic mail and real-time messages. The Internet is the foundation for the World Wide Web.
A TRN category.

Internet Protocol (IP): The protocol responsible for routing data through many networks, including the Internet. IP adds source and destination addresses to small "packets" of data and sends them out on the network. IP is a connectionless protocol, which means that sending computers do not have to establish connections with receiving computers in the manner of telephone calls. This allows routers to change paths in the middle of forwarding a set of packets if the original path becomes blocked, because the packets do not have to arrive in order or at the same time.

IP: See Internet Protocol.

Logic: Methods of reasoning. Logic is the set of principles by which algorithms operate. Boolean Logic is a basic type of logic used in computing.
A TRN category.

Logic Gate: Electronic device, typically in integrated circuits, that implements Boolean Logic and uses voltages for true and false values. Logic Gates are the basic building blocks of computer hardware.

Machine Learning: The part of Artificial Intelligence concerned with giving computers the ability to recognize patterns and make predictions based on experience. Also known as Computer Learning.
Part of the TRN category Computer and Machine Learning.

Markov Chain: A method for calculating the probability of an event based on the previous event in a sequence without knowing the state that is generating the sequence of events.

MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS): Tiny machines, typically built onto computer chips, that are measured in micrometers. A micrometer is about 1/75th the width of a human hair. MEMS are typically built via photolithography, the same "etching with light" technique used to make computer chips.
A TRN category.

Molecular Computing: Using molecule-scale computer components. Various experimental approaches include biological computing, chemical computing, DNA computing and silicon-based nanotechnology.
Part of the TRN category Biological, Chemical, DNA and Molecular Computing.

Multiagent System: A collection of autonomous software programs that communicate with each other, usually over a network, to exchange information and conduct transactions on behalf of people.
A TRN category.

Multimedia: Information presented in a combination of forms including video, graphics and sound, in addition to text.
A TRN category.

Nanotechnology: Microscopic devices built out of individual molecules. The devices are measured in nanometers. A nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter, or about 10 carbon atoms long. The products of nanotechnology are likely to include tiny mechanical devices as well as computer circuitry far smaller than is possible with today's semiconductor technology.
A TRN category.

Natural Language Processing: Converting information expressed in spoken and written human languages into computer input via specialized software. Natural Language Processing is at the forefront of efforts to shift the burden of effective human-computer communication onto computers.
A TRN category.

Networking: Connecting computers to allow them to communicate and share information and resources. There are three types of computer networks: Local Area Networks connect computers within a room, building or campus. Wide Area Networks connect computers across long distances. The Internet connects university, government and corporate networks into a single, global network of networks. Layers of protocols control the flow of data over networks. The Physical Layer protocol governs the transmission of bits, in the form of electrical or light wave signals, across wires and cables. The Media Access Layer protocol (also known as Data Link Layer) controls the flow of data from the computer onto the network. Ethernet is an example of a Media Access protocol. The Network Layer protocol determines how data is routed from source to destination. Internet Protocol (IP) is the Network protocol for the Internet. The Transport Layer protocol manages the network connection for each computer and provides a consistent level of service. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is the Transport protocol used in the Internet. The Application Layer protocol provides services for application programs like electronic mail and Web browsers. File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is an Application protocol commonly used in the Internet.
A TRN category.

Neural Network: Network of simple processors whose connections strengthen with use and weaken with disuse. This allows them to learn by example. Neural networks are modeled after the web of synapses in human and animal brains.
A TRN category.

Numerical Analysis: Methods for computing numerical data. Applied mathematics for computing. Numerical Analysis is used to evaluate algorithms.
A TRN category.

Numerical Computation: The basic mathematics underlying most of computing. Numerical Computation is based on floating point arithmetic, which allows binary systems to approximate decimal numbers including fractions and negative numbers.

Operating System: Software that controls the components of individual computers, including disk drives and memory, and coordinates the other software programs running on the computers.
A TRN category.

Optical Computing: Using pulses of light rather than pulses of electricity to form the circuits of computers.
Part of the TRN category Optical Computing, Optoelectronics and Photonics.

Optoelectronics: Devices that combine photonics and electronics by converting light signals to electrical signals and back.
Part of the TRN category Optical Computing, Optoelectronics and Photonics.

Parallel System: A computer that uses two to thousands of processors at once. Parallel Systems software assigns portions of individual problems to each processor then combines the results. Problems that can be broken into multiple parts, like analyzing large amounts of scientific data, can be solved much faster by Parallel Systems than by single processor systems.
Part of the TRN category Parallel Systems and Supercomputing.

Pattern Recognition: Picking out meaningful patterns from a large amount of data such as a digitized image. Pattern Recognition algorithms are the basis for speech recognition software and computer vision systems. Pattern Recognition software is also used to sort through vast amounts of scientific data.
A TRN category.

Photolithography: The "etching with light" technique used to make integrated circuits. In this technique, a layer of silicon or other semiconductor is covered by a protective oxide layer which in turn is covered by a polymer that reacts to light. A mask outlining desired circuits is laid on top, then the masked polymer is exposed to light. The light chemically changes the exposed areas of the polymer. Chemicals are then applied to wash away the exposed polymer and the oxide underneath. The remaining polymer is washed away with other chemicals, leaving the layer of oxide in the form of the mask and the layer of silicon exposed in the pattern of the desired circuits. The exposed silicon is then "doped," or chemically altered, to become more electrically conductive. This forms the transistors and logic gates of the chip.

Photonics: Using rapid pulses of light to transmit data. Photonics underlie much of modern telecommunications and enable experiments in optical computing.
Part of the TRN category Optical Computing, Optoelectronics and Photonics.

Probabilistic Reasoning: Calculating probabilities in order to make predictions or decisions based on otherwise insufficient information. Probabilistic Reasoning is used in Artificial Intelligence. Probabilistic Reasoning is particularly important to the evolution of computing because traditional computer systems are incapable of handling uncertainty, which makes them ill equipped to deal with humans or the world at large.
Part of the TRN category Chaotic Systems, Fuzzy Logic and Probabilistic Reasoning.

Programming Language: A system for writing software programs that, like human languages, has a syntax and semantics. A programming language provides a consistent framework for writing and combining algorithms.
Part of the TRN category Programming Languages and Compilers.

Protocol: An agreed-upon set of rules that facilitates the exchange information between two computers or devices. Standardized protocols are used in computer networking. IP, TCP, FTP and HTTP are all network protocols.

Quantum Computing: The experimental field of quantum physics and computer science that manipulates the quantum states of subatomic particles, atoms and molecules to perform the basic logic operations of computing. Because particles spin in one of two directions and these two directions can represent the ones and zeros of binary computing, particles can be used as quantum bits or "qubits." In its quantum state, a particle is not spinning in one direction but has a probability of spinning in either direction when it leaves the quantum state. This means that a qubit represents both zero and one at the same time. Two qubits represent every possible two-bit number (00, 01, 10, 11). Each additional qubit increases the number of possible numbers exponentially: n qubits represent 2n possible numbers. Twenty qubits represent every number from 0 to more than one million, 30 qubits represent every number from 0 to more than one billion, and 40 qubits represent every number from 0 to more than one trillion. A quantum computer acts on a set of particles by influencing the probabilities of the particles' spins (posing the problem) so that when the particles leave their quantum state the resulting spins represent a specific number (getting the answer). Quantum computers have the potential to be much faster than today's supercomputers because they operate on all the particles -- and thus all the possible numbers -- simultaneously. So far, researchers have been able to make quantum computers of only seven qubits, but that has been enough for them to confirm the basic principles of quantum computing.
A TRN category.

Qubit: Quantum Bit. Qubits are individual atoms or subatomic particles. They are the basic units of quantum computing. Particles spin in one of two directions, which can represent the ones and zeros of binary computing.

Real-Time Systems: A computer that can react instantly to external events like a change in temperature or stock price.
Part of the TRN category Real-time and Embedded Systems.

Robotics: The study of computer-controlled machines that sense and move through their physical surroundings.
A TRN category.

Router: A specialized computer that controls the flow of traffic through computer networks. Routers keep track of each other, and in some cases how well traffic is flowing on the links among them, in order to calculate the most efficient path for sending packets of data to their destinations.

Semiconductor: A crystalline substance such as silicon that is more resistant to electrical charges than conductors (like most metals) but less resistant than insulators (like glass and rubber). Semiconductors are the raw material that is processed, via photolithography, to make integrated circuits.
Part of the TRN category Semiconductors and Materials.

SGML: See Standard Generalized Markup Language.

Signal Processing: Analyzing and manipulating electronic signals via specialized software. Signal processing is most often used to clean up or manipulate audio and video signals.
A TRN category.

Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML): The international standard for defining specific types of electronic documents. HTML is the most familiar document type derived from SGML.

State: The condition of a system at a particular point or span in time. The concept of states is widely used in computer science and engineering because it allows people to view complicated systems as sets of smaller, simpler units.

Symbolic Computation: Using symbolic notation, which consists of symbols that represent mathematical functions, to perform higher level mathematics. The related numerical computation is more widely used though less accurate.
A TRN category.

TCP: See Transmission Control Protocol.

Telecommunications: Transmitting analog and digital signals over long distances using specialized computers called switches.
A TRN category.

Theory: The principles and rules that form the abstract understanding of computing.
A TRN category.

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP): The transport layer protocol used in IP networks. TCP is the transport layer protocol for the Internet. TCP breaks data streams such as messages or file transfers into small "packets" and hands them to IP for transmission across the network. On the receiving end, TCP collects the packets and puts them in the correct order, restoring the original data stream.

Universal Resource Locator (URL): The address for locating documents on the World Wide Web. Hyperlinks in HTML documents include URLs. For example, the URL of this document is http://www.trnmag.com/Glossary/glossary.html.

URL: See Universal Resource Locator.

Wireless Communications: Transmitting signals through space rather than wires. Radio waves and infrared beams are commonly used for wireless communications.
A TRN category.

World Wide Web: A collection of millions of hyperlinked documents residing on computers connected via the Internet. World Wide Web documents are written in the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), and linked documents are retrieved via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

XML: See Extensible Markup Language.

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