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Explanations for Some of The More Common Computer/Printer Terms.


When first using computers and accessories you come across many unfamiliar words and phrases, I have listed below some you may encounter.


AlphanumericA mixture of letters and numbers – often used in passwords.
Applications programme (program)Programmes which carry out a particular task such as word processing packages, databases and spreadsheets.
ASCIIAmerican Standard Code for Information Interchange.

A standard way of assigning numerical codes to characters and control codes.

Background printingPrinting which takes place whilst allowing the computer to carry out another task.
Bar codesPrinted codes made from vertical lines of different thickness used for fast error free data entry.
Baud Rate
A measure of the speed of data transmission used by serial communications between printer and computer.  When setting up a serial interface the baud rate settings on the computer and printer must be the same.
Bidirectional printingPrinting in which the print head goes from left to right only on every other line – on other lines it does from right to left. This increases the speed of printing as the head prints in both directions.
BinaryThe base 2 number system which uses only the two digits 0 and 1.
BitA Binary digit – the smallest numeric unit used by printers and computers.
bpsBits per second – a measure of the speed of data communications.
BufferAn area within the electronics of the printers in which data, sent from the computer, is stored before it is printed.  Also known as printer memory.
ByteA group of eight bits, which together make a unit which can be used to represent a character of number.
CMYKColour printing based around cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
Condensed printingPrinting in which each character is narrower than normal – useful for fitting wide tables or spreadsheets onto the paper.
ConfigureTo prepare a piece of equipment or a programme so that it will work with other software or equipment.
cpiCharacters per inch.
cpsCharacters per second
Daisy wheel printerA type of letter quality printer that uses a round removable print head made from a spoked disk with a pre-formed character at the end of each spoke (daisywheel)
DefaultSettings that take effect when equipment is turned on.
Desktop publishingUsing a computer to format pages of text and graphics rather than doing the same job manually with paste and scissors.
Dot matrix printerA printer which creates characters from patterns of dots.  Usually used to refer to serial impact and ink-jet printers although laser printers are also dot matrix printers.
DOSDisk Operating System
dpiDots per inch
Expansion boardA type of circuit board which allows the user to fit extra memory.
Impact printerA type of printer which forms characters by the impact of pins or pre-formed characters through a ribbon on to the paper.
Ink jet printerA type of dot matrix printer which forms characters by squirting tiny drops of ink onto the paper.
InterfaceThe electrical connection between the printer and the computer – usually serial or parallel.
JumperA moveable connection between two parts of an electrical circuit.
JustifyTo print text with even left and right margins – each line of text is the same length.
KbKilobyte.  1024 bytes
Laser printerA non-impact page printer which uses both laser and electronic copying technology.  Laser light is used to create an image on a photosensitive drum which then attracts toner powder;  the toner is then deposited onto the paper and fixed in place by heat.
LCDLiquid Crystal Display.  A visual display where each character is formed from segments which darken when a current is passed through.
Line printerA printer which prints an entire line of characters as one unit.
MacroA method of storing groups of settings that can be executed with a single key press.
MbMegabyte. 1,048,576 bytes or 1024 Kb
OCROptical character recognition.  Recognising characters from a scanned document and converting them into a digital form suitable for use within a computer.
Operating systemThe programme which controls the flow of data in a computer and its peripherals.
ppmPages per minute.  A measure of how fast a printer can print each page.
Parallel InterfaceA type of interface that allows parallel transmission of data when a number of bits, usually a byte, are transmitted at the same time.
ParityA technique for detecting errors in data sent to the printer via a serial interface.
PeripheralAny device such as a printer or display connected to a computer.
PixelSmallest displayed unit of a bit-mapped image.
RGBRed, Green, Blue
Serial printerA printer that prints one character at a time.
SpoolingTemporary storage of data from a computer before sending to a printer.
WYSIWYGWhat You See Is What You Get.

The ability of some applications programmes to provide an accurate screen representation of the text that will be printed.


More computer jargon.