Preparing for your digital life in the 21st Century
Preparing for your digital life in the 21st Century

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Preparing for your digital life in the 21st Century

Glossary

anti-virus software
Software that is specifically written to identify and tackle known viruses.
Automated teller machines (ATM)
A machine that allows bank customers to perform certain transactions, such as withdrawing cash from their bank account. Also known as a cash machine or cashpoint.
biometric
A term that refers to the identification of people using biological characteristics such as fingerprints, iris recognition and DNA analysis.
bus
An electrical pathway connecting parts of a computer system to allow symbols to flow from one part of the system to another.
cable
A set of wires or optical fibres assembled, with a protective coating, for use as a communication medium.
central processing unit
The command centre of a computer system that interprets and executes program instructions, and controls system input and output and the storage and retrieval of data. Also known as the central processor.
copyright
A legal protection that guarantees that creators of content are rewarded for their work and protects the rights of users.
database
A set of computer-based data that has been organised so that it can be read, written, updated and searched. An example might be a library catalogue.
digital rights management (DRM)
A range of technologies used by copyright owners to control how the content they produce is used.
digital technology
Any technology that is based on representing data as sequences of numbers, i.e. as digital data.
emoticons
Text characters or images that indicate someone’s mood by representing a simple facial expression. Text-based emoticons such as :-) are usually intended to be ‘read’ by tilting your head to one side. Also known as smileys.
firewall
A software or hardware filter on a network. In its simplest form, a firewall looks at incoming or outgoing data and decides whether to block it.
forum
An area on the internet designed for discussion, usually on a specific topic. Also known as a bulletin board system (BBS).
global positioning system (GPS)
A set of satellites that continuously transmit their position so that anyone with a suitable receiver can obtain very accurate positioning information.
hardware
The physical components of a computer system. These include the large components such as the screen, the small component parts such as circuit boards, and all the connecting cables.
information and communication technology (ICT)
Technology used in the conveying, manipulation and storage of data by electronic means.
information society
A term used to describe the social and economic changes related to the development and widespread use of information technologies.
IT
IT stands for information technology. This term is often used to mean the same as ICT.
instant messaging
Text-based communication between people who are online at the same time.
internet
The global internetwork that has grown from a US government-funded project started in the 1960s.
internet service provider (ISP)
A commercial organisation that provides access to the internet for both individuals and organisations.
malware
Malicious software designed to enter computer systems without the knowledge of the owner. Includes viruses, trojans and worms.
memory
The part of a computer system that stores programs and data while they are waiting to be executed by a CPU.
modem
A box of electronics placed between a computer and a telephone line to convert the digital signals from the computer into a form that can be sent by telephone.
moderator
A forum user who has responsibility for managing the forum and ‘moderating’ discussions to ensure they follow the forum rules.
netiquette
A set of guidelines for online behaviour.
network
A collection of devices that can communicate with each other. Networks vary in size and complexity, connecting anything from a few devices to many millions.
network society
A term that is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘information society’, but which emphasises how the flow of information depends on networks.
online discussion group
A group of people, often with common interests or aims, communicating over the internet.
operating system (OS)
A collection of programs that manages a computer’s resources, provides an interface between the user and the computer, and organises the running of other programs. Examples include Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
patch
A temporary fix to a bug or security problem in a particular piece of software (such as a web browser or an operating system). A patch modifies existing software rather than replacing it with a new version.
phishing
The act of sending a hoax email message that aims to persuade users to disclose private information such as credit card details or PINs. Hoax websites are also used as part of these scams.
plagiarism
Using the work of others to gain some form of benefit without formally acknowledging that the work came from someone else.
portal
A website that provides a way in to a number of sites grouped together by organisation, topic, geography, etc.
program
A step-by-step set of precise instructions for telling a computer how to carry out a particular task.
public domain
A term referring to any created content that is not subject to copyright. Material that is ‘in the public domain’ may be used freely by anyone.
smart device
An electronic device that processes information and exchanges it with other devices.
SMS
The ‘short message system’ that allows text messages to be sent between mobile phones. SMS messages can also be sent between other devices, such as computers and landline phones.
social networking
The activities involved in building and maintaining online relationships and communities.
software
The programs that control the functioning of a computer system.
spam
Unsolicited (junk) email. Spammers typically send an email to a distribution list consisting of millions of ‘harvested’ email addresses.
trojan
Malicious software that is disguised as a legitimate program, but that in the background is running some malicious code.
truth table
A table of Boolean values in which the columns represent the input values and the intermediate and result values of Boolean operations, and the rows represent the combination of input values and the corresponding intermediate and output values. Used to show the output of Boolean operators and expressions for all possible combinations of input values
ubiquitous
A term describing something that seems to be everywhere at the same time.
virus
Malicious software that is designed to attack software on users’ computers, spreading quickly and easily from one computer to another.
World Wide Web
An internet service that links computer files such as documents, images, audio and video. These files may be located on any computer connected to the internet. Also known as the Web.
worm
Malicious software that replicates itself and infects computers via a network.
TU100_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371