If you’re trying to get yourself acquainted with the field of computer science and the tech world at large, it doesn’t take long to start feeling a little bit buried by the huge number of unfamiliar terms, acronyms and jargon used.
Instead of getting flustered reading about the latest Agile Django bootstrapped platform or whatever it may be and having zero clue what they actually are, let’s take a step back and get familiar with some of the foundational computer science and tech terms you’ll likely encounter.
Keep in mind, this list of computer science terms and definitions should serve more as a clarifying starting point. Much of what’s covered below will take further reading and learning to fully grasp what they are and how they’re used. Like with learning any new subject, you’ll want to take this step and get acquainted with the terminology before navigating the more complex concepts.
Computer science terms related to hardware
These computer science terms connect to the physical components of a computer. Hardware represents the most tactile aspects of computer science and the materials computers are made of.
CPU stands for the Central Processing Unit. It is the processing chip that serves as the "brains" of a device that interprets (or processes) the digital instructions provided by applications.
Bit is an abbreviation for “binary digit,” the smallest piece of information used by a computer. Each bit is either a 1 or a 0, which are the binary digits that make up computer language. Bits are literally the foundation upon which computer science is built. In modern computing, information is stored and processed at a scale that is orders of magnitude larger than individual bits. See the conversion rate below to better contextualize the size of a bit:
- 1 Byte = 8 bits
- 1 Kilobyte = 1,024 bytes
- 1 Megabyte = 1,024 kilobytes
- 1 Gigabyte = 1,024 megabytes
Random Access Memory (RAM) is the hardware component used to store data that is actively being used by a processor. When needed, information flows to RAM storage from long-term secondary storage—typically a hard drive.
4. Secondary storage
Secondary storage refers to the long-term data storage options found in a device. This includes hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). When you save a file to your computer, it is sent to secondary storage.
ROM stands for Read-Only Memory. This is memory that can only be read from and is not electronically modifiable after being manufactured. Computers use ROM to store critical foundational information like start-up processes and software instructions.
6. Input/Output Devices (I/O Devices)
I/O devices refer to anything people use to input information to the computer or to take information out (output). For example, a keyboard and mouse are input devices. A printer is an output device.
Computer science terms related to software
The physical components of devices are only the tip of the iceberg. Much of the computer science field focuses on software applications and their development.
At a basic level, algorithms are simply specific procedures used to solve computational problems. As computing power and data capabilities have grown more sophisticated, so have the algorithms and the problems they intend to solve. For example, a shipping company may turn to an algorithm to help determine the optimal route for delivery drivers.
8. API (Application Programming Interface)
An API is a software go-between that brings information from one application to another. It allows applications to communicate with one another while preserving some security measures for each end point. For example, an API can be used to securely transfer data stored by your web browser to a mobile app.
A function in programming with binary choices, like “Yes or No” and “True or False.” This serves as a basic building block of programming logic.
A bug is a programming error that causes unexpected glitches or problems for a program’s end user. Debugging is the process of identifying, documenting and fixing the issues caused by bugs.
11. Camel Case
Camel case refers to the practice of capitalizing the first letter of each compound word in a programming variable to improve readability. For example, “StretchLength” and “FixedHeight.”
Code refers to the string of commands or directions used by different programming languages in order to create, edit or manage computer programs or applications. Code is used by computers to determine which action should be taken, define parameters and more.
The process of taking code that’s written in a high-level language (like C++) by human developers and translating it into machine-readable code.
14. Conditional statements
Conditional statements, another fundamental piece of programming instructions, set the terms for when a program moves forward. This is often expressed in an “If, then” format. If all conditions expressed are met and true, only then will the computer move on to do the next step.
15. Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
An integrated development environment is a software tool where developers can write code and run their programs. Many provide useful features like syntax highlighting, debugging tools, version control and more.
Latency is the measure of time between entering an input and the returned output. The higher the latency, the longer it takes. This is an important factor for web applications and interfaces where a noticeable delay may impact user satisfaction.
Similar in a way to the scripts used by Hollywood stars, a script in programming terms is a line by line set of instructions for a computer program to follow. These are often used for automation or for generating dynamic page content.
18. Structured data
This refers to data or information that’s been organized and “cleaned” in order to make it easier to search, manipulate and interface well with software applications. Structured data often is used for categories like names, addresses and credit card information but can be used for any quantifiable data category.
Syntax refers to the rules that dictate the structure of a language. Programming languages, like all languages, need structure for the reader—whether a computer or a human—to make sense of the information. While some elements of syntax may carry over from language to language, most programming languages have unique and specific syntax rules that must be followed.
Computer science terms relating to the tech industry
Computer science today is about so much more than a computer and what it can do—it’s a massive area of study that intersects the industry of technology in countless ways. Here are some of the industry terms you’ll want to ensure you know.
20. Agile development
Agile development is a project management process for producing and releasing software (or other projects) that calls for quick cycles that repeat, improving as they go. This typically breaks projects down into smaller increments. This can be helpful in software development where the individual components of a software application may need to be adjusted or revised in order to accommodate unexpected issues or changes downstream.
21. Big data
Big data is a quick way to refer to the massive amounts of data collected by organizations on a day-to-day basis. Data at this scale can be tapped into for a variety of purposes like trend analyses, forecasting, process automation and more.
22. Cloud storage
Cloud storage is an alternative to storing data on a computer’s physical storage. Information stored “on the cloud” is kept on remote servers that can be accessed anywhere via the Internet. For more on how that works, check out A Beginner’s Guide to Cloud Computing.
23. Cyber security
Cyber security is the process of protecting data from unauthorized users or hackers. It also represents a huge sector of the tech industry as more and more companies race to stay ahead of cyber criminals and security threats.
Put these computer science terms to good use
Computer science is a fascinating field of study with tons of information to learn! These computer science terms only scratch the surface of what you’ll learn in a Computer Science Bachelor’s degree program.
Ready to learn more about the Computer Science program at Rasmussen University? Start with our article “8 Things You Didn't Know About the Rasmussen University Computer Science Program.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.
What Every computer science student should know? ›
- Computer Architecture.
- Algorithms and Data Structures.
- Mathematics for Computer Science.
- Operating Systems.
- Computer Networking.
- Languages and Compilers.
When referring to computers, jargon is a word understood and used by other computer users familiar with the subject. For example, words like SPAM and sneakernet are computer jargon, lingo, or nerdspeak that describe something about computers and are words someone unfamiliar with computers may not know.What are the 7 big ideas of computer science? ›
- Data and Information.
- The Internet.
- Global Impact.
- Pursue knowledge outside of courses. ...
- Avoid last-minute studying. ...
- Develop theoretical computer skills. ...
- Develop practical computer skills. ...
- Make connections with professors and other students. ...
- Rest and relax. ...
- Schedule time to study throughout a term. ...
- Develop your math skills.
While the names of the coding paradigms sometimes vary, most experts agree on four primary types of code: imperative, functional, logical, and object-oriented.What are the 4 types of programming languages? ›
- Procedural programming languages. A procedural language follows a sequence of statements or commands in order to achieve a desired output. ...
- Functional programming languages. ...
- Object-oriented programming languages. ...
- Scripting languages. ...
- Logic programming languages.
- sequence is the order in which instructions occur and are processed.
- selection determines which path a program takes when it is running.
- iteration is the repeated execution of a section of code when a program is running.
A computer is an electronic device that is used to perform calculations at very high speed . The computer is a data processing device and stores a lot of amount of data in it . Computer become very important now a days because it is very accurate and fast and can accomplish many tasks in a very few seconds .What does H mean in coding? ›
A header file is a file with extension . h which contains C function declarations and macro definitions to be shared between several source files. There are two types of header files: the files that the programmer writes and the files that comes with your compiler.What are examples of computer jargons? ›
- Disk - a place to store data.
- Data - information stored on a computer. ...
- Upload - to put data on somewhere. ...
- Download - to copy data from somewhere. ...
- Load - to get data from, or put it on, a disk.
- Save - to put data on a disk.
- RAM - random access memory.
- ROM - read only memory.
What are the 20 ICT related terms? ›
- Internet, World Wide Web. The Internet is the network of computers we're all familiar with. ...
- Web Browser. A program you use to look at, and navigate between, pages on the World Wide Web. ...
- Bandwidth, Broadband. ...
- Modem. ...
- Memory, Disk Space. ...
- Virus, Spyware, Trojan, Worm, Malware. ...
- Bits, Bytes. ...
Terminology is a discipline that systematically studies the "labelling or designating of concepts" particular to one or more subject fields or domains of human activity. It does this through the research and analysis of terms in context for the purpose of documenting and promoting consistent usage.What are the 4 steps of problem-solving computer science? ›
Four Main Problem Solving Steps:
- Understand the Problem. ...
- Design a Solution. ...
- Implement your Solution. ...
- Check your Solution.
Core Components of Computational Thinking
BBC outlines four cornerstones of computational thinking: decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms. Decomposition invites students to break down complex problems into smaller, simpler problems.
Overall, computer science students rate their satisfaction with their degree a 3.2 out of 5. For context, computer science students rate their happiness similarly to students in Computer Science and Related Studies, Fine Arts and Computer and Information Sciences.Is CS stressful? ›
No Stress: Company Secretary does not have any stress regarding meeting requirements and deadlines. The administrative work is required to be done but there is no such limitation of time. It is not that tough like other jobs where you feel stressed and gets problems related to health and dissatisfaction from the job.How many hours study CS? ›
Below I have listed strategy or some important to consider by which you keep remembering during study 8-10 hours a day for cs exam.What are the 7 steps a coder should follow? ›
- Review the header of the report.
- Review the CPT® codebook (start in the Index).
- Review the report/documentation.
- Make a preliminary code selection.
- Review the guidelines (for the preliminary codes).
- Review policies and eliminate the extras.
- Action 1. Abstract the documentation. ...
- Action 2. Query, if necessary. ...
- Action 3. Code the diagnosis or diagnoses.
- Action 4. Code the procedure or procedures. ...
- Action 5. Confirm medical necessity. ...
- Action 6. Double-check your codes.
Haskell. The language is named after a mathematician and is usually described to be one of the hardest programming languages to learn. It is a completely functional language built on lambda calculus.
Which is the No 1 programming language? ›
- Boring Code. Boring code is when it makes perfect sense when you read it. ...
- Salt Mine Code. This is the type of code that's bonkers and makes not a lick of sense. ...
- Radioactive Code. Radioactive code is the real problem at the heart of every engineering team.
Computer Programming in 4 Steps
- Step 1: Identify the problem. ...
- Step 2: Find a solution. ...
- Step 3: Code it. ...
- Step 4: Test it.
Learn the essential programming concepts of variables, operators, and data types. In programming, we have a way of storing values so that we can reuse them throughout our program or change them, if necessary. This concept is known as a variable.How do I start coding from zero level? ›
- Figure out why you want to learn to code.
- Choose which coding language you want to learn first.
- Take online courses.
- Watch video tutorials.
- Read books and ebooks.
- Use tools that make learning to code easier.
- Check out how other people code.
- Complete coding projects.
Computers also act as highly reliable scientific equipment. They receive and store data and carries out logical and mathematical calculations too to provide fast and accurate results. These days, computers are used in various fields and at almost every place! Importance of Computers.What is computer easy word? ›
A computer is an electronic device that manipulates information, or data. It has the ability to store, retrieve, and process data. You may already know that you can use a computer to type documents, send email, play games, and browse the Web.What is a computer write about 300 words? ›
A computer comprises a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a CPU, and a UPS as essential parts. A computer is known for its abundant storage space. Human is now mostly dependent on the technology, and the use of computer can be found in every field, from students for their academic purposes to office workers for their work.What is the * Used for in coding? ›
An asterisk is used in C++ to declare a pointer. Pointers allow you to refer directly to values in memory, and allow you to modify elements that would otherwise only be copied.What does N stand for in coding? ›
It means a newline, like when you press the return or enter key. If you don't include the \n, the next print statement will continue on the same line.
What is .O file C++? ›
A .o object file file (also . obj on Windows) contains compiled object code (that is, machine code produced by your C or C++ compiler), together with the names of the functions and other objects the file contains. Object files are processed by the linker to produce the final executable.What are the most basic terms to remember about a computer? ›
- CPU. CPU means 'Central Processing Unit'. ...
- RAM. Specifically, RAM stands for “Random Access Memory” or “Ready Access Memory”. ...
- Hard-disk Drive. ...
- Floppy Disk. ...
- Hardware. ...
In computer science, phrase searching allows users to retrieve content from information systems (such as documents from file storage systems, records from databases, and web pages on the internet) that contains a specific order and combination of words defined by the user.How many hours a computer science student should study? ›
For computer science scholars, the workload can be slightly heavier than other majors. While the average student spends about 17 hours per week on outside study, computer science students clock in at 18.23 hours a week. At the end of the day, it's as manageable as other majors.What is the most important thing to learn in computer science? ›
The most important aspect of computer science is problem solving, an essential skill for life. Students study the design, development and analysis of software and hardware used to solve problems in a variety of business, scientific and social contexts.What is the dropout rate for computer science? ›
Computer Science Tops the Dropout Charts
A recent survey from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), revealed that among universities, Computer Science has the highest dropout rate – 9.8%.
You should say if this is for High School or College, but in either case it depends on your abilities and interests: in general, Biology usually requires more memory skills (lots of details to remember) and Computer Science more maths, logic and abstract reasoning.Is computer science harder than law? ›
A law degree is far more difficult to obtain than a computer science degree. Getting into law is more difficult since the intensity, duration, and amount of what is required to learn is significantly greater than in computer science.What is top skill in computer science? ›
1. Programming Languages. Programming Languages are a fundamental skill for a Computer Science student. Whether you want to go for the Website Development domain, Machine Learning field, or any other area, you are required to understand and implement the basic programming concepts.How can I teach myself programming? ›
- Select a programming language. Before diving in, your first step is deciding which coding language you'd like to tackle. ...
- Take up a course. ...
- Participate in online communities. ...
- Pursue your own projects.
What is the best skill to learn in computer? ›
Essential IT skills
- Security. Security should be foundational to any IT team. ...
- Programming. ...
- Systems and networks. ...
- Data analysis. ...
- DevOps. ...
- Cloud computing. ...
- Machine learning.