Glossary: B

This page contains glossary terms beginning with the letter B.
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Word or Term Description or Explanation
BABT British Approvals Board for Telecomunications - the standard for telecoms equipment that can be used in UK
Baby Bells the local telephone companies in the United States - originally, there was one large Phone company in the US - AT&T - in the mid-1980's, AT&T broke itself up - there became two companies: AT&T (the one we know now) which handled all long distance phone lines and connections, and a number of smaller companies which handled the local calls - this group of smaller companies (there were about six), came to be collectively know as the Baby Bells (AT&T's nickname before breaking up was Ma Bell)
some of the Baby Bells have merged, some have sold out to other companies, and generally things have changed - also, the Baby Bells want to provide long distance phone calls (something they couldn't do originally) - as a result, AT&T (the one which handled long distance calls after the break up) wants to be able to provide local calls (something it can't do) - the effect of this, and the explosion in the number of phone companies, means that the situation will be constantly changing for a few years yet - not to mention Internet Telephony which threatens to decimate long-distance voice traffic, but explode the amount of data-traffic piped round the planet
Back icon the icon at the top lefthand corner of a window which allows you to push the window to the back of the desktop
Backbone a high-speed interconnection carrying large volumes of data traffic to more local, slower speed interconnections - in the U.S., the backbone of the Internet is often considered the NSFNet, a government funded link between a handful of supercomputer sites across the country
Backdrop this is a desktop background which may be a sprite or just a pattern
Backplane a small printed circuit board with connectors on it that allows you to plug in a number of expansion cards
Bandwidth the rate at which data can be sent through any given data connection - usually expressed in Mbit/s (megabits per second)
BASH Bourne-Again Shell - an improved version of the Bourne shell, the original Unix command shell written by a Mr. Bourne
Basic Beginners All-purpose Symbol Instruction Code - a commonly-used interpreted high level language - it comes as standard on all Acorn computers
Baud this is a unit of speed for serial data transmission. (Rough definition...)1 baud = 1 binary bit per second. 1 Kilobaud (Kbaud) is 1024 bits/second = 128 bytes/sec (assuming 8 bits per byte) - however, over a telephone line, because each byte tends to have associated 'start' and 'stop' bits, 1 Kilobaud is more like 100 bytes/sec or 6Kbytes/minute - on this basis, a high speed modem at 28.8 Kbaud can transmit about 3Kbytes/sec or 200Kbytes/minute, however, using compression techniques, this can be increased somewhat - the more expensive modems use systems, such as Microcom Network Protocol (MNP), which can correct for errors and which compress data to speed up transmission
to be more technically correct... Baud is not the same as bits per second but is 'the number of discrete conditions or signal elements transmitted per second' - for example, V.22bis is transmitted at 600 baud, but 2400 bps - this is because it is using what is called PSK (Phase Shift Keying) - here you can have each baud in four different phases: 0°, 90°, 180°, and 270° - so, for each baud you can have four different states, and this means you can transmit 4 bits per second per baud
BBS Bulletin Board Service/System - a bulletin board is an application run on a computer which stores information and messages that can be accessed by other computers, usually via the telephone line using a modem - many bulletin boards allow a number of other computers to connect to the host computer at the same time by using a number of different modems and phone lines
BCC Blind Carbon Copy - an email header listing recipients to whom a copy of the message should be sent - unlike CC, no recipients will see this list
Bezier curves mathematically defined curves used (amongst other things) by RISC OS to create outline font shapes
Big Eight, The was The Big Seven - the main Usenet hierarchies: comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc and talk (humanities was added in 1995, so you may see references to the Big Seven)
Binary the number system (base 2) used as the basis of most computer systems
Binary data (file) data that consists of more than just textual information - alphanumeric text can be represented using a limited range of ASCII codes from 32 to 127 with some of the numbers below 32 used as control codes such as 10 for linefeed and 12 for formfeed/clear screen - binary data, by contrast, uses all the codes 0 to 255 and, if it were transmitted as if it were a text file, the control codes could have all sorts of undesired effects - other techniques therefore have to be used for its transmission, e.g. uuencoding
BIOS Basic Input/Output System - this is the part of a PC compatible's operating system that is held in ROM, allowing the computer to start up and load the rest of its operating system from disc (c.f. RISC OS computers where the whole of the operating system, plus a few extra goodies, are held in ROM and are available at switch-on)
Bison the Free Software Foundation's version of yacc
Bit binary digit - a bit is the smallest unit of binary data - it has two values, 0 and 1 - a group of 8 bits of data (referred to as a byte) could be used to represent a single character using, most commonly, the ASCII code or it could represent (part of) an instruction that the computer would execute at some stage or it could represent (part of) a number
Bit-mapped graphics it is possible to represent a picture on a computer by using a matrix of (coloured) dots - the resolution of bit-mapped pictures is limited by the numbers of dots used (this contrasts with Vector graphics - for example, the Paint application produces bit-mapped graphics whereas Draw produces vector graphics)
Bitnet Because It's Time Network - the American academic network - the equivalent of Janet in the UK - it is based on IBM mainframes, and therefore uses EBCDIC character codes
Bluetooth Bluetooth Special Interest Group, http://www.bluetooth.com - a consortium of computer and telecommunications companies founded in 1998 by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba - it supports an open specification for wireless, short-range transmission between mobile PCs, mobile phones and other portable devices
Bluetooth provides up to 720 Kbps data transfer within a range of 40 feet - unlike IrDA which is a line of sight technology and requires that the devices be aimed at each other, Bluetooth uses radio waves, which are omnidirectional and can transmit through walls. - the technology uses the 2.4GHz Industrial Scientific Medical (ISM) frequency band, which is not licensed by the FCC - this set of frequencies is used by other wireless LANs and telecommunications systems - when there is interference from other devices, the transmission does not stop, but its speed is downgraded. Bluetooth products are expected by the end of 1999
the name Bluetooth comes from King Harold Bluetooth of Denmark - in the 10th century, he began to Christianize the country. Ericsson (Scandinavian company) was the first to develop this specification - see IrDA
BMP file Bit MaP file - also known as a "bump" file, it is a Windows and OS/2 bitmapped graphics file format - it is the Windows native bitmap format, and every Windows application has access to the BMP software routines in Windows that support it. BMP files provide formats for 2, 16, 256 or 16 million colors (1-bit, 4-bit, 8-bit and 24-bit colour). BMP files use the .BMP or .DIB extensions (DIB stands for Device-Independent Bitmap)
BNC connectors the bayonet-type (push-and-twist) connectors used in Ethernet installations
Boot short for Bootstrap, the name given to an automatic program loading process when a computer is switched on, or a program run
Bot an artificial intelligence usually found masquerading as a human user, carrying out repetitive or tedious tasks like responding to email (presumably an abbreviation for robot)
Bounce an item of email is said to have bounced when it fails to find its recipient and is returned to the sender, sometimes with a message explaining why it was unable to be delivered
Bourne shell the original Unix command shell written by a Mr. Bourne
bpp bits per pixel - the number of bits used to store the colour of each pixel
bps bits per second - see Baud
Bridge a computer or other dedicated hardware that links two networks of the same type together and does some filtering of packets from one network to the other and vice versa
Broadband a term referring to connections to the internet from homes and small businesses, offering an always on, relatively high bandwidth connection - provision is either via a telephone line (a technology known as ASDL) or a cable modem such as the ntl:world system
Browser a program that allows you to access the worldwide web (WWW)
Bubblejet printer this is a type of inkjet printer where the patterns on the paper are generated by squirting ink through a series of tiny nozzles in the print head - functionally, it is the same as an inkjet printer - the ink near the end of the nozzle is heated so that it expands and squirts a small volume of ink out onto the paper
BubbleJet registered to Canon in 1977 - they are a variety of inkjets and use very similar systems, although only Canon can use the BubbleJet name
Bug error in a computer program
Bullet a large black dot used to highlight something within some text
Bulletin board see BBS
Bus a set of parallel wires or PCB tracks along which data is transmitted in a computer system - the width of the bus refers to the number of parallel tracks - the wider the bus, the faster data can be transmitted down it
Byte a byte refers to 8 bits of binary data stored within a computer's memory or on a data storage medium

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