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Geekspeak, Part 3

Sep 9, 2008
The term geekspeak refers to arcane jargon or a special vocabulary popularized by individuals immersed in computers and other fields of IT--which, coincidentally, is geekspeak for Information Technology. Most geekspeakers are blissfully oblivious and don't realize that they're speaking in digital tongues. If you happen to be at the receiving end of such discourse, the experience can enlightening in an eye-glazing, put-a-bullet-in-my-head kind of way. As the vast computer-using public becomes increasingly comfortable with technology terms, including those that follow, these words may even become part of an unsuspecting individual's daily vernacular:

Clock Speed

The speed, measured in megahertz or MHz (see Megahertz below), at which a computer's microprocessor (chip) regulates and synchronizes its data flow. All things being equal, the higher the clock speed, the faster a computer can process data. When techies talk in terms of a "fast" computer, this is what they're referring to.


The smallest unit of time recognized by a computer. Also called a clock tick. A computer running at 500MHz means there are 500 million cycles (clock ticks) per second, and the computer can execute one or more instructions in a single cycle.


Keyboard character combinations created to convey feelings or emotions in email and other online communication. Tilt your head to the left and view these "smileys" such as :-)

Sometimes referred to as "rules," these are conditions you define for your email program to automatically block, forward, redirect or delete incoming messages that meet your defined filtering criteria.


Pronounced "gooey," this acronym stands for Graphical User Interface. It describes an interactive computing environment (such as what appears on a computer monitor) that uses symbols and visual elements (think "icons") to provide a means for users to interact with the computer and issue commands to its operating system. The Windows Desktop is a GUI that displays icons representing programs, folders and files. Using Windows' programs requires clicking buttons and other symbols to provide instructions to the computer. The computer doesn't always listen to the instructions, but that's the theory behind GUI, anyway.

Internet vs internet vs intranet

The Internet (with the capital I), refers to the vast assemblage of connected computer networks that use the same data-transmission protocols (referred to as TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). These networks evolved from a Government-sponsored program (ARPANet) in the late 1960s.

internet (with the lower-case i) refers to two or more connected networks, a network being defined as two or more connected computers with the ability to communicate with each other.

An intranet is a private network such as found in a business or other organization. It generally uses the same type of software that you would use on the public Internet, however, an intranet is for internal use and is not accessible by the general public.

Legacy Technology

Outdated hardware and software that is essentially obsolete, but still too expensive and/or functional to dispose of. Also called "heritage system," "heritage tech," or "old stuff."

Megahertz (MHz)

One MHz represents one million cycles per second. As mentioned above, the speed of a microprocessor is called the clock speed, and is measured in megahertz. A microprocessor that runs at 500 MHz executes 500 million cycles per second. Each computer instruction requires a fixed number of cycles, so the clock speed determines how rapidly instructions can be executed by the microprocessor.


An agreed-upon method or standard by which computers communicate with each other to transmit data, files, graphics, etc. An off-line analogy would be a conversation between two or more individuals. The "protocol" that permits people to communicate is a specific language such as English, Spanish, French, etc. On the Internet, the IP (Internet Protocol) is the common denominator that allows our systems to exchange data, thus enhancing and enriching our lives through the unrelenting assault of spam.


Refers to the process of retrieving and playing data (audio or video) in realtime (instantaneously), as opposed to downloading and executing or launching a program. A good example of streaming is YouTube, which enables video to begin playing without a user having to wait while large video files download.
About the Author
Mr. Modem (MrModem.com) is an author, syndicated columnist, radio host, and publisher of the wildly popular, always entertaining, Pulitzer-lacking weekly "Ask Mr. Modem" computer-help newsletter. Mr. Modem's columns appear in more than 300 publications and each month in "Smart Computing" magazine. Visit MrModem.com for additional information, to view a sample issue, or to subscribe.
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