Definitions of Computer Terms for Kids

By Manny Frishberg

Children know computers from experience but they don't always know the terms used in talking about them.

Thinking Machines

A computer is an electronic machine that stores data (information) to work with and gives out the results. All computers are made up of hardware---the machine itself, and software---the instructions that tell it what to do.

Counting to two

Digital computers use binary code, a way of writing numbers using just zeros and ones, to store and work with the data. Even if the software is written in words the computer translates it into binary code.

Inside the Box

The electronic parts inside the computer are made up of on-off switches called transistors. Each one or zero is called a bit and a set of bits that make a computer's "word" is called a byte. A megabyte is 1-million bytes.

Outside the Box

Computers "talk" to each other on a network using a modem, one of the pieces of hardware called a peripheral because it is not a central part of the computer. The monitor, or screen, keyboard and the mouse are also peripherals.

Computer Chores

Software, such as word processors, spreadsheets and databases, has become a part of everyday life. Word processors are like super-typewriters, spreadsheets are super-calculators that can do lots more than just arithmetic, and databases store lists of things and sort them into different categories.