PC Hardware

Technical Terms Beginning With S


A peripheral that converts information from the written page (or a printed graphic) to digital information that can be used by the computer. Works similarly to the scanning process in a photocopy machine.


A process that converts a photograph, graphic, or even text image found on paper into an electronic computer file.

SCSI (Small Computer System Interface)

A standard way of interfacing a computer to disk drives and other devices that require high-speed data transfer. Up to 16 SCSI devices, including the host adapter, can be connected in a daisy chain fashion. These devices can be hard disk drives, CD-ROMs, scanners, or printers. SCSI is the only common computer interface that allows adding both internal and external devices on the same chain. (Pronounced "scuzzy.")

SEA (self-extracting archive)

A compressed file that comes wrapped inside its own little decompression program so it expands itself when you ask it to.

search engine

A program that searches indexes of Internet addresses using keywords. There are hundreds of search engines located on servers throughout the Internet. Some popular search engines are AltaVista, Yahoo, HotBot, and Excite.


Transmission of 1 bit at a time over a single wire.


The computer that runs the network operating system, manages security, and administers access to resources. Strictly speaking, any computer that stores information and allows outside users to get copies of that information.

server network

This type of network requires a central server (dedicated computer) to manage access to all shared files and peripherals.

shadow RAM

Many high-speed motherboards use shadow RAM to improve the performance of a computer. Shadow RAM rewrites (or shadows) the contents of the ROM BIOS and/or video BIOS into extended RAM (between the 640-KB boundary and 1 MB). This allows systems to operate faster when application software calls BIOS routines. In some cases, system speed can be increased up to 400 percent.

SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol)

A dial-up connection to the Internet, this is an older system than PPP.


Any program (set of instructions) that causes a computer to carry out a task or function.


Holds computer output before sending it to a printer. This enables the main program to run more quickly because output is handled by the print spooler, which then distributes it to the printer at the proper speed.

star network

A type of network configuration in which all computers are connected to a central point called a hub. The hub collects and distributes the flow data within the network. In large networks, several hubs may be connected. This is the easiest form of network topology to troubleshoot because all information goes through a hub, making it easier to isolate problems.


Technology found in Pentium processors allowing the Pentium to have two instruction pipelines, thereby increasing the speed of processing.

surge suppresser

Used to prevent large power spikes (such as from lightning) from damaging a computer.

SVGA (Super Video Graphics Array)

A video standard. The minimum requirement for SVGA compatibility is 640 pixels by 480 pixels at 256 colors. At the low end, typical SVGA systems are operated at 800 x 600 at any color depth. Today, most SVGAs run at 1024 x 768 at 256 with 64K colors or better.

switch box

Allows the user to manually (or automatically) switch cable connections so that one computer can use several different printers or devices with one parallel port.


Form of computer communication in which data is transmitted in packets containing more than one character. This is faster than asynchronous transmission because there is no start/stop bit between each individual character.


Specific rules that prescribe how the symbols of a programming language can be written in order to form meaningful statements that will be understood by the PC.

sysop (system operator)

The system operator of a small BBS. (Pronounced "SIS-op.")

system bus

Supports the CPU, RAM, and other motherboard components that provide the controlling element to the computer. It is responsible for coordinating the operation of the individual system components and central to the communications system of a computer. Also called the control bus.

system crystal

Determines the speed at which a CPU is operated (sets the clock speed); it is usually a quartz oscillator.