Today's computer jargon is hard enough to learn, so here are the few terms that establish a fundamental knowledge for each commercial real estate professional.
Technology today is driving not only the real estate industry, but Corporate America at large. As software and computers constantly are updated and improved, their technology also is heightened, and we often are confronted with a host of new terminology. The following is a glossary of some terms that most professionals have come across in their daily usage of the computer, but perhaps they were unsure of their full meaning. So, toward more knowledgeable computer prowess, here are some terms, of varying technological stature:
A ASCII - The predominant character set encoding of present-day computers. The modern version uses seven bits for each character, whereas most earlier codes (including an early version of ASCII) used fewer. This change allowed the inclusion of lowercase letters, but it did not allow for accented letters or any other letter forms not used in English.
B Bitmap - A data file or structure which corresponds bit for bit with an image displayed on a screen, probably in the same format as it would be stored in the display's video memory or maybe as a device independent bitmap. A bitmap is characterized by the width and height of the image in pixels and the number of bits per pixel, which determines the number of shades of grey or colors it can represent.
C Cache - A temporary storage area for frequently accessed or recently accessed data. Having certain data stored in cache speeds up the operation of the computer. There are two kinds of cache: internal (or memory cache) and external or (disk cache). When an item is called for, the computer first checks internal cache, external cache then the slower main storage.
D DRAM - Dynamic Random Access Memory. A type of semiconductor memory in which the information is stored in capacitors on a MOS integrated circuit. Typically each bit is stored as an amount of electrical charge in a storage cell consisting of a capacitor and a transistor. Due to leakage, the capacitor discharges gradually and the memory cell loses the information. Therefore, to preserve the information, the memory has to be refreshed periodically.
E EDI - Electronic Data Interchange. Conversion of a transmitted document into a format readable by the receiving computer. Many purchase orders and shipment confirmations are handled by EDI that allow for a great reduction in paperwork.
F Fax/Modem - A combination fax and data modem which is either an external unit that plugs into the serial port or an expansion board that is installed internally. A fax/modem makes it possible to fax a document straight from the computer but cannot scan documents which are not in the computer. Most modems now are fax/modems.
G GUI - An acronym for Graphical User Interface. The use of pictures rather than just words to represent the input and output of a program. A program with a GUI runs under a windowing system, such as Microsoft Windows, Acorn RISC OS or NEXTSTEP. The program displays certain icons, buttons or dialogue boxes in its windows on the screen and the user controls it mainly by moving a pointer on the screen and selecting certain objects by pressing buttons on the mouse while the pointer is selecting them.
H Hyperlink - A reference (link) from some point in one hypertext document to (some point in) another document or another place in the same document. A browser usually displays a hyperlink in some distinguishing way, perhaps in a different color, font or style. When the user activates the link (by clicking on it with the mouse) the browser will display the target of the link. For example, one may do an internet search, using Yahoo! or another search engine, on "Commercial Real Estate" and would be presented with multiple links to many other sites.
I IDE - Integrated Drive Electronics. A disk interface standard based on the IBM PC ISA 16 bit bus, but also used on other personal computers. The IDE specification deals with the power and data signal interfaces between the motherboard and the integrated disk controller and drive. The IDE bus only supports two devices - master and slave. IDE drives may in fact use any physical interface the manufacturer desires, so long as an embedded translator is included with the proper IDE interface. IDE controllers are actually direct connections to the ISA bus.
J Java - Java is a simple, general-purpose programming language developed by Sun Microsystems. Java supports programming for the Internet in the form of platform-independent Java applets. Java is similar to C++ without operator overloading (though it does have method overloading), without multiple inheritance and extensive automatic coercions. The interpreter and class support take about 40 kilobytes; adding the standard libraries and thread support (essentially a self-contained microkernel) adds an additional 175Kb.
K Kangaroo Code/Spaghetti Code - Code with a complex and tangled control structure, especially one using many GOTOs, exceptions, or other "unstructured" branching constructs. The synonym "kangaroo code" has been reported, doubtless because such code has so many jumps in it, like its namesake.
L LAN - Local Area Network. A data communications network which is geographically limited (typically to a 1 km radius) allowing easy interconnection of terminals, microprocessors and computers within adjacent buildings. Ethernet and FDDI are examples of standard LANs. Because the network is known to cover only a small area, optimizations can be made in the network signal protocols that permit data rates up to 100Mb/s.
M Multimedia - Human-computer interaction involving text, graphics, voice and video. Often also includes concepts from hypertext. The justification at work is often to provide stunning presentations, while the real reason is to listen to the latest CD while you plug away at work. Multimedia computers can be used in kiosks that advertise real estate opportunities. In addition, utilizing the multimedia capability of computers, internet sites can be more interactive and create presentations, such as guided tours of properties.
N Non-interlaced - Most often used in the description of televisions and computer monitors. On an interlaced display, the electron beam first scans all the even-numbered lines and then all the odd-numbered lines, covering the whole screen in two vertical scans, doubling the vertical resolution without increasing the scan rate. The cost of this increased resolution is that any given pixel is refreshed only half as often. This may, in turn, require a phosphor with a higher persistence in order for the interlaced display to appear free from flicker; non-interlaced monitors are "flicker free."
O Operating System - The low-level software which schedules tasks, allocates storage, handles the interface to peripheral hardware and presents a default interface to the user when no application program is running. The OS may be split into a kernel which is always present and various system programs which use facilities provided by the kernel to perform higher-level house-keeping tasks, often acting as servers in a client-server relationship.
P Plug and Play - A term referring to difficulties encountered when setting up a Macintosh computer for the first time. "Plug and Play" means hardware or software that, after being installed ("plugged in"), can immediately be used ("played with"), as opposed to hardware or software which requires configuration.
Q Queue - A first-in first-out data structure used to sequence multiple demands for a resource such as a printer, processor or communications channel. Objects are added to the tail of the queue and taken off the head.
R RAM - Random Access Memory. A data storage device for which the order of access to different locations does not affect the speed of access. This is in contrast to a magnetic disk, magnetic tape or a mercury delay line where it is much quicker to access data sequentially because accessing a non-sequential location requires physical movement of the storage medium rather than just electronic switching. The most common form of RAM in use today is built from semiconductor-integrated circuits, which can be either static (SRAM) or dynamic (DRAM).
S SCSI - A processor-independent standard for system-level interfacing between a computer and intelligent devices including hard disks, floppy disks, CD-ROM, printers, scanners and many more. SCSI can connect up to seven devices to a single controller (or "host adaptor") on the computer's bus.
T TCP/IP - Transmission Control Protocol over Internet Protocol. The de facto standard Ethernet protocols incorporated into 4.2BSD Unix. TCP/IP was developed by DARPA for internet working, encompassing both network layer and transport layer protocols. While TCP and IP specify two protocols at specific layers, TCP/IP is often used to refer to the entire DoD protocol suite based upon these.
U UNIX - By 1991, the most widely used multi-user general-purpose operating system in the world. Many people consider this the most important victory yet of hackerdom over industry opposition. An interactive time-sharing operating system invented in 1969 by Ken Thompson after Bell Labs left the Multics project, it originally was created so Thompson could play games on his scavenged PDP-7. The turning point in Unix's history came when it was reimplemented almost entirely in C during 1972 to 1974, making it the first source-portable OS.
V Virtual Memory - A process running in a system with a memory management unit (MMU). Virtual memory is usually much larger than physical memory. Paging allows the excess to be stored on disk and copied to RAM as required. This makes it possible to run programs whose code plus data size is greater than the amount of RAM available.
W World Wide Web - An Internet client-server hypertext distributed information retrieval system which originated from the CERN High-Energy Physics laboratories in Geneva, Switzerland. An extensive user community has developed on the Web since its public introduction in 1991.
On the WWW, everything (documents, menus, indices) is represented to the user as a hypertext object in HTML format. Hypertext links refer to other documents by their URLs. These can refer to local or remote resources accessible via FTP, Gopher, Telnet or news, as well as those available via the http protocol used to transfer hypertext documents. The client program (known as a browser), e.g. NCSA Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, runs on the user's computer and provides two basic navigation operations: to follow a link or to send a query to a server.
For the commercial real estate industry, the World Wide Web offers amazing information opportunities. One immediately has access to thousands of real estate websites (including NREI's at www.InternetReview.com), hundreds of economic reports about specific geographical regions, plus just about any other piece of data a real estate professional would require.
X XMODEM - The "Christensen" file transfer protocol, probably the most widely available protocol used for file transfer over serial lines (e.g. between modems). XMODEM uses 128-byte packets with error detection, allowing the receiver to request re-transmission of a corrupted packet. XMODEM is fairly slow, but reliable.
Y Yerk - An object-oriented language based on a Forth Kernel with some major modifications, it originally was known as Neon, developed and sold as a product by Kriya Systems from 1985 to 1989. Several individuals at The University of Chicago have maintained Yerk since its demise as a product.
Z Zip Drive - A disk drive made by Iomega which takes removable 3.5 inch floppy disks capable of storing 100 megabytes each.
For their assistance with this article, we would like to thank Kathy Nunnally-Anemogiannis, national director of real estate research at Deloitte & Touche LLP, Atlanta, and Tyrone Cobb, computer mapping specialist at CNL Group Inc., Orlando, Fla.
Lisa Pritchard Mayfield is a freelance writer based in Macon, Ga.