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Glossary of Computer Hardware Terms - The Letter C

written by: Jesma•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/30/2008

In this section of the computer glossary, we give definitions of computer and network hardware related terms beginning with the letter C, including Capacitor, CRT, Chipset, Command, and more.

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    The Letter C


    An electronic component that consists of two plates separated by insulation that is designed to store an electrical charge.

    Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)

    Among the first computer monitors, still occasionally found today. Works by creating a beam of electrons that strike the phosphor coating inside the display.

    CD - Compact Disk

    A 12cm optical disk that contains digitally encoded information.

    CD-R - Compact Disk Recordable

    A CD that can have information written to it one time by a CD recording device. May have multisession capabilities, allowing it to be written to during different sessions, but not overwritten.

    CD-RW - Compact Disk Rewritable

    A rewritable CD or a recording device that handles them. Can be rewritten by a CD recording device at least 1,000 times. CD-RW drives can also be used to write CD-Rs and read CD-ROMs.

    Character Set

    All the letters, numbers, symbols, and other characters that a computer can use to present data. Also sometimes used to refer to the typeface of a font.


    A chip or set of chips that integrates into the clock generator, bus controller, system timer, interrupt controller, DMA controller, CMOS RAM/clock, and keyboard controller on a motherboard. Often known as the pair of chips, North Bridge, and South Bridge. A motherboard's chipset defines the architecture that the board is built on and controls its compatibility with expansion cards and other devices.

    Circuit Board

    A collection of circuits on a sheet of plastic with all contacts made through a strip of pins. Usually made by chemically etching metal-coated plastic. Circuit boards are used in many parts of the computer, from the motherboard (main board), expansion cards, controller cards, and smaller components like the power switch.


    A network type where every computer is either a server with the role of sharing resources with clients or a client that can access the resources on the server.

    Clock Speed

    A measurement of the rate at which the clock signal for a device cycles, typically expressed in the millions of cycles per second (MHz).


    1) A group of one or more sectors on a disk that forms the basic unit of storage, as determined by the operating system when the disk is first formatted.

    2) A grouping of servers, typically for the purpose of redundancy and/or failover.

    CMOS - Complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor

    A type of chip design that requires little power to operate. In PCs, a battery-powered CMOS memory and clock chip is used to store and maintain the clock setting and system configuration information, as well as the BIOS.

    Coaxial Cable

    A data transmission cable praised for its high bandwidth, immunity to interference (eg: EMI) and cursed for its high cost. The inner conductor is shielded in insulating material as well as an outer conductor.

    CODEC - COder-DECoder

    1) A device or software that converts audio signals from their analog form into digital signals for digital PBXs and other digital transmission systems, then converts them back to analog for comprehension.


    An instruction that is issued to the computer from a command line or prompt.

    Compressed File

    A file that has been reduced in size using one or more compression techniques, like .RAR, .ZIP, .TAR, .GZ.

    Controller Card

    A card or adapter containing the controlling electronics for one or more devices like hard disks, typically placed in an expansion slot.

    Core Speed

    The internal speed of a processor. Faster than the system's bus speed and regulated by the clock multiplier in the processor.

    CPU - Central Processing Unit

    Contains several million transistors and acts as the brain of the computer. All information and instructions are read and decoded by the processor which then sends signals to the rest of the machine in a matter of nano-seconds.


    A malfunction that can be hardware or software related that brings work to a halt. Most are software related and rebooting the machine will resolve the problem, but data loss is common.

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