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Glossary: S

scientific visualization
A process associated with computational science to represent as graphic images the results of complex simulation computations, sometimes involving millions of items of numerical data.

search and replace
A word processing feature that searches for a specific pattern like a word or a phrase and replaces it with another, either automatically or after the user approves the change.

search engine
Any of the many indexing programs created for searching for information on World Wide Web pages, usually based on Boolean search strategies.

searching
The process of setting up a search request and retrieving information in a database that fulfills the request, a standard feature of all database software.

secondary mass storage
A term that applies to the medium in which computer programs and data are stored while not in use, such as on diskettes or magnetic tape.

secondary sort
A field in a database used for additional sorting after records have been arranged by the primary sorting operation on another field.

selection
The term used in structured programming for the choice represented by a decision box or an if/then/else condition.

semantics
The field of linguistic analysis concerned with the meaning component of language, still one of the greatest challenges of natural language processing with computers.

semiconductor memory
Another term for RAM chips, based on a semiconductor technology similar to that of microprocessor chips.

sensory feedback
The ability of a robotic machine to receive sensory information as data and adjust its behavior accordingly, the highest level of achievement in today's robots.

sequence
The structured program construct for a series of statements that are carried out in linear order, one after another.

sequential search
A programming strategy of searching for an item in a data file by examining items in the order in which they are stored, often not the most efficient searching method.

serial process
The transmission of data in a communications channel like a phone line one bit at a time.

shareware
Software distributed free of charge on a trial basis through bulletin boards or among friends. Those who like it are expected to pay a nominal fee in order to receive additional documentation and news of upgrades.

SHRDLU (BLOCKS WORLD)
A pioneering natural language application designed by Terry Winograd, with features for understanding both the grammar and semantics of instructions for moving a set of blocks around on a plane surface.

simulation
A computer program that imitates a process or set of activities, such as an organic chemical reaction or an environmental disaster.

site license
A fee paid to a software company to allow multiple users at a site to access or copy a piece of software.

slide scanner
An input device for digitizing color slides directly so that they are suitable for storage in computers.

Smalltalk
A pioneering language for introducing concepts of object-oriented programming.

smart weapons
Military hardware, like the Tomahawk missile from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, that incorporates computers in its design to carry out its mission.

smiley
A set of keystrokes that can be included in e-mail to express emotion in a kind of graphical shorthand.

snail mail
Computer jargon for surface mail, which is normally slower than electronic mail.

SNOBOL
A string processing programming language, especially popular in humanities computing.

soft copy
Computer output presented on a CRT screen rather than being printed.

software
The suite of programs that enables a computer system to process data, including both the operating system and a variety of application programs.

software interface
A term that describes the way a database user communicates with the software, such as querying by example or using a natural language search strategy.

software license
Paying a license fee to software developers for access to a program by a number of users without restriction, common in businesses and institutions.

software piracy
Illegal or unauthorized copying of software.

sorting
Arranging records in a file according to a specified sequence, such as alphabetically or numerically, from lowest to highest.

source code
The statements that make up a computer program in a high-level programming language, ready for an interpreter or a compiler.

spaghetti code
A term for a computer program not following structured programming principles, with many "go-to's" that allow unlimited transfer of control between modules.

special-purpose computer
A computer dedicated to a single purpose, such as a digital watch.

speech recognition package
Software that accepts voice input and recognizes its content for controlling the computer.

spelling checker
A computer program that checks a document for misspellings and offers suggestions for correction.

spreadsheet
Software that can represent data in a row-and-column format and can manipulate it like an electronic ledger sheet.

stack
A term for an individual HyperCard application, analogous to a file.

stimulus/response
A common psychological way to describe the cycle of response in the human body to external sensations as mediated by the brain. Analogous to the throughput process in computers.

storage
Another term for memory, a hardware device for storing binary data and programs.

stored program concept
The storage of data and instructions in central memory so that instructions can be treated like data. Von Neumann proposed this principle in the 1940s, so that the computer did not have to be hard-wired each time a specific task was to be performed.

Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
A defense system begun by the Reagan administration and nicknamed "Star Wars" that combined computerized radar monitoring of incoming missiles and shooting them down with automated interceptor missiles. Controversial from the start about its feasibility, the program is being dismantled in the 1990s.

string-handling language
A category of programming languages like LISP and SNOBOL appropriate for lists and textual data, such as natural language.

structured program design
The process of designing the components of a computer program as a set of individual self-contained modules that can be interrelated.

structured query language (SQL)
A technical database search standard recognized by the American National Standards Institute and used by software designers to create their internal computer search criteria. Sometimes ordinary users build search requests in SQL, but most modern database software hides it from the user.

style and grammar checker
A software program that checks for punctuation errors, flags awkward usage, and suggests revisions.

subsumption architecture
A design philosophy espoused by some artificial life researchers to create a set of interconnected simple processors that can each carry out basic behaviors, modeling complex behavior with a combination of simple actions.

subtractive primary colors
The three primary colors, magenta, cyan, and yellow, defined by the absence of one of the RGB colors, created by eliminating that color from light reflected from a white page. These colors form the basis of color laser printing.

supercockpit
A Defense Department research project to create a computerized helmet that resembles a video game and automates many functions for the pilot of the plane.

supercomputer
The fastest and most expensive type of computer designed for massive mathematical calculations necessary for much high-level scientific research. Supercomputer speeds today are measured in gigaflops (one billion floating point mathematical operations in a second) and soon in teraflops (one trillion such operations).

superscalar processing
A processor strategy similar to parallel processing on the chip that allows the hardware automatically to find instructions that are launched at the same time so that it can maximize their efficient use.

Super Video Graphics Adapter (SVGA) monitor
A common type of color computer monitor for graphics display in better IBM-compatibles.

sweeper
An element of a raster graphics system that takes information from the frame buffer and updates the display screen.

syntax
The field of linguistics concerned with the grammatical relations of words in a sentence.

syntax error
An error found in a computer program in the compiling stage because a statement violates the grammatical rules of the programming language.

synthesizer
A device that can electronically generate sound, either music or voice, from digital information.

systems analysis
A field of analysis that looks at a proposed computer application from the top down and tries to put together an efficient, coordinated system made up of hardware, software, and people to achieve the desired goal.


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