A – Am


In the world of chat rooms and instant messaging, the shorthand “A/S/L” became popular as a quick way to ask someone their age, sex and location.



See Battle of Yavin, The.



As a noun, the act of reading data from or writing data to a storage device, such as a hard drive or flash drive, or the privilege to use a computer or computer information in some manner. As a verb, to read or write data from or to a storage device, or to use a computer or computer information in some manner.


Access time

The time delay between a request to an electronic system, and the access request being connected or the requested data being returned.



A Greek mythological hero, a central character in the Trojan War legends, and the protagonist of Homer’s The Iliad, Achilles was the son of Peleus, mortal king of the Myrmidons, and Thetis, a Nereid (sea nymph).  Both Zeus and Poseidon were in love with Thetis, but when Prometheus warned them of a prophecy that said the son of Thetis would be greater than his father, the two gods decided to withdraw, and Peleus ended up marrying her.  Wanting to make her infant son immortal, Thetis dipped Achilles in the river Styx, which was located in the Epirus region of northwest Greece and was thought to have been a branch of the underworld river of the same name.  However, when Achilles’ mother dipped him into the water, she held him by his heel, which was not touched by the waters, and so his heel remained the only part of his body that was mortal.

When Achilles was nine years old, a seer predicted that Achilles would die heroically in battle against the Trojans. When Thetis heard about this, she disguised him as a girl and sent him to live on the Aegean island of Skyros, but he soon left there and joined the Greek army.  In a last-ditch effort to save her son’s life, Thetis asked the divine blacksmith Hephaestus (known in Roman mythology as Vulcan) to make a sword and shield that would keep him safe. The armor that Hephaestus produced for Achilles did not make him immortal, but it was distinctive enough to be recognized by friend and foe alike.

Achilles was well known as a supremely handsome and deeply loyal hero with superhuman strength and courage. According to Homer, Achilles was also vengeful, quick to anger, and could be petulant when he did not get his way.  When Menelaus vowed revenge against Paris for abducting Helen, the enraged king assembled an army of Greece’s greatest warriors, including Achilles and his Myrmidons, and set off to conquer Troy and get his wife back.  In Homer’s telling, this war lasted for ten bloody years.  During the first nine years of the war, Achilles ravaged the country around Troy and took 12 cities. In the tenth year, Achilles quarreled with Agamemnon when Achilles insisted that the king return the captured Chryseis to her father, a priest of Apollo, so as to appease the god’s wrath.  An irate Agamemnon recouped his loss by depriving Achilles of the soldier’s favorite slave, Briseis.  Furious, Achilles withdrew from battle and asked his mother to convince Zeus to help the Trojans, so that he might prove himself again in the battlefield.  The Greeks then floundered so badly that Achilles lent his chariot and armor to Patroclus, his cousin and inseparable companion, in order to impersonate him and inspire the troops.  Hector, eldest son of Troy’s King Priam, slew Patroclus, believing him to be Achilles.  Achilles chased Hector back to Troy, where the god stabbed Hector in the throat, killing him.  Despite the fact that Hector had begged for an honorable burial in Troy, Achilles was determined to humiliate his enemy even in death.  He dragged Hector’s body behind his chariot all the way back to the Achaean camp, then tossed it on the garbage heap.  Eventually, he gave Hector’s body to the prince’s father Priam, and The Iliad concludes with Hector’s funeral rites.

Subsequent legends and parts of Homer’s The Odyssey relate that the warrior returned to Troy after Hector’s funeral to avenge Patroclus’ death even further. However, the still-vengeful Apollo told Hector’s brother Paris that Achilles was coming.  Paris, who was not a brave warrior, ambushed Achilles as he entered Troy and shot his unsuspecting enemy with an arrow, which Apollo guided to the one place he knew Achilles was vulnerable: his heel.  The Greek hero died on the spot.  The Odyssey also mentions his funeral.  The poet Arctinus in his Aethiopis took up the story of the Iliad and related that Achilles, having slain the Ethiopian king Memnon and the Amazon Penthesilea, was himself slain in battle by Priam’s son Paris (again, in this tale the arrow is guided by Apollo).  Achilles was cremated and his ashes were mingled with those of Patroclus.

In the 2004 film Troy, Achilles was portrayed by Brad Pitt.


Acrobat Reader

See Adobe Reader.


Action Comics

The comic book line that debuted in 1938 with the first superhero character, Superman.  The first issue, depicting a caped man with super strength lifting a car over his head, has become iconic as the start of the superhero figure and The Golden Age of Comics.  Reprints of Action Comics #1 have come out, but original issues are considered priceless to collectors.



Appearing in the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows from April to December 1968, Adam was a creature who, much like Frankenstein’s monster, was created in a laboratory from human corpses.  His body was brought to life with the help of Barnabas Collins’ life force.  At first unable to speak or communicate, a frustrated Adam behaved violently.  Eventually, just as Frankenstein’s monster did, he returned to his creator to demand that a mate be made for him.  Though this came to pass, Adam’s mate Eve rejected him, and he strangled her.  He later attempted to have Eve returned to life with Maggie Evans supplying the life force, but this experiment also failed, and Eve’s body was destroyed in the attempt.  Upon seeking revenge against Barnabas, Adam is shot.  He seeks help from Professor Stokes, and the last we see of Adam, Stokes had arranged an operation to remove the scars from his face so that he could start a new life.

Though initially portrayed briefly by Duane Morris (prior to the creature obtaining a recognizable head and face), the role of Adam was played by Robert Rodan.



First mentioned in Marvel ComicsAvengers #66, adamantium is a virtually indestructible man-made steel alloy that directly affects two Marvel heroes: Wolverine and Captain America.  Though the exact chemical composition is a United States government classified secret, it was discovered by the American metallurgist Dr. Myron MacLain while he was trying to create a super-metal for building tanks.  He tried to fuse a rare meteoric ore now known as Wakandan Vibranium to the iron alloy numerous times without success.  Then one night when he dozed off, some as yet unknown factor entered the process, and permitted the fusion to occur.  MacLain turned a disc made of adamantium over to the government, and that disc was given to Captain America to use as his shield.  The degree of impermeability is determined by the thickness of the adamantium.  A sufficient mass of adamantium could survive a direct hit from a nuclear weapon.  Wolverine possesses artificial claws made of “true adamantium,” and his bones have been fused with the alloy to greatly increase their tensile strength.


Adams, Douglas


Douglas Noel Adams (1952-2001) created all the various manifestations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, beginning with the BBC radio series. Since its first airing in March 1978, it has been transformed into a series of best-selling novels, a TV series, a record album, a major motion picture, a computer game and several stage adaptations.  It is the only radio show ever to be nominated for a Hugo award.  He followed the success of Galaxy with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980); Life, The Universe and Everything (1982); So Long and Thanks for all the Fish (1984); and Mostly Harmless (1992). The first two books in the Hitchhiker series were adapted into a six-part television series, which was an immediate success when first aired in 1982. Other publications include Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul (1988). Douglas was a founding director of h2g2 (formerly The Digital Village), a digital media and internet company with which he created the 1998 CD-ROM Starship Titanic, a Codie Award-winning (1999) and BAFTA-nominated (1998) adventure game.

Douglas died unexpectedly in May 2001 of a sudden heart attack at the age of 49.  At the time of his death, he was working on the screenplay for a feature film version of Hitchhiker.


Adams, Neal


Born 1941 in Manhattan, comic book and commercial artist Neal Adams is known for helping to create some of the most definitive modern imagery to come out of Marvel Comics, and he has also drawn modern images for the DC Comics characters Superman, Batman, and Green Arrow.


Adams, Scott

Scott Adams (born 1957) is an American cartoonist and creator of the comic strip Dilbert.  From 1986 to 1995, he was employed at Pacific Bell, and during this time, he created the character of Dilbert, which, according to Adams, was a composite of Adams’ co-workers over the years.  The comic strip Dilbert was first published in 1989, and has now been syndicated to approximately 2,000 newspapers.  The strip is read in 70 countries.  Its lead character, a computer programmer and engineer for a high-tech company with no apparent purpose, is confronted daily by the illogical projects and business decisions of his clueless boss and the corporation’s equally inept management team. Dilbert, readily recognized by his perpetually curled necktie.


Adapter card

See Expansion/adapter card.


Addams, Charles

Born January 7, 1912 in Westfield, New Jersey, the creator of “The Addams Family” series of one-panel cartoons (which would inspire the subsequent television shows and theatrical films) demonstrated an early appreciation for the macabre.  Encouraged to draw at a young age, Addams attended Westfield High School, then Colgate University for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he finished his college degree.  Addams then relocated to New York City and enrolled at the Grand Central School of Art for one year.  In 1935, he was hired as a cartoonist by The New Yorker, where he was allowed to explore his voice and imagination, as well as hone the dark humor that would come to define his work.  It was at The New Yorker that Addams created his famous, “creepy and kooky” comic series Addams Family.  After a three-year stint in the U.S. Army in the early 1940s, Addams returned to New York, where his work was widely received from a variety of fans.  His popularity extended to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock.  In fact, it’s no coincidence that the Bates house in Psycho looks quite similar to the family house from Addams’ comic series!  Hitchcock “borrowed” the look from his new friend.

By the early 1980s, Addams’ work had comprised 12 book collections and had been exhibited at such prestigious sites as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He famously signed his work “Chas Addams,” intentionally shortening his first name because, he explained, “it looks better than writing out Charles.”  Among his many honors over the course of his lifetime, Addams won the Humor Award from Yale, an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a special award from the Mystery Writers of America.

In contrast to his popular work, Charles Addams was sociable and debonair, according to his biography.  He was quite the ladykiller (figuratively speaking, of course!), escorting Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Jacqueline Kennedy between his three marriages.  It is said that Addams’ first wife, Barbara Jean Day, whom he apparently met late in 1942, looked like the cartoon Morticia Addams in the flesh.

Addams died on September 29, 1988 in New York City, after suffering a heart attack in his car just outside his apartment building.



A globally recognized producer of digital marketing and digital media programs and packages.  Products include Acrobat, FrameMaker, Photoshop and Reader.


Adobe Acrobat

An Adobe program that allows users to transfer documents from one computer to another via portable media (disc or internet), regardless of computer systems (PC, Macintosh, minicomputer, mainframe), without any degradation or change in document appearance.


Adobe FrameMaker

An Adobe authoring and publishing program through which a user may create documents via a tight structure or template-based approach.  Includes advanced review and collaboration capabilities, the ability to add, integrate and address review commentary, and the capability to deliver content to multiple devices.


Adobe Photoshop

An Adobe digital imaging software package that allows users to manipulate, crop, resize, and correct color in digital photos.


Adobe Reader

Adobe software that displays and prints PDF files.  Formerly known as Acrobat Reader.


Adult puppeteering

The use of puppets to entertain and educate adult audiences in mature-themed stories, skits and plays.


Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, The

The earliest acknowledged version of the modern-day comic book, The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, is believed to date back to 1837.  It was created by Switzerland’s Rudolphe Töpffer, who has been considered the creator of the picture story.


Adventures of Tintin, The

Debuting on January 10, 1929, The Adventures of Tintin has been a source of inspiration for artists, writers, producers, and directors. The tireless reporter Tintin has been read all over the world and translated into more than 70 languages.  More than 230 million copies of his exploits have been sold.  Tintin even managed to explore the moon in 1954 … 15 years before Neil Armstrong!  Tintin’s creator’s real name was Georges Remi, but by reversing his initials to R.G., he created his pen name, Hergé.



  1. Software given to the user with advertisements embedded in the application. Adware is considered a legitimate alternative offered to consumers who do not wish to pay for software.  Also known as “freeware.”
  2. A form of spyware that can track internet surfing and collect information about a user in order to display targeted advertisements in the web browser.


Affective computing

Computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately influences emotion or other affective phenomena.  It develops new technologies and enhances the basic understanding of affect and its role in human experience by combining engineering and computer science with psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, sociology, education, psychophysiology, value-centered design, ethics, and more.  Affective computing has contributed to: designing new ways for people to communicate, including wearable sensors and new machine-learning algorithms; creating new techniques to assess frustration, stress, and mood indirectly, through natural interaction and conversation; showing how computers can be more emotionally intelligent; inventing personal technologies for improving self-awareness and selective communication to others; increasing understanding of how affect influences personal health; and pioneering studies examining ethical issues in affective computing.


Afro Samurai

Written by Takashi Okazaki and featuring the voice talents of Samuel L. Jackson, the 2007 anime series follows a man’s quest for vengeance after witnessing his father’s murder.


Age of Apocalypse

The Marvel Comics X-Men adventure Age of Apocalypse begins when Legion, the time-traveling son of Dr. Xavier who is suffering from feelings of abandonment and his bouts with schizophrenia, decides that if Magneto had not existed, his father would have had more time for him.  To rectify this, Legion goes back in time 20 years to kill Erik Magnus Lensherr before he became Magneto, but ends up causing a chain of events that shakes up all of the X-Men.



A website or program that collects related items of content either displays them or shows links to them.



In gaming, an aggressive force or move from an enemy or non-player character.



A targeting script in games.


Ain’t It Cool News

A website dedicated to posting reviews on comics, movies and television.



A wireless adapter for cellular data. Also known as a 3G modem, 4G modem, cellular modem or data card.


Alderson disk

An enormous circular structure around a sun or star, with the object in the exact center.  Named after Dan Alderson, who originally proposed the concept, an Alderson disk serves a dual purpose in science fiction, both as a rich narrative setting and an extreme engineering thought experiment.  In theory, a successful Alderson disk would have a diameter of 150 million miles or so (roughly the size of the inner solar system out past Mars), and it would be several thousand miles thick. Civilizations could live on either side of it.  Light from a sun, or suns, shining in the inner, empty core of the Alderson disk would strike the length of the disk edgewise, bathing disk residents in a permanent twilight.

In our solar system, the sun possesses some 99.8% of the total mass. Alderson disks upend this conventional distribution of matter, and contain immense amounts of mass.  In his 1979 book, Xenology, Robert Frietas assumed a ring-shaped structure or region with a breadth of about 370 million miles from inner to outer edge, and a thickness around 3,000 miles.  (In comparison, Earth’s radius is about 4,000 miles.)



A procedure, formula or specific set of instructions for carrying out a computer procedure or solving a mathematical problem, usually with the requirement that the procedure terminate at some point. Specific algorithms sometimes also go by the name method, procedure, or technique.



With the slogan “Anyone can code!”, this open-source software program teaches computer programming at a basic level, using simple drag-and-drop interface to create 3D computer animations.  Developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), Alice was the brainchild of Randy Pausch (1960-2008), a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who became famous for his life-affirming September 18, 2007 lecture, known as the “Last Lecture.”  Alice removes the possibility for syntax errors, a common source of frustration for beginning programmers.  In recent years, colleges and universities have utilized Alice, and an increasing number of middle and high schools are using the software to teach their students.  The latest version of the Alice program, which is downloadable without charge at www.alice.org, features the popular animated character Garfield and Sims2™ animated characters and scenes, an interface that allows advanced students to use a keyboard to create programs written in standard Java, and the ability to export student-created work onto YouTube.


All-Terrain Armored Transport

See AT-AT walker.


Alpha geek

The person in a group who has the greatest expertise in computers, technology and related areas.


Alpha strike

To a gamer, firing all available weapons at once as an initial assault on a target.  Though a very effective means of offense, it is also a very risky choice, since there is the chance that you don’t completely disable your enemy and you will be left with no defense should the enemy counterattack.


Alphabet Soup Bat-Container

One of the most bat-specific bat-gadgets to ever appear in the original Batman TV series, the Alphabet Soup Bat-Container (which was actually just a Thermos with the Bat-symbol on it!) was utilized in the dual-episode “A Piece of the Action”/“Batman’s Satisfaction” (Season 2, Episodes 51 and 52), which originally aired on March 1 and 2, 1967.  Featuring guest appearances by The Green Hornet and Kato (Van Williams and Bruce Lee), the episode was written by Charles Hoffman and directed by Oscar Rudolph.


Alternate reality

Also known as alternate universe or parallel universe, the theory that there are unnumbered versions of our universe, planets and even individual people existing on an as-yet-undiscovered plane of existence.



Alternate universe

See Alternate reality.



Alternate-reality game (ARG)

To a gamer, a genre of gaming in which a puzzle or mystery is to be solved, ARGs can include such real-world elements such as websites, newspaper ads, and phone calls from game “characters.”  Such games are usually free to play, and often have a specific goal of not only involving the player with the story and/or fictional characters, but of connecting them to the real world and to each other.


Amplitude modulation (AM)

In order for a steady radio signal (also known as a radio carrier) to transmit information, it must be altered, or modulated, in a way that the information can be conveyed from one place to another. Amplitude modulation (AM) is one method of impressing data onto an alternating-current (AC) carrier waveform.  The overall signal power varies depending on the instantaneous amplitude of the modulating data.

Amplitude modulation is the most straightforward way of modulating a signal.  In AM, the carrier itself does not fluctuate in amplitude.  Instead, the modulating data appears in the form of signal components at frequencies slightly higher and lower than that of the carrier.  Demodulation, or the process where the radio frequency signal is converted into an audio frequency signal, is also very simple.  An amplitude modulation signal only requires a simple diode detector circuit.  AM is also the oldest method of transmitting human voice electronically. In an analog telephone conversation, the voice waves on both sides are modulating the voltage of the direct current loop connected to them by the telephone company.

Amplitude modulation has been in use since the very earliest days of radio technology.  The first recorded instance of its use was in 1901, when a signal was transmitted by a Canadian engineer named Reginald Fessenden.  To achieve this, he used a continuous spark transmission and placed a carbon microphone in the antenna lead.  The sound waves impacting on the microphone varied its resistance, and in turn, this varied the intensity of the transmission.  Although very crude, signals were audible over a distance of a few hundred meters.  The quality of the audio was not good.  Later, continuous sine wave signals could be generated and the audio quality was greatly improved.  As a result, amplitude modulation became the standard for voice transmissions.  Modern amplitude modulation has a variety of applications: broadcast transmissions, air band radio (ground-to-air and two-way radio), single sideband (for HF radio links), and quadrature amplitude modulation (for short-range wireless links such as wireless fidelity (WiFi) to cellular telecommunications), among many other uses.  Advantages to AM broadcasting include: it is simple to implement; it can be demodulated using a circuit of very few components; receivers are inexpensive, since no specialized components are needed.  Disadvantages of amplitude modulation include: the signal is not efficient in terms of power usage; it is not efficient in use of bandwidth, as it requires twice highest audio frequency; and the signal is prone to high levels of noise because most distortion is amplitude-based.  Despite these shortcomings, amplitude modulation is in such widespread use, especially for broadcasting, and many amplitude modulation signals can still be heard on the various long, medium and short wavebands where they will undoubtedly be heard for many years to come.



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