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Paul Brown, 'BIGDIM / 0 10 10 0 0 0 0 / 200, 120 / 11,969' (detail), 1979. Museum no. E.131-2008. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

Paul Brown, 'BIGDIM / 0 10 10 0 0 0 0 / 200, 120 / 11,969' (detail), 1979. Museum no. E.131-2008. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

Algorithm: a set of instructions that can be used to carry out a task. An algorithm can be as simple as a recipe or as complex as a computer program.

Algorist: an artist who uses his or her own algorithms to create artworks. Algorist artists include Roman Verostko, Hans Dehlinger and Jean-Pierre Hébert.

Analogue: a type of data-carrying signal that exists in a continuous, variable form.

Analogue computer: a device that uses continuous electrical, mechanical or other physical activity to solve a problem or undertake a task.

Bit: a single binary element that is the smallest unit of data in a computer. The term derives from the words 'binary digit'

Bombsight computer: a type of analogue computer used by bomber aircraft to accurately aim their bombs. Modified bombsight computers were used by D.P. Henry to create automatic drawing machines.

Cathode ray tube: an analogue display device consisting of a vacuum tube with a fluorescent screen that displays a
stream of electrons as a beam of light. Cathode ray tubes
were used in television sets during the 20th century.

Harold Cohen, 'Untitled' (detail), 1969. Museum no. E.319-2009. Given by Harold Cohen

Harold Cohen, 'Untitled' (detail), 1969. Museum no. E.319-2009. Given by Harold Cohen

Computer art: in the widest sense, art that is created with the help of a computer. In a narrower sense, the term is also used to indicate a more specific style of artwork created by artists, programmers and engineers from the 1960s to the early 1980s or thereabouts.

Computer program: A set of instructions that enable the computer to carry out certain functions.

Daisy wheel printer: an early form of impact printer. The daisy wheel printer houses a central disc with extended arms or 'petals' that contained raised characters. Like an automated typewriter, the disc quickly rotates to the required character and strikes it through an inked ribbon onto the page. Daisy wheel printers could print primitive graphics using this fixed character set.

Digital: refers to a stream of data that consists of two states: positive and non-positive, represented by the numbers 1 and 0 respectively, which are called bits.

Digital art: art work created using digital technologies either in the production or the output of the art work, or both.

Digitization: the process of converting an analogue signal to a digital representation.

Jaume Estapa, 'Leo Ferre' (detail), 1968. Museum no. E.355-2009. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

Jaume Estapa, 'Leo Ferre' (detail), 1968. Museum no. E.355-2009. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London 

Dot matrix printer: a printer that creates images through a series of small dots. Like other impact printers it impresses marks on the page, but unlike the line printer or daisy wheel printer, its characters are made up from any combination of dots, allowing for a much greater range of forms and images.

DPI: dots-per-inch: the number of dots per inch that are used to make up an image. A higher density indicates a finer quality to the printed or displayed output.

Giclée print: a high quality inkjet print that allows for a greater complexity of colour and tone. The term is often applied to inkjet reproductions of artworks that were originally produced in another medium.

Computer hardware: the physical equipment within a computer system such as the main computer unit, the monitor, printer or plotter.

Impact printer: a printer that uses force to apply an image to the printing surface. Examples include the daisy wheel printer, the dot matrix printer and the line printer.

Icon: a small symbol or picture displayed on the computer screen that represents a function on the computer. Icons are found on desktops, toolbars and menus.

Herbert W. Franke, 'Elektronische Grafik' (detail), 1970 (original photograph 1962). Museum no. E.110-2008. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

Herbert W. Franke, 'Elektronische Grafik' (detail), 1970 (original photograph 1962). Museum no. E.110-2008. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London 

Inkjet print: an image created by an inkjet printer.

Inkjet printer: a type of printer that employs small nozzles to spray very fine droplets of water-based ink onto the paper or printing surface.

Input: data or information entered into a digital system.

Laser print: a digitally stored image that is printed using a laser printer. 

Laser printer: a computer printer that uses a laser beam to create an electrical charge on the printing drum that attracts and releases powdered pigment in the desired printing areas. The pigment is fixed onto the printing surface using heat and pressure. 

Limited edition: a printing run that is limited to a specified number of copies, which cannot be exceeded or reprinted. Limited edition prints should be signed and numbered by the artist.

Line printer: an early form of impact printer that prints a line of characters at a time. The characters are printed using small hammers that strike the page.

Mainframe computer: a term used to refer to a larger or more powerful computer, so-called because some of the earliest examples were housed within a large metal frame.

Manfred Mohr, 'P-96 (theoretical space projection)' (detail), 1972. Museum no. E.65-2008. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

Manfred Mohr, 'P-96 (theoretical space projection)' (detail), 1972. Museum no. E.65-2008. Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

Oscilloscope: an electronic instrument that uses a cathode ray tube to show the wave shape of an electrical signal.

Paint program: a computer program that enables users to 'paint' or 'edit' digital images on the computer through pixel manipulation. Many paint programs emulate traditional fine art tools, such as the paint brush, spray can, pencil etc.

Pen plotter: a mechanical device that holds a pen or brush and is linked to a computer that controls its movements and guides the pen or brush across the drawing surface. Some plotters use a static pen, but move the paper underneath.

Pixel: a picture element (or dot) that is the basic unit of a digital image.

Plotter drawing: an image created by a pen plotter.

Program: see Computer program

Raster graphics: a type of computer imagery made using pixels arranged in rows and columns. Sometimes referred to as bitmap images or pixel-mapped images.

Software: one or more computer programs that enable the computer hardware to perform certain tasks. Software may be read by, or stored on, the computer's hardware.

User Interface: allows computer users to interact with computer systems and for external commands to be translated into internal operations.

Vector graphics: a type of computer imagery formed of points, lines and shapes based on mathematical equations, rather than pixels.

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