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1. Chem a surface that forms the boundary between two bodies, liquids, or chemical phases
2. an electrical circuit linking one device, esp a computer, with another
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(computer science)
Some form of electronic device that enables one piece of gear to communicate with or control another.
A device linking two otherwise incompatible devices, such as an editing terminal of one manufacturer to typesetter of another.
(physical chemistry)
The boundary between any two phases: among the three phases (gas, liquid, and solid), there are five types of interfaces: gas-liquid, gas-solid, liquid-liquid, liquid-solid, and solid-solid.
(science and technology)
A shared boundary; it may be a piece of hardware used between two pieces of equipment, a portion of computer storage accessed by two or more programs, or a surface that forms the boundary between two types of materials.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The common boundary, often a plane surface, between two bodies or materials.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A boundary across which two systems communicate. An interface might be a hardware connector used to link to other devices, or it might be a convention used to allow communication between two software systems. Often there is some intermediate component between the two systems which connects their interfaces together. For example, two EIA-232 interfaces connected via a serial cable.

See also graphical user interface, Application Program Interface.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


The connection and interaction between hardware, software and the user. Users "talk to" the software. The software "talks to" the hardware and other software. Hardware "talks to" other hardware. All this is interfacing. It has to be designed, developed, tested and redesigned; and with each incarnation, a new specification is born that may become yet one more de facto or regulated standard.

Hardware Interfaces
Hardware interfaces are the plugs, sockets, cables and electrical signals traveling through them. Examples are USB, FireWire, Ethernet, ATA/IDE, SCSI and PCI.

Software/Programming Interfaces
Software interfaces (programming interfaces) are the languages, codes and messages that programs use to communicate with each other and to the hardware. Examples are the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, SMTP email, IP network protocols and the software drivers that activate the peripheral devices.

User Interfaces
User interfaces are the keyboards, mice, commands and menus used for communication between you and the computer. Examples are the command lines in DOS and Unix, and the graphical interfaces in Windows, Mac and Linux.

Format & Function

Every interface implies a structure. Electrical signals are made up of voltage levels, frequencies and duration. The data passed from one device or program to another has a precise format (header, body, trailer, etc.).

Every interface implies a function. At the hardware level, electronic signals activate functions; data are read, written, transmitted, received, checked for error, etc. At the software level, instructions activate the hardware (access methods, data link protocols, etc.). At higher levels, the data transferred or transmitted may itself request functions to be performed (client/server, program to program, etc.).

Language & Programming

An interface is activated by programming language commands. The complexity of the functions and the design of the language determine how difficult it is to program.

User Interface, Protocol, API and ABI

The design of the interaction between the user and the computer is called a "user interface." The rules, formats and functions between components in a communications system or network are called "protocols." The language and message formats between routines within a program or between software components is called an "application programming interface" (API). The specification for an operating system working in a specific machine environment has been known as an "application binary interface" (ABI), but this term is not widely used.

All the above interactions are interfaces. Regardless of what they are called, they all create rules that must be precisely followed in a digital world.

A Whole Lot of Talking To
No matter what they're called, interfaces boil down to a format and language that defines the services one system is capable of delivering to another.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Frost (civil and environmental engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology) presents 21 papers from an eponymous September 2008 research symposium on geotechnical interfaces. The key topics addressed by the proceedings include characterization of interface materials, laboratory evaluation of interface behavior, field characterization of interface behavior, physical modeling of interface systems, numerical modeling of interface systems, analysis of systems failing at interfaces, and field monitoring of systems containing interfaces.
Extron Electronics headquartered in Anaheim CA, is a leading manufacturer of professional A/V system integration products including computer video interfaces, switchers, matrix switchers, system controllers distribution amplifiers, audio products, speakers, video scalers, scan converters, signal processing devices, Ethernet control interfaces, and high resolution cable
* application programming interfaces that enable application developers to deploy various services and adapters.
Emotions, which are a component of affective states, are "personal," and creating system interfaces for children should be based on their affect for them.
The interface standard allows for a data transfer rate of up to 400 MB/s half-duplex and up to 800 MB/s full-duplex, per port.
* Maintain an abstraction layer between service interfaces and service implementations.
Visual Autorun can be used to create delightful interfaces for CDs full of photos or music.
In order to understand the essence of bonds of Ge(111)/4H-SiC(0001) and Ge(110)/4H-SiC(0001) interfaces, the total charge density and charge density difference of Ge(111)/4H-SiC(0001) and Ge(110)/4H-SiC(0001) interfaces are calculated, as shown in Figures 5(a)-5(d), respectively.
3 shows the IV curve of RTD in the case of smooth interfaces. We then change the interface roughness, to see the effect of each interface as stated earlier.
The interfaces must have well-defined functions for how the coupling between the components perform to ensure that the overall functions of the system work correctly.
The combination of the 3D printer and the flexible sensor provides rapid prototyping human interfaces. The shape and size of the interfaces are easily changeable for users' needs.
Since the emergence of the smartphone, touch has been the primary user interface technology for mobile devices, developing over time from single-point touch to multi-touch gestures.