Stands for "Advanced Technology Attachment." It is a type of disk drive that integrates the drive controller directly on the drive itself. Computers can use ATA hard drives without a specific controller to support the drive. The motherboard must still support an ATA connection, but a separate card (such as a SCSI card for a SCSI hard drive) is not needed. Some different types of ATA standards include ATA-1, ATA-2 (a.k.a. Fast ATA), ATA-3, Ultra ATA (33 MBps maximum transfer rate), ATA/66 (66 MBps), and ATA/100 (100 MBps).
The term IDE, or "Integrated Drive Electronics," is also used to refer to ATA drives. Sometimes (to add extra confusion to people buying hard drives), ATA drives are labeled as "IDE/ATA." Technically, ATA uses IDE technology, but the important thing to know is that they refer to the same thing.