News Articles
Written for the
Pride of Rochester

July 2002 Article

Hardware, Operating System, Memory.
Tech Terms Made Simple

Have you ever tried getting advice or assistance with a computer problem and was asked a series of questions like: What's your hard drive space? What operating system do you have? How much RAM do you have? Once you got over the feeling of bewilderment for not understanding what they were talking about, you probably said something like, "I'm not sure," and decided to tackle the problem at a later time. Technical questions like these can make you feel like you shouldn't have skipped class that day Technology 101 was being offered. With the hustle and bustle of handling our day-to-day activities, we just can't seem to find the time to take a computer class. One thing you should keep in mind with technology is, the terminology doesn't change, the lists of them do. Once you obtain a broad understanding of tech terms, the list won't be as long and you'll begin to perform the projects and tasks you purchased your computer for with clearer direction and purpose.

Hardware is best described as physical components of a computer system, objects you can touch and feel. Monitors, keyboards, mouse, printers, copiers, scanners, faxes, palm pilots, DVDs are all components that you can connect to your computer. Each device will come with the necessary instructions on either floppy disks or CDs. However, with most new systems, you may find that your operating system may have the most common product installation information, which eases the process of setting up your new device.

This system program interprets our commands into machine language and provides the functionality for viewers to see icons, images and toolbars. It is also the ability to use your mouse to point and click within a graphical user interface (GUI or gooey as it's pronounced.) Each new version is designed to fix any problems or bugs that were found in previous versions and provides you an improved way of doing tasks. For pc users, you may recognize these versions, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows ME, and Windows XP. Windows XP is the latest and greatest version to date. Make sure you understand and know what your operating system is. If you find your system has an older operating system and you're still able to perform your daily tasks with ease, stick with what you have until you are looking to do a system upgrade and not just an upgrade to your operating system.

There are two types of memory you should be familiar with, Hard Drive space and RAM.

Hard Drive - The physical component of your computer, which permanently stores data and information. The hard drive of the computer is usually compared to an office filing cabinet. For each drawer of the cabinet, you'll find sections that hold additional folders of information. The hard drive of your computer uses a similar filing system to store your system programs and personal documents.

Everything you do on your computer is converted into a machine language that the computer recognizes. From keystrokes to mouse movements, they're processed as volumes of data. We measure currency by increments of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters etc. We also measure volumes of fluid in pints, quarts, gallons, etc. The computer uses sequences of 1's and 0's to determine volumes of data. a zero or a one equals a bit. Eight sequences of 1's and 0's equal a byte. Example: the system representation for the letter A = 01000001. The keyboard character @ = 01000000. 1,024 sequences of BYTES equal a KILOBYTE. 1,024 KILOBYTES equal a MEGABYTE and 1,024 MEGABYTES equal a GIGABYTE. It is important to recognize the size of data and information you are working with. Just as you can't get 10 dollars out of a one-dollar bill, you can't store a dictionary of information on a floppy disk if it can't hold that much data.

RAM processes each request we perform on the computer. While working at your computer, do you find yourself performing the following tasks? Typing a document, listening to music, searching the Internet for information to include in your document and then printing the information you've found on the Internet? While we find it convenient to perform this many tasks, we also expect the computer to do so flawlessly. Know that every keystroke, mouse movement, song playing, and every time we click buttons on the monitor, the computer is processing these requests. Requesting more information than the computer can process, will cause it to freeze or lock up. To improve your computers capability of processing large volumes of information, you can consider upgrading your RAM. For older computers and especially those that access the Internet, it's recommended you have a minimum of 64 MB or Megabytes of RAM. Believe it or not, a computer that's at least a year old can be considered outdated because of new developments in existing technology. If you find yourself performing at least three to four tasks, then you should consider upgrading your RAM to a minimum of 128 MB.  To determine how much RAM you have, perform the following; while looking at the desktop, with your mouse hovering above the "my computer" icon, click the right side of your mouse; choose the option to view properties. This will show you general information about your computer as well as how much RAM your system has.

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