Like all things man-made, computers have evolved a language all their own. The following list may help clear up some misunderstandings of computer-related terms:
CD: stands for Compact Disk. CD disks are the standard for delivering programs from the software developer to the computer user. CDs come in a variety of types based on the language they are written in (PC, Mac, or Unix). PCs cannot read a Mac CD, but Macs can read PC CD.
CPU: The brain of the computer. The CPU is a "chip" that is located on a circuit board sometimes referred to as the mother board inside the desktop or tower computer case. This component has terms associated with it such as "486", "Pentium" and "Celeron". Most CPUs are manufactured by a company called Intel.
Data: Computer food. Computers translate data into information. Data can be numbers, letters, symbols, mathematical expressions, mouse clicks, or button presses. The CPU translates all these activities into a series of zeroes and ones and then performs programming magic.
Drivers: Drivers are special programs needed to run peripheral devices. Printers, monitors, scanners, modems, and network cards all require drivers so that the computer knows how to communicate and control the device.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD): This is the internal magnetic storage device housed inside the computer case. These come in a variety of sizes, measured in how many bytes of information they can contain. A bit of information equals either zero (0) or one (1). To a computer, this is equivalent to turning a light switch off (0) or on (1). Computers operate on bits in groups of 8, called a byte. Every byte contains 8 bits. Bits and bytes can be stored magnetically on material that resembles cassette or 8-track recording tape. The magnetic material stores information as sequences of the digits "0" and "1" (hence the name digital storage). Since it takes many bytes to store such things as letters, words, and sentences, the amount of information that a Hard Drive can store is measured in multiples of 1000-bytes, 1,000,000 bytes, or 1,000,000,000 bytes. Terms such as kilobyte (1000 bytes or 1KB), megabyte (1,000,000 bytes or 1MB), and gigabyte (1,000,000,000 bytes or 1GB) have evolved to represent these storage capacities. When you purchase a computer, get as large a Hard Drive as you can afford. The Hard Disk Drive is often referred to as the "C:" drive.
Diskette: The diskette (also called a floppy disk) is a removable storage device that is used by the Floppy Drive (also known as the A: drive). This storage device is capable of holding 1,440,000 bytes (1.44MB) of data. The diskette is inserted and removed from a slotted opening on the front of the computer case.
Keyboard: The main tool to get information into the computer and the most common way to tell the computer what you want it to do. Most keyboards have the same arrangement of keys as a typical typewriter keyboard. Computer keyboards have additional keys that perform computer-specific functions.
Modem: A peripheral device that allows one computer to communicate with one or many computers across conventional telephone lines. Modems are one of the ways home computers can access the Internet or send and receive facsimile transmissions (FAX). Modems are rated by their speed in moving data from the computer through the telephone line. This speed is measured in bits per second (bps). Standard modern modems are rated at 28,800 bps, 33,600 bps and 56,400 bps.
Monitor: The "Television" screen that allows you to see what the computer is doing. Many newcomers to computing mistakenly think of the monitor as the computer itself. Computers can operate without a monitor, but computer users cannot.
Motherboard: The circuit board on which most of the major electronic components are situated. Most manufacturers use cable attachment ports on the back-end of the motherboard. They also include slots so that owners can add their own cable attachment ports. The slots are designed to accept other smaller circuit boards or cards. Examples include your modem, the sound card and graphics card. These are normally found near the back of the computer case. Click on Motherboard to see a picture of one.
Mouse: A common input device used to tell a computer what it needs to do. With the invention of the Macintosh and Windows operating systems, computer users needed a device to point at objects on the screen and select them.
MS-DOS: An older operating system that powered personal computers through their beginning years. Prior to the development of the graphics-oriented Macintosh and Windows operating systems, this system relied on typing commands one line at a time to tell the computer what you wanted it to do. This system is still in use in the Windows family of software and still has many practical uses. Windows 3.1 relies on MS-DOS to operate. MS-DOS stands for Microsoft-Disk Operating System.
Network Card: A card that can be installed in one of the motherboard slots to give the computer the ability to talk to other computers and peripheral devices with similar cards. A collection of similarly equipped computers connected by specially designed cables is known as a network.
Operating System (OS) Software: The instructions that allow the computer to start working and permit it to run other programs. Major OS software programs include MS-DOS, Windows(95, 98, 2000, NT, ME, XP), Macintosh, UNIX, and LINUX. The most popular OS in use at present is Windows 2000. Most computers come with one of these pre-installed.
Peripheral Device: Any device that is connected to the computer in addition to the basic CPU-Monitor-Keyboard-Mouse configuration. External speakers, microphones, joysticks, printers, and scanners are examples of peripherals.
Printer: An ouptut device that allows the computer user to produce paper copies of the information processed by the computer. Common home printers spray ink on paper and are called ink-jet printers. Office and school printers are typically laser printers which work on the same principle as a Xerox copy machine, using electrostatic charges and toner cartridges to place information on paper.
Program: A set of instructions that allows the computer user to process data. Common programs include word-processing, spreadsheets, databases, drawing and painting, internet tools, and games. Programs are necessary for computers to be useful to humans.
RAM: This acronym stands for Random Access Memory. RAM is commonly called "memory". Memory is measured in megabytes (MB). The more RAM that a computer has, the faster it can carry out instructions. It is recommended that a new computer have at least 256MB of RAM .
ROM: This acronym stands for Read Only Memory. ROM is memory that is used by the computer when it starts up. The instructions and data stored in ROM is permanent and can not be changed or deleted.
Exercise Five (20 Points):
This exercise requires that you to use at least three different dictionaries found on the internet. You goal is to become familiar with these types of sites as a resource to research words and to better understand the meaning of technology terms.
PART A (15 points) Listed below are 20+ terms. Use the dictionary web sites listed above and look up the definitions of at least 15 terms and write them out on a sheet of paper. Include the word, definition that is most computer related and the dictionary web site. You must use at least three sites. You will need to try at least three sites in order to complete Part B of this exercise. Extra points can be earned by completing more than 15 definitions.
Words to look up on the Internet:
network, peripheral, information, data, software, memory, component, acronym, compatible, animation, icon, optical, contiguous, scroll, cursor, modem, hardware, system, random, navigate, fragmentation, and digital
PART B (5 points) Write a short paragraph which describes which dictionary web site you liked most and why (was it easy to use?, features and functions that were helpful, other reasons...).
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