Computer Basics (Print Version Here)

Basic Computer Terms and Functions:

** What I have included here are things that I’ve found a lot of people have questions about. I tried to explain all things in simple English and used “technical terms” as little as possible. There is a more complete glossary as well.** -RM

I. Hardware and Software

The "Hardware" is the physical parts of the computer, the things you can actually touch, such as the tower, mouse, keyboard, printer, etc. These things are also known as "peripherals". In contrast, the "Software" is untouchable. Software exists as ideas and concepts,but it has no substance. Software is the program that allow you to interact with the computer. For example, Mavis Beacon is the Software Program that is a typing tutor to help us learn to type. Books can provide a useful analogy. The pages and the ink are the hardware, while the words, sentences, paragraphs, and the overall meaning are the software. A computer without software is like a book full of blank pages -- you need software to make the computer useful just as you need words to make a book meaningful.

II. Parts of the Computer

1) The Tower—Inside of the tower are all of the components that run the computer and is, in essence, "The Computer". Without the tower, you would see nothing on the monitor screen.

Some Important Parts Inside of the Tower...

  • CD Drive (Sometimes called the D or E Drive)-- The CD drive READS CD’s (CDR), WRITES TO CD's (CDRW) and can also be used as removable storage. While you can actually play a regular music CD in the CD Drive, computers more often use CD’s to install the software that allows you to interact with the computer and to store data. When you put a software CD in the drive, it either installs the software on the hard drive of your computer, or you can use it directly from the CD (older computer games for instance require that the CD be in the drive in order to play the game). Some CD drives also have the capability to WRITE (record) to the CD and store data there, also known as a CDRW, or "burner" (recorder).
  • Floppy Drive (also called the 3 ½ Floppy or A Drive)—A drive that writes data to and reads data from a Floppy Disk. A Floppy Disk is a soft magnetic disk that is used to store data (documents, graphics, etc). Floppy disks (often called floppies or diskettes) are portable or removable storage , because you can remove them from a disk drive. To demonstrate the difference in storage capacity of the different types of removable storage, let’s say you can store a book chapter on a floppy disk, the whole book on a CD, and a whole library on a DVD. Floppy drives are getting phased out because prices of other removable storage devices (such as CD’s, MP3 Players, removable drives, etc) are dropping and have greater storage capacities.




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