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Tech Terms You Should Know: The Computer

No one can be an expert in all things but having a basic knowledge can really help a person out. Can you do your own taxes, change the oil in your car or build your own computer? Being able to understand the basics can save a person time and money in the long run. Right here you can learn the common computer terms that you should know and some general principles to be able to hold a knowledgeable conversation with the IT guy down the hall.

  • Computer – Also known as a tower, machine, box or laptop. Using the word computer does not necessarily include the monitor, speakers, mouse and keyboard. It is normally used to describe just the box that contains the motherboard and all other internal components.
  • Motherboard – Known as a MoBo in the computer world, this is the large circuit board in your computer that connects all of the components to form one machine.
  • Hard Drive – The hard drive is one of the core components of a computer. This is where your operating system and all of your data are stored. In a traditional hard drive, there are many spinning disks, similar to CDs, that store all of the data. This is one of the reasons many are switching to solid-state hard drives.
  • Solid-State Hard Drive – Solid-state drives, also called SSDs, are much faster and more reliable than traditional hard drives. An SSD does not contain the spinning disks, rather uses a flash-based storage system to hold your files. These drives, while I mentioned are faster and more reliable, will also cost quite a bit more.
  • RAM– Random Access Memory, also known simply as Memory, is different than the type of storage that hard drives provide. RAM is used to store short-term information about the applications that are currently running on your machine. This memory will be cleared as soon as you reboot your computer. This is why all of your programs shut down when you shut your computer off.Upgrading RAM is also one of the easiest ways that you can upgrade the performance of your computer. RAM is becoming relatively cheap and is as simple as it gets to replace. A person only needs to be able to open up their computer case and pop the new stick of RAM in. There are thousands of great guides all over the internet that will give you step-by-step pictures of how you can do this upgrade.
  • CPU – Central Processing Unit, also referred to as the processor, is the brain of your computer. The CPU does all of the computations and thinking for the whole machine. Processors are normally coming in Dual or Quad Core varieties now which means your computer will be able to split up tasks between the cores. The more cores you have, the more simultaneous computations a computer will be able to process.
  • Operating System – Also known as an OS, is what a computer starts up to. Windows, Mac OS X and Linux are all OSs. An OS not only gives you the graphical user interface so you can click the start button to open programs, it also contains all of the software and programs to make your computer work. There are a lot of services that run behind the scenes that make you computer work.
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