This is the second part of an introductory lesson on computer “jargon” which is intended to simplify some of the more common computer terms. Remember though, that while it’s important for you and your students to recognize these terms, you can use a computer without knowing everything that goes on “under the hood”, just the way most of us drive a car without really knowing the basics of how it works. Don’t agonize over the terminology, and don’t be intimidated by it. If you did that with your car you’d end up taking the bus everywhere.
Editor’s Note: The first part of this article appeared in Volume 3, Issue # 3 of CONNECT. If you would like a copy, please contact us or visit us online at the addresses listed on page 16 of this issue.
Data and program instructions are stored in memory on memory chips. There are two main types of memory, read-only memory (ROM) or random access memory (RAM). ROM contains the basic operating instructions for the computer such as how to begin the startup programs. This information cannot be changed, or the computer will not function properly. It remains on the computer even when the power is off. RAM is the information or set of instructions controlled by the user - it can be changed, but is only accessible while the computer is on. Data can be stored in the computer’s hard disk or on removable diskettes (disks).
There are several types of disks available. The first diskettes which were used as storage were larger than those used today, and were softer and flexible. They were known as floppy disks. While this term is still used, most computer users now rely on the smaller hard plastic disks for saving or transporting data. Data can also be stored on compact disks (CDs). CDs have been available for computer use for several years, but up until recently, they were read-only CDs, which meant that they could only store information, as with CDs for music. Newer computers can now save information on CD, although this technology is more expensive than the commonly used diskettes.
Other types of information can be stored on cards, which may come with the computer or be installed later. These cards hold the circuits to manage a special function, such as managing sound, video or graphics. Cards can have thousands of tiny circuits installed on them.
In many locations computers are linked together in order to share information. Linking computers together creates a network. Each computer in a network is a terminal or workstation. A small network, such as in a classroom, would be a local area network (LAN). A larger network which could join several offices or locations is a wide area network (WAN). Computers on a network can have the same computer power as a stand-alone, which is just an ordinary PC, or it can be a dumb terminal, which means that it does not have any computing power. A dumb terminal receives all of its power from a server, or central computer. Each computer that is connected to a server is a client, so computers in a network are said to be in a client-server system. Note that a stand-alone computer is not part of a network - it stands alone.
Many software programs have bugs, or errors, when they are first designed. Sometimes these are not discovered until after the program is on the market for sale. Sometimes the bugs are serious enough to make a program crash, or stop working. Trying to remove or eliminate bugs is referred to as debugging. In other cases, an error or bug can be intentionally created and this is known as a virus. A virus can cause something as simple as a strange message appearing on the screen, or something really serious, such as destroying information or even the hard drive. Files or information which are affected by a virus are corrupt files. Removing a virus is often referred to as disinfecting the computer.
While computers within a system can communicate through a network, computers from all over the world can communicate through the Internet, using modems and servers. A modem is a peripheral device that lets computers communicate through telephone lines. A server is a central computer which has a number of other computers connected to it. The Internet (or Net) is an international network of computers which was developed thirty years ago, but has recently become an extremely popular means of communication. The World Wide Web (WWW or Web) is a graphical interface which allows computers connected to the Internet to access vast amounts of information. (Think of a graphical interface as a type of program which allows users to manage the information more easily, the way Windows makes it easier to manage the information on your computer, unlike using DOS commands.)
When “surfing” the Internet/Net, you are searching for information. Anyone who has used the Internet will know how easy it is to make a search of a subject, only to end up clicking on a variety of links to numerous sites, and possibly forgetting what you were searching for in the first place. It is often necessary to stay focussed when surfing the Net, to avoid this common time waster. A site is a location on the Internet, and many sites have “links” to other locations. Links, or hypertext, are highlighted segments of text which will automatically take you to other pages or sites if you click on them.
When you open your browser, or reach the opening page of any Web site, you are at the “home” page. This is the first page of any Web site and usually provides a “site” map or list of contents, especially if the site contains a lot of information. Cyberspace is the term commonly used to describe the concept of the Internet and all of the information that is available using the World Wide Web. Another common term is the “Information Highway”, where you can travel the world to find any fact or figure you require.
To use the Internet, a browser must be installed on your computer. A browser is software which allows the computer to recognize and display information from the Internet in a user friendly format. When you subscribe to the Internet through an Internet service provider (ISP), you will be provided with a browser, usually either Microsoft Explorer or Netscape. The ISP will give you the information you need to get started, and explain what the service fees are and what you need to get connected.
Email and Chat Rooms
Email has become one of the most popular uses for the Internet, and there are a number of sites where users can access free email accounts. Email is electronic mail, and in most cases, once sent it is delivered in a matter of minutes, unlike mail in the regular system. It has become so sophisticated that users can now send greeting cards and use special ‘note-paper’ to send messages. Newsgroups and chat rooms are close relatives of email. With a newsgroup, those with a common interest can join in exchanging messages and participating in discussions on a topic. Chat rooms, unlike email and newsgroups, allow users to discuss a topic while others are online at the same time, like having a telephone conference, except that you need to type the conversation. When in a “chat room” you can usually see who else is participating, but since the others could be anywhere from the next room to across the ocean, it is wise to refrain from giving personal information or your real name on these sites. Most people use an alias (or fake name) to protect themselves when participating in a chat. An Electronic Mailing List is a list of people who are interested in receiving mail on a particular subject. It works with a list server, which is software used to manage the list of names and email addresses. The list server automatically sends messages to participants who have subscribed (registered) to a listserv.
|CONNECT, Canada’s Resource Publication on Technology and Adult Literacy||Volume 3, Issue 4|