Pictures, graphics, video, and audio are becoming regular features in software, websites and documents. The average computer today not only needs to give you the ability to view different types of media but it should provide you the tools to be creative as well.
The ability of your computer to play sound is dependent on two pieces of hardware: a sound card and speakers. The sound card is seated in the motherboard and is usually visible at the back of your computer. It’s easily identifiable as the card with three small circular holes. Creative Labs is the manufacturer that has set the standards for sound cards. Your computer’s speakers are attached to the sound card and can be external or built-in. It has become popular to build the speakers into the monitor. If they are built-in to the monitor then your monitor will have cables connecting it to the sound card ports at the back of your computer. If you want to record sound you will need a microphone. If you have built-in speakers it is likely there is a built-in microphone as well. It is likely to be a small opening at the bottom of the monitor.
Your computer will also have graphic components that are in charge of sending pictures to your monitor. Some computers may have graphics components integrated into the motherboard sometimes described as shared video. If at all possible you should stay away from this and look for a separate graphics card, often referred to as an accelerated graphics port (AGP). When graphic components are integrated into the motherboard, displaying graphics and video will take considerable amounts of RAM away from other functions of the computer. New AGP graphics cards have their own dedicated memory. More memory on the graphics card can help to speed up the way your computer displays graphics and video. You should not only look for more RAM but DDR RAM, which is the one of the fastest types of RAM available. Here are the specifications for graphics cards that were recommended by PCWorld.com.
|Integrated (onboard) graphics chip
||64MB NVIDIA GEForce4-based or ATI Radeon card
||64MB-128 MB DDR NVIDIA GeForce4-based or ATI Radeon 9700 card
When discussing viewing pictures and video on a computer, we shouldn’t forget to consider the monitor. In the past,
the big decision has been what size of monitor to get. Today, as LCD monitors start to become more affordable the major
choice is between CRT (cathode ray tube) and LCD (liquid crystal display). CRT is the old standard and remains the
cheapest and best choice for viewing graphics. If space or portability is an issue for you, you should consider liquid
crystal displays (LCD) which are sometimes referred to as flat-panel monitors. If you have seen a laptop you’ve seen an
LCD; all laptop computers have LCD displays. LCDs provide both analog and digital (DVI) interfaces, because some
graphics boards still don’t include DVI ports. For best LCD quality, get a graphics card with a DVI-out port to connect to
a digital LCD with as wide an LCD viewing angle as possible. Consider the following general options for our three
||19-inch CRT or 15-inch LCD
||19-inch or larger CRT 17-inch or larger LCD
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the creative amongst us, your computer needs tools to create digital media
such as digital cameras and camcorders; software such as Adobe Photoshop to edit what you’ve created; and lots of
internal (RAM) and external (CD-Rs and DVDs) memory to store the finished product. In the next issue of CONNECT
we will discuss peripherals such as digital cameras and camcorders and the means of connecting them to your computer.