|Buying a New Computer - Part IV||by Diane McCargar|
Before thinking about peripherals, you have to consider how you are going to connect them to your computer. The places where you connect devices such as printers to your computer are called “ports”. In the past, the myriad of ports, of different shapes and sizes, has caused great frustration to new computer users. The labeling or lack thereof didn’t help the situation any. There have been some improvements in this area that hopefully will make the task of setting up a computer less frightening.
Older ports such as PS/2, parallel, and serial are being replaced by multipurpose USB and FireWire ports. You still see PS/2, parallel and serial ports on new computers, but they are becoming obsolete. Parallel ports are long, thin ports that were used for connecting printers and external storage devices such as CD drives to your computer. Serial ports are smaller and were used for connecting modems and mice. PS/2 ports are the small, round, 6 pin ports used for connecting keyboards and mice.
USB and FireWire ports have several advantages over these older ports. “Plug and play” and “hot plugging” are the obvious ones. In the past, if you wanted to connect a peripheral to your computer you had to turn the computer off, plug in the device and then turn the computer on. Hot plugging means you can plug in a device while the computer is on and the computer should recognize it right away. Plug and play implies that you don’t have to do any setup to use a new peripheral. You can forget about port numbers and IRQ settings, etc. Speed is another advantage. Firewire, sometimes referred to as IEEE 1394 or iLink, had the fastest data transfer rate until the recent introduction of the new USB 2.0 port. The USB 2.0 format is as fast, if not faster, than FireWire and many times faster than its predecessor USB 1.0. USB and FireWire ports also have their own power supply. This means devices like modems and speakers no longer need AC power adapters; they draw the power they need from the port itself.
Before the upgrade in USB technology, it was recommended that peripherals that required high speed connections such as hard drives, DVD drives, camcorders, digital cameras, printers, and scanners use FireWire. USB ports were mainly being used for devices that didn’t require high speed such as keyboards, mice, low-resolution digital cameras and modems. USB 2.0 has now allowed for the use of USB ports with most peripherals, with the exception of digital video. FireWire still has a strong hold on this market. Both Firewire and USB ports are small and rectangular in shape.
There is one other high speed port that I haven’t mentioned and that is SCSI. Up until recently it has been a standard on all Macintosh computers.
Connecting a computer to a network or the Internet requires a special port. For a regular (slow) dial-up connection to the Internet you need a regular modem port. For a high-speed connection to the Internet you need an Ethernet port. Both of these ports look like a regular phone jack but the Ethernet port is slightly larger. Most businesses use Ethernet ports to connect their computers to local area networks.
Another small improvement we’ve seen lately is the location of ports. How often have you tried to plug something into the back of a computer without really being able to see what you were doing? New PCs are now coming out with ports on the front of the computer for easy access.
Finally, if you are trying to connect a peripheral to your computer and your computer doesn’t have the appropriate port then you have a couple of options. In some cases, you can buy adapter cables. Otherwise, you will need to look into buying an adapter card for your computer. The motherboard of your computer should have unused slots where you can insert a card. The end of the card will be visible, usually at the back of the computer and contain the ports that you require. There are two different kinds of slots on a motherboard. ISA is an older format. PCI is the current standard. You should know what type of slots are available in your computer before you buy cards such as a modem or SCSI cards.
National Educational Computing Conference (NECC 2003)
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is having their annual conference from June 29th to July 2, 2003 in Seattle, Washington. For more information visit: http://neccsite.org
|Previous Page||Table of Contents||Next Page|