Introduction to Computers

What is a computer? ‡ Your "computer" is a programmable electronic collection of devices that function as a unit which an store, retrieve and process data. This collection includes a System Unit, a Keyboard, a Monitor and a Mouse. What is the difference between Macintosh and Personal Computers? Basically, the primary difference between the two computers are their hardware architecture and operating system. Personal computers (Intel IBM compatible) that run Microsoft Windows have a different operating systems than the Macintosh computer. Personal computers that typically have the Intel Pentium CPU are capable of running Microsoft Windows. Macintosh computers do not run Windows, but instead, run an operating system specially designed by that company. These platforms are incompatible since they use different instruction or languages to perform their tasks. Neither will read a floppy disk from the other platform. Typically, Macs are used by artists for in-depth graphic production and layout in addition to other business applications, while PC¶s can be used with certain programs to develop graphics, they are used primarily for business applications such as spreadsheets, word processing and database functions. System Unit: The case that contains the motherboard, the expansion cards, the microprocessor and other circuitry. It sometimes is called a ³Desktop Case´ if it sits directly on your desk, or it is sometimes located on the floor next to your feet as a ³Tower Case.´ Monitor - a device that displays text and graphics generated by a computer. Monitors used for desktop computers use a cathode tube while most notebooks use a different technology called liquid crystal display. (LCD). Keyboard²A set of keys for computer input, which resembles a typewriter keyboard, but with a few extra keys for computer commands and usually a numeric keypad added. Mouse - A pointing device that is used to move a cursor on the computer screen, and make various operations possible such as typing, drawing, editing text and graphics, opening and closing files, and giving other commands. Floppy Disk Drive - A device that magnetically stores/records information on a floppy disk. Commonly known as the A: Drive.
CD Rom Drive - A drive that reads CD-ROMs and audio CDs. It may be installed in the computer or removable. It is sometimes referred to as the D: Drive. You will need a recordable CD-ROM drive to burn or copy a CD-ROM. You must have a DVD Drive to read a DVD. Hard Disk Drive - The main device that a computer uses to store information. Hard disks are rigid aluminum or glass disks about 3.5´ in diameter in a personal computer. Normally known as the C: Drive.

Memory - The working space used by the computer to hold the program that is currently running, along with the data it needs to run programs and process data. The main memory is built from RAM (Random Access Memory) chips. The amount of memory available determines the size of programs that can be run, and whether more than one program can run simultaneously. Main memory is temporary and is lost when the computer is turned off. CPU (Central Processing Unit) ±Indicates how quickly the computer will perform (such as 500 MHz). If you want your computer to process information and run really fast, then consider the processor speed as one of your primary objectives. The Pentium IV Processor and the Celeron are examples. Motherboard - It is the large electrical circuit board found within the system unit where all parts are mounted. Card - This is an additional device that can be mounted on the motherboard such as a sound card, network card or graphic card for elaborate video games. Port - A socket at the back of a computer used to plug in external devices such as a modem, mouse, scanner or printer. Com Port - A serial Communications Port. Usually COM1 and COM2 (for external modems) Serial Port - Round ports on the computer used to connect the computer to external devices. (mouse and keyboard) Parallel Port - A socket on a computer for transmitting data in parallel, which means more than one bit at a time. It is used to connect your printer. USB Port - It is the most versatile port on your computer. USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. Some examples of devices that plug into the USB port are monitors, speakers, scanners, printers and digital cameras. Your thumb drives will use the USB port, and some mice and keyboards also use the USB port.

System Software - Programs that control the operation of computer equipment. It is the computer¶s operating system, such as Windows XP, Macintosh, UNIX, and LINUX. Application Software - Programs that tell a computer how to produce information such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. Before moving on to External Storage Disks, what are the computer units of measurements? Whether you save data to your internal hard drive disk or a portable storage disk, all information is stored in files. The size of a file is measured in bytes. Bit = on or off signal (Binary Code)

Byte = 8 Bits (byte is approximately one character like the letter 'a') Kilobyte = one thousand Bytes (KB) Megabyte = one million Bytes (MB) Gigabyte = one billion Bytes (GB)

External Storage
Floppy Disk²A removable, portable magnetic disk on which data can be stored. Also called diskettes, floppies are flexible plastic. You know the computer is accessing data on a floppy diskette because the floppy disk drive light will be on. Do not remove your floppy from the drive while the light is on, because you could lose your data. The current size is 3.5,´ while the 5.25´ are obsolete. The 3.5´ floppy can store up to 1.44 MB of data which is equivalent to 720 pages of typed material. CD-Rom - Compact Disk read-only Memory. An optical disk that is physically the same as an audio CD but contains computer data. Storage capacity is about 700 megabytes. CD-R - This is a recordable once only compact disk. You will need a CD drive that can burn (or copy) data from one source to a blank CD-R. They can only be burned once. They are used for archiving data. Some software programs will allow you to burn multi-sessions (such as Nero). CD-RW - This is a recordable and writeable compact disk. You will need a special CD drive that can burn (or copy) data from one source to a blank CD-RW. They can be burned more than once, but it will require a special drive to burn more than once on a single CD. DVD Disks - are disk that will hold 4.7-17 gigabytes of data. DVD drives must be used to read or even burn (or copy) a DVD. Flash Drives - portable drives that utilize a USB port to connect with a computer. They can store up to 1 GB of data depending on the drive you purchase. Oftentimes, it will be the E: Drive on your computer. These are also sometimes called Thumb Drives or Jump Drives.

Why do I have to format my disk? If you purchase a preformatted disk for the operating system you will be using (either a Personal computer or a Macintosh), you will not need to format your disk before saving to it. Whenever you do format a disk, remember it will erase all files from the disk, check for

physical errors and prepare the disk for the computer system to be used. The same disk may be used for either a Macintosh or Personal computer, but it will have to be formatted for the correct system. To format a disk, insert your disk into the appropriate drive, and click on My Computer. Now, right-click on the correct drive which will usually be the 3.5´ floppy drive (A:). Select format and then click start. This will take a few minutes, but will completely format the disk. What are Peripheral Devices? In addition to the basic Mouse, Monitor, Keyboard and Central Processing Unit, a peripheral device is any additional device that is connected to the computer. Some examples are printers, external speakers, joysticks, microphones, modems, network cards, scanners and digital cameras. The peripheral devices will often require special software to be installed called, ³drivers.´ They are usually included with the purchased peripheral device. Printers produces a paper reproduction of the information processed by the computer. Ink jet printers spray ink while laser printers use toner cartridges like a photocopy machine to produce superior quality. Scanners allow you to copy or transfer photos, pictures, even some objects to a file on your computer. It transfers the information to the computer as a bitmap. Scanners will also allow you to scan a page of text using the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to be able to later edit that text in your word processor. Twain software makes the scanner accessible to other software programs. Digital cameras allow you to take photographs and store them digitally on your computer. These images can be saved to an external storage disk so that you can transfer them to another computer.

How do computers communicate with each other?
Modem - It is a peripheral device that allows computers to communicate with one another by way of telephone lines or cables. In order to receive a facsimile transmission or to access the Internet, a modem will be required. The digital signal which computers use is transformed into analog for the telephone lines and then vice versa. A high speed connection transmits and receives the information digitally. The speed of a modem is measured in bits per second (bps) with the standard modem speed today at 56 bps. Cable, digital subscriber lines (DSL) and wireless modems can transfer information 10-40 times faster than a dial up modem connection. The library uses a DSL T-1 Line. In order to have internet access you will need to have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as BellSouth, EarthLink, AOL or MSN (to name a few). Network - In order to produce an internal network, a network card is required that can be installed on the motherboard to give the computer the ability to communicate with other computers with similar cards. Usually mainframe computers use an operating system such as

UNIX or Windows NT. The computers in the Athens Regional Library are on an internal network.

How do I use the mouse? The primary mouse button is typically the left mouse button and the secondary mouse button is typically the right mouse button. This can be reversed for left-handed individuals
through the control panel.

Point means you move the mouse across a flat surface until the mouse pointer rests on the item of choice on the desktop. Click means you press and release the primary mouse button. You must point to an item before you click. Right-click means you press and release the secondary mouse button. You will point to an object on the screen prior to right-clicking. Whenever you right-click an object, a contextsensitive, or shortcut, menu will display. The use of shortcut menus speeds up your work and adds flexibility to your interface with the computer.
Double-click means you quickly press and release the primary mouse button twice without moving the mouse. You must point to an item before you double-click. If you have problems double-clicking, click once on the item (it should be highlighted) now pressing the Enter button. This will accomplish a double click. Drag means you point to an item, hold down the primary mouse, move the item to the desired location on the screen, and then release the mouse button. You can move any open window to another location on the desktop by pointing to the title bar of the window and dragging the window. Right-drag means you point to an item, hold down the secondary (right) mouse button, move the item to the desired location, and then release the mouse button. It will usually prompt you for the next step such as ³move or copy object here´.

What is Microsoft Windows?
As mentioned before, Microsoft Windows is an operating system utilized by personal computers. Microsoft Windows uses GUI (Graphical User Interface) - pronounced ³gooey´ - which uses icons or pictures to represent files, folders, programs and tasks. Windows got its name because of the rectangular shaped work areas found on your computer screen which resemble windows. When your computer boots up and before you open a software program, the desktop will appear with icons. Windows creates a metaphor by comparing your computer screen to an actual desktop. On your desktop you will find shortcuts, folders and files. Not only can you have multiple files open at the same time, but multiple software programs such as Microsoft Excel and Publisher can also be open at the same time. The start button will allow you to access programs, documents, the internet and Window XP functions. The taskbar contains buttons to all running programs and common tools. The tray displays your date/time, services running in the background and additional icons. See the figure below.

What are the Parts of a Microsoft Window? The window border determines its shape and size. The title bar displays the program (Microsoft Word) and the name of your document. In Figure 4, the document title is Document 1, because it has not yet been saved. In Figure 5, the color of the title bar (dark) and the indented button on the taskbar indicates which window is the active window. The active window is the window currently being used. Clicking on the icon at the left on the title bar will open the control menu. On the right-hand side of the title bar, are three buttons, the minimize button, the maximize button, and the close button, that can be used to specify the size of the window and can close the window. When a window is maximized, the window will fill the entire screen. Now, the restore button will appear when you click on the restore button, the window will return to its previous size and position. The menu bar, a horizontal bar below the title bar of a window, contains a list of menus for the window, including File, Edit, View and Help. You can open a menu by clicking the menu name on the menu bar. The standard toolbar contains buttons to activate frequently used commands. The formatting toolbar contains buttons to activate common font and paragraph formatting commands. A folder is an object created to contain related documents, applications, and other folders. If you double-click a folder, the items within the folder display a window.

The mouse pointer will change its shape depending on the task you are performing. The mouse pointer displays as an I-beam (see blinking I-beam in Figure 4) when it is in the text area. The mouse pointer displays as an arrow when over buttons which can be clicked. The status bar located at the bottom of the window indicates certain statistics for the current file.

How do I change a window size and scroll? You can change the size of a window by dragging the window¶s lower right corner. Point to the lower right corner of the window until the mouse arrow becomes a twoheaded cursor. Then, drag the window until it is the desired size. When a window is resized, all of the icons in the folder may no longer be visible. When this occurs, a scroll bar will appear. Click the down scroll arrow to slowly reveal more of the window down. Click the up scroll arrow to slowly reveal more of the window up. Drag the scroll box to quickly reveal more of the window. Click in the scroll bar area to move one screen at a time. Make sure your window is not maximized, but restored to its previous size, now if you click on the title bar and simultaneously hold down your left mouse button, you will be able to drag that

active window around on your desktop. ‡ Another way to resize the window is to hover your mouse over a border. Once the pointer changes to a double arrow, you can drag that border to change the window size.

How do I open and close a program? There are several different ways to open a program. The two most popular methods are listed here. Click on the Start button and locate the program you wish to open. (see Figure 6) Another way is to locate the shortcut (if located on your desktop) and double click to open that program. You may need to open (by double-clicking) a folder such as Microsoft Office Programs first, then locate the icon for the program you wish to open. After entering your data or text, you will need to save your work (we will go over in our next section), and close the file. Click on the smaller (black) ³x´ located at the top right corner of the window.

Another way to close a file is to go the Menu Bar. Select File, then close. If you have not saved your work, you will be prompted at this point to do so. (or press the Ctrl key and the F4 key at the same time) To close the program, click on the large red ³x´ in the top right corner of the window, or go to File, then select Exit. (or press the Alt key and the F4 key at the same time)

How can I quickly work with more than one program at a time? Use the program buttons on the taskbar to quickly move from one application to another. The program that you are currently using, also called the active program, will be darker (or recessed). The other programs that are currently running will be available on the taskbar and waiting for you to click on their button. (see Figure 5) It is possible to have several programs visible on the desktop at once. You will have to use the restore button and resize each window to fit on your desktop next to each other. HARDWARE The term hardware refers to the physical components of your computer such as the system unit, mouse, keyboard, monitor etc.

SOFTWARE The software is the instructions that makes the computer work. Software is held either on your computers hard disk, CD-ROM, DVD or on a diskette (floppy disk) and is loaded (i.e. copied) from the disk into the computers RAM (Random Access Memory), as and when required. Mini and Mainframe Computers Very powerful, used by large organisations such an banks to control the entire business operation. Very expensive! Personal Computers Cheap and easy to use. Often used as stand-alone computers or in a network. May be connected to large mainframe computers within big companies.

Input Devices -- "How to tell it what to do³ - A keyboard and mouse are the standard way to interact with the computer. Other devices include joysticks and game pads used primarily for games.



Tracker ball


The Mouse _ Used to µdrive¶ Microsoft Windows  The Keyboard _ The keyboard is still the commonest way of entering information into a computer  Tracker Balls _ an alternative to the traditional mouse and often used by graphic designers  Scanners _ A scanner allows you to scan printed material and convert it into a file format that may be used within the PC  Touch Pads _ A device that lays on the desktop and responds to pressure  Light Pens _ Used to allow users to point to areas on a screen  Joysticks _ Many games require a joystick for the proper playing of the game OUTPUT DEVICES "How it shows you what it is doing" - The monitor (the screen) is how the computer sends information back to you. A printer is also an output device. _ VDU _ The computer screen is used for outputting information in an understandable format _ Printers _ There are many different types of printers. _ In large organizations laser printers are most commonly used due to the fact that they can print very fast and give a very high quality output. _ Plotters _ A plotter is an output device similar to a printer, but normally allows you to print larger images. _ Speakers _ Enhances the value of educational and presentation products. _ Speech synthesizers _ Gives you the ability to not only to display text on a monitor but also to read the text to you Storage Devices -- "How it saves data and programs³ - Hard disk drives are an internal, higher capacity drive which also stores the operating system which runs when you power on the computer. - "Floppy" disk drives allow you to save work on small disks and take the data with you. Hard Disks _ Speed: _ Very fast! _ The speed of a hard disk is often quoted as "average access time" speed, measured in milliseconds. The smaller this number the faster the disk. _ Capacity: _ Enormous! Often 40/80 Gigabytes. A Gigabyte is equivalent to 1024 Megabytes. _ Cost: _ Hard disks costs are falling rapidly and normally represent the cheapest way of storing data. Diskettes (Floppy Disks) _ Speed: _ Very slow! _ Capacity: _ Normally 1.44 Mbytes. _ Cost: _ Very cheap. CD-ROM Disks _ Speed: _ Much slower than hard disks. The original CD-ROM speciation is given a value of 1x speed, and later, faster CD-ROMs are quoted as a multiple of this value. _ Capacity: _ Around 650 Mbytes and more DVD Drives _ Speed: _ Much faster than CD-ROM drives but not as fast as hard disks.

_ Capacity: _ Up to 17 Gbytes. _ Cost: _ Slightly higher than CD-ROM drives. Memory -- "How the processor stores and uses immediate data³ _ RAM - Random Access Memory _ The main 'working' memory used by the computer. _ When the operating system loads from disk when you first switch on the computer, it is copied into RAM. _ As a rough rule, a Microsoft Windows based computer will operate faster if you install more RAM. Data and programs stored in RAM are volatile (i.e. the information is lost when you switch off the computer). Memory _ ROM ± Read Only Memory _ Read Only Memory (ROM) as the name suggests is a special type of memory chip that holds software that can be read but not written to. _ A good example is the ROM-BIOS chip, which contains readonly software. _ Often network cards and video cards also contain ROM chips. How Computer Memory Is Measured _ Bit _ All computers work on a binary numbering system, i.e. they process data in one's or zero's. This 1 or 0 level of storage is called a bit. _ Byte _ A byte consists of eight bits. _ Kilobyte _ A kilobyte (KB) consists of 1024 bytes. _ Megabyte _ A megabyte (MB) consists of 1024 kilobytes. _ Gigabyte _ A gigabyte (GB) consists of 1024 megabytes. Microprocessors -- "The brain of the computer³ - PCs primarily use microprocessors (sometimes called the chip). The older Intel versions include the 386, 486 and now the Pentium line. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is normally an Intel Pentium (or equivalent) and it is one of the most important components within your computer. _ It determines how fast your computer will run and is measured by its MHz speed. _ Thus a 600 MHz Pentium is much faster than say a 400 MHz Pentium CPU. _ It is the CPU that performs all the calculations within the computer. Some of the Factors That Impact on a Computer's Performance _ CPU speed _ RAM size _ Hard disk speed and capacity Operating systems software

The operating system is a special type of program that loads automatically when you start your computer. The operating system allows you to use the advanced features of a modern computer without having to learn all the details of how the hardware works The link between the hardware and you, the user Makes the computer easy to use without having to understand bits and bytes! Applications software An application program is the type of program that you use once the operating system has been loaded. Examples include word-processing programs, spreadsheets and databases Application Software _ Payroll _ Sage software _ Presentation tools _ Microsoft PowerPoint _ Lotus Freelance _ Desktop publishing _ Abode Photoshop _ Multimedia applications _ Microsoft's Encarta CD-ROM based encyclopedias _ LAN _ A LAN (Local Area Network) is a system whereby individual PCs are connected together within a company or organization _ WAN _ A WAN (Wide Area Network) as the name implies allows you to connect to other computers over a wider area (i.e. the whole world). Uses of Network If ten people are working together within an office it makes sense for them all to be connected. ‡ In this way the office can have a single printer and all ten people can print to it. ‡ In a similar way other devices such as modems or scanners can be shared. ‡ Even more useful is the ability to share information when connected to a network. _ What are computer viruses? _ Viruses are small programs that hide themselves on your disks (both diskettes and your hard disk). _ Unless you use virus detection software the first time that you know that you have a virus is when it activates. _ Different viruses are activated in different ways. _ How do viruses infect PCs? _ Viruses hide on a disk and when you access the disk (either a diskette or another hard disk over a network) the virus program will start and infect your computer. _ The worst thing about a computer virus is that they can spread from one computer to another, either via use of infected floppy disk, or over a computer network, including the Internet.

_ How to prevent virus damage _ There are a number of third party antivirus products available. _ Most of these are better than the rather rudimentary products available within DOS and Windows, but of course you do have to pay for them! _ The main thing about your virus checker is that it should be kept up to date. _ Many companies supply updated disks on a regular basis or allow you to receive updates through an electronic, on-line bulletin board.

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