Wiley Fix Your Own Computer For Seniors For Dummies

Wiley Fix Your Own Computer For Seniors For Dummies
Getting to Know
the Parts You
Can See
Get ready to . . .
➟ Make a Point: Mice and Other
ou wouldn’t want a surgeon to operate
without knowing the pertinent parts of the
human body — especially if you’re the patient.
By the same token, you really shouldn’t do surgery on your PC if you don’t know what its
components are and what they do.
Fortunately, hardware is more modular and
less costly today than it was in the “good ole
days,” so most of the repairs or enhancements
you want to make aren’t necessarily difficult or
highly technical. You just need to understand
some basics about your computer’s anatomy,
and you should be good to go.
Another reason to know these basics: Whether
or not you ever need to make repairs, understanding computer physiology should help you
get more use out of your PC and make your
experience with it less frustrating.
Pointing Devices ................. 10
➟ Stay on Key: Keyboards and
Other Input Devices ............. 12
➟ See Clearly Now: Monitors...13
➟ Get the Picture (and Sound):
Cameras, Speakers, and
Microphones ...................... 16
➟ Go Online: Modems and
Routers .............................. 17
➟ Put It on Paper: Printers ........ 19
➟ Connect the Parts: Ports
and Hubs ........................... 21
➟ Protect Your PC: Surge
Protectors and
UPS Devices ....................... 24
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
This chapter isn’t the Gray’s Anatomy of computers; for that, you need a
more-in-depth book such as my Fix Your Own PC (Wiley Publishing).
Think of the chapter as being a form of CliffsNotes — just enough to start
with — and check out the cross-referenced chapters for more details.
Make a Point: Mice and Other Pointing Devices
A pointing device allows you to move a pointer onscreen to work
directly with the elements you find there. Your PC may have some
combination of the following:
Mouse: This device gives your computer a hand, in a
metaphorical sort of way. It’s one of the most intuitive elements of a computer, easy to grasp and to
use. See Chapter 13 for more on mice. You may have
either of two kinds:
• Wired: The most common pointing device is the
basic mouse (see Figure 1-1), which is about the
size of a deck of cards. Its two buttons and long
tail (connection wire) make it look vaguely
mouselike. Some mice have three buttons or a
small scroll wheel on top.
• Wireless: A wireless mouse has no tail; instead,
it communicates with the computer via radiofrequency or infrared waves. You need to keep a
wireless mouse fed (powered) with batteries.
Trackball: Some users prefer a trackball (see Figure
1-2), which is essentially an upside-down mouse.
You move the pointer onscreen by spinning the ball.
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
Left mouse button
Scroll wheel
Right mouse button
Figure 1-1
The trackball is my preferred pointing device because
it doesn’t require much desk space and is also easier
on the wrist and shoulder than a mouse is.
Touchpad: Many PCs feature a touchpad, which is a
matchbook-size, touch-sensitive screen on a laptop
or a stand-alone device that plugs into a desktop
computer. You move the pointer onscreen by pushing your finger along the touchpad.
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
Spin this ball to move the mouse pointer.
Figure 1-2
Stay on Key: Keyboards and Other Input Devices
Keyboard: The keyboard (see Figure 1-3) is the one
part of a computer that most of us have dealt with
for nearly all of our lives. (Remember the typewriter?
Its odd QWERTY layout for the keys is pretty much
unchanged.) Like mice, keyboards come in two flavors: wired and wireless. I discuss keyboards in more
detail in Chapter 13.
Tablet: A tablet is a flat device — an active touchscreen (like that on a GPS receiver or an automated
teller machine) or a metal or plastic pad — that
allows you to interact with the computer in a way
that resembles using a paper tablet or notebook.
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
Although tablet input devices have been around for a
long time, they’re still used mostly in high-end
graphics stations and by folks who need to input
precision drawing or graphics data. If, however, you
need to input variable data and just like the concept
of using a penlike stylus to interact with your PC, a
tablet may be for you.
Special computer function keys
Familiar typewriter-style keys
Figure 1-3
See Clearly Now: Monitors
In this book, for simplicity’s sake, I use the terms monitor and display
interchangeably in most descriptions (and cover them interchangeably
in Chapter 8). Technically, though, the two devices are different:
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
Monitor: A monitor is a high-resolution television display
based on a cathode ray tube (CRT). Because of the size
of the CRT, it tends to be large and heavy. A modern PC
can support two monitors to provide more workspace
and to help you separate tasks (see Figure 1-4).
CRT monitor
Dual monitors provide more workspace.
Figure 1-4
A working monitor can be used with most computers. If you buy a new machine or need to replace a
failed monitor, however, you’ll probably have to
switch to a display.
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
Display: A display (see Figure 1-5) uses a flat liquid
crystal diode (LCD) system to show characters and
graphics. Displays, which arrived with the first laptops, are thinner and lighter than monitors; use less
electrical power; generate less heat; and may be
sharper for tired eyes. The newest displays use lightemitting diodes (LED) instead of an LCD system.
LCD and LED displays are thinner and lighter than CRT monitors.
Figure 1-5
Given a choice, I’d get an LED display. LED displays
are more expensive than LCD models, but they last
longer, use less energy, and run a lot cooler.
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
Get the Picture (and Sound): Cameras,
Speakers, and Microphones
Speakers: Laptop computers generally have little
speakers built into their cases; desktop machines
offer connectors for external audio equipment. (For
more information about these connectors, see
“Connect the Parts: Ports and Hubs,” later in
this chapter.)
To get the best sound from your computer, you
should use speakers that have their own amplifier.
Microphone: A computer’s microphone (usually
built in) allows you to chime in with your own narration or participate in online conference calls. For
some users, a microphone can serve as a replacement
for, or an enhancement to, a keyboard as a way to
enter text and commands.
Video camera: Video cameras for computers, called
Webcams, are both small (some have a lens the size
of the hole in a Cheerio) and inexpensive, so they’re
built into most laptops today. If you need to add an
external Webcam to a desktop PC, you can buy one
for $25 to $75. Figure 1-6 shows a typical displaymounted Webcam from Logitech.
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
This 1.3 megapixel camera can mount on top of your display.
Figure 1-6
Go Online: Modems and Routers
Modem: A modem (see Figure 1-7) is an essential
piece of hardware that allows your PC to communicate with the Internet or with other computers on a
local network. It can be either built-in or external.
The appearance, features, and speed of your modem
depend on what kind of service you use to connect
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
to the Internet or local network: dial-up or digital
subscriber line (DSL) service from the phone company, or broadband cable from a cable television
provider. You can find some maintenance and repair
tips in Chapter 9.
Lights show connection status.
Figure 1-7
Router: A router does what its name says: routes
information from your computer across a network
and out to the Internet. If you have only a single
computer connected to the Internet, you don’t need
a router; you simply plug your computer directly
into the modem. If you want to connect more than
one computer to the Internet, however, you need a
router to serve as a data traffic cop.
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
Routers come in many flavors. Some are stand-alone
units; others are built into a wireless access point
that lets your various computers connect wirelessly
to the router and from there to the Internet. Figure
1-8 shows a modern high-speed wireless router.
Wireless router
Figure 1-8
Put It on Paper: Printers
Inkjet: Inkjet printers use one or more cartridges
filled with ink that literally spray images or text onto
paper. Whether the printed information is text or
photographs, it consists of tiny dots of ink placed
very close together. The advantages of inkjet printers
are size and cost — both small. (You can buy
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
a serviceable inkjet printer for less than $50.) The
disadvantages include relatively slow speed and high
ink costs. A high-resolution color printer (the type
you may use to print photographs) may use four or
more ink cartridges, and depending on the amount
of printing you do, the cost of maintaining an inkjet
printer can be fairly high.
If you’re willing to spend more for a high-end inkjet
printer, you can get printing speeds of 20 pages per
minute (or faster) for black and white and 10 to 30
seconds per page for color. In addition, you can get
better picture quality than with a consumer-grade
laser printer.
Laser: Laser printers generally cost more than inkjet
printers, but they can be faster, and operating costs
are lower. A laser printer uses a laser beam to draw
characters or images on an electrostatically charged
drum, which attracts a very fine powder called toner
and deposits the resulting image onto a piece of
paper. Finally, the paper is passed through a hot
fuser roller that melts the image onto the paper,
making it permanent.
All-in-one: For home or small-business use, consider
an all-in-one printer (see Figure 1-9). These devices
incorporate a fax machine, digital scanner, and
(usually) inkjet printer in a single package. Prices
are reasonable, and the device combination saves
desk space. For the greatest flexibility, look for a
unit that uses a sheet feeder so that you can scan a
stack of pages or send multiple fax pages
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
Control panel lets you print with or without a computer
Scanner/copier tray
Figure 1-9
Connect the Parts: Ports and Hubs
USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports: These simple
rectangular connectors (see Figure 1-10) are nearly
ubiquitous on modern PCs and laptops because
they can be used to link nearly any type of device.
A computer may offer a bank of four or six ports,
which look like tiny pizza ovens.
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
USB ports
Figure 1-10
The various versions of USB are downwardly compatible with older hardware, so a USB 2.0 port and cable
should work with a device designed for USB 1.0,
although they will exchange information at the
slower speed of the older equipment. When USB 3.0
is available in late 2009 or 2010, it will work with
devices designed for USB 1.0 and 2.0, at their original speeds.
Ethernet port: An Ethernet cable plugged into this
port attaches the computer to a local area network or
high-speed modem. For more on this port, see
Chapter 2.
Ethernet switch: An Ethernet switch (see Figure
1-11) contains multiple Ethernet ports that connect
multiple devices — computers, printers, wireless
access points, and so on — to a network.
Hub: Each USB port can connect directly to a single
device or can be shared with multiple pieces of electronics by means of a hub, which is a bit like the
power strip you may have behind your home entertainment system. A USB hub looks and functions
much like an Ethernet switch. A cable plugged into a
USB port on the PC connects it with the hub, which
has two, four, or sometimes more connectors for
USB cables.
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
Status lights show connections and network activity.
Ethernet ports attach devices to a network.
Figure 1-11
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
Protect Your PC: Surge Protectors and UPS Devices
Surge protector: If a jolt of high voltage gets into
your computer’s motherboard (see Chapter 2), your
computer is — to use the technical jargon — fried.
That’s why every computer (as well as any other
expensive piece of electronic equipment in your
home or office) should have a surge protector
between its plug and the wall outlet. This device
contains electrical components that can, in most
circumstances, chop off any sudden spurts of high
In the worst situations, such as a lightning strike or a
serious malfunction in an electrical line, a surge protector sacrifices itself like a bodyguard. Its internal
parts melt to break the electrical circuit. With luck,
this process happens so fast that the electrical surge
won’t get into the power supply or beyond.
Uninterruptible power supply (UPS): If you want
the highest level of protection from a power outage,
consider adding a UPS device (see Figure 1-12) to
your collection of equipment. This device is essentially a large battery with a bit of electronics to control its actions.
Your computer plugs into the UPS and draws its
power from the battery; the UPS plugs into a wall
socket, using the electrical current to keep topping
off the battery. If the power goes off briefly or drops
below ordinary levels momentarily, you should be
able to keep on working without an interruption. In
the case of an extended power outage, your computer should be able to use the battery long enough
to allow you to save any open files and conduct an
orderly shutdown.
Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Parts You Can See
Computer and other devices plug here
Input goes to wall plug
Figure 1-12
Telephone line and cable connect here
Be sure to buy a UPS with a battery large enough to
power your computer and its display for a reasonable
period, such as 10 or 15 minutes.
Part I: A Computer Is Not a Toaster
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