Getting Familiar with Computer Basics

Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
Getting Familiar with
Computer Basics
Are you ready to start
learning about computers?
This chapter will help by
introducing you to the
computer and showing you
its benefits and uses. You
learn about the different
types of computers, take a
tour of a typical personal
computer, and learn the
difference between
computer hardware and
Discover the Computer........................................4
Benefits of Using a Computer............................5
What You Can Do with a Computer ................6
Types of Computers............................................10
Tour the Personal Computer ............................12
Learn About Computer Hardware ..................16
Explore Computer Software ............................17
Discover the
A computer is a device that you
can use to store, manipulate, and
display text, numbers, images,
and sounds.
A computer is an electronic device that is designed
to work with information. The computer takes
information in, processes that information, and then
displays the results. In this way, a computer is
similar to a calculator, except that even the smallest
computer is much more versatile than the most
powerful calculator. Computers operate at amazingly
fast speeds, with a typical computer processing
millions of calculations every second.
Personal Computer
A personal computer is a small, relatively inexpensive
computer that is designed for use by one person at a
time. It allows you to perform personal tasks such as
creating documents, communicating with other
people, and playing games. The abbreviation PC is
most often used to refer to computers that run the
Microsoft Windows operating system, as well as to
differentiate them from Macintosh computers.
Benefits of Using
a Computer
Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
A computer is a powerful and
useful tool because it gives you a
number of benefits, including
the ability to quickly produce
high-quality work. It also
enables you to learn new skills
that are an important part of
today’s technological world.
Computers allow you to perform
many everyday tasks more quickly.
For example, if you mail a letter to
a friend, he or she may receive it in
a few days. However, if you send
an e-mail, it will be received in a
few minutes. Similarly, if you
manually compose a newsletter, it
may take you a week, whereas
using a computer, it may take just
an afternoon.
The tools that come with a
computer enable you to create
high-quality documents and
drawings, even if you are not a
typesetter or an artist. With just
a few simple techniques, you
can create documents that look
professional or are exactly suited
to your present task.
New Skills
Because we live in a computer age,
you often require basic computer
skills to accomplish many daily
tasks. Typing on a keyboard, using a
mouse, and other basic computer
skills are useful in many different
situations and are often required by
What You Can Do
with a Computer
Most electronic devices — such
as DVD players, camcorders,
and personal stereos — only do
one thing. However, because
computers are versatile by
design, they enable you to do
many things. For example, you
can use a computer to listen to
music, watch movies, create
flyers, research your family
history, educate your children,
and play games.
Create Documents
You can use your computer to
create letters, resumes, memos,
reports, newsletters, brochures,
business cards, menus, flyers,
invitations, and certificates.
Anything that you use to
communicate on paper, you can
create using your computer.
Monitor Your Finances
You can use your computer to
perform basic financial management.
For example, you can create a
budget, record expenses, balance
your checkbook, calculate your taxes,
and monitor your mortgage. If you
run a small business, you can
allocate income and expenses,
create financial reports, and
calculate your profit and loss.
Perform Research
You can use your computer and
the Internet to research almost any
topic that you can think of. For
example, you can learn more about
a vacation destination, trace your
family history, access back issues
of newspapers and magazines,
and compare products before
you buy them.
Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
Work with Numbers
You can use a spreadsheet program to work with
numbers on your computer. For example, you can
create a mortgage amortization schedule, calculate
how much money you need to save for retirement,
monitor an investment portfolio, and create a
business plan.
Store Data
You can use your computer, and the appropriate
software, to store and work with large amounts of
data. You can track personal items such as CDs,
recipes, contact information for friends and relatives,
and fitness activities. For business, you can track clients
and potential clients, inventory, products, and orders.
Schedule Your Time
You can use your computer as an electronic day-timer
to record upcoming activities, birthdays, anniversaries,
events, meetings, and appointments. You can also set
up some scheduling programs to remind you of
approaching events so that you do not forget them.
Teach Your Children
You can use your computer to help educate your
children. There are many programs available that are
designed to assist children with reading, drawing,
learning math and science, solving problems, and
enhancing creativity.
What You Can Do with
a Computer (continued)
Learn New Life Skills
You can use your computer to learn new life skills.
Programs are available that teach you how to speak a
different language, play chess, cook, garden, design a
home, play a musical instrument, and design and make
Make New Friends
You can use your computer and the Internet to
enhance your social life. You can chat with other
people by typing messages to them, join mailing lists,
find support groups, find clubs and organizations in
your area, and find a date.
Keep in Touch
You can use your computer to communicate with friends,
family, colleagues, and clients that you do not often see
face to face. You can send e-mail messages and instant
messages, and you can even talk to another person using
a microphone and your computer’s speakers.
Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
Buy and Sell
You can use your computer and the Internet to buy
and sell things. Many online stores enable you to
purchase anything, from books to baby accessories,
and have it delivered to your door. There are also
auction sites, such as eBay, that enable you to sell
items that you create or that you no longer need.
Create Items
You can use your computer to bring out your creative
side. For example, you can create your own greeting
cards or wedding invitations, draw pictures,
manipulate digital photos, edit digital movies, record
sounds, and compose music.
Play Media
You can use your computer to play digital media,
including music CDs, audio files, video files,
animations, DVDs, music, and movies that you have
downloaded from the Internet.
Play Games
You can use your computer to play many different
types of games. You can solve a puzzle, fly a plane,
race a car, go on an adventure, play football or
baseball, battle aliens, plan a city, play backgammon
or checkers, or deal poker.
Types of
When selecting a computer that
is best for your needs, you
should consider what purpose
it will serve in your home or
business, and whether it should
be mobile for travel.
A desktop is by far the most common type of
computer. Most desktop systems come with a
separate computer case, monitor, keyboard, and
mouse. On older desktops, the computer case lies flat
on the desk with the monitor sitting on top. Almost
all newer systems use a tower case that sits upright.
You can place this case either on a desk or on the
floor. Many newer desktops are Media Center PCs
that enable you to play movies, view pictures, and
listen to music through your TV and stereo.
A notebook is a computer that combines the case,
monitor, keyboard, and mouse in one unit. It is also
called a laptop or a portable. Notebooks are light —
usually only four to six pounds — and so you can take
them out of your office or home. Most notebooks are
just as powerful as a desktop system.
Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
Tablet PC
A tablet PC is a computer that looks similar to a small
notebook. However, the tablet PC screen pivots so that
it lies on top of the keyboard, making it look like a
writing tablet. You can use a digital pen to input your
data, or select items on the screen.
Handheld PC
A handheld PC is a very small computer — usually
weighing less than a pound — that you can hold
comfortably in your hand or carry in a jacket pocket. A
handheld PC is also called a personal digital assistant
(PDA) or palmtop. Most people use a handheld PC to
store their schedules and check their e-mail while out of
the office. A newer type of handheld computer is the
ultra mobile PC (UMPC), which comes with a relatively
large screen and can run a wider variety of programs
than most handheld PCs.
A server is a powerful computer that acts as a central
resource for a number of other computers that are
connected to it. These other computers can be desktops
or stripped-down terminals that use the server to run
programs and store data. Some servers are mainframes,
which are giant computers that run large-scale operations,
such as airline reservation systems.
Tour the Personal
Main Personal Computer Parts
Learning to use a personal computer is much easier if you know how a typical system is laid
out and what each major part does.
Computer Case
The computer case, also called the system unit or console, holds the electronic chips
and devices that make the computer work. The outside of the case has an on/off switch,
and the rear of the case is where you plug in the other computer components. For more
information about the internal components of your computer, see Chapter 2.
HP Pavilion m7750n
The monitor, also called the
screen or display, is a TV-like
device that the computer
uses to display text, images,
and other information.
The keyboard is a
typewriter-like device that you
use to type information and
enter instructions for the
computer to follow. To learn
how to work the keyboard,
see Chapter 4.
The mouse is a
hand-operated pointing
device that you use to select
or move items on the screen,
as well as to provide
instructions for the computer
to follow. To learn how to
operate the mouse, see
Chapter 4.
Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
Personal Computer Accessories
Besides the keyboard and mouse, most personal computers also come with a number of
A printer is a device that you use to
print a document from a computer.
Some printers are all-in-one devices
that can also fax, copy, and scan
The speakers are devices that output the sound
effects, music, narration, and other audio that
your computer generates. You can also use
headphones so that only you can hear the
computer's output.
Uninterruptible Power
An uninterruptible power
supply (UPS) is a device that
provides temporary power
to your computer should the
electricity fail. This device
enables you to shut down
your computer properly to
avoid losing data.
Game Controller
The game controller is a
device that you can use to
control the action in a
computer game.
Surge Protector
A surge protector is a device that
protects your computer from
damage by power fluctuations,
which are most often caused by
The modem is a device that connects your computer to the
Internet, either through telephone lines or TV cable. Some
modems, called internal modems, reside inside the
computer case.
Tour the Personal
Computer (continued)
Front of a Personal Computer Case
On a typical personal computer, the front of the case contains a number of buttons, indicator
lights, ports, and slots.
Power Switch
When the computer is off, press the power
switch to turn the computer on. When you have
finished working with your computer and have
shut down all of your programs, press the power
switch again to turn off the computer.
Activity Light
The activity light flashes on and off when your
computer is performing a task, such as accessing
the main hard disk.
Memory Card Readers
The memory card readers are slots into which
you can insert various types of memory cards,
which are a form of portable storage. See
Chapter 2.
Front Access Ports
The front access ports are similar to many of the
ports on the back of the computer (see the next
page), but are often easier to reach.
HP Pavilion m7750n
CD or DVD Drive
A CD drive is a storage device that accepts data
CDs (compact discs), which resemble musical
CDs. Most new computers have a DVD drive,
which accepts data DVDs. For more information,
see Chapter 2.
Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
Personal Computer Ports
On a typical personal computer, the rear of the case contains a number of holes and slots,
called ports, into which you plug computer devices.
Keyboard Port
You use the keyboard port to plug in the keyboard.
Mouse Port
You use the mouse port to plug in the mouse.
Monitor Port
You use the monitor port to plug in the monitor.
USB Ports
You use a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port to plug
in a USB device. Many computer peripherals —
including keyboards, mice, and printers — come in
USB versions.
digital audio
FireWire Port
You use a FireWire port — also known as the IEEE
1394 port — to plug in a FireWire device. Devices
such as digital video cameras often use FireWire
Network Port
You use the network port to plug in a cable that
connects to a network or to a high-speed Internet
modem. This is also called an Ethernet port.
Sound Ports
You use the sound ports to plug in sound devices,
such as your speakers (the green port on most
systems) and microphone (the pink port). Some
systems have Line In and Line Out ports to connect
the computer to external audio equipment.
TV Tuner Ports
You use TV tuner ports to connect a Media Center
PC to a TV. The TV tuner ports enable you to send
signals to and receive signals from a TV.
FM Antenna Port
You use an FM antenna port to connect an FM
antenna, which enables a Media Center PC to
receive FM radio signals.
Modem Port
You use the modem port to connect your computer’s
internal modem to your telephone system.
Learn About
Computer Hardware
Computer hardware consists of
the physical components of your
computer: the parts, devices,
buttons, and ports that you can
touch and physically manipulate.
Computer hardware comes in
two basic varieties: external and
Toner Saver
External Hardware
External hardware, also known as peripherals,
refers to hardware that connects to the outside of
the computer case. The monitor, keyboard, and
mouse are the most common external hardware
devices. The printer and speakers are also popular
peripherals. You can connect external hardware to
your computer through the computer ports
described on the previous page.
Internal Hardware
Internal hardware refers to hardware that resides
inside the computer case. This includes the central
processing unit (CPU) — the brains of the computer —
memory chips that are used for temporary data storage
while you work, disk drives that are used for long-term
storage, and circuit boards that supply many of the
ports on the back of the computer case. You can learn
more about internal hardware devices in Chapter 2.
Explore Computer
Getting Familiar with Computer Basics
Computer software provides the
instructions that enable the
computer hardware to perform
its tasks. Without software, your
monitor would not display
anything, your speakers would
remain silent, and typing on the
keyboard keys would have no
effect. Computer software comes
in two basic categories:
application and system.
Application Software
Application software refers to the programs that you
interact with to perform specific computer tasks. For
example, a word-processing program enables you to
create documents such as memos and letters, a
graphics program enables you to draw an image,
and an e-mail program enables you to send and
receive e-mail messages.
System Software
System software refers to programs that operate
behind the scenes to ensure that your computer
system functions properly. This software is most often
referred to as the operating system. Some examples
of system software include Windows Vista and Mac
OS X. For more information about the operating
system, see Chapter 2.
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