Jargon Buster

Baffled by the bewildering technical jargon that seems to crop up whenever anyone talks about computers? Here we set out to try and explain what all these terms, acronyms and concepts mean in plain English.

08 September 2012  General Q&A

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Baffled by the bewildering technical jargon that seems to crop up whenever anyone talks about computers? Here we set out to try and explain what all these terms, acronyms and concepts mean in plain English. If there is a topic you would like to see explained here, contact us.

Bluetooth

This is form of wireless technology that operates over short distances (less than 10m) and at slower speeds. Bluetooth is typically used to allow one device to access the features or services of another. For example, a laptop could use a Bluetooth connection to transfer the address book from your mobile phone or to make a call giving it Internet access. Many laptops include Bluetooth capability or it can be added using a USB device costing around £20.

CD-RW

PCs are usually supplied with DVD drives nowadays but older ones usually include at least a CD-ROM drive. A CD-RW (CD-Read/Write) drive is capable of both reading CD-ROMs and creating them. CDs can usually store about 750MB of information. This is equivalent to around 20,000 Microsoft Word documents, 700 digital photographs and 200 music tracks. Creating CDs is not like using floppy disks or memory sticks. You choose what you want to add to the CD and the PC then “burns” the information on to it – a process which can take several minutes.

DVD

PCs are usually supplied with a DVD drive as standard. A DVD drive is capable of not only reading and playing DVDs but also reading and playing CDs. If you are interested in making DVDs of your home movies, you can buy a DVD writer which will create both DVDs and CDs. A DVD will typically hold 4.7GB of information although 9GB devices are available. If you are buying a DVD writer make sure it can write DVD+RW and DVD-RW type DVDs otherwise the DVD may not play properly in your DVD player or on another PC.

Firewire

Is a type of connection used for linking digital video cameras and music players to your PC. It is increasingly redundant and has been phased out on Macs in favour of USB and Apple's newer connectors.  If you need a firewire port to connect a video camera or other device to your computer, an add-in card for a desktop pc or PC card for laptop can be purchased quite cheaply.

Gigabyte (GB)

A unit of storage for a PC and 1GB is equal to 1,000MB. The storage capacity of the hard disk in a PC is usually quoted in “GB’s”. 1GB will store around 30,000 Microsoft Word documents, 1,000 digital photographs and 300 music tracks.

Graphics Card

Your PC has components dedicated to displaying information on its screen. The graphics capability of the PC is usually indicated by the amount of memory the card has. The more memory the card has, the greater the quality of the picture it is capable of producing – what is used to display the picture must match it to get the best results. Instead of having their own dedicated memory, some graphics cards use a portion of the PCs RAM. For day to day working this is fine but if you want to manipulate pictures and video or play computer games a dedicated graphics card with at least 64MB of memory and its own processor is needed.

Hard Disk

This is the storage area of the PC. Also know as a hard drive and fixed disk, the hard disk is akin to the boot of your car. The bigger your boot the more you can store. The capacity of a hard disk is usually measured in “GB’s or Gigabytes”. Hard Disks also operate at different speeds, typically 5,400 or 7,200 rpm. The faster the disk the quicker it can retrieve information but faster hard disks will be slightly more expensive.

Megabyte (MB)

A unit of storage for a PC. The size of the RAM in a PC and memory sticks are usually quoted in “MB’s”, 1Mb will store about 30 word documents and 1 digital photograph.

Memory Stick

Also known as USB Flash Drives, this form of storage is becoming increasingly popular and is replacing the need for floppy drives. A memory stick is usually a thumb sized device that connects to the USB port of your PC. You can transfer files to and from a memory stick as you would a floppy but the storage capacity is far greater. The storage capacity of a memory stick is usually measured in Megabytes (MB) and a 128MB memory stick will store 3,500 Microsoft Word documents, 128 digital photographs and 35 music tracks.

Outlook Web Access (OWA)

A web site that provides you with an easy to use way of working with your E-mail, contacts, calendars etc. using your Web browser. You can use it from virtually any PC (including Macs) that is connected to the Internet and it doesn't need to be your own PC, you can access the service from an Internet Cafe, a friends house, home - anywhere!

Processor

The engine of the computer. The speed is usually described in terms of “Gigahertz or GHz” with bigger not necessarily meaning better. Two brands of processor dominate the market, Intel and AMD. Intel processors are more expensive and innovative whist AMD processors are cheaper and slightly less capable. There are also different models of processor to suit different types of PC.

RAM

This is the “memory” or working area of the PC. RAM is comparable to the number of seats in your car. The more seats you have the more passengers (or applications) you can have working together at any one time. There also different types of RAM for example SDRAM and DDR. All do the same thing but one type may be slightly faster than another or include features to deal with faults that may develop later.

USB

Is a type of connection used for linking printers, scanners, music players, memory keys and a variety of other devices to your PC. Every PC now comes with USB ports, usually there will be a couple at the front of the PC and several at the back. USB 3.0 is the latest version which is theoretically 10 times faster than USB 2.0 (but in practise often 2-3 times faster).  To support USB 3.0 both the computer and device (eg. external disk) must support the standard.  USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices can still connect to USB 3.0 ports.

Wireless

Is a technology that allows your PC to access services such as the Internet, printers and other PCs without having to connect a cable to your PC. Most laptops now come with wireless capability and providing you are within a short distance (about 20m) of a Wireless Access Point, you can, if allowed by the operator, make use of the its services. There are a variety of different wireless standards known by their letters “a”, “b”, “g” and "n". Those that operate to the “g” standard are the most common; "n" standard is the fastest but to get the higher speed both the computer and access point must support it. Wireless networks broadcast information so it is important that all the security features they offer are used.

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