Newbie Basics


This section is for those of you just barely past the stage of pushing the power button on your machine.  Here you will find  some newbie tidbits to help you along on your computing journey.  If you absorb this information rather well, you'll be on your way to becoming an intermediate computer user.  If you keep doing even more research, in a few years you may be on your way to becoming a pro.

Some General Terms and Categorization:
(Not in any particular order)

Newbie (noobie, newb, noob) - A mostly casual term used to describe a person who is generally just starting out in a particular hobby, such as using a computer or the internet, building computers, playing computer games, (or a particular game:e.g., "He's a newbie at that game.") installing stereo equipment, etc. A person with a fair amount of initiative in his particular discipline can usually drop the term newbie after a couple of months of practice. 

Computer Illiterate - A person with little or no experience using a computer, aka a newbie.  One who knows little, if any technical terms associated with computers, and is prone to using incorrect terms until discovering the difference: e.g.,  One who thinks rebooting the computer is using a disk from the manufacturere to put everything back to factory settings, when in actuality, that is known as reinstalling all the software so that the computer performs just like it came from the factory.

Driver - This refers to a set of instructions that tells a computer just how it should be using a certain device, such as a sound card, modem, etc.  Nowadays, it is usually wise to have the most updated drivers that one can find, usually on the internet, to make parts of their computer function to maximum capacity.  For more information, click here.

Reboot - Restarting the computer, usually by hitting the reset button, or using the restart command in Windows.

Operating System - Sometimes known as an OS, this is the programming instruction set that is used to operate a computer. Some of the well-known ones of course are Windows, MS-DOS, and Linux. Most people just do Windows.

USB - Universal Serial Bus.  This is a type of connector that allows you to connect devices without having to turn off the computer and start it up again.  It's also pretty speedy compared to the old type of serial connector.

Gamer - A term more often reserved for a person who really enjoys playing video games, although it can be used for those who are into board games as well: e.g. Dungeons & Dragons or the like. There are different categories of gamers. An average gamer may still be a virtual newbie with computers as far as using other applications.

Casual Gamer - One who might play a game if there's nothing better to do, a few times a year.

Avid Gamer - Probably plays a game every week or two.

Hardcore Gamer - A person usually possessed of quick wits and reflexes allowing him to overcome the obstacles presented in commercially available video games. This person is well versed in the stats of many characters of many different games, and probably a few different genres as well. When Hardcore Gamers get together, you might hear them telling of their exploits in different games, how many kills they got, what level they were on, how they beat the game, etc. A hardcore gamer has usually beaten a minimum of 5 games in their lifetime without cheating. Some of them are so good, that they can compete professionally in tournaments, and have been known to win cash prizes of up to $70,000 and a Ferrari (although the exact prize amounts may be different by the time you read this.) A hardcore gamer waits anxiously for the next release of a game, and will study it voraciously, trying to master strategies, especially if it means taking on opponents online. This may sometimes mean staying up till the wee morning hours just to "get to the next level" or reach a certain goal. Some people may regard this as obsessive/compulsive behavior, but studies have shown (I can't remember where at the moment) that a person like this is less likely to get into things such as automobile accidents because of the sheer level of eye-hand coordination and automatic reflex response possessed by them which is similar to a proficient practicing martial artist.

Game god - Can rattle off stats with machinelike precision, tears through enemies like melted butter, can beat most games in less than a week. These guys win tournaments, and inspire awe in their fellow gamers.

Computer Nerd/Computer Jock/Computer Geek - A person usually of intermediate or advanced level skills with computers, alot of whom make a decent living at it. Many of them are proficient with the jargon and inner workings of the actual physical components and are fluent in one or more OS. (And no, we don't all have horn-rimmed glasses, pocket protectors, or ponytails. Some of us are quite fashionable, believe it or not;-) Some of us get accosted on the street when a person can't quite figure out something with their computer. (That's life in the 'puter world.)

General PC Terms
(listed in a general order that a technician might build the computer)

The motherboard is a flat, mostly green circuit board that sits fastened inside the case and everything else plugs into it, including of course, the power supply.

The processor, which is actually called the Central Processing Unit or CPU is the brain, made from a ceramic chip with many circuits that processes data. Nowadays most of them have a fan attached because of the heat generated when processing a lot of data.
The hard drive is a device that has an actual metal-oxide disk platter or platter(s) that stores information that can be held for an average of 3-5 years before the drive physically wears out (although in rare cases, you might get close to 8 years service from it.)
Memory is a smaller chip that also processes data taken from the hard drive by feeding it in chunks to the processor. It is called Random Access Memory or RAM. A memory chip can be replaced, or you can add more chips depending on the type of motherboard and memory you have.

There are various types of standard video cards out there. It sticks in a slot on the inside of the computer with a port (plug) left sticking on the outside of the case. Of course, you must have a video card or you have no video on your screen.
A special kind of card called a Graphics Accelerator or Video Accelerator is a more advanced (and therefore more expensive) card more suited to game players, mostly to get very high quality of detail and framerate in games and programs (sometimes called applications or apps.)

A sound card of course works the same way and can be connected to your home stereo if you're an audiophile. Professional sound recording studios usually use expensive ones ($299 and up) to digitally record and edit sound for music and movie production.

The modem also is a little card that resides on the inside of the case with a plug on the outside to go to the phone line. There are external modems, which can sit on top or the side of the computer (or wherever.) But they aren't as popular with the mainstream computer users.

Computers operate in a boolean configuration, that is, either something is or isn't.
Working with the principle of electricity, you either have on or off.
So off is represented by 0 and on is represented by 1
You get enough of these 0s and 1s and you have a code to represent letters, This code is called binary. When you have the digits 0 and 1 in the combination 01000001 that is the letter a in binary. Each of those digits is a called a bit.
You put 8 bits together, and you have a byte.
1024 bytes is a Kilobyte
1000 Kilobytes is a Megabyte.
1000 Megabytes is a Gigabyte.
1000 Gigabytes is a Terrabyte.
(Math fun: If you use letters that take about 1000 characters to fill a page per side, try to figure how much space your average dictionary would fill on your hard drive. For a bigger challenge, try to figure out how many copies of dictionaries could be stored on your drive.

If you've gotten this far, you may want to be aware of some of the finer points of what to do if a part is not working as desired.  You can read about that here. 


This series of articles Copyright 2000-2003 Zalmegra Studios All rights reserved




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