Editors note: This is one of several columns that I wrote for the Columbia Missourian. They were originally called Your Digital World
Soon, manufacturers are going to start digging into their pockets and shelling out funds for advertisements.
Thats right tech fans, its holiday shopping season.
So to help prepare you for the stores and e-tailers, Ive compiled a list of terms you might want to have handy when shopping.
Processor this is the brain of every computer; its oftentimes called a CPU, or central processing unit. The basic measurement of speed is in megahertz, which is abbreviated MHz. Recently, CPUs have become so fast that their speed is measured in gigahertz, GHz. Essentially, the more megahertz, the faster the processor. Be savvy, though. Why buy a 1.5 GHz processor for a lot more than a 1 GHz? You wont notice the difference in speed. The latest processor for PCs is the Pentium 4, often abbreviated as P4; the latest for the Macintosh is a G4.
RAM After the processor, the amount of Random Access Memory you have determines the speed of your machine. RAM is where a computer loads the operating system and the programs youre running. The more RAM, the faster your system will be when running several programs, or doing something memory intensive, like working in Photoshop. RAM is measured in megabytes; in general, dont settle for anything less than 128 MB. Even if youre only going to run a few applications at first, 128 MB will give you room to expand if want to do more.
Hard drive If RAM is your office desk that gets wiped clean when you shut down your computer, the hard drive is the filing cabinet you put everything into. Its the place where all your files, from MP3s to e-mails, get stored. You want as much space as you can afford, I think. Almost every hard drive these days can hold at least 1 gigabyte. The computer I bought four and a half years ago had a 9 GB drive, and I need more room.
CD burners Where do you put data when you dont have room on your hard drive, or just want to share it with a friend? Thats where external storage comes into play. CD-RW drives allow you to burn data to a CD-R disc permanently or to a CD-RW disc over and over again. The max storage on these is about 750 MB, and you can use them to burn audio CDs of MP3s for you car or work stereo. Their speed is listed like this: write speed x re-write speed x read speed. For instance, my very old burner is a 2x2x4. The higher the number, the faster it is.
Zip drives If youve got a 25 MB file thats too big for a floppy disk but a waste of CD, youll want a Zip drive, or some other type of removable storage. Zip has pretty much become the standard, and the newest model reads disks that hold 250 MB or 100 MB. Superdisk drives read standard floppies and 120 MB special disks, but arent as widely found as Zip drives.
Well, Im just about out of room, but keep your browsers pointed to http://www.heisel.org/yourdigiworld and look out for a growing Tech Term dictionary. Also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more information before you start researching a computer purchase, or with any of your digital questions.