Terms and DefinitionsEdit
Bloatware - Software whose usefulness is reduced because of the excessive disk-space and memory it requires. Typically pre-installed on a purchased computer.
System tray - The small area adjacent to the clock, typically filled with symbols and icons for programs that are running "behind the scenes."
Hardware - The physical components of a computer. These are the pieces that make up a system, such as the motherboard, processor, hard drives, and so on.
Software - The non-physical parts of the computer. The BIOS, operating system, programs, and other applications and algorithms that make a computer work.
Taskbar - The area of the desktop that displays various information about the current status of the computer. On a Windows machine, this includes the Start Button, windows for any open programs or dialog boxes, the System Tray, and also any quickstart buttons. This area can often be customized by the user.
Operating System - The program that acts as an interface between the user and the physical components. Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux are all examples of operating systems. Currently, for the majority of desktop users, Windows is the operating system of choice. All Apple computers ship with OSX, though they can run Windows. Linux is mainly used in the server and supercomputer industries, though many home users run Linux as well.
Processor - The heart of a computer. This chip is what allows a computer to perform the complex calculations that make the computer 'run'. The two largest processor manufacturers are Intel Corporation and Advanced Micro Devices. There are other companies that make processors, such as VIA, though they are largely used in embedded systems, such as Point-of-Sale terminals and other dedicated systems. Processor model names and numbers can differ greatly, even between processors from the same manufacturer. For instance, Intel has the Core series of processors, Xeon processors, Celeron processors, and Pentium processors. AMD has the Phenom, Phenom II, Opteron, Athlon, and Sempron processors. Capabilities of the different processors vary as well. Opteron and Xeon processors, for example, are meant for the server market. Core and Phenom processors are the mid- to high-range consumer processor. Celeron and Sempron processors represent the entry-level and low-end processor.Hard Drive - This is where the majority of the software resides. Hard drives have made enormous strides in terms of capacity and speed in the last few decades. See that box on the forklift in the picture to the right? That is a five megabyte hard drive, circa 1956. Five megabytes is roughly the size of a single mp3 file. That one-ton device held a single mp3.
See that little chip to the left? That's a thirty-two gigabyte flash drive. It weighs a less than an ounce, and holds more than fifty-one thousand times as much information. So you can see that quite a few advances have been made.
Traditionally, hard drives have been boxes that contained spinning discs, with a read-write head controlled by an armature. Data is stored on these discs in sectors and tracks. The read-srite head moves back and forth over these discs and reads or writes data, using magnetic fields. For this reason, hard drives are sensitive to magnets, and either need to be kept away from them, or shielded from their interference. Many a floppy disk has been erased from careless placement near a magnet.