Finally, a place to put all your computer
disks, cd's and dvd's
Tired of your computer disks being scattered all over the place?
This tutorial is a very simple explanation of how a computer works,
it contains information for beginners, and gives a basic guide to current
computer prices and has several links that you can use to download software
to make your computer work better, easier and faster. If you already know
everything about computers, you may find this a great way to educate your
In the beginning..
It seems impossible, but a little over 25 years ago there were no home
computers. Finally a few basic models came out, which were basically used
for typing letters or to play very simple games (such as the old Atari).
The most common of them was the Commodore 64, which is probably in the
As these first computers came out it was
discovered that there were two types of people. Those who were afraid
of computers and those who brazenly attacked their keyboards with gusto...
And so along with the invention of the computer came the computer geek.
Children, never having lived in a world without personal computers
(Hard to imagine now isn't it?), assume that computers were a natural
part of life. Hence forth, they never experienced computer-phobia. Yet
we, as adults, are afraid of computers. This tutorial is geared towards
you, the computer-phobics (anyone over 25). We are suggesting that
you learn how to use the computer the way children do, without fear.
The key to understanding computers is simple
1. You do not have to know everything about your computer or how it works.
2. You only have to know which buttons to push.
That's it. Your children do not necessarily know how a computer was designed,
the history, computer languages or any of the rest. They simply know which
buttons to push ... and work on a need to know basis only.
In this, the first of our tutorials, we will teach you, what the basic
parts of a computer are ... what their purpose is (Not how they work --
no need to know), what you need to make sure you have a decent working
computer. And finally some software to make life easier.
There are many manufacturers of home computers, but the majority of them
use software for either
IBM machines and
Macintosh Machines have a hard time talking to each other ... so you need
to use the same type of machine that your friends use... 85% of the people
in the world use IBM compatibles. So, from this point on, we will only discuss
IBM computers. But for the most part they work similar enough that Mac users
can still benefit from reading the tutorials.
(None of us have Macs - so we don't know enough about them to teach the
So we have simplified life...
From here on out in this tutorial ... there is only one computer... An IBM
compatible, it does not matter what company made it, if it is IBM compatible
it works exactly like all other IBM's.
If someone threw a bunch
of fancy computer words at you it would be very confusing... However,
if they tried to explain something to you that you are familiar with...
like a library... it would seem easy, almost too simple... and you would
go ... Gee that was easy.
So lets try a simple approach....
library is a big building, in this case we are visiting the IBM Library,
lol because the Macintosh Library was written in ancient Greek and none
of us know how to read Greek (Don't even think about writing to tell us
you are the one person that can read Greek - We don't care!). Ok, so a
library when it is first built is simply a big empty building. A computer
is simply an empty metal box until you put the parts in. Simple huh?
Ok, a library needs someone to run it, a librarian ... A computer needs
someone to run it, a CPU or processor chip.
A librarian needs a name, Betty, Nancy, Bill, Linda, Chip ... A computer
"Chip" needs a name, 486, Celeron, Pentium, Pentium 2, Pentium
3, Pentium 4, etc.
matter what the librarians name, a librarian is the person that runs the
library and makes all the decisions. No matter what the processor chips
name, the chip is the part of the computer that runs the computer and
makes all the decisions.
The faster the librarian in a library, the faster the work gets done.
The faster a processor chip, the faster the work gets done.
The oldest slowest chip listed here is the 286, then came the 386, 486 and 586 with each one being faster than the chip before
it. Finally a new chip was invented that was even faster. It was named Penny. As in the Pentium One. Last year out came the
fastest chip available to home PC users called the Pentium 4...
With librarians and processor chips, if you are waiting, faster is better.
With that I want to mention that each chip is listed with a processing
speed. As any child can tell you the bigger the number, the faster the
computer. So if someone tells you that their librarian can stack 100 books
an hour, and your librarian can stack 200, then you know your librarian
is faster. Simple.
a computer that has a speed of 133 MHz, is slower than one with 600 MHz
right? Of course. That is very simple. The speed is referred to the processing
speed, or you can think of it is the "speed of thought" of your
We have to make one mention here, the new Pentium chips are like Robo-Librarians
(see the movie?) They are much faster than the old chips (Librarians)
and so the computers are not comparable.
So lets try this step by step
A Pentium with a 133 Meg processor chip is slower than a Pentium computer
with a 700 chip. The number is the same but the higher number Processor
chip will work twice as fast.
Ok, it gets much easier now.....
Lets go back to our library again...
We have a librarian, and she has to put away the books. She needs someplace
to store these ... there are several rooms in the building, and so she
gives each one a name so that she knows which room is which. Books simply
sit in these rooms until someone wants to read them. If the books are
put away neatly, saved, and there is a power outage, when the power comes
back on, the books are still where she put them.
Okay, the computer is basically a library where you store books. The books
are called, files, programs, etc. The computer librarian needs someplace
to put your books. These storage areas are called disk drives.
Every computer has a main disk drive called your hard drive. It is normally
called your "C" drive and is written like this C:\
Once you "Save" something to this drive, it is there whether
you turn off the computer or not. When you are typing, things are in a
temporary work area and can be lost unless you save them. So save them
Your main library is huge. It is rated in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes
(GB). Simply put, with computers, bigger is better. The bigger your hard
drive the more storage space you have for (books) files, graphics, programs.
If you start to run out of space though, old unneeded files (books) can
be deleted (thrown away) to make room for new ones.
Okay, your computer has one big Hard Drive "C" which is the
main room of the library. But you need to have some way to store extra
books that won't fit in your library or that you want to take to work
with you. Think of these as the storage carts that a librarian uses. Without
the carts it would be impossible for the librarian to transport all the
files from one place to another and the building might explode if you
kept to much information inside.
And the same is true of computers. We need a way to save some things to
carry with us to share with friends at work or to keep as an emergency
backup in case our computer explodes or something.
This method of storage is referred to as a disk. Disks come in basically
three different sizes. Diskettes (3 - 1/4 inch wide), CD's (compact disks),
Zip Drive disks.
Diskettes hold a
small amount of information (1.44mb) and can be used to write information
from the computer or to read information from the disk to be used inside
the computer. These are also a good way to take your favorite files to
a friends house.
CD's (CD's or compact disks) can hold a huge amount of information. There
are two types of write-able CD's: CD-RW and CD-R .
CD - R These are very inexpensive disks that can only be written
onto (burned) one time. That's it. Whatever is written onto them is permanent.
Think of it as though the disk had been written on in ink.
The disks are more expensive, but you can write on them, erase them, write
on them again, over and over. In other words, you can use them over and
over again for different things. Think of these disks as having been written
on in pencil. You can erase them and use them over again.
Either disk can be written on (Burned) using a CD Burner (CD writer),
and so you can copy files, songs, etc onto these disks to share with your
friends, use them for storage etc.
I recommend using the cheaper CD-R's for long term storage and for sharing
with friends (Lower cost)
I recommend using CD- RW's only for things that are going to be temporary
and that you are going to erase within a short time. (The disks are too
expensive to be using them for long term storage or for sharing with friends)
CD's can hold approximately 700 MB of information or about 80 minutes
Zip Disks can hold a wealth of information. Many are now portable and
can carry anywhere from 100MB of data to 3-4GB of data.
So, if you understand all a disk drive does is store information, then
you understand disks.
to the library. Lets say that the librarian in one city wants to get information
from another library. She makes a phone call, talks to the other librarian
and the information is transferred from one librarian to another using
the telephone. Simple...
Ok, your computer is a library of information. Today, you turned on your
computer and decided to get some information (this letter). Your computer
called another computer, got the information from that computer and then
printed it on your screen.
The part of your computer that makes a phone call is called a modem. A
modem is simply a fancy telephone connected to your computer ... wow...
Now lets think about something else. Imagine that two librarians are talking
and both of them speak slowly and stutter. It would take forever to have
a long conversation right? But if they talked fast the conversation might
only last a few minutes.
The same is true of modems. If a modem speaks slowly, it will take forever
to complete the phone call. So you need a fast modem. Modems are rated
by speed. Once again a number. And as any child can tell you the bigger
the number, the better and the faster the modem.
The earliest modems ran at 1200 and 2400, later at 4800 and 9600. Five
years ago modems ran at 28,800 four years ago to 36,600, Now the fastest
modems run at 56,000 or higher. A call that lasted 2 hours before with
a slow modem can now take place in less than ten minutes. We high recommend
that anyone online have at a least a 56,000 modem.
These phone calls by your computers modem are broken down into two parts.
Uploading is when your computer is speaking and sending information to
another computer. Downloading is when the other computer is speaking and
sending information to your computer.
The newer form does not use a conventional modem. High speed access can
now be obtained through" cable modems" and DSL which uses
fiber optic cable and no longer ties up your phone lines. A special modem
is used for this type of access and most companies supply you with the
modem for free if you agree to a year contract with their company.
Now you understand modems. It's just your computer having a telephone
conversation with another computer and modem speed is the speed at which
they talk. Simple.
to the library...
Okay, you have a librarian in a library. Her name is Penny, and she is
moving books around to different areas of the library. But first she must
sort the books in her work area so that she knows where to put the books.
She does this in a little room that we call RAM. If she is a fast librarian
and has plenty of room to work, she can sort the books quickly, with no
problems and get them put away nice and neat.
But let's say that you have Penny who is a good, fast and reliable worker
and you decide to make her work in a little tiny closet. At fist she can
manage, but after a while the books start stacking up and taking some
of her space. Soon she is bumping her elbows and getting frustrated. Her
work space is too small and finally she goes postal and just starts shooting
everything in sight.
If you had given her a large room to work in with plenty of space, she
would have gotten the job done and everyone would be happy. But you got
cheap, didn't give her a big enough work area and now everyone is dead.
If you don't want your computer to go postal, give them room to work in.
Computers need a big work area. The work area on your computer is called
Long ago computers did not have much work to do. Then we started making
bigger and fancier programs. They do more and more things. Soon your computer
needed more room to work, more Ram. Programs are still getting bigger,
more Ram ... give your computer RAM or it will go postal on you.
How do you know when your computer is going postal? Errors, it freezes,
you try to get on AOL or your service provider and you keep freezing or
crashing. You keep blaming the service provider, but the real problem
is you do not have enough RAM.
Lets use the following example. Let's say that you have a computer with
16 Megs of RAM. That is a fairly small work area. Your computer uses 8
Megs just to do it's own basic functions. Then you ask it to go online.
This takes a lot of RAM, lets say 8 Megs of Ram. You now have No Ram left.
Slowly as you use the computer little bits of garbage accumulate in the
Ram that do not get deleted. You are running out of RAM (work space).
The computer begins to slow down, you can feel icicles form as it begins
to freeze. Then you send a long letter that takes a lot of RAM. Boom,
your computer goes postal. You are thrown offline. You blame AOL, but
it was really you.
Simply put, the more RAM you have, the more you can do at one time...
also referred to as 'multitasking.'
Ok, so how much Ram do you need?
AOL and others recommend a minimum of 16 Megs of Ram. That will get you
online, but after a while you will crash. If you like to run other programs,
such as power tools, ICQ, NetMeeting, Power mail, or any of the others
we highly recommend 64 Megs of Ram. And if you are buying a new computer
we recommend at least 128 Megs of Ram.
There are two types of RAM used these days: PC100 and PC133. You need
to know what kind your motherboard supports before purchasing. To be safe,
you can always use PC133 because it can go down to PC100, but PC100 will
not work with a board that supports PC133 only. If you're not sure, get
Is it worth it to buy more Ram? The worlds fastest computer will turn
into a turtle without enough Ram. Get more Ram and your computer will
run faster (maybe a lot faster) and crash less often. You tell me ...
is it worth it?
When buying RAM, shop around. The cost of RAM right now is super cheap.
You can get a 128MB card for about $20! Installation is not difficult.
If you don't know someone who can put the chip in, the most you should
pay to get it installed is $20. Shop around for the total cost before
getting the RAM installed.
the heck is an ISP? The letters mean Internet Service Provider. What is
that? Simply it means companies like America Online, EarthLink, CompuServe,
etc., an ISP is simply a company that you use to get online.
INTERNET AND THE WEB
is the difference between the Internet and the Web? The Internet and the
World Wide Web are simply places where you can go to access information
from other computers. The only difference to you is the Internet starts
off it's address as http:// and the web starts off www. Just think of
them as the roads to the library. You don't need to know who built the
road, when, why or the politics involved. Just the address of the library.
The price of new computers has fallen so much that we are currently recommending that no one buy a used computer. The best systems available at the stores run on a Pentium 3 at a speed of 1000 MHz for under
$1000 with all the bells and whistles. We also highly recommend buying the store brands rather than one put together buy an individual or small store (even though friends will tell you about a "great
place" that will treat you right). These people often go out of business after a few months, and if you need to reinstall software, etc., you may find that they have not included everything you need.
Some of the small stores and individuals are good, but on average there is less risk if you simply go to stores such as
BestBuy, CompUSA (now TigerDirect)
etc.... or you can even buy direct from the manufacturer. ( Dell,
Additionally, some stores
are now offering a free computer (very basic) if you agree to sign a contract
to use certain service provider, etc. Make sure you like both the computer
and the service provider before signing the contract. Because you will
be stuck with both for about 3 years. Additionally within the next year
many companies will be offering free computers, simply if you will allow
them to run advertisements on your screen. The cost of the computer is
paid for by the advertisers.
As for used computers? They often need upgrades, repairs or are simply
to slow to work on the Internet. Our minimum recommendation for what a
beginner needs is at least 600 MHz speed, 56 K modem, 64 Megs of Ram,
1 Gigabyte of memory.
Have fun and happy computing...