Translating Technical Talk to English
When it comes to talking in jargon and complex terms, no industry worse than IT – even its very name is an acronym! Here are some of the most common terms used and our attempt to translate some of the common technical terms to plain English.
ADSL/ADSL 2+ = Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
Like dial-up Internet, ADSL uses a regular phone line to connect your computer to the Internet, but it works at much higher speeds. One of the main advantages of ADSL over dial-up is that you can use your telephone line at the same time as you are on the Internet. As there are many providers of ADSL there is high competition for business ensuring low prices. ADSL 2+ is a newer and much faster version of ADSL. It uses similar technology and also uses existing phone lines.
Broadband is a high-speed connection to the Internet so you can view websites, and download music, videos and pictures very easily.
Cable Internet is a very high-speed connection to the Internet that connects to your house using fibre optic cables (not the telephone line). Due to the scarcity of cable networks (i.e. only Telstra and Optus have cable networks) cable Internet plans are relatively expensive at this stage.
CD Burner (compact disk burner)
A CD burner lets you create (or burn) CDs by writing information to blank CDs using a powerful laser – these are good for data backups or storing music. CD burners and blank CDs are inexpensive to install and easy use.
The computer is the box that is connected to your monitor (screen). It is like the engine of your system and holds all the hardware components needed to run all your programs.
CPU (Central Processing Unit)
The CPU is the brain of the computer; it does the majority of the calculations and processing. The faster your CPU the quicker programs will open and the more things that can be done at the same time.
CRT (cathode-ray tube)
Invented in 1897, CRT’s are still the most common display technology for televisions. The tube uses an electron beam to scan lines on the screen coated with phosphor, which glows when struck by the beam. The other display technology being used more and more often nowadays in television sets is LCD.
Dial-up Internet connects you to the Internet using a standard phone line. It transmits information by converting data into ‘noise’ that is sent along with your phone line just like the way voices are transmitted. Dial-up is quite slow (not great for accessing online music, video or large images) and you cannot talk on the phone and surf the Internet at the same time.
A hard drive is like the filing cabinet of your computer. It is used to store files – like word documents, spreadsheets, music and images – when they are not being worked on. The larger the filing cabinet (or hard disk) the more files that can be stored.
ISP (Internet Service Provider)
An ISP is a company that connects you to the Internet – they’re the people that you pay each month in return for a certain amount of Internet usage. In many cases, your ISP also provides you with your email address.
LCD (liquid crystal display)
LCD’s are a type of display used in digital watches, desktop monitors and many portable computers. They use two sheets of polarizing material with a liquid crystal solution between them. An electric current passed through the liquid causes the crystals to align so that light cannot pass through them. Each crystal, therefore, is like a shutter, either allowing light to pass through or blocking the light. This generates the colours and images needed to use a computer.
A modem is a device that allows computers to connect to their Internet service provider and the Internet. All Internet connections (dial-up, cable, ADSL, ADSL2+ and wireless) need a modem to work.
A monitor is the screen of your computer that displays programs, games, websites, documents and pretty much everything else that happens on your computer. It plugs into your computer.
The motherboard is the central skeleton of the computer, all parts connect into it. Therefore if it breaks most parts of the computer need to be replaced, especially if it is an older motherboard as replacing the motherboard can be tricky.
A network is two or more computers that are connected which allows for things like sharing files, printers or Internet connections. For an example, a home with three computers might have a network that lets them all print using the one printer, or all access the same family music library.
OS (operating system)
Your operating system is the main software your computer uses to run everything from editing documents and listening to music to playing games and browsing the Internet. Lots of different programs can be run on top of the operating system, but the operating system brings everything together.
PSU (power supply unit)
A power supply converts power from standard electrical outlets into a steady stream of power which your computer can use. A 300 Watt power supply is generally sufficient for home users, but power users may need a 400 or 500 Watt version if they have multiple hard drives or other components. The quality of power supply can be very important and may make the difference between a stable computer and a computer that crashes often. Most good power supplies are designed to be self-sacrificing (like a fuse) in the event of a power surge to protect the components in your computer. It is worth investing in a power supply unit with surge protection.
RAM (random access memory)
RAM, or more simply referred to as memory, is the space you need to run the programs and files you are currently working on. If the hard disk is like a filing cabinet, then RAM is like the desk where all your current projects are running. The more RAM you have, the more things you can work on at once – like email programs, design software, word processing and games etc. Larger amounts of RAM are useful in situations where you do lots of things on your computer at once.
A refresh rate is a speed at which your monitor’s picture is redrawn or flashed in front of your eyes. Slower refresh rates provide a noticeable flicker. Higher refresh rates create a steady picture. The maximum refresh rate changes depending on your monitor. A minimum of 75 Hertz is recommended for computer monitors. Television refresh rates are 30 Hertz which is why there is a noticeable flicker.
CDs can be copied onto your computer via a process known as ‘ripping’. It is called this because all of the information on the CD is effectively ripped off the disk and copied onto your computer. The information still remains on your CD so you can play the songs (or access the files) using the CD or on your computer.
A router is a device that determines where data should be sent and is used to create a network of computers sharing information. Routers also provide security preventing non-requested data from entering the network – for example stopping intruders from remotely connecting to your computer).
Satellite is a way of connecting to the Internet via satellites. It is quite expensive to use and set up so is usually only used in regional areas where regular dial-up or broadband Internet access is unavailable. This cost is subsidised by the government in some rural areas.
Spam is basically any email message that is sent to you without your permission. These can include unwanted advertising or online scams requesting your bank details or similar. Note: banks don’t ask for personal information over email, so always check with your bank before you give out any details.
Spyware / Malware
Spyware is the name for programs that contain hidden nasties which can be used to send your private information across the Internet and destabilise your computer. Some can even cause your modem to dial overseas pay numbers leading to high phone bills. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Malware is software that is designed to cause problems on your computer and like spyware is downloaded with other programs and runs without your knowledge.
Streaming audio or video
Unlike downloading, where you receive the full file on your computer before you can play it, streaming allows you to play a file as it is being downloaded. This means that the file starts playing much faster and continues to download in the background as you are watching or listening. Also, the file is usually not stored on your computer permanently.
UPS (uninterrupted power supply)
A UPS keeps your computer running for several minutes after a power outage. That means if there is a power failure you have time to save your important work and shut down your computer properly to avoid any problems of a sudden shutdown.
Using Windows XP you can create separate accounts for each person who will be using the computer. This allows each user to log onto the same computer yet have their own personalised document folders and settings such as wallpapers, start menu items, visual styles and so on. You can create and configure user accounts with the User Accounts tool in the Control Panel.
A virus is a self-replicating program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other code or documents on your computer. Viruses can be caught from documents, attach themselves to emails and spread through networks. Viruses usually attempt to hide and disrupt your system as much as possible.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
VoIP lets you make phone calls using the Internet. Because all you pay for is your broadband connection (which you are probably paying for anyway), this can be a very cheap way to make long distance or local phone calls. All it requires is a broadband connection, microphone and headphones. Some VoIP technology even makes it possible to use your existing phone handsets to call via the Internet saving lots of money. The only limitation with VoIP is that it cannot make emergency calls and does not function in a power blackout. A common VoIP program is www.skype.com.
As Microsoft becomes aware of new vulnerabilities in Windows they release pieces of software called Updates that remove the vulnerabilities that your computer was previously exposed to. Windows Update – available at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ – should be run at least once a month. If this is not done, your computer could be vulnerable to attack from hackers or virus infection, despite the presence of a virus detection program.
A network is two or more computers that are connected which allows for things like sharing files, printers or Internet connections. A wireless network simply uses high-frequency radio waves rather than cables to make the connections. This can be helpful in cases where wiring may be difficult, and also gives you the freedom to be online from just about anywhere in your home.
Written by The Original PC Doctor on 10/11/2010.