A Little Knowledge of Computer Lingo Can Go a Long Way

I realize more and more that when I start talking with others about computers, I really do speak a foreign language.  In the same way that my eyes glaze over when my car buddies talk about horsepower and torque, their eyes glaze over when I start talking about gigs of RAM and “scuzzy” drives.

Sometimes this isn’t a big deal.  You don’t really need to know all of the computer-geek lingo to get around in the world.  When you have a problem though, or want to compare products, the right vocabulary can make a big difference in your experience.   To help you on your way, here’s a small helping of common terms that can help you out.

“Gig” and “meg”: The term “gig” is short for the prefix giga, which means billion or 1,000,000,000.  It’s often used in reference to computer memory as in the term gigabyte (or GB), to computer processor speeds as in gigahertz (GHz), and also to the speed of a wired or wireless network as in gigabit (Gbit).  Not so long ago, computers recorded speeds and size in megabytes and megahertz (or “megs”), with mega referring to one million.  A 500 gigabyte (GB) hard drive can hold about 500,000,000,000 bytes – which without getting technical is an awful lot.  Today the amount of memory available in home computers has even passed into terabyte territory (1,000,000,000,000 bytes).

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi refers to a popular kind of wireless network which uses radio waves to transmit data.  It requires an access point to broadcast the signal as well as an antenna or other receiver to pick it up and allows multiple computers to communicate with each other as well as access the Internet.  Lots of places, including Panera, offer free wi-fi to customers so they can work and access the Internet while sipping their latté.

CPU: This stands for Central Processing Unit of a computer system, also called simply the “processor”.  Computer manufacturers often note the manufacturer, type and speed of a processor in advertising a particular system.  The CPU is the part of the computer that handles calculations, and does so with astounding speed.

OS: This is short for operating system, which refers to the software “backbone” of your computer.  Most likely, your operating system is one of the many varieties of Windows, including XP and Vista, but there are others including Apple’s Macitosh (called Mac OS X).

This should help a little when talking with technical support when they ask what OS you’re running or if you’re looking for a place to find some free Internet access.  For a more comprehensive list go to http://www.saugus.net/Computer/Terms so you can really know your PDA from your Pentium.


Posted on September 13, 2009, in How To and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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