From the Kenosha News on 9-4-05

     Use the right terms when describing computer problems

     If you have a computer problem, you'll get better help if you use the right vocabulary to describe what's wrong. Most importantly, learn the correct names for the parts of your computer. Here are some of the proper terms and what they mean.

  •      Monitor – The "TV part" of the computer, otherwise known as the screen or display. There are two basic types: LCD and CRT. LCD monitors are the flat panel type; laptops use these. CRT monitors use a tube like a TV and are larger and cheaper. If you see smoke and smell a burning smell from your CRT monitor, it's time for a new one. Repairs to monitors are not generally cost effective out of warranty.
  •      CPU – The "computer part" of the computer. While the term CPU really only refers to the processor inside your computer's main unit, most people refer to the whole tower or desktop unit as the CPU, which is generally acceptable. The actual processor is probably either an Intel (Pentium or Celeron, for example) or an AMD. Its speed is expressed in Mhz or Ghz.
  •      Hard drive – The disk drive where your operating system, programs, and data files are stored. Some people also refer to their whole computer (tower or desktop) as "the hard drive," but this can be confusing to technicians.
  •      Memory – Also called RAM, it's a mystical "space" where your programs run and data lives while your computer is turned on. Memory is made up of chips modules and has no moving parts. Your hard drive is NOT memory, so don't understand an "out of memory" error as meaning that your hard drive is filling up! It just means your computer is trying to do more things at one time than it can handle and you likely need to upgrade the amount of RAM you have.
  •      Floppy drive – The drive that reads those 3.5" plastic floppy disks. For those of us that remember back to 5.25" disks that really were "floppy," it's tempting to call the 3.5" ones "hard disks," but don't use that term, because hard disk means hard drive. If you get a newer laptop or any type of Apple Macintosh, you won't have a floppy drive. If you still use floppies, be warned that they're about the least reliable place to store data that exists. You should consider moving to USB memory devices or other storage instead.
  •      CD-ROM drive – the drive that reads CDs. These days, there are many flavors, including DVD drives that read DVDs, CD-RWs that write to CDs, and DVD-RWs that read and write DVDs and CDs. All of the above can read CDs. Look at the logo or words on the tray that comes out of your drive. If it says rewritable then it's a CD-RW. The Apple terminology is often helpful: "Combo drives" can read and write CDs but only read DVDs. "Super drives" can read and write CDs and DVDs.

      So next time you call tech support or e-mail someone for help, using the right words should get you better service, and you'll sound more tech-savvy as well.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 9-4-05