Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Hello future friends! My company recently opened a service shop in your fine town. We’ve been on Florence for 16 years and I’ve written articles for a few different news outlets but I’m new to you guys. So, nice to meet you! This article is an attempt to educate you, dear readers, so you don’t have to spend as much money with people like me. In order to accomplish that, you are going to need to understand a few computer basics. So, as a service to all three of my readers, here are the proper terms for the major components in a computer system. Study hard and sound smart at your next cocktail party.

The Central Processing Unit (CPU): Sometimes mistakenly called a “modem” for some reason. It is also known as the “tower,” the “case,” the “system box” or the “doodyhead computer!” depending on the mood of the computer or the user. It’s the part of the computer that does the actual computing.

Modem: An acronym for “MOddulator/DEModulator.” Traditionally, it was a small circuit board (usually inside your computer) that a phone cord plugs into that sounds exactly like a donkey choking on a gerbil as you connect to dial-up Internet. In modern times, the “modem” it the silent little box owned by your service provider that connects your computer to high speed internet.

Monitor or Display: Sometimes mistakenly called “the TV thang.”

Megahertz: Much larger than a regularhertz.

Download and Upload: Some of our customers state that they “downloaded” a program to their computer from a CD ROM when they actually mean “install.” "Download" means “receive data” and "upload" means “send data” - usually over the Internet.

Boot: What you really want to give the computer when it is being a doodyhead. It is also short for “bootstrap loader” which is a very small bit of software built into a computer that helps the computer come to life after you hit the power switch. The term comes from the analogy of one pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps

Hard Drive: Some people mistake the “tower” as a hard drive. This is the device inside your computer that stores all your pictures, documents and programs and “crashes” when it detects that you have been lazy about backing up your data.

Crash: Some customers state their computer “crashed” and use the term to mean anything from “won’t start” to “makes weird noises.” Technically, a “crash” is a particular type of hard drive failure where the read head that usually floats above the drive platter actually touches or “crashes” into the hard drive surface resulting in data loss or hard drive failure.

But then, “crash” sounds much more dramatic than, “hardware failure,” so if it works for you it’s all right by me.

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Madison and Florence. His column runs every other week. Ask questions by visiting

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