One of the major complaints levelled against modern computers involves their complexity, and the amount of technical jargon relating to their marketing.
Things were much easier in the olden days, traditionalists argue.
The most you had to worry about with a typewriter was whether to go for a daisy wheel or golf ball design.
Yet in truth, computer jargon is often overblown and unnecessarily convoluted.
Learning a new language?
A few weeks ago, we published a guide to internet jargon.
And it was good.
So good, in fact, we’ve decided to demystify the world of computers as well.
Below are classic examples of computer jargon which you’re likely to encounter in department stores or electronics retailers, followed by plain-English definitions:
The internet is awash with malicious software (malware) and viruses. Antivirus software runs in the background, neutralising threats to keep your device safe.
The central processing unit, or processor, is the brain of any computer. There are two main CPU manufacturers (Intel and AMD), both producing comparable hardware.
Desktop computers are large fixed-position machines, whereas laptops are portable. Chromebooks and netbooks are lightweight, rather limited laptop variants.
Despite the growth in online file storage, some computers still feature DVD drives. The RW symbol indicates a disc can be written to more than once.
The socket required to plug a computer into domestic broadband routers. Ethernet provides faster and more reliable internet than wireless (WiFi) connections.
An abbreviation of gigabyte, and a method of measuring storage space for programs and files. A gigabyte is a thousand megabytes – which itself is a thousand kilobytes.
The gigahertz measurement of processor speed found in CPUs and GPUs (see below). The more cores a processor has, the more efficient it will be regardless of speed.
A graphical processing unit is a CPU for images. Many computers have combined CPU/GPU chips, though media editing and serious gaming requires a dedicated GPU.
A hard disc drive stores permanent records such as document changes and installed programs on a spinning disc. SSD storage is a less fragile version for laptops.
Often included with a computer but sometimes a standalone purchase, monitor sizes vary from 11 inches on a compact laptop to huge 40-inch 4K desktop screens.
A circuitboard installed inside the computer, connecting components like sound and graphics cards. It’s a computer’s spinal column – vital, yet hidden away.
Microsoft Office remains the ultimate workplace productivity tool, comprising several iconic programs like Word (word processing) and Excel (spreadsheets).
Operating systems power every computer. Off-the-shelf packages have Windows (PCs) or macOS (Apple) installed. Linux is flexible but has to be self-installed.
A catch-all computer jargon term referring to external hardware. A keyboard and mouse are both peripherals, as are printers, monitors and webcams.
Plug and play
If a device is advertised in this way, it means the computer will instantly recognise it, without needing to install special software known as drivers.
The cable sockets set into a computer’s outer case. Common ports include USB, Ethernet and 3.5mm audio leads; each will attach different types of peripheral.
Random Access Memory is where any electronic device does its calculations and thinking, rather than its saving and storing. You generally want at least 16GB of RAM.
Wireless fidelity is the most efficient way of transferring internet bandwidth to a computer without hardwiring the device to a broadband router via an Ethernet cable.