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Can You Name Some Of Our Young Family Members Below?

Lesson 2

Understanding Some Fundamentals of Computing
Identifying Your System Configuration
Understanding Computer Memory Scale
Knowing Your Computer Terminology

Identifying Your System Configuration

Most of you have probably been to the store to purchase a new computer and the salesmen or women have only one goal and that of course is to sell you something. During the sales process they use terms unfamiliar to you that are geared to either impress you of their knowledge of the product they're pitching, or they simply just read the box and are just as clueless as you are as to what that gibberish means.

One objective of this lesson is to teach you how to identify a system configuation, and understand how much of each component you need in order to accomplish your computer task today and possibly 3-5 years from today. By the end of this lesson you should be able to read information on a new box yourself with full understanding of all the numbers and terms used, and how they relate to the cost and function of the machine.

So you have decided to go to your local electronic superstore and purchase a new machine for everyone is your household to use for school, work, or play. Or, you want to know more about the computer you already have.

The technical specifications on the side of a new box might read:

AMD Dual-Core Processor E350
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
500GB 7,200RPM Hard Drive
SuperMulti DVD Burner
6-in-1 Media Card Reader
AMD Radeon™ HD 6310
10/100 Network
Display Not Included

If you understand every line above with absolute clarity, then jump below to the next objective "Unsderstanding Computer Memory Scale".

Identifying The Three Major Components Of Your System Configuration


1. CPU (Central Processing Unit) - It all starts here. The central processing unit (CPU) is the portion of a computer system that carries out the instructions of a computer program, to perform the basic arithmetical, logical, and input/output operations of the system. The CPU plays a role somewhat analogous to the brain in the computer. The term has been in use in the computer industry at least since the early 1960s.[1] The form, design and implementation of CPUs have changed dramatically since the earliest examples, but their fundamental operation remains much the same. Many companies manufacture CPU's. (For example: Intel, AMD etc.)

Intel - Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) is an American multinational semiconductor chip maker corporation headquartered in Santa Clara, California, United States and the world's largest semiconductor chip maker, based on revenue.[4] It is the inventor of the x86 series of microprocessors, the processors found in most personal computers. Intel was founded on July 18, 1968, as Integrated Electronics Corporation (though a common misconception is that "Intel" is from the word intelligence). Intel also makes motherboard chipsets, network interface controllers and integrated circuits, flash memory, graphic chips, embedded processors and other devices related to communications and computing.

AMD - Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NYSE: AMD) or AMD is an American multinational semiconductor company based in Sunnyvale, California, that develops computer processors and related technologies for commercial and consumer markets. Its main products include microprocessors, motherboard chipsets, embedded processors and graphics processors for servers, workstations and personal computers, and embedded systems applications.

The above Tech Specs include a processor builit by AMD. AMD Dual-Core Processor E350 is a A multi-core processor which is a single computing component with two or more independent actual processors (called "cores"), which are the units that read and execute program instructions.

Note: CPU's reference clock rate which is the rate in cycles per second (measured in hertz) or the frequency of the clock in any synchronous circuit, such as a central processing unit (CPU). The clock period is measured in time units (not cycles) and is the time between successive cycles. Hence: the larger the clock speed, the faster the chip performs operations. So, depending on your budget, you want the fastest CPU you can afford.

Tip: Depending on what you use the computer for, having multiple-cores such as dual-core, or quad-core, will give you more processing power.


2. RAM (Random-Access-Memory) - Random-access memory (RAM) is a form of computer data storage. Today, it takes the form of integrated circuits that allow stored data to be accessed in any order with a worst case performance of constant time. Strictly speaking, modern types of DRAM are therefore not random access, as data is read in bursts, although the name DRAM / RAM has stuck. However, many types of SRAM, ROM, OTP, and NOR flash are still random access even in a strict sense. RAM is often associated with volatile types of memory (such as DRAM memory modules), where its stored information is lost if the power is removed. Many other types of non-volatile memory are RAM as well, including most types of ROM and a type of flash memory called NOR-Flash. The first RAM modules to come into the market were created in 1951 and were sold until the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Note: Since RAM is memory storage chips, and allows you to open many applications at once and manipulate them, then you want to purchase as much RAM as you can afford.

Tip: Whatever the machine comes stocked with, you will want to double that amount at purchase or some other time in the future. (Example: my machine came with 4GB, I increased it to 8GB and I never lose speed when I open multiple applications.)

The above Tech Specs include 2GB DDR3-1333 SDRAM which is the minimun required to get you started, but increasing it to 4GB will make the machine quicker and more responsive to your commands.

Hard Drive

3. Hard Disk Drive (HDD) - A hard disk drive (HDD; also hard drive or hard disk)[2] is a non-volatile, random access digital magnetic data storage device. It features rotating rigid platters on a motor-driven spindle within a protective enclosure. Data is magnetically read from and written to the platter by read/write heads that float on a film of air above the platters. Introduced by IBM in 1956, hard disk drives have decreased in cost and physical size over the years while dramatically increasing in capacity.

Hard disk drives have been the dominant device for secondary storage of data in general purpose computers since the early 1960s.[3] They have maintained this position because advances in their recording density have kept pace with the requirements for secondary storage.[3] Today's HDDs operate on high-speed serial interfaces; i.e., serial ATA (SATA) or serial attached SCSI (SAS).

Note: Today's hard drives found in new computers usually start somewhere between 250GB - 500GB. If you're big on storing photographs, videos, and music, then the larger the better.

Tip: Whatever size you choose for your internal hard drive, be sure to get at least the same size or larger for your backup drive. Keeping your drive maintained is vital to its longevity.

The above Tech Specs include a 500GB 7,200RPM Hard Drive. This drive is adequate enough for the casual user. Remember, the hard disk drive is like a storage cabinet. From time to time you need to get rid of the junk to keep from overloading your storage cabinet and running out of space. Drives work best when you have at least 10% of the total drive free.



It is to your advantage if you know a little something something about the memory scale on a computer so that you can keep track of your storage usage, understand memory requirements for certain applications, and of course understand how much you can do at any given time without the computer telling you you're running low on memory.

The picture above depicts the rudimentary or fundamental basis of this scale. It all starts at the very bottom of the scale with the condition of these two numbers. A ZERO or ONE, or binary system which it has been called.

Below is the scale beginning from smallest to largest.

Bit: A Bit is the smallest unit of data that a computer uses. It can be used to represent two states of information, such as Yes or No. The zero might represent yes, and the one represent no. Think of a light bulb. A zero could represent on, and a one could represent off.

Byte: A Byte is equal to 8 Bits. A Byte can represent 256 states of information, for example, numbers or a combination of numbers and letters. 1 Byte could be equal to one character such as the first letter of your name. (example: J for James is one byte of information. 10 Bytes could be equal to a word. 100 Bytes would equal an average sentence.

Okay, how many bytes does it take to type in your full name on a computer? James K. McLaurin = 17 bytes, don't forget to include spaces, periods, etc.

Kilobyte (K): A Kilobyte is approximately 1,000 Bytes, actually 1,024 Bytes depending on which definition is used. 1 Kilobyte would be equal to this paragraph you are reading, whereas 100 Kilobytes would equal an entire page. Typing the first letter of your name 1024 times would equal a kilobyte of information on the computer.

Megabyte (MB): A Megabyte is approximately 1,000 Kilobytes or 1 million bytes. In the early days of computing, a Megabyte was considered to be a large amount of data. These days with a 500 Gigabyte hard drive on a computer being common, a Megabyte doesn't seem like much anymore. One of those old 3-1/2 inch floppy disks can hold 1.44 Megabytes or the equivalent of a small book. 100 Megabytes might hold a couple volumes of Encyclopedias. 600 Megabytes is about the amount of data that will fit on a CD-ROM disk.

Gigabyte (GB): A Gigabyte is approximately 1,000 Megabytes or 1 billion bytes. A Gigabyte is still a very common term used these days when referring to disk space or drive storage. 1 Gigabyte of data is almost twice the amount of data that a CD-ROM can hold. But it's about one thousand times the capacity of a 3-1/2 floppy disk. 1 Gigabyte could hold the contents of about 10 yards of books on a shelf. 100 Gigabytes could hold the entire library floor of academic journals. We also refer to RAM (Random-access-meory) in terms of Gigabytes. Entry level new computers will have at least 2GB of RAM.

Terabyte (TB): A Terabyte is approximately one trillion bytes, or 1,000 Gigabytes. There was a time that I never thought I would see a 1 Terabyte hard drive, now one and two terabyte drives are the normal specs for many new computers.  To put it in some perspective, a Terabyte could hold about 3.6 million 300 Kilobyte images or maybe about 300 hours of good quality video. A Terabyte could hold 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Ten Terabytes could hold the printed collection of the Library of Congress. That's a lot of data. Today we use this measurement exclusively for hard disk drive storage. Tomorrow it will probably represent the size of your RAM.

Petabyte (PB): A Petabyte is approximately 1,000 Terabytes or one million Gigabytes. It's hard to visualize what a Petabyte could hold. 1 Petabyte could hold approximately 20 million 4-door filing cabinets full of text. It could hold 500 billion pages of standard printed text. It would take about 500 million floppy disks to store the same amount of data. Internet: Google processes about 24 petabytes of data per day.[7] The BBC's iPlayer is reported to use 7 petabytes of bandwidth each month. That's a lot of data.

Exabyte (EB): An Exabyte is approximately 1,000 Petabytes. Another way to look at it is that an Exabyte is approximately one quintillion bytes or one billion Gigabytes. There is not much to compare an Exabyte to. It has been said that 5 Exabytes would be equal to all of the words ever spoken by mankind. As of May 2009, the size of the world's total digital content has been roughly estimated to be 500 Exabytes

Zettabyte (ZB): A Zettabyte is approximately 1,000 Exabytes. There is nothing to compare a Zettabyte to but to say that it would take a whole lot of ones and zeroes to fill it up. Research from the University of California, San Diego reports that in 2008, Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information.

Yottabyte (YB): A Yottabyte is approximately 1,000 Zettabytes. It would take approximately 11 trillion years to download a Yottabyte file from the Internet using high-power broadband. You can compare it to the World Wide Web as the entire Internet almost takes up about a Yottabyte.

Brontobyte (BB): A Brontobyte is (you guessed it) approximately 1,000 Yottabytes. The only thing there is to say about a Brontobyte is that it is a 1 followed by 27 zeroes!

Geopbyte (GP): A Geopbyte is about 1000 Brontobytes! Not sure why this term was created. I'm doubting that anyone alive today will ever see a Geopbyte hard drive. One way of looking at a geopbyte is 15267 6504600 2283229 4012496 7031205 376 bytes!

Today you only need to know what a kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, and terabyte represent on today's consumer computers. Use megabyte and gigabyte to measure RAM, and kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, and terabyte to measure hard disk drive. Know them well.

Now you should have a good understanding of megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes and everything in between. Now if we can just figure out what a WhatsAByte is......:)

Processor or Virtual Storage Disk Storage
1 Bit = Binary Digit 1 Bit = Binary Digit
8 Bits = 1 Byte 8 Bits = 1 Byte
1024 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte 1000 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte
1024 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte 1000 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte
1024 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte 1000 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte
1024 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte 1000 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte
1024 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte 1000 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte
1024 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte 1000 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
1024 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte 1000 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte
1024 Zettabytes = 1 Yottabyte 1000 Zettabytes = 1 Yottabyte
1024 Yottabytes = 1 Brontobyte 1000 Yottabytes = 1 Brontobyte
1024 Brontobytes = 1 Geopbyte             000 Brontobytes = 1 Geopbyte

Do You Know How To Find Your System Configuration?

Remember your system configuration consist of three major components. The CPU, RAM, and Hard Disk Drive.

Using Windows 7, then follow these steps.

1. Click on the "Start" button located in the lower left corner of the screen and then right click "Computer", and then drag down and left click "Properties".

Note: Under "System" you should see Processor: your processor information and underneath that will be Installed Memory (RAM)

2. To view your hard disk drive size, click "Start" and then click "Computer". locate "local disk C: this is your hard disk size.

Using Windows XP, then follow these steps.

1. Click on the "Start" button located in the lower left corner of the screen and then right click "My Computer", and then drag down and left click "Properties".

Note: Under "Computer" you should see Processor and RAM information (Example: Intel Pentium 4 CPU 2.53 GHz, 2.53 GHz 2.00 GB Ram

2. To view your hard disk drive size, click "Start" and then click "My Computer". locate "local disk C: this is your hard disk size

Using Mac OS X, then follow these steps.

1. Click on the "Apple" icon located in the upper left corner of the screen and then select "About This Mac"

Note: Processor and Memory configurations will now be shown.

2. To view your hard disk drive size, click "Finder " icon, the first icon on the left side of the dock. Under Devices, click once (select) on Macintosh HD, or whatever your hard drive is called. Pull down the "File" menu and select "Get Info". Select ATA or Serial ATA and then view capacity.

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