Computing in Your Home

COMPUTERS

General Information

Home Office

The in-home office has the same basic requirements as the one-person office. The exception to this is that the in-home office computer user may have stricter place limitations than the one-person office. The in-home user needs to be concerned with getting the business application programs that fill their needs without being too complex to run. For example, in a mufti-user office there is usually an accountant to run the accounting package and a programmer to run the database package. However, in an in-home office there is no one to study the subtleties of the individual software packages, so software that runs a variety of programs supplemented by any special purpose business programs is recommended. The type of computer needed can then be determined by the requirements of the software packages selected. Consult your local dealer for more information concerning special software titles.

Physically Challenged Computer Users

The physically challenged computer user has a wide variety of software to choose from. Depending on the user’s particular needs, software can be purchased to complete the desired task. Any special hardware to help the user control the computer can also be purchased or created. A variety of special hardware is available, ranging from mouth activated controls to specially adapted keyboards. Special software is also available for enlarging screen text for sight impairment, and reading program menus and screen text for the blind. For more information on products available for the physically challenged contact your local computer dealer, or call the national support center for persons with disabilities at 1-800-426-2133.

Student Computer Users

The student computer user has some special buying concerns. The student should try to buy the same package that they are learning at school, or a compatible product, if possible. This helps the student learn programming without having to translate the classroom examples from one version to another for use at home. There are usually low cost software products that have some of the features used in the more expensive packages taught in school. Consult your school for a list of the packages used in certain computer based courses.

Household System

There are two important questions a home computer buyer should ask. Do I want a computer for entertainment and game playing, or will I use it to bring work home, do personal finances, or help the children with homework? If the system is just to be used for games then the buyer should look into buying a game system. These cost less than a personal computer and are much better at playing arcade style games than personal computers. If a home computer is needed for other purposes, then the buyer should look for software packages that can do several functions, or software that does exactly what they need the computer for. If the user will be bringing work home, then the software packages used at home must be compatible with what is used at work. Once software packages have been chosen, the type of computer needed can be determined. For more information on household computer systems, please contact your local computer dealer.

What about Computer Service?

The place to get service for a computer depends on where and when it was purchased. Computer dealers will usually repair what they sell for free within the first few weeks or months after the sale, depending on the dealer’s warranty policy. For service after that, most dealers will sell warranty extensions, which may or may not include on site service. Some computer dealers will repair computers that were purchased elsewhere for a fee. If there is no local computer dealer to go to, there are service centers for different makes of computers that take computers from across the country. The drawback with the service center approach is that you may have to pay the shipping costs and it usually takes longer to get your system back. If all other options have been tried, some computer manufacturers will repair their models for a fee. Sending a computer back to the manufacturer has the same drawback as the service center approach.

Which Computer Is Best for You?

The first time computer buyer should first figure out why they want a computer. Is it for balancing the family budget? For storing recipes? To help with school work or to bring work home from the office? The new buyer should then find out which software packages are available in their price range that do the task desired. The next step is to find out what computer hardware is needed to run the chosen software packages. Is a color monitor needed, or will a black and white monitor work? How much memory is necessary to run the software you need? Is a mouse recommended for use with the software you’ve chosen? This information, and more, can be found in computer magazines and from your local computer dealers.

Computers in the Future

In the future the majority of people will be computer literate as computers become easier to use and become part of many more common devices. We are already seeing the microchips that make up a computer being manufactured in everything from wrist watches to cars. The computer will become so commonplace it will become part of certain major home appliances. Most of the everyday devices that a person uses in the future will be controlled or supplemented by a computer. Computers will continue to decrease in size while gaining in power. Secondary storage media, like floppy disks, will remain approximately the same size, but a tremendous leap in capacity is expected.

Education

Self-study of Computers

Due to the popularity of personal computers there are many different resources such as books, magazines, audio cassettes, video tapes and self-study programs to help a user learn more about their computer system. These covered topics range from software of all descriptions to hardware and how to fix it. Almost all of the self-study material is available through major book chains or computer stores. Different types of computer users use different resources. New users can get a wide variety of introductory materials to get started but almost every advanced user, whether they are a programmer or a spreadsheet expert, have at least two or three books of reference for seldom used options and newer versions of programs.

Vocational Schools

There are many vocational schools available to get people the training they need to become a professional in the computer industry. Most such schools are geared toward training programmers or repair technicians, though many are expanding their curriculum to include systems analyst and design. Most vocational schools provide all their training at, or just under a year’s time. To supplement their training, most schools also have job placement assistance. Pricing varies but the vast majority of schools provide financing. This is a good option for people who know what field they are interested in, but do not want to spend the time, or take the extra courses that a college or university requires.

Private Teachers

Private personal computer teachers can be found in many larger cities. This type of training is generally more focused than what is found in vocational or public schools. This type of training is recommended for those who know specifically what subjects or even what areas of certain subjects they want to learn. The private teacher can create a one-on-one course that very closely follows what the student is interested in. This also has the advantage of being a faster way to learn about a given subject, more than the traditional classroom. Private teachers also impose no prerequisites or required classes, as most schools do. The disadvantage of this type of training is the increased cost of a teacher’s undivided attention. If the cost is not out of reach, the increased control over what is taught is enough for many to choose this type of training for the software package they use the most. Local users groups are a good place to start when looking for a private teacher.

User Groups

One of the best sources for information about what is available for your computer, or for help when using your computer, are local user groups. Local user groups allow users to share software tips and swap notes on how well a particular package handles a particular problem. Users often compare local dealer experiences to help one another find the best sources for hardware, software, or training in the area. The advantage is that these are real users with real problems, not just a sample problem made for a demonstration of product. Depending on how many volunteers there are, and how well organized, local user groups often keep a library of free or reduced cost software for all of the members to copy for their personal computers. Many user groups have structured periods to demonstrate a program that a member may not be familiar with. Almost all user groups have, at some point, a free form question and answer period. User groups occasionally print and distribute a newsletter outlining the last meeting, next meeting, and containing some useful software tips. The cost of membership is usually nominal. Membership is highly recommended for new computer users as they can learn from the more experienced user and avoid costly mistakes and a lot of frustration.

Internet

What Is the Internet?

The Internet is a super highway that can connect you and your computer to other people and their computers located throughout the world. When using the Internet, a person can chat with other people, shop for products or services, send letters electronically with E-mail, and obtain information on almost any topic. To get connected to the Internet, you use your telephone line to connect your computer to a company called an Internet service provider. This company will assist you with connecting your computer to the Internet.

Profiting from the Internet

Any product or service can be sold on the Internet by creating a Web site. When selling your services or products on the Internet your virtual store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. No office expenses or utility bills, no permits or government red tape. It isn’t even necessary to answer the phone if your Web site is constructed properly. All information about your business is readily available for your customers at your Web site. Customers can make purchases from your Web site with a charge card or purchase order number without human intervention.

Web Site Development

A Web site is a form of advertising for a business to sell its products throughout the world on the Internet. By creating an electronic brochure of your company and placing it on the Internet, you can advertise your company 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year without human intervention. Your Web site is located on the computer that is owned by your Internet service provider. Any brochure or advertising literature can be placed on your Web site. With some minor adjustments, orders can be taken at your Web site without human intervention.

Internet Service Provider

An Internet Service Provider company connects your computer to the Internet using a phone modem and your telephone line. This company will charge an annual fee of approximately $200 to allow you to connect to the Internet. Included in this charge is free computer software that is needed for connecting to the Internet. Also included is your E-mail address for receiving messages.

What Is E-mail?

Your E-mail address is how you can receive letters electronically on the intent from all over the world, similar to the address of your residence. Think of it as a private mail box that only you have a key to open and retrieve your electronic mail. This service is provided by your Internet service provider.
Can I Use the Internet If I Don’t Own a Computer?
You can use the Internet for advertising your company, without having access to a computer. We can create for your company an advertisement on the Internet that would be viewed all over the world. Any response to the advertisement would be sent to you directly. Once initial contact was made you could communicate with your customer using traditional methods such as telephone or mail.

Online Information Services

Online information services are services that provide software and electronic mail, or some combination of those services, to computer users. These services are accessed by users over the phone lines with a modem and generally have a cost per minute associated with their use. Additional costs can also be incurred if some special information service is accessed, such as a database or certain profession. There is also the cost of the phone call itself that the user must pay. However, even with all of the costs of getting in and using an online service, their use is typically seen as self-financing. This is because online services can quickly provide a user with information that may take weeks to gather manually or not be totally available in the user’s area. This information comes in the form of databases of knowledge for various professions and direct communication with experts in any field through electronic mail. Miscellaneous services such as PC to Fax communication, online games, electronic shopping and countless others, make online services useful for almost every computer user.

Bulletin Boards

A computer bulletin board service, or BBS, is a personal computer equipped with a modem and software to allow other users to call in with their modem and retrieve files or read electronic mail. Note that these two services are also offered by the online services. The difference in being that the online service computers are usually mainframes with far more capacity than a personal computer, but bulletin boards usually don’t charge for access and those that do, charge nominal flat rate fees, and the online services also offer a much wider range of services. Bulletin boards are filled with information of a much more local nature than online services. Civic centers, user group meetings, and local electronic mail are the things normally posted on a computer bulletin board. Bulletin boards are much cheaper in connection charges than online services since it’s generally a local call. This is why a lot of users get free and reduced price software from bulletin boards when the same software is found on the technically superior online service. The drawback here is that because the bulletin board can simply be someone’s personal computer, running an inexpensive communication package, security can be a concern. Confidentiality of electronic mail cannot be guaranteed by these systems, and viruses are occasionally found in the software available to users. With common sense, and some protective software, bulletin boards can be a great way to get introduced to the world of telecommunication by the computer.

What Can the Internet Do For You?

We would like to give you some basic information on what the Internet can do for you. Becoming involved in, and exploring the Internet can benefit you both personally and professionally. Plus, it can be a lot of fun. The Internet allows you to investigate almost any topic imaginable, and offers the opportunity to receive up-to-date reports on things such as reports, the weather and the stoke market. You can expand your computer software library by downloading free software or demonstrate new software, called shareware, before you purchase your individual copy. The Internet can help you stay in touch with loved ones by using E-mail, or meet someone new through online chat rooms. For even more fun, you can play interactive games such as chess and checkers with other Internet participants. You are able to take with or play games with Internet subscribers all over the world. The Internet has important business applications because it is one of the latest advertising techniques used to promote products or services. Many businesses are building web sites because it offers a creative way to attract new customers through both audio and visual presentation.

Software

What is RAM?

RAM (ram) stands for random access memory. RAM is the computer’s workplace for holding programs and the results of programs. Almost all of the instructions to make the computer do any of the things it can do, must be loaded into RAM for the computer to work. RAM starts out with very few instructions in it when the computer is first turned on, but fills up with the programs that you load into it, to do the work and the results of any previous work. In general, the more RAM a computer has, the more data it can work with at one time. Adding more RAM generally allows the computer to work more complex problems because the software necessary to complete complicated tasks take up more RAM space than more simple programs. RAM is measured in bytes. One byte could represent the letter “a” , the number “1”, or an instruction for the computer. Approximately 1,000 bytes (bites) is called a kilobyte (kill-o-bite). Approximately 1,000 kilobytes is called a megabyte (meg-a-bite). Most computers today have between 256 and 640 kilobytes of RAM. Most computers can be expanded to several megabytes of RAM. A system needs to have as much RAM as the programs being run on it require.

What is ROM?

ROM (rom) stands for read only memory. ROM holds some of the instructions that the computer uses for starting itself and operating some of its hardware, like the serial and parallel port. The ROM of a computer is used by the operating system to talk to other types of devices, like the disk drive and monitor.

What is DOS?

DOS (dos) stands for disk operating system. It is a setup program for controlling the hardware that makes up a computer. The programmer will write a program that will communicate with DOS to store or display certain pieces of text and DOS then communicates directly with the hardware that makes up the computer. With DOS we have thousands of programs available that can share data with certain limitations with each other. Without operation systems like DOS, there would be far fewer programs available and the programs would have difficulty sharing data with each other. DOS is the supervisor of all the programs a user runs on their computer. And it also determines which programs a user can run as some programs use services found only in particular versions of DOS or other operating systems.

What Is Serial?

Serial is used to describe one way the computer can send its results or to receive results from another device, like a printer. The computer stores information as bytes. One byte can represent the letter “a”, the number “1”, or an instruction for the computer. A byte is on most computers made up of eight bits. Serial communication is done one bit at a time. On other words, a computer sending the letter “a” to a printer serial would actually send the printer eight separate bytes, one at a time. Some common devices that talk to the computer serially are modems, mice, and some printers. Compare this type of communication with parallel.

What Is Parallel?

Parallel is used to describe one way the commuter can send its results to or receive it results from another device. Like a printer, the computer stores information as bytes. One byte can represent the letter “a”, the number “1”, or an instruction for the computer. Parallel communication is done one byte at a time. In other words, a computer sending the letter “a” to a printer using a parallel communication would actually send it in one step. The most common devices that talk to the computer using parallel communication are printers. Compare this type of communication with serial.

Word Processing

A word processing program is one that allows a user to enter and manipulate words. There are a wide variety of word processing programs with a wide variety of capabilities. Some word processing programs allow the computer to do little more than act as a memory enhanced typewriter. Other word processing programs offer additional features. These might include search and replace where a user can automatically change every occurrence of the word “dog” to the word “cat”. Still other word processing programs have more advanced features, which allow the computer to mix text and graphics on the same page, automatically generate a table of contents or index, and format the page in newspaper-like columns. In purchasing such a package it is essential to figure out which features a user needs now, and which features may be useful in the near future. Buying a package with too few features means having to re-learn an entirely new program sooner than is necessary. Likewise, buying a package with too many features complicates the task and makes the simple jobs harder than they should be. To get more information on what program you need, consult your local dealer and ask any friend currently using a word processing package.

Spreadsheets

A spreadsheet program is one that allows a user to enter and manipulate numbers. This type of package is more similar from package to package than word processors or databases. One of the basic features of any spreadsheet is the ability to create formulas. Some spreadsheets have additional features such as graphics, and many more have add-ins that do very sophisticated statistical analysis. This type of program can be found in all combinations of capacity and power. Similar spreadsheets can have a 256 by 256 grid of cells in which to enter numbers and simple formulas like averages and sums. The more powerful packages can have over a billion cells with such advanced formula functions as standard deviation. The main factor to consider when buying a spreadsheet is price. If a spreadsheet has the formula functions needed and any other features wanted like graphics then the only concern is price and remember that most spreadsheets share the same basic set of formula functions.

Desktop Publishing

Desktop publishing packages are programs that are designed to help layout and format a page of text, usually for publication. These programs are usually not endowed with the features useful for entering and manipulating individual pieces of text, like those found in word processing packages because that is not their main function. The desktop publishing program is equipped to handle such things as mixing text and graphics from various programs onto the same page, controlling the appearance of the text, such as fonts, and generally do all of the formatting necessary to take a word processing file and make it look like it was a type set for inclusion in a publication. The distinction between desktop publishing and word processing programs is blurry. The more powerful word processing packages are acquiring rudimentary page layout skills. At the same time, the more powerful desktop programs are becoming more capable in manipulating individual pieces of text. As these packages have become more powerful, a new group of desktop publishing programs has emerged. These new programs are far less complicated and more suitable for home and small business use than their counterparts. Consult you local dealer to find out which package has the features you need.

Accounting

There are several accounting packages available for personal computers. These range in price is from about $100 to several hundred dollars. The features they have may be appropriate for either home use or businesses use. Some are even adapted for use by non-profit organizations or other groups with special accounting needs. The home use accounting programs are good for balancing the family budget. Some of these have additional features like check writing and electronic banking making personal finances almost painless. The business programs have the more advanced accounting features that are related to having multiple books open at once and computing payroll and linking accounting information such as cells to inventory. The menu or command structure varies greatly between packages so there are multiple options even when the needed level of power and features have been decided. Consult your local dealer to find out which packages are best suited for your accounting needs.

Database Management

Database management packages are programs that are designed to store and manipulate tables or lists of information. These packages not only vary in the way they store and retrieve information, but also in the way a user can access it. For example, a simple database program may allow a user to create several tables of information such as a client list and a salesperson list. Such a program is called a “flatfile” database program. A more powerful database program may also allow the tables to be linked so that the user can track which salesperson is in charge of certain clients. This type of program is loosely termed a “relational” database. A still more powerful database can have its known programming language and allow a custom set of menus to be built for others to more easily get at the information in the client and salesperson tables. There are currently several competing packages at each of these levels of sophistication. Prices run an equally wide spectrum. Flatfile databases can cost as little as about $100. A relational package with its own programming language can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars. Consult your local dealer for more information on which type of package is best suited for your needs.

Computer Education for All Ages

There are several packages available for educating people in a wide variety of subjects. These programs come in several varieties, including games that teach, guided tutorials and interactive tutorials. The games that teach can be anything from a space invaders-like game to one that teaches spelling, to simulation programs. The simulation programs allow one to explore various situations with surprising technical accuracy, otherwise unavailable or hazardous to the user. These include piloting a plane, submarine, space shuttle, or tank. Other simulations may include scenarios for diving or exploring a foreign land. The guided tutorial programs usually take a single path approach to learning. They guide the user through a subject in a set series of steps. There are usually provisions made for different levels of detail or different levels of understanding. The next step up in sophistication is the interactive tutorial which not only allows for different levels of detail, but imposes no set series of questions to ask, or problems to pose. This form of tutorial is considered the best though there are many award winning guided tutorials for subjects where the interactive approach is confusing. Basically, the computer gives the choice today of not only what to learn but how to learn it. Consult your local dealer for specific titles in different subjects.

Computer Games

Games are the single largest software category for the personal computer today. Games are usually separated by type into one of four categories. They are simulations, arcade games, adventure games, and numerous hybrids. The simulation programs allow one to explore various situations with surprising technical accuracy, otherwise unavailable or hazardous to the user. These include piloting a plane, submarines, space shuttle, or tank. Other simulations may include scenarios for diving or exploring a foreign land. The arcade games are either a personal computer version of a popular video game or can be any of the hundreds of the so-called “shoot-em-up” games. The adventure games are usually based on either a medieval saga or a roving starfighter plot. There are other games that quite simply, but capably, replicate a physical game classic. These include the programs that play chess, checkers, Chinese checkers, and countless card games. The advantage to having then on the computer, not only lies in the speed and ease of setting up or resetting up a game, but in that the computer can act as a second player, if needed. The important thing to note about game programs is that because of their graphics oriented nature, the type of hardware a user owns determines which games can be used, and what level of detail is to be expected. Consult your local dealer to find out which titles are available for your type of hardware.

Integrated Packages

An integrated package is a program that attempts to offer some of the features found in each of the basic computing areas; word processing, spreadsheets, database management, graphics, and usually also, communication. The advantage to buying this type of package lies in the consistency between the different types of programs. Whereas, buying a spreadsheet from one vendor and a database program from another, will usually mean having to learn two separate sets of commands. An integrated package uses the same commands where appropriate across its different modules. There is another advantage in price. The integrated package usually costs much less than buying the equivalent in individual programs. The only major disadvantage to buying this type of program is that it normally compromises features in order to be small enough and fast enough to run on the more common, but lesser equipped personal computers. The new user of personal computers is strongly advised to try using an integrated package before using separate ones. This will get a person producing actual results faster.

Graphical User Interface (GUI’S)

A graphical user interface is simply a program that allows a different approach to entering commands to your computer. Whereas, some computers accept typed commands with lists of options typed accordingly, a computer running a graphical user interface allows a user to point to command and their appropriate option. This sometimes requires a pointing device such as a mouse in order to work. There are graphical interfaces for many computers, and some computers are made to only work in one. The advantage to using a graphical interface is that it brings more consistency to the various programs being run on a specific computer. A graphical interface does this by setting rules for program writers to follow so that the similar commands in their programs appear in similar places in the interface, and function the same. As you can see, one needs to purchase programs written to take advantage of these rules in order to get the most out of the graphical interface. Graphical interfaces also have the advantage of being easier to learn than their typed counterpart, depending on the particular interface. The major generic disadvantage to graphical interfaces is they usually require more computing horsepower than most users own. This means that most users will also have to buy more hardware to get a graphical interface to work on their system. Consult your local dealer to find out which graphical interfaces are available for your computer.

Telecommuting

Telecommuting is the process by which someone can work away from the office, usually at home, and send in completed work over the phone line through a modem as it is finished. While still very new, many employers are finding that telecommunicating can raise productivity significantly. This is because telecommuting allows the employee to avoid wasting time physically commuting to the office, and giving the worker a chance to work in a more comfortable environment. The worker also has the fringe benefit of flexible self-set hours, though the employee must be a self-starter. Many writers and programmers in this country are currently telecommuting to work regularly. Some are even telecommuting into this country from across the world. Telecommuting can be adapted for a variety of positions in a variety of professions. The only requirement is the work should be able to be completed by one individual who needs no direct supervision. There are a few areas to watch out for when setting up a new telecommuting group, such things as regular office visits or meetings to keep a sense of organization, and regular status calls in the beginning to get the workers familiar with the setup. For some organizations telecommuting, has forever increased profits and morale without giving up control and consistency.

Do You Need More Computer Memory or RAM?

We would like to help you decide whether your need to add more memory to your computer. Exactly how much memory, or RAM is a difficult question to answer unless you know exactly what you are going to use your computer for, and what kind of performance you expect from it. Most of today’s games and productivity software requires at the minimum, twelve megabytes of RAM. Since standard computers come with sixteen megabytes of RAM, it’s usually not necessary to purchase additional RAM unless you want to increase computer performance. In contrast, some CAD software applications require thirty-two megs or higher of RAM. XXXX suggests you pay attention to the system requirements of the software when you purchase it to help determine how much RAM you will need. The other important reason your may want to purchase additional RAM is that it will allow you to increase system performance.

What is Multi Media?

We would like to explain exactly what multi media is, and how it impacts your computing capabilities. Basic multi media is defined as a CD-ROM player, sound card and speakers. These three devices work together to form an interactive means to combine high-end graphics, motion video and real-time audio playback. The CD-ROM plays an important role because it can hold the larger amount of data that is required for high-definition video and graphics in many games and powerful programs. A CD-ROM player may also be necessary because more and more popular software programs are being distributed in this durable format. The sound card and speakers contribute to the multi media package because they allow you to hear sound from your software program. Sound effects enhance the interactive aspect of computer use. XXXX knowledgeable staff can give you information on new multi media computing systems or offer advice on upgrading your current system.

When is More Video RAM Necessary?

We would like to help you decide when more video RAM is needed for your computer system. Many computer buyers are requesting higher performance video cards, which have more RAM, with their computer systems because they believe their machine will run faster. If you purchase, or already own a computer with a smaller-sized monitor, for instance – a 14-inch or less, on a meg of RAM, which is standard, will be adequate. If your purchase, or already own a larger-sized monitor, for instance, a 15-inch or larger, you may be running your monitor at a higher resolution so your computer will require more video memory. Another instance for which additional high-performance video RAM may be needed is when running 3-dimensional games and CAD programs. Additional vide RAM will increase overall system performance when using these software programs. Knowledgeable staff can provide you with more information on video RAM or offer advice on whether your need to upgrade your system.

What is the MMX Processor?

would like to provide you with information on Intel’s MMX processor. The latest microprocessor by Intel is the MMX CPU. It claims to increase system performance in two ways. First, they have added more internal cache memory, which increases processing speed. The second way Intel has increase system performance is the addition of 57 new opcodes to the CPU. When these additional opcodes are used by MMX-capable software, up to a twenty percent increase in system performance is possible. At this time, very few software programs are available with the MMX technology. It is predicted that a greater number of MMX programs will be available in the future.

Hardware

What Is a Disk?

A disk is a type of storage device used by computers to hold information until needed for use by the computer. This information can be either programs or data. Disks come in two varieties, the floppy disk and the hard disk. The floppy disk is used to store relatively small amounts of data and are commonly used to move files between computers. The hard disk is used to store much more data, but is usually physically installed inside a computer and can not as easily be moved.

Monochrome Monitors

A monochrome monitor is a monitor that uses only one color to display information. Most monitors of this type use either green, amber, or white to display information on a black background. There are some monitors of this type called page white displays that use black to display information on a white background. The page white display is preferred by some because it more closely mimics the printed page. A newer form of a monochrome monitor called a gray scale monitor uses either amber or white to display information on a black background. The difference is that a gray scale monitor can produce shades of a given color to more closely simulate color displays. Monochrome monitors are sometimes preferred for work with word processing or other text based programs.

Color Monitors

There are different types of color monitors designed to work with different computers. Some types of computers have several different types of color monitors to choose from. When choosing a monitor, one factor is the resolution that a screen can provide. This resolution is determined by the number of dots or pixels (pick-sels) a monitor has. Different monitors also have different numbers of possible colors. A specific combination of how many dots and colors are available for the computer to work with is called a graphics standard. The graphics standard a computer uses is determined by the controller for the monitor called a video card. The different color monitors are built to work with a certain graphics standard and a certain video card. The number of pixels and number of possible colors usually increase together. Where the early monitors had only four colors and about 300,000 pixels, the newer systems have over two and a half times as many pixels with 64 times as many colors. The type of monitor needed will be determined by your computer hardware and what type of work you are doing.

Plotters

A plotter is a device that uses one or more pins moved over a page to produce graphics from a personal computer. They are not well suited to producing a page of text because the pins are very narrow pointed and are more expensive to replace than dot matrix printer ribbons. The plotter is, however, the best at producing wire framed graphics, as it can produce tree diagonals and curves because the plotter’s pins move in two axis of motion rather than one like the grid of the dot matrix printer. This is done by moving the paper back and forth under a stationary bar, along which the pins move, or by a bar which moves up and down the page while the pin moves across the bar. Some plotters can also work with very large page sizes and work with many colors. Plotters are normally used only in offices where technical documents such as blueprints and schematics need to be produced because of the plotter’s high price and suitability only for graphics.

Portable Printers

A portable printer is a dot matrix, or thermal transfer printer, that is small enough to be easily carried while traveling. These printers are essentially the same as larger dot matrix printers. Some exceptions include slower printing speeds, and a slight loss of quality in print. Most users of portable printers use them with a laptop computer while traveling or share them among multiple computers in an office for printing preliminary drafts where the print quality is not a major factor.

Modems

A modem is a device that converts the digital signals generated by the computer’s serial port to the modulated, analog signals required for transmission over a telephone line, and transforms incoming analog signals to their digital equivalents. In personal computing, people frequently use modems to exchange programs and data with other computers, and to access online information services.

Local Area Networks (LAN’S)

A local area network, or LAN, is a combination of hardware and software that allows multiple computers to share resources. Such resources might be laser printers or large disk drives that are sometimes too expensive to equip every computer in an organization with. A LAN also allows multiple users on multiple computers to work together more effectively by sharing messages and documents over the LAN. There are a number of decisions that need to be made in order to choose the right combination of hardware and software to make a LAN. Consult your local computer or network dealer for more information.

What Is a Mouse?

A mouse is a rolling ball housed in a hand held box that is used to control the computer. It allows the user to move more quickly through menus and large bodies of text than the arrow keys found on most keyboards. Using a mouse to select choices from program menus is often easier for new computer users than memorizing the key combinations to activate a specific option. The mouse can also be used to modify graphics more easily than with the keyboard. However, the mouse can only be used with the programs that are written to take advantage of it.

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