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Articles of Interest to PC Entrepreneurs
Any of these articles may be republished by other newsletter, magazine or ezine publishers as long as they are posted intact with all credits. If you are an author and would like an article added to this list, email the article in HTML format to mtims(at)matcopublishing.com
Michael A. Tims
Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE PC
There has been a lot of progress in making personal computers more user friendly, but many people are still uncomfortable when faced with these modern day wonders. This series of articles will try to demystify these helpful, yet sometimes intimidating, electronic wonders.
IBM introduced their Personal Computer to the American public in 1981, and almost immediately the small personal computer gained a new measure of respect. What used to be a "glorified toy", usually home built by electronics hobbists, was found to be a serious machine capable of performing real work which was once only able to be done by the larger more powerful main-frame computers.
The original IBM PC came with an 8088 CPU (Central Processing Unit or main chip) and ran at a snail's pace, having a clock speed of only 4.77 MHz. Pretty slow when compared to today's speed demons running Pentium CPU's at up to 100 MHz. The first PCs came with a monochrome monitor, 640 Kilobytes of RAM memory or less, and a single 5.25" floppy disk drive that used single sided disks which would only hold about 160 Kilobytes of data. Although far from an ideal computer or the powerful workhorse of today, it did show what could be accomplished with a personal computer and marked the start of the personal computer explosion.
IBM decided to use what is called "Open Architecture" which allowed third party manufacturers to get in on the action. This resulted in the development of many hardware enhancements that might never have come about otherwise and which greatly improved on the original IBM design.
The first PC also came with a powerful new set of operating instructions for the microprocessor developed by Microsoft, called the Disk Operating System or DOS for short. While PC's can run many different operating systems, DOS became the most popular. Having one operating system opened the way for the development of complex software programs, allowing PC DOS machines, both IBMs and compatibles, to perform many complex tasks. Today, PC's from dozens of different manufacturers, all able to run the same software, can be found in nearly every country of the world. An estimated 120 million American households already have IBM, or compatible, PCs. Many millions more are used in businesses each and every day.
COMPUTER SYSTEMS - WHICH SYSTEM IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
As with most questions of this nature, there is not just one easy answer. First of all, you must ask yourself what you intend to do with the computer? Simply keeping one's checkbook or writing correspondence does not require a very powerful computer, whereas complicated jobs such as accessing and maintaining large databases or working on large intricate spreadsheets would require more computing power.
A BEGINNERS system might consist of a 80286 CPU (Central Processing Unit or main computing chip) running at 12-14 MHz with 1 meg of RAM and would be suitable for small databases, simple spreadsheets, limited word processing, etc. Today, the 286 would be considered a BASIC or STARTER COMPUTER. It would normally come with one 1.2 MB, 5.25" floppy drive or one 1.44 MB 3.5" floppy drive. It would have EGA or VGA Graphics, a 40+ Mb Hard Drive and perhaps a 13" or 14" Monochrome monitor. The 286 would be a poor choice for graphics intensive programs or for use with Windows.
A GOOD system might consist of a 80386SX CPU running at 33 MHZ with 2-4 meg of RAM. This computer would be suitable for larger spreadsheets, larger databases, general word processing and perhaps basic graphics applications. It might come with one 1.2 MB 5.25" drive or one 1.44 MB 3.5" drive. It will normally have VGA or Super VGA Graphics and at least a 80Mb Hard Drive. A 13" or 14" Monochrome or Color Interlaced Monitor would be standard. If you opt for Super VGA Graphics, be sure the monitor you get is a Non-interlaced Color Monitor which will have the best resolution for sharper detail and less eye strain. Monitors with the smallest dot pitch, .28 or less, produce the best pictures with the least eye strain.
A VERY GOOD system would have a 80386 CPU running at 33-66 MHz with 4+ meg of RAM and would make a good choice for most Windows applications, Desktop Publishing and other graphics intensive applications. With a separate math coprocessor, this system would be good for math intensive spreadsheet applications as well as graphics intensive programs. The system should come with both a 1.2 MB 5.25" drive & a 1.44 MB 3.5" drive. Super VGA Graphics would be standard on a system of this caliber, with a 14" or greater Non-interlaced Monitor for flicker free viewing. At least a 200 Mb Hard Drive or larger would be recommended. A Tape Backup system is also a wise investment. If planning to use Windows, increase memory to 8 Meg or more and use a Mouse as your pointing device. A track ball be a good alternative.
An EXCELLENT system would consist of either a 80386 and separate math coprocessor or a 80486 (with built in math coprocessor) running at 33 to 66 MHz with 8 meg of RAM. This system would be ideal for Windows applications as well as Desktop Publishing and other graphics intensive applications. This setup would also come with both a 1.2 MB 5.25" drive and a 1.44 Mb 3.5" drive. Super VGA Graphics, a 200+ Mb Hard Drive along with a Tape Backup system is also recommended. At least a 14" or greater non-interlaced monitor is recommended as well. If using Windows, increase memory to 8 Meg or more. Use either a Mouse or Track Ball as your pointing device. Suitable for complex graphic applications as well as Windows.
The ULTIMATE system would consist of a Pentium (aka 586) running at 100 MHz and 8 (or more) Meg of RAM. This system is currently the most powerful PC available and would do any job required of a personal computer. Combine the Pentium with dual floppie drives, a large (500 Meg or more) hard drive and a 14" or larger Super VGA non-interlaced monitor, and you would probably not have to ever upgrade your computer system.
Since the beginning, two main standards in personal computers have evolved. Apple Computer actually had the first commercially successful personal computer. Once IBM introduced its own personal computer in 1981, there were two standards for the PC.
Apple computers use a built-in GUI whereby a user chooses pictures, or icons, to carry out commands, open files, etc., rather than requiring the user to type out commands at the command line. Because of it's high resolution, it has also gained favor in high resolution graphics applications such as CAD/CAM and desktop publishing.
IBM's and compatibles, on the other hand, have won the approval of the business world. The main differences between the two platforms deal with technical differences in the CPUs. What is important to remember is that hardware and software are system dependent. You cannot use hardware or software for one type of PC on the other and you cannot easily exchange data between the two standards.
The good news is that the same software programs are usually available for either computer standard. Because the IBM standard has become the PC of choice for business, this series of articles will deal mainly with the IBM standard, although most of the information could be applied to either IBM or Apple computers.
Chapter 2 Introduction to the PC (Continued)
A PC has two kinds of memory. ROM (Read Only Memory) is a permanent type of memory and contains computer setup instructions. You cannot change what is in ROM memory; the PC can read what is in ROM, but cannot write new instructions to it.
RAM or Random Access Memory is the second kind of memory a computer needs in order to operate. RAM is a volatile or temporary type of memory. Programs or other data can be loaded into RAM to be acted upon or used. If the information in RAM is not saved to a more permanent storage, such as a hard or floppy disk, the information will be lost when the computer is shut off. Personal computers can have as little as 640 Kilobytes to as much as 128 Megabytes of RAM.
How much RAM memory you need on your system depends on how complex your software programs are. As programs get more sophisticated and contain more graphics, video and audio components; they require more and more RAM. The first PCs had just 640 Kilobytes of RAM and the programs of the day ran just fine. A couple of years ago, two megabytes of RAM was about all you needed for most programs. A "large" program might have consisted of 300 Kilobytes. Today, however, more and more programs require 4 megabytes of RAM just to run. Most software packages, nowadays, are collections of different programs that work together and is sold as a complete software package. An example might be one of the powerful word processors available today. They typically have a hundred or more different files making up the software package.
Nowadays, your system should have a minimum of 4 Megabytes of RAM in order to be able to run just about any program you may want. Even Windows will "run" with 4 Meg of RAM. However, if you will be Multitasking using Windows (running more than one application at a time) or using graphics intensive programs, 8 Megabytes of RAM is more realistic.
The subject of how RAM memory is set up can be quite confusing since the different types are called by several different names. There is Conventional, Extended and Expanded memory.
The first megabyte of memory in your PC is divided into two main sections: conventional memory (the first 640 kilobytes) and upper memory (the rest of the megabyte or 384 kilobytes). Conventional memory is where DOS and DOS programs run. Upper memory is used to store things like video display information, but (with memory management) can be used to hold some DOS, some device drivers, and even complete programs if they are small enough.
Memory beyond the first megabyte is called Extended Memory. How much Extended Memory your computer can use is determined by the type of processor you have. The older 8086 or 8088 PCs could not access extended memory. Machines running 80286 can address up to 16 megabytes of memory. Those CPUs numbered 386SX and above can access considerably more than 16 megabytes of extended memory.
There is another kind of memory called expanded memory. On older 8088 or 80286 CPU machines, you needed to install a special card with memory chips on it configured as expanded memory. All 80386SX or above machines can use some of it's extended memory as expanded memory. That is if a software package needs the expanded memory. Use of a memory manager such as EMM386 makes the configuration of extended memory into expanded memory automatic. Lately, the importance of expanded memory has been decreasing with fewer programs being written that need it. Generally speaking, unless you know that a particular software package needs expanded memory, all your memory above the first megabyte should be configured as extended memory.
At first glance, it would seem that most monitors must be pretty much alike. After all they do look like small plain TV sets don't they? In reality, there are many differences such as screen size, resolution and dot pitch, as well as whether it is color or monochrome.
While the average screen sizes of monitors run 14 or 15 inches, the type of work you expect to do on your computer may eventually make the difference in which size you need. ie. If you are using a computer for graphic design, you may want a larger screen.
The resolution of the picture is also an important consideration in the decision process. Resolution refers to the sharpness of the image on-screen. Resolution is expressed in the number of pixels or number of dots that make up the image on the screen. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and the more detailed the screen image can be.
Dot pitch is also important in deciding which monitor you might need or want. Dot pitch refers to the amount of space between pixels, measured in millimeters. A average dot pitch would be in the .30 millimeter range, with the lower the number the sharper the picture. Too large a dot pitch and the images take on a blocky look.
As mentioned earlier, the first PCs came with monochrome monitors which only allowed you to see black or white along with one other color. Today, almost all systems come with color monitors.
Depending on the resolution, a monitor gets it's image information from an additional circuit board inside your computer called a graphics adapter card. The three earliest color adapter cards were the CGA (Color Graphics Adapter), EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter) and VGA (Video Graphics Adapter). Each differed in how many colors it could reproduce as well as the resolution it had. Nowadays the standards have been raised by the introduction of the Super VGA, Ultra VGA and the XGA (Extended Graphics Array).
The following chart illustrates the improvement in resolution with the introduction of each color monitor standard.
CGA 320 pixels X 200 pixels EGA 640 X 350 VGA 640 X 480 SVGA 800 X 600 UVGA 1,024 X 768 XGA 1,024 X 768
You may want to keep in mind that the highest resolution monitors may make the images seem smaller on screen because they are sharper and you may want to go to a larger monitor to compensate for this fact.
One last thing on monitors is whether it is interlaced or non-interlaced. Interlaced monitors repaint (refresh) their screens in alternate lines. ie., row 1 then row 3, etc., then it goes back and does the even lines. This all happens 60 times every second and can produce a noticeable flicker in resolutions above VGA. A non-interlaced monitor, on the other hand, refreshes at a faster rate, which results in flicker free picture.
A modem, short for MOdulator-DEModulator, is a device that lets one computer communicate with other modem-equipped computers anywhere in the world over regular telephone lines. A modem lets you access information on other computer systems rather than being limited to just your own system.
There are two types of modems, internal and external. The internally mounted modem takes up one of the expansion slots inside your computer and is slightly less expensive than the externally mounted type which connects to the computer through one of it's serial ports. In addition to the regular modem, there are also fax/modems which not only have the capabilities of a standard modem but also the ability to send and receive faxes right from your computer.
The price of a modem or fax/modem is usually determined by its speed as well as whether it is an internal or external type. Speed of a modem or fax/modem is expressed in bits per second (or BPS), with the common speeds being 2400, 4800, 9600 and 14,400 BPS. Faster modems at 19,200 and even 28,800 BPS are also currently being produced. The faster modems, although more expensive initially, may save you money in the long run by saving you on connect time during file transfers. For example, a 2400 bps modem can transfer a 300 kilobyte file in 16.67 minutes, while a 14,400 bps modem can transfer the same file in only 2.78 minutes.
With a modem, you can join online services such as CompuServe, GEnie, American Online, Delphi, Prodigy, and others. Through these services, an individual can gain access to the Internet, a vast world wide network of computer databases containing a storehouse of information. With most online services, you pay a monthly fee for their basic services, like e-mail (electronic note transfers), special interest forums, etc. Additionally, most online services add on extra fees for access to the Internet or other premium services. Most of the larger online services have local phone numbers, at least in the larger cities, making connection easy and less expensive than having to place long distance calls online.
There are also hundreds of privately, as well as company owned and operated, Bulletin Board Services (BBS's) that you would be able to access with your PC and modem. Many are run by computer enthusiasts for fun and allow others free access to them. Many have hundreds to thousands of shareware software files which are free to download to your own computer, as well as other features a computer enthusiast might be interested in.
Chapter 3 COMPUTER PERIPHERALS (Continued)
Soon after the introduction of the PC it became apparent that in order to fully realize it's potential, some means of producing hard copy (printed pages) was needed and the computer printer industry was born.
Simply put, printers are devices for producing hard copy and are connected to a PC through either a serial or parallel port (cable connection). Most computers are supplied with one or two serial ports called Com1 and Com2 as well as at least one parallel port which is usually called LPT1. If more ports are required for other peripheral devices, two more serial ports can be added (Com3 & Com4) as well as additional parallel ports (LPT2 or LPT3). To add new ports, you must install additional circuit boards to the inside of the computer.
Most printers are connected to a computer's parallel port, the parallel interface being much faster than the serial interface. With the parallel interface, one wire is used for each of the data bits so 8 bits (one byte) may be sent simultaneously. With the serial interface, each bit is sent over a pair of wires, one after the other with start and stop bits to indicate the beginning and end of each byte.
In the beginning, only daisy wheel and dot matrix printers were available to the PC owner. Both of these printers are impact types of printers where pins or hammers strike an inked ribbon and then the paper, leaving an impression on the paper. The daisy wheel printer was nothing more than a converted electric typewriter and although the print quality was excellent they were noisy and very slow.
DOT MATRIX PRINTERS
The Dot Matrix Printer creates characters by hammering small blunt ended wires or "pins" into a ribbon and onto the paper. The pattern of the pins (matrix of dots) creating an impression on the paper. Low end dot matrix printers have 9 pins in their print heads while the higher end printers have 24 pins. The greater number of pins provides for higher quality of printing as they put more dots into a given amount of space. The higher quality of dot matrix printing is referred to as Letter Quality (LQ) or Near Letter Quality (NLQ) printing.
The quality of printing or resolution of a printer refers to the number of dots per inch (DPI) they can put down when forming characters. The greater their dpi the better the quality of printing. Most 9 pin dot matrix printers only offer about 180 by 180 dpi and therefore are poor choices for document printing or other important printing needs. Although 24 pin dot matrix printers provide up to 360 by 360 dpi, their output is still rather ragged because of the technology involved with making the characters out of a matrix of dots. For serious work, one of the non-impact type printers is a better choice.
Although dot matrix printers suffer in print quality, they still have their advantages over other types of printers. For one thing, you can buy a 9 pin dot matrix printer for less than $200 making it a good choice for the novice computer owner. The cost per page of printing (cost of consumables or the supplies you must periodically replace) is also quite low for the dot matrix printer, being on the order of about a half cent per page compared to a laser printer's 3-5 cents per page. The only consumable is the ribbon itself and most are quite reasonable in cost. One other reason for the dot matrix printer's continued popularity is it's ability to print multi-part forms (make carbon copies), something that non-impact type printers are unable to do.
Other than it's low print quality, there is one other drawback to the dot matrix printer. They are noisy, typically producing a noise level of about 95 decibels. Many users reduce printer noise by placing the printer in an insulated box.
INK JET PRINTERS
Being non-impact type printers, the ink jet printer is quieter in operation while still producing print that is higher in quality than the dot matrix printer. The ink jet printer has a print head containing a bunch of holes called nozzles. When a nozzle is heated, the ink bubbles up. Then when the bubble bursts, ink is sprayed out of the nozzle.
The resolution of ink jet printers is in the 360 by 360 dpi range, although the quality of print is much better than for dot matrix printers of the same resolution. The dots produced by the ink jet spread slightly as they hit the paper so the ink jet letters look smoother than the dot matrix letters.
The consumable for the ink jet printer is it's ink cartridge, putting their cost per page at slightly less than a penny a page. A little more expensive to operate than the dot matrix, but still less than a laser printer per page of printing. At prices starting less than $300, ink jet printers have been called the poor man's laser printer, offering almost laser print quality at a reasonable cost.
The only real disadvantage to the ink jet printer is it's speed, being considerably slower than a dot matrix printer. If you can live with the slower speed, perhaps the ink jet should be your choice of printers.
LASER AND LED PRINTERS
Both the Laser printer and the LED printer use similar technologies to produce high quality printing. Although the resolution of low end laser printers is only 300 by 300 dpi, the quality of print is much higher thanks to the ability of the dry toner dots to run together when they are heated, or fused. Laser printers are now being produced with 600 by 600 dpi resolution, while still costing less than $1000. Higher end laser printers, with resolutions up to 1,200 by 1,200 dpi, are also available although their price tags can go as high as $7,000 or more.
A laser printer works by a laser beam being aimed by a moving mirror onto a revolving drum causing an electrical charge on the drum. The electrical charge attracts dry ink, called toner. The toner is then transferred to the paper. The page then goes through a heating unit which fuses the ink onto the paper. Because the toner dots run together when it is fused, the characters' edges appear smoother, even more so than for ink jet printers.
The LED printer uses LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to electrically charge the drum by being turned on and off as the drum rolls past them. The remaining technologies are similar for the two types of printers.
Speed of printing is measured by the number of characters per second (CPS) in both dot matrix and ink jet printers, but is measured in pages per minute (PPM) for laser and LED printers. Dot matrix and ink jet printers print character by character, line by line, whereas laser printers create an image of a whole page at one time and then print out the whole page. Even the slowest laser printers that print out only 4 pages per minute are about four to eight times faster than a 24 pin dot matrix printer in near letter quality mode. The fastest laser printers can produce hard copy in excess of 20 pages per minute.
Color printing for the PC is one of the fastest changing technologies in computing today. Quality is going up while prices are falling to a point where they are affordable to the average computer user. As with monochrome (black and white) printers, color printers come in a wide range of resolutions and technologies used to produce color output.
COLOR DOT MATRIX PRINTERS
If all you need is spot color to spruce up your charts, posters, banners, cards, etc., perhaps an inexpensive color dot matrix printer will fill the bill. The resolution is not very high and depends on whether the printer has 9 or 24 pins, just as for a black only printer. Color is provided by using a 4 color ribbon (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) and a special color print driver which interprets color printing information coming from the PC's software. More than the four basic colors can be provided by mixing the basic colors. The pins strike the ribbon on a different color band on multiple passes of the print head and the colors blend together forming the new color.
LIQUID INK JET COLOR PRINTERS
Color ink jet printers using liquid ink have gained a new popularity lately, not only because of the increases in color quality but because their prices have been falling rapidly as well. The technology involved with using liquid ink in four basic colors is basically the same as for monochrome ink jet printers. Cartridges of the four basic colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) are connected to nozzles in the 4 printheads. As a nozzle containing the proper color ink is heated, a bubble is formed and as it bursts, it sprays the ink onto the paper. An almost infinite number of colors can be created by additive mixing of the four basic colors of ink.
Other technology improvements like faster color printing, ease of printer use, better ability to print on plain paper, better light fastness, and improved water fastness have also made liquid ink jet color printers more popular.
Resolution of the latest wave of liquid ink jet color printers put out by such manufacturers as Hewlett Packard, Canon, Apple, DEC, Lexmark, Tektronix, Texas Instrument and Xerox has hovered around the 300 by 300 dpi range. One notable exception is the Epson Color Stylus printer which claims a 720 by 720 dpi resolution.
With prices for liquid ink jet color printers in the $350 to $800 range, it just might be the time to "go color".
SOLID INK JET COLOR PRINTERS
Also known as phase change printing technology, solid ink jet color printers are showing promise of catching the liquid ink jet printers. These printers use heat to melt the solid ink, which at room temperature has the consistency of a hard crayon. Once the heated ink hits the paper (or any other medium) it cools almost instantly. It has been said that this technology has almost the simplicity of liquid ink jets without the drying time inherent in those type color printers.
Advantages of this technology include medium independency which can produce vibrant color printing on just about any medium such as transparencies or plain paper. On the negative side is the slowness of printing, higher pricing than liquid ink jets and the tendency for the colors to fade when exposed to sunlight.
COLOR LASER PRINTERS
The biggest disadvantage to this color printing technology is the high price. At the time of this writing, the HP Color LaserJet was running at more than $7,000. Prohibitively high for most PC owners. Desktop color lasers are also being produced by QMS, Xerox and Tektronix at similarly high prices.
Additionally, there are other difficulties with the current color laser printing technology. First, changing the toner cartridges is quite messy. Secondly, they seem to be rather fragile mechanically, needing more service than what most users would expect. Other difficulties include low print quality and slow print speed (on the order of two full color pages per minute). Of course these disadvantages are being addressed by the various manufacturers as this is written.
THERMAL WAX TRANSFER COLOR PRINTERS
Thermal wax transfer (TTP) technology is one of the fastest printing color technologies available, but it is not without it's disadvantages. These printers not only carry a rather high price tag, the cost per page is also quite high, requiring special paper as well as having to use a full block of transfer ribbon for each page that is printed. These ribbons are produced under special licensing arrangements which make them more expensive.
Anyone that needs high print quality in a color printer might consider the thermal wax transfer printer in spite of their high initial cost and associated higher price per printed page.
DYE SUBLIMATION COLOR PRINTERS
Dye sublimation type color printer technology is the clear leader in producing photographic quality color printing, but like the thermal wax transfer technology it is not without it's drawbacks. It also is quite an expensive type of printer and likewise it's per page cost is also high. It similarly uses special photographic quality paper and, like thermal transfer printers, special dye sublimation color ribbons. The ribbons are not quite as expensive as those for TTP printers, however, but still not considered cheap.
Like the thermal transfer printer, the high quality color output of the dye sublimation color printer might fill the bill for some specialized niche in the color printing field.
It would seem that all the major desktop color printers have their strengths as well as weaknesses which their manufacturers are working hard to correct. By the end of the decade you should see fast, clean and easy to use color printers available at prices more affordable to the average PC owner. Page costs will fall while color quality will continue to go up for each of the color printing technologies. Color printing will become available to any PC owner who wants to put a little color in their printing.
Chapter 4 COMPUTER PERIPHERALS (Continued)
HARD DISK DRIVES
Once an expensive option when purchasing a computer, even a 40 Meg hard drive was considered a luxury. Nowadays, all computers sold come with a hard disk drive, with most being in the 400+ meg category. Where once a hard disk was a luxury, it soon became a necessity. Not only is a hard disk faster to access data than floppy drives, they hold so much more data that it would be impractical to try to run the newer (and larger) software programs from floppy drives. The typical hard drive is located inside the computer case and the only time you know it is running is when you see it's tiny access light blinking when the drive is being accessed. Most computer cases have room for two or more hard disk drives inside, but there are also externally mounted and connected hard disk drives available for those people who have an aversion to opening the computer case to install a hard disk drive. Also available are removable hard drives, where the hard disk can be easily removed from the drive. This makes it possible to lock your valuable data away at night or to move data easily from one computer to another.
HARD DISK CRASHES
Everyone it seems has heard the term and at one time just the mention of the term brought cold sweat to a computer owner. But just because hard disk drives (or hard drives for short) are made much better and seem to last longer, don't be lulled into a false sense of security. Keep in mind that sooner or later EVERY hard drive WILL fail. Any type of hard drive failure has come to be known as a "hard disk crash".
When a hard disk fails, it can happen without any warning and can cause much, if not all, of your valuable data to be lost. This is why it cannot be overly emphasized, backup your hard disk often. Some early signs of hard disk problems include taking longer and longer to load programs or files. You might even start getting error messages (on screen) reporting difficulty in finding or loading files.
The disk operating system, DOS for short, contains the software which writes files to the hard disk and is designed to make maximum use of hard disk space. When a file is written to disk, DOS breaks the file up and puts the "clusters" here, there and anywhere there is room on the disk. It keeps track of all the file clusters in a File Allocation Table or FAT for short. You only see one file listed in the directory but the file is really scattered all over the hard disk. Having a file broken into several parts is called File Fragmentation. Over time, the hard disk becomes so fragmented that it slows down file loading and searching, and makes the hard disk work harder. Sooner or later, it will become noticeably slower and you may have to "clean up" your hard disk drive.
There are several good utility programs on the market (Norton Utilities for one) designed to defragment your disk as well as attempt to "repair" other types of hard disk damage or problems. Use of one of these defragmentation programs can restore disk access speed by putting all file clusters back into continuous files.
LOST AND CROSS-LINKED CLUSTERS
The File Allocation Table was mentioned above. It keeps track of all the clusters or segments of the different files on your hard disk. Occasionally, a cluster becomes "lost" or unattached to it's proper file. Sometimes they even become attached (cross-linked) to files they don't belong to. When this happen, you start losing data or programs don't seem to run right, or won't run at all because some vital part of the program can't be found by the FAT.
If you've ever seen that infamous message, "abort, retry or fail", it was probably because the hard drive could not find all of the file it was supposed to be loading. Most people panic when this happens, and for good reason. They usually feel that valuable data has been lost or that a program may have to be reinstalled.
Fortunately, there are utility programs (Norton Utilities, PC Tools, or the shareware "Bakers Dozen") which will hunt for lost or cross-linked clusters and rebuild the File Allocation Table. Many times, this will restore your data. Unfortunately, sometimes it is not 100% successful and some data is permanently lost. That is why it is emphasized so often, backup, backup, backup.
Back when a 40 Meg hard drive was standard, the easiest way to backup the hard drive was to copy everything to floppy disks on a regular basis, say once a week. As hard drives got bigger, it became impractical to backup a 250 Meg (or larger) hard drive to floppy disks. Even using 1.44 Meg High Density floppies, it would take over 2 hundred disks to hold everything. The time factor alone of stuffing floppies into a drive and copying files would be staggering. It is no wonder that people put off the chore of hard disk backup.
Tape Drives were developed to help take the drudgery out of this time consuming but important job for the personal computer user. Newer tape drives handle cassettes which can hold 500 Megs of data when it is compressed. Backup software can even automate the job for the busy user Set the software and backup of the hard drive is done automatically, at the specified time, usually at night when the computer isn't being used.
OTHER INPUT DEVICES
For the purpose of this article, input devices are those which supplement the keyboard, which is the primary input device, and get information into the computer. Other input devices include the mouse, track ball, joystick graphics tablet, scanner, and digital camera.
The most popular accessory input device is the Mouse. A mouse allows you to zip the cursor around your computer screen, indicating where the input should go. In word processing, desktop publishing and spreadsheet programs, the mouse can be used to mark blocks of type, move objects around the screen, move blocks of text, and so much more. While it does take a little practice, it doesn't take too long to become proficient with the mouse.
An alternative to the mouse is the track ball. While the mouse is moved around a mouse pad to move the cursor in a corresponding direction, the track ball stays in one place and the ball is moved with the palm, finger tips or thumb to move the cursor on the screen.
The newest twist to the mouse/track ball device, is a track pad. A small touch surface that lets you move, point, click and highlight with the slightest touch of your finger. As far as pricing goes, a good mouse can be purchased for less than $50.00, with the track ball just a little more and the touch pad in the $80.00 range.
Joysticks are input devices that are mainly used for playing with game oriented software. Some are very simple with a plain stick to move the cursor and two buttons. Others are very sophisticated and remind one of the controls for a fighter jet. In fact, some joysticks ARE replicas of fighter controls for use with flight and fight simulation software.
Hand Scanners allow you to copy clip art, pictures, graphics, text or even photographs to input them to a computer program. The are simple to use, dragging the scanner slowly down the page to be input. Prices for hand scanners are in the $100.00 range. More expensive ($400-$700), but more versatile, the desktop scanner can be used to input entire pages (letter, legal or even 11 by 17 inch sizes) all at once to the computer. Desktop scanners look like small copiers, and in fact work in much the same way. Some are sheet fed, but the most versatile is the flat bed type scanner. Just lift the lid and place the page to be copied face down. The software does the rest. While not a necessity, desktop scanners come in handy for desktop publishing or even text input with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software. A desktop scanner, along with a FAX/Modem can be used to fax documents to other fax machines right from your desktop.
Other peripheral devices include Plotters (large scale printers), Sound cards, Musical Keyboards, and other "toys" being developed for the computer hobbyist. There is even hardware and software available that will take a TV signal and display it in one corner of your monitor screen, if you're too busy to get away from your computer to catch the news (or your favorite soap). You can import VCR images (taped or live) for editing on your PC. Full motion video clips can also be used in recording your own Multimedia productions.
With Writable CDROM and Rewritable Optical recorders being offered at less than $1000, it would seem that these will become the storage medium of choice because of their larger storage capacities. Windows 95 brings true 32 bit programming and true multitasking to the desktop, along with full motion video and other advances in Multimedia. By the time this article is in print, much of the information will be OLD and newer technologies will be promoted as the "best thing since sliced bread".
Chapter 5 SOFTWARE BASICS
The term "software", is a general term referring to all types of programs used to control a computer's operations. Software is basically a set of instructions that the computer uses to perform a specific task. There are software programs to put words onto a page (word processors), programs to combine words and graphics in documents (desktop publishers), programs to perform mathematical calculations (spreadsheets), programs to keep track of huge amounts of information (databases), programs to draw pictures or draft drawings (CADD-CAM), as well as thousands of other specific task programs. There are even utility programs which will help your computer do certain jobs better, easier or faster.
COMMERCIAL SOFTWARE PROGRAMS
These are software programs that are available through retail stores, mail order outlets as well as directly from the manufacturers. Commercial programs are always protected by US Copyright laws and will normally come with a license agreement restricting the use of the software to one computer only. You may make a copy of the software for backup purposes, but making more than one copy or providing a copy for someone else is known as "pirating" and is strictly against the law.
Commercial software programs are the most expensive type of software. Examples might include Lotus 1-2-3 for Windows with a street price of just over $100 or Wordperfect 6.1 for Windows with a street price of about $300. The street price of most commercial software packages is normally 30 to 40% off the manufacturer's suggested retail price.
Commercial software is known for its excellent documentation, as well as thorough beta testing of new version releases. Most software manufacturers offer technical assistance if a user does have trouble with the software. While toll free 800 numbers to technical departments were once offered as incentives to buy. However, there has recently been talk of some of the companies going to 900 numbers where the customer would pay by the minute for technical assistance.
SHAREWARE SOFTWARE PROGRAMS
Shareware is a marketing concept rather than a type of software. Sometimes called "Try-Before-You-Buy" type software, it often rivals or even surpasses commercial software. You can actually try out thousands of well written, bug free computer programs before spending much of your hard-earned money.
After reviewing and using a shareware program for a reasonable trial period you are expected to register the program (the shareware term for paying for the software). Paying the registration fee usually entitles you to the latest (and often improved) version of the program, perhaps a printed manual and/or support from the author.
Shareware is distributed on BBS's by downloading the programs directly to your own computer or through shareware distributors at a price that only covers the cost of duplication, shipping and handling. Prices are somewhere in the $2 to $5 range for each disk in the software package.
Shareware is almost always copyrighted by the authors, but they allow free distribution of their program to others with little or no restrictions as long as you don't modify or otherwise alter the program.
PUBLIC DOMAIN SOFTWARE PROGRAMS
This type of software can be found mainly on BBSs (Bulletin Board Services) but some good public domain programs are also found being distributed by shareware dealers and distributors. What sets public domain software off from shareware is that the authors generally do not copyright their software, instead turning it over to the "Public Domain". It may be freely copied and distributed without any restrictions other than not being able to change any of the software's files.
There is one other type of software program that has been getting a lot of publicity lately. No one wants it, but unfortunately some get a taste of it anyway. It is the "Computer Virus". It seems that some sick programmers have found a way to add secret programs to legitimate software programs. In some cases, these viruses do nothing more than display a harmless message across your monitor's screen. Other viruses are much more harmful. Some are even designed to reformat the hard disk or in some other way wipe out the contents of the hard disk.
It is sad, but new forms of viruses are being discovered every day. While virus infections were once very rare and infrequent, it is fast becoming a serious problem that every computer owner must be aware of. Computer viruses have been transmitted mostly through public domain and shareware programs, but even commercial programs have been infected.
The best advice to give any computer owner is to purchase a good anti-virus program and use it on a regular basis. One of the best anti-virus programs available is a shareware program called "ViruScan", which will automatically scan your complete hard disk for known viruses every time you boot your computer. Using ViruScan, along with another shareware program called "Clean", on a regular basis can give you a lot of peace of mind. Don't get paranoid, but don't get too complacent either.
Another good idea is to only obtain software from a known source. Almost every shareware distributor as well as every BBS sysop (system operator) scans their own software before allowing customers to download or purchase shareware or public domain software. When you do download software, download only to a floppy disk. Then use the virus scanning software on the floppy disk before running any program.
Even with all precautions, your computer may be hit by a virus. It may even become necessary to take extreme measures. You may even be forced into reformatting your hard disk and reinstalling your software from your backup copies in order to get rid of a particularly nasty virus. YOU HAVE BEEN MAKING REGULAR BACK-UP COPIES OF YOUR HARD DISK, HAVEN'T YOU?
Chapter 6 SOFTWARE BASICS (Continued)
Before getting down to any specifics, there are several general considerations for any type of software package:
1. Before you even think about installing a software package, look over the documentation to get a feel for the program and what it does.
2. Even though you may have gotten the program disks from a reputable software supplier, it is always a good practice to run a virus checking program on any new disk you receive.
3. Make backup copies of each disk that came in the software package, labeling each back-up disk exactly like the original. Put the originals away and work from your back-up copies. Should anything happen to your copy, make a new back-up from the original and once again work from the copy. This way your original is always perfect and protected.
4. Many programs come with the latest notices or revisions "on disk" so check your new disks for any "read.me" or "readme.1st" type files. Also look for any files that have a, .HLP, .TXT or .DOC extension. If you find any, make revisions to the manual or make notes in the operating manual about any changes. Six months down the line, it will be hard to remember what changes were made to the program, or manual, without notes.
5. Before installing any program, make sure you have a copy of both your AUTOEXEC.BAT file and your CONFIG.SYS file (usually located in the root directory of your c: drive). Some installation programs just arbitrarily change one or both of these files and you want to be sure you have an unmodified copy of these two files at all times. It also might be a good idea to make a boot disk for your A: drive for emergency use. Follow your DOS instructions for formatting a floppy disk with your SYSTEM files on it. Then you can add your COMMAND.COM to the floppy along with AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS. In an emergency, this floppy can be used to boot your PC so that corrections can be made to the hard drive files.
6. If in doubt, read the manual! Even if the program is intuitive and you can get the program up and running without reading all of the manual, you should probably read the introduction and beginning sections. Then, down the line when you have major questions, maybe you will know where, at least, to look for the answers.
There are thousands upon thousands of software titles available which will do just as many specific jobs. However, most software can be divided into just a few major categories:
Database Management Word Processing and Desktop Publishing Drawing, Painting and Graphics Programming Languages & Operating Systems Spreadsheets Utility & Specific Job Programs
DATABASE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS
Today's PC can manage huge amounts of data. Most of the information is kept in database programs where it can be sorted, edited and searched in any manner desired. Keeping track of large volumns of data was once the work of large main frame computers. Now, the fastest PC's with large hard disk drives can do the same jobs and more. With Pentium powered PCs, even large corporations could maintain automated inventory systems, customer billing systems, mailing and customer lists, employee records, payroll, or any application where manipulating large volumes of raw data is needed.
Street prices (the price you actually pay, as opposed to the list price) for database programs vary considerably with the complexity and features of the program. Low end, flat file type databases would include such software packages as, Claris', "File Maker Pro" @ $130.00 or the great shareware database program, "PC-File".
More powerful database programs are represented by such software packages as, Microsoft's "Access 2.0" @ $295.00, IBM's "Database 2" @ $320.00, and Borland's "Paradox" @ $330.00.
Some businesses opt to write their own database "application". This is a software program that makes use of relational databases. These databases can be linked to each other through common fields of each database. An example might include databases for customers, orders, inventory, sales figures, etc. Software packages which can be used to create a total application include such hard hitters as, "dBase V" @ $515.00, "Visual FoxPro @ $195.00, or CA's "Clipper 5.3" @ $195.00. One shareware program capable of creating a relational application is, "Wampum".
Look for the following features in any database program:
On-line help included. Comes with tutorials. Comes with example databases Support of extended and/or expanded memory. Program is menu driven, or even better, uses a graphical interface along with a mouse. Uses fast searching and sorting routines, of either program or user definable. Table Iook up and/or listing features. Imports and exports all data in a form you can use with spreadsheet and word processor programs. Databases can be cloned; fields added, deleted or redefined after initial database is setup, without losing any data. Databases can be linked to exchange data between them. Has a programming language which is powerful enough to set up any application you need while still fairly easy to learn. Contains an extensive report writing capability.
So you can see that database programs run from, simple to use, address books to, gigantic do-all, database applications. Begin by listing all the things you want a database program to do. Obtain the simplest program which will do the job. Learn the program the best you can and if needed, move up to a more powerful program. In this way you will be constantly moving up the learning curve until you reach the level that will do all the jobs you require of a database program.
Chapter 7 SOFTWARE BASICS (Continued)
DESKTOP PUBLISHING PROGRAMS
Being able to produce professional looking printing from the desktop has been a dream of many since the introduction of the PC. The newest PCs (running at up to 100 Mhz), the introduction of affordable 600 Dpi laser printers, along with powerful page layout programs (Desktop Publishing software or DTP for short) have made the dream a reality. The 80486 and the Pentium have made it possible for many programs (DTP included) to take advantage of their faster processing speeds.
Why is Desktop Publishing so popular?
With the right hardware and software, anyone can get professional looking results, right from their desktop, that rival print shop output. Being able to produce such things as advertising flyers, newsletters, small newspapers, complex ad copy, even full length books are within the capabilities of a person and their PC.
Of course, DTP software has also come a long way. The latest versions of Pagemaker and Ventura Publisher are jam packed with powerful features which make true Desktop Publishing possible. There are even affordable shareware packages available that come with many of the features of the more expensive commercial DTP packages. Envision Publisher is one example of a shareware DTP software package that you may want to examine before investing hundreds of dollars in a commercial DTP program.
There are really two levels of Desktop publishing software. The first group could be called an introductory level and are priced at under one hundred dollars--even less for shareware and lower end programs. These programs would be capable of simpler tasks such as setting up newsletters, creating simple brochures, booklets and other small projects. Examples of street prices for these caliber DTP programs would include "Microsoft Publisher" @ $90.00, "Serif PagePlus" @ $100.00 or "Page Magic" @ $50.00,
The second level is capable of everything the first level is, plus adds the more advanced features required of more demanding jobs. The added features, of course, will run the list price for these programs to five hundred dollars or more. Examples of the higher end DTP programs would include; "Pagemaker 5.0" @ $550.00, "Quark Xpress" @ $575.00, "FrameMaker 5.0" @ $611.00, or "Corel Ventura" @ $390.00.
Keep in mind, also, that some of the more powerful word processing programs, like Microsoft's "Word for Windows" @ $300.00, "Wordperfect 6.1" @ $280.00, or Lotus' "Word Pro" @ $80.00, can do many of the layout jobs as well as a desktop publishing program. So you may want to investigate these wordprocessing programs rather than a full blown DTP program.
What features to look for in a desktop publishing program:
WYSIWYG means What You See Is What You Get and is pronounced Wizzy-Wig. True WYSIWYG means just that! Everything that appears on the screen will appear on the printed page exactly as you see it on the monitor. In actuality, your monitor does not do 300 or 600 Dpi output justice. Most output will actually look BETTER printed than it does on screen.
Make sure the particular program you are interested in will support the laser printer you intend to use. Printing with anything less than a laser printer will not do any desktop publishing job justice.
Most DTP programs support mouse-driven menus or even their own GUI (Graphical User Interface) icon assortment. The latest programs have been written for Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, which of course have their own graphical interface.
The DTP program should be able to import and export a wide range of file types from various spreadsheet and database programs. In addition, you should be able to use pictures, graphics and clip art from many different sources and in many different formats (TIFF, GIF, PIC, PCX, etc.). As an example, Ventura Publisher supports .GEM, .SLD, .HPG, .EPS, .PCT, .PIC, .CGM, WMF, PCX, .IMG, .TIF, AND .PNT graphic formats.
You will also want to be able to work with files and graphics from other sources as well as your own DTP program. Many times you will need additional, third-party, programs to convert from one format to another. Programs like "Hijack" @ $90.00, for example, may be needed to capture images and convert them to forms you can use in your own DTP program.
Other features to look for in a DTP program might include an undo feature, at least one level deep; a zoom feature to allow close up editing of graphics; built in scaling and cropping for pictures and graphics and automatic text wrap around graphics.
In addition, look for features such as easy-set-up style sheets, automatic hyphenation, pair kearning, automatic vertical and horizontal justification, multiple fonts per page, as well as the ability to rotate or flip text.
Another important consideration is whether the program comes with screen fonts as well as the same looking fonts your printer is capable of printing. It wouldn't make much sense to have a nice layout on screen with nice fonts in all the right sizes and not be able to print it out the way it looks (WYSIWYG).
Any DTP program you consider should support the fonts your printer uses. Other considerations include whether the software can use fonts from other suppliers, such as Adobe or Bitstream. Can it display softfonts on-screen? Can the program scale fonts on the fly or do you have to manage a file for each size? If you ever upgrade your printer to be Postscript capable, will the software support the Postscript language?
One last feature you may want in a DTP program is the ability to work with, or support of, digital scanners. Remember, features that seem unimportant at first become more important as time and experience goes by. They also depend on the types of projects you are doing with the software at the time.
Desktop Publishing has come a long way since the introduction of the PC. So far, in fact, that a whole new phase of the publishing industry has opened up to create new business opportunities for the PC owner. In fact, there have been quite a few entrepreneurs who have learned the intricacies of the DTP field in order to offer these services to clients at a handsome price, creating a profitable home business for themselves.
Desktop Publishing as a home business has been the subject of many books on making money with the PC, including my own, "101 Computer Related Businesses".
Chapter 8 SOFTWARE BASICS (Continued)
CHARTING, GRAPHING & PAINTING PROGRAMS
This software group would include drawing and painting programs, clip art collections, as well as charting or graphing software. Sometimes called the FUN software for business. They can be used to liven up your advertising, newsletters or business presentations.
Look for the following general features in charting software. Look for a wide variety of chart types; Line, Bar, Column, Pie, and Broken Line Charts including both simple two dimensional as well as the more advanced three-dimensional types. These would include cluster, stacked, overlap, and shadow charts. The Pie Charts should be able to explode slices, and offer special effects like 3D . Presentation graphics programs, such as "Harvard Graphics" @ $90 street price, or "ClarisDraw" @ $90, have the ability to change chart sizes as well as being able to adjust the height and depth of the various chart elements. You will also find occasional need to be able to flip, move and size objects plus Zoom in or out for detailed work.
Good text editing with various fonts and sizes is a must to give your charts that professional look. If the software doesn't provide good text editing, it should, at least, be able to import the text (as well as clip art and other special effects) from other software packages.
Some of the fancier features might come in handy to spice up your next business presentation. These features might include turning charts on an axis to display it from different angles. You might even work into something really fancy like animation. Programs such as; Caligari's "TrueSpace 2" @ $500.00 or Autodesk's "Animator Studio" @ $525 can bring your next presentation to life and give it that professionally produced look.
Special presentation programs such as Adode's "Persuasion 3.0" @ $325.00, with it's transition effects, branching and animated text and graphics can make your next presentation spellbinding.
Painting programs such as "IntellaDraw" @ $100, or "Canvas" @ $260.00 are at the low end of the price spectrum, while shareware programs such as "NeoPaint", "Finger Paint", Painter's Apprentice", "Turbo Paint" or "Picture This" are even less for their registration. Shareware paint programs can be just as full-featured as the commercial programs, so it might pay to investigate them. You might find a painting program, that will do what you want, for hundreds less than a commercial program. ALL painting programs require some artistic ability as well as skill in using a mouse or digital tablet to draw free-hand pictures. Look for features which would allow the average person to get good results from their efforts without having to be a Picasso. Perhaps features such as auto shape drawing, drag and drop, auto shading, etc.
The higher end paint programs such as Corel's "Corel Draw 5.0" @ $580.00, Macromedia's "Graphic Design Studio" @ $660.00 or Adobe's "Illustrator 5.5" @ $460.00; all contain fantastic features, but they could take you months to master them. Once mastered, however, the results produced by these programs are truly amazing. Some features include three dimensional effects, slide show creation, story book features, along with extensive libraries of Clip Art. Some of these type programs even incorporate simple animation features, but if you really need animation, look for a specialized program. The newest craze is morphing, gradually changing a picture gradually from one thing to another. Programs such as "xTransit" @ $50.00, creates such special effects as morphing, smooth fade, random fade, curtain wipe, wave distortion, and more.
Languages and Operating Systems
In order for software to work it must tell the computer what to do. It must pass complex instructions to the CPU in order to perform even simple jobs. First, the computer reads (loads) the instructions (program) into its internal memory (RAM). The computer then performs each job or task that the program instructs it to do, one task at a time.
Software is written in any number of "languages" that the computer is capable of reading. These languages include; Basic, Visual Basic, C, C++, Cobol, Pascal, and Assembly. Most people will not need to be concerned with programming languages unless they someday wish to write their own programs. The easiest to learn is generally considered to be Basic, while the hardest to learn is said to be Assembly.
Software packages to help you write your own software programs, include: Microsoft's "Visual Basic" @ $295.00 or their "Visual C++" @ $230.00. Even shareware has it's language programs, such as, "Wolfware Assembler" among others.
The job of the computer's operating system is to control all aspects of a program's execution. It controls data input and output, and monitors the flow of data between different parts of your computer system. An example might be when you transfer files from a floppy disk to the hard disk. It must also prevent conflicts from occuring between software programs or between hardware components. Examples of operating systems are MS-DOS, IBM-DOS and the new OS/2. The latest version of MS-DOS is version 7.0, while the newest OS/2 is called, "Warp".
When purchasing software, just make sure that it will work with the operating system and version you are using with your computer.
For several years Microsoft has been developing a GUI, Graphical User Interface, called Windows. Instead of having to type cryptic commands (Such as: xcopy A: B: /s /r) you just point the mouse curser at an icon (small picture) and click it. The GUI does the rest.
While there was a version of Windows developed for the 286 computer chip, it was very slow. Slower, in fact, than typing out commands at the DOS prompt. It wasn't until the introduction of the 386 that Windows could take advantage of up to 16M of system memory and allow more than one program or application to run at one time. This is called multitasking.
While versions 3.0 and 3.1 (released in April of 92) of Windows became quite popular, it wasn't until the release of Windows 95 in August of 1995 that Windows made good on 32 bit multitasking it had been promising for so long. While Windows 3.1 sold over 10 million copies altogether, it is said that Windows 95 sold this many copies in less than one week.
Software developers once rushed to bring out programs which would be compatible with Windows 3.1. Now they are once again rushing to be the first to make their programs compatible with the new Windows 95 environment.
While Windows will work with 386 based computers, and as little as 4 Mb of RAM, it is recommended that a 486-66 mHz and 8 Meg of RAM be considered the bare minimum configuretion. Having enough unused disk space is also important to the speedy operation of Windows based programs. If you don't have enough unused disk space for the program to swap files and data back and forth, the program can be slowed to a crawl. A Gigabyte hard disk is not out of the question nowadays. Especially with the prices of EIDE (Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics) 1 Gbyte hard disk drives, down around $250.00.
Chapter 9 SOFTWARE BASICS (Continued)
Many businesses, both large and small, rely heavily on their spreadsheet programs to develop everything from financial statements, to mortgage amortization charts. The more powerful spreadsheet programs can track customer billings, do inventory control, perform analyses such as break even points, what if calculations as well as dozens of other everyday tasks a businessman needs to perform. The spreadsheet program has long been the first choice for software purchases for the small, as well as large, businessman. They knew that being able to determine where the business was financially was one of the most important jobs that a PC could help them with.
The leader in commercial spreadsheet programs has been Lotus' "1-2-3 v.5.0" @ $300.00. However, other entries into the spreadsheet market have narrowed their market share. Such spreadsheet programs as Microsoft's, "Excell 5.0" @ $295.00 or "Quarto Pro 6.0" @ $280.00. have been gaining popularity for their features. Shareware is also well represented in the spreadsheet field with such well written programs as, "As Easy As" (a clone of Lotus 1-2-3) and "Express Calc".
Select a spreadsheet program and learn how to use it to the best of your ability. Most spreadsheets have the same type commands and language, so that learning one thoroughly will help you, even if you decide to move up to a more powerful spreadsheet program.
Speaking of learning the language of the spreadsheet, one of the things to look for before purchasing any spreadsheet program would be included tutorials, including examples, to help you learn the intricacies of the program.
Other features might include sophisticated charting abilities with 2D, or even 3D, charting capabilities, as well as easy transfer of data between various database, wordprocessing and other spreadsheet programs. Windows has made it easy to transfer data between applications by using the "Clipboard" feature of the Windows environment.
WORD PROCESSING PROGRAMS
Word processing programs comprise some of the most popular, as well as one of the most highly competitive, markets in PC software today.
A computer, along with even an inexpensive word processing program, will do 99% of all typing jobs faster and better than a typewriter. Coupled with an ink jet or 600 dpi laser jet printer, the combination is 100% better than a typewriter, nearing typeset quality for all your correspondence or written documents.
If you don't need a lot of word processing power, choose one of the many low cost programs such as Lotus', "Word Pro" @ $65.00. Even one of the excellent shareware programs such as "PC-Write" or "Super WP" might just do the trick. I personally use a shareware text editor called, "Q-Edit" for all my basic writing jobs. As a matter of fact, this series of articles was written in Q-Edit. After writing a letter or article, I save it to an ascii file. I can then reformat it in a full blown word processing program or desktop publishing program if needed.
For more word processing power, you will have to go with a full blown program such as Microsoft's "Word for Windows" @ $300.00 or "Wordperfect 6.1 for Windows" @ $279.00. Both of these packages will do any of the jobs in word processing you will need to do. With just a little practice, your letters or documents will take on a new professional look. Your writing skills will even improve because of all the features included in the new word processing packages. You will be able to easily check spelling and word usage with their built-in spell checkers and Thesaurus. You will also be able to do some desktop publishing with their advanced page layout capabilities, font selections and the ability to use graphics in your documents.
Utility programs provide specialized jobs and functions not generally found in other categories of software. Programs are available which can de-fragment your hard disk drive, or even repair or restore damaged or deleted files ("Norton Utilities" @ $120.00). If you do not seem to have enough RAM for programs you wish to run, a Memory Manager such as "Qemm 7.5" @ $65.00 might just do the job. Computer viruses are not just a nuisance, some of them can ruin every program on your hard disk or wipe out all your valuable data. Anti Virus software such as "IBM Anti Virus" @ $45.00 or "Norton AntiVirus" @ $30.00 can detect a dangerous computer virus before it can do any damage. Other software packages provide such things as pop-up calculators, note pads, etc. It should be noted that Microsoft's Windows 95 (as well as it's predecessor, Windows 3.1) comes with many of these type utilities built right in.
The last type of utility program is usually not purchased as a stand-alone-program. What i'm talking about here is back-up software. Although back-up utilities come in every Operating System package, most are slow and inadequate for backing up large hard drives. Back-up software that normally comes bundled with back-up tape drives or other large capacity back-up devices is far superior in speed and accuracy.
I mentioned before that one of the facts of computer life is that sooner or later, all hard disk drives suffer some sort of failure. It is not a matter of "if", but "when" a hard drive will fail. Purchase either a tape drive back-up or maybe even one of the new, high capacity floppy disk drives such as Iomega's ZIP drive which runs about $200.00 and uses 100 Meg floppy disks which cost just $20.00 each. The important thing here is to practice preventive maintenance and back-up your hard drive on a regular basis.
Chapter 10 GLOSSARY OF COMPUTER TERMS
Tenth in a series of 12 articles on computer basics by Michael A. Tims
ADDRESS Every location in computer memory is numbered consecutively. This number is referred to as it's address.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) Refers to the ability of a computer to mimic the functions that are normally associated with human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, adapting, self-correction, and automatic improvement.
ALGORITHM A procedure or set of instructions. A way of performing a certain task. Perfecting algorithms is an important part of computer programming.
ALPHANUMERIC Refers to data that consists of both numbers and alphabetic characters, such as: 1040EZ.
ANSI The acronym for American National Standards Institute. Founded in 1918, it proposes, modifies, approves as well as publishes data processing standards.
ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAM A computer program designed to detect and in some cases remove certain computer viruses either after, or sometimes (automatically) before infection occurs. Also see Computer Virus.
ASCII Acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. A coding system that assigns a numeric value to each letter, number or symbol. Its adoption as a standard created a common denominator for the exchanging of text between different computers, software programs, etc.
ASP Stands for Association of Shareware Professionals, an organization which promotes excellence in software programs distributed by the shareware method.
AUTOEXEC.BAT FILE A short batch file that runs every time you turn on your computer. Used to load or start certain programs automatically and set system parameters.
BACKING-UP A process of making copies of all files on a hard disk at regular intervals. Important if your hard disk crashes or files are accidentally erased.
BASIC Actually an acronym for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. One of the languages used to program a computer.
BATCH FILE Files that contain often-used commands or a file that contains several commands that you want carried out in sequence. These files have the file extension .BAT. Simply type the name of the batch file and it carries out the commands contained in that batch file just as if you had typed each from the keyboard.
BBS A Bulletin Board System is set up on a computer and operates with a program and a modem so that other computers with modems can communicate with it over common telephone lines.
BINARY A number system based on 2. In the binary system, only 1's and 0's are used to represent all possible mathematical values. In a computer, the binary system is used to represent the two states a transistor can be in, on and off.
BIOS Stands for Basic Input/Output System. It is a set of instructions programmed onto a chip which plugs into the motherboard of a PC. These instructions are responsible for handling data input and output to and from the CPU and all peripherals.
BIT The smallest unit of information recognizable by a computer. Eight bits equal one byte.
BIT-MAPPED Where type and graphic images are formed by patterns of dots or pixels.
BOOT UP Describes the series of steps that take place every time a computer is turned on. For example, every time you turn on your computer, DOS is loaded into RAM.
BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEMS (BBS) Electronic Databases set up by industry or individual computer enthusiasts whereby other computer owners may connect by modem and telephone line to exchange information, leave (upload) messages for one another, download information and software programs, chat on-line with each other, etc.
BUS A computer bus is a set of wires, lines or printed circuit board traces which carry data between the various components of the PC.
BYTES 1. A Computer term that refers to the amount of the memory needed to hold a single character such as the letter A or the number 2. A byte consists of eight bits. Usually expressed in (K) for kilobytes (1,000 bytes) or (M) for megabytes (1,000,000 bytes. 2. Unit of measure to state the storage capacity of fixed or floppy disks and the internal memory supplied with a computer.
CAD Computer Aided Design software provides a means of using a computer program to aid in the design and drawing of a project.
CASE Stands for Computer Aided Software Engineering. Sort of like software automation. In other words, using a computer program to write a computer program.
CD-ROM Stands for Compact Disk, Read Only Memory. A form of data storage which uses laser optics rather than magnetic fields for storing and retrieving data. A CD-ROM disk is a round, shiny silver disk looking much like the audio CDs becoming popular for music distribution.
CGA GRAPHICS Acronym for Color Graphics Adapter. Originally the standard for color graphics when IBM first introduced a color computer monitor. It is rarely used anymore as it produces poor quality color graphics.
CLIP ART Line drawings or photographs which may be down loaded from BBS's or obtained from clip art services that draw or scan the art or photographs for use in desktop publishing or word processing programs.
COBOL One of the high-level computer programming languages. An acronym for COmmon Business Oriented Language.
COM PORT A serial communications connection into and out of the computer. There can be as many as four COM ports, COM1 through COM4.
COMPUTER LANGUAGES 1. A specific set of words and commands that allow computers to perform a task. 2. What software is written in. ie. Basic Language, Pascal Language, Turbo Pascal, etc.
COMPUTER VIRUS A destructive program, written by a hacker for "fun" which has the ability to infect one or more critical files on your computer system such as COMMAND.COM. Some viruses attack the computer's boot sector or FAT (File Allocation Table) making it virtually impossible for the computer to read directories or even load files.
CONFIG.SYS FILE A special file that the computer reads every time it "boots" up. It is used to configure your computer system by loading special programs each time your computer boots. These are typically special screen and printer drivers. Other programs set your mouse parameters, control memory usage or specify how many files may be open at a time. Always keep a copy of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT in a safe place in case some other program changes these files (Such as when you are loading a new software package).
CONVENTIONAL MEMORY The first 640K byte block of memory in a PC. This is RAM memory (Random Access Memory). It is used by Operating System files, TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) programs, and most software programs. Even if a program is capable of running in either expanded or extended memory, most still need a piece of conventional memory.
CPU An acronym for Central Processing Unit, the "brain" of a PC. The 8086, 8088, 80286, 80386, 80486 and the Pentium are all processor chips or CPUs.
CROPPING Changing the size of a computer generated picture or graphic by removing unwanted portions of the graphic. Also see Scaling.
CRT Acronym for Cathode Ray Tube, the picture tube of a TV or computer monitor.
CURRENT DRIVE Refers to the drive that the computer is accessing at the time, displaying the drive letter in the prompt, such as: C> or A>. The C standing for a hard Drive labeled C and A being a floppy drive. If a computer has two floppy drives, they are normally labeled A for the first drive and B for the second floppy drive.
CURSOR A short blinking line or square appearing underneath the space where the next character is to be typed (or deleted). It indicates that the computer is ready and waiting for you to input a command.
DATABASE A software program designed to file, track, sort, and retrieve large amounts of data which is commonly found in customer files, mailing lists, etc.
DESKTOP PUBLISHING Software programs which allow a personal computer to be used for serious publishing jobs such as newsletters, advertising copy, books, etc. Desktop Publishing programs allows complex layout of text and graphics with the ability to change fonts used or font sizes used. For the most professional results, a laser printer should be used for output. Serious work requires at least a Super VGA graphics card and monitor along with a 80386 or 80486 CPU and at least 8 Meg of RAM.
DEVICE DRIVER Software programs that enable the computer to control peripheral devises, such as a printer, mouse or the monitor screen.
DIALOG BOX An on-screen box containing information. Appearing mostly in GUI programs.
DIRECTORY The area of a hard disk or floppy diskette that stores the names of files and subdirectories. Similar to a book's table of contents.
DIRECTORY TREE A visual representation of all directories and subdirectories contained on a disk. The first directory is called the ROOT DIRECTORY. All other directories and subdirectories are arranged under the root directory.
DISKETTE Also called a floppy disk or floppy diskette. A flat piece of flexible plastic, having a magnetic coating, used to store information. See Floppies also.
DISK OPERATING SYSTEM The program that gives the computer its instructions. The most popular PC operating system is DOS (Disk Operating System) by Microsoft Corporation. Before buying any software check to see if it will run under the Operating System your computer has. Also, some software will only run under a specific version of DOS. You may have to upgrade your DOS for some software programs.
DOS Acronym for Disk Operating System, it contains all the instructions which allow the CPU to understand and carry out complex instructions.
DOT MATRIX PRINTER A printer that uses a movable print head which contains 9 or 24 pins or wires that strike a ribbon over the paper. Each strike of a pin creates a dot on the paper. Letters are formed as a pattern (matrix) of these dots.
DOT PITCH One the measurements used to rate the resolution of computer monitors. The lower the dot pitch, the smaller will be the dots making up the picture on the monitor and the better the output quality. Better monitors will have a dot pitch of .31 or lower. Also see Graphics Card and Monitor.
DTP Desktop Publishing (DTP) is one of the fastest growing uses of the PC. It is the art of merging text and graphics to create a pleasing page layout.
EDI Electronic Data Exchange is a standard for the exchange of data between floppy drive and computer.
EISA Stands for Extended Industry Standard Architecture. Allows standardization of PC add-in boards and peripherals.
EGA GRAPHICS Acronym for Enhanced Graphics Adapter. This was a big improvement over CGA Graphics but was still only capable of producing medium quality resolutions. This resolution is no match for VGA or Super VGA graphics. Also see VGA and Super VGA Graphics.
EPS Stands for Encapsulated PostScript. A language for printing vector based graphics.
EXPANDED MEMORY Memory (RAM) outside the DOS one-megabyte limit which is accessed in revolving blocks.
EXPANSION CARDS Printed circuit boards that fit into slots on the main circuit board (Motherboard) inside the computer case. Expansion cards are used to add such peripherals as modems, faxes, sound boards, additional serial and parallel ports, etc.
EXPANSION SLOT The slots or sockets on the motherboard into which you place expansion cards.
Chapter 11 Glossary of Computer Terms (Continued)
EXTENDED MEMORY That portion of memory (RAM) extending above conventional memory. Sometimes this is called high memory. Think of Extended Memory as all the RAM within your system that is not conventional memory. ie. outside DOS' 1MB limit. Only 80286 class CPUs and above can make use of extended memory.
FAT Acronym for File Allocation Table, the system that DOS uses to keep track of files and file segments. It also keeps track of available disk space.
FAX Nickname for Facsimile Communication or the sending of written information or drawings over phone lines from one FAX machine to another.
FAX BOARD An add-on PC board to install in an expansion slot. Gives your PC the ability to send and receive FAXs
FILE A collection of information or data or a series of commands making up a software program all under one title.
FILE FORMAT Refers to the way a program writes data to a file, with the different file types having different extensions added to the file names. Examples include: .EXE, .COM, .BAT, .TIF, .PCX, .TXT, .DOC, ect.
FLOPPIES Also known as floppy disks or floppy diskettes. The older 5.25" size comes in 360 Kilobyte as well as 1.2 Megabyte capacities, called DD (for Double Density and HD for High Density respectively). The newer 3.5" floppy disks come in a hard plastic shell so are more durable. They also come in two capacities, 720 Kilobyte DD and 1.44 Megabyte HD. Always keep floppy disks away from stray electromagnetic fields which could erase some of the data and make the floppy unreadable.
FLOPTICAL DRIVE A storage method that uses both floppy drive as well as optical drive technologies. A 3.5" floptical disk can hold up to 21 megabytes of data. The floptical drive can also read and write to standard 3.5" floppies.
FONTS A Font is a family of type that has a distinctive look or style. Fonts may be already installed to a printer or sometimes may be down-loaded to the printer as needed. The different fonts are given names such as Times Roman or Helvetica. By using different fonts in a document you can dramatically change its appearance and readability. Many fonts come in different forms such as regular, bold, underlined or italic, or combinations of any of these.
FORMAT Term used to prepare a floppy disk or hard disk so it can accept data. Formatting organizes the tracks and sectors that will be used to store data. Note that when you format a disk of any kind you erase any information already stored on it.
FUNCTION KEYS Keyboard keys that can be programmed to act as shortcuts to perform certain operations (or functions). Most keyboards contain function keys F1 through F10 or F12.
GIF An abbreviation for Graphics Interchange Format. Pronounced, "Jiff", it is an important protocol for exchanging raster-based images among computers. It uses a sophisticated data compression method so that the file sizes are smaller and transfer time can be shortened when downloading.
GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACE Known by the acronym GUI (pronounced gooey) it is a shell program that enables the user to control the computer by using graphics instead of pressing different keyboard combinations. The user usually points, clicks, or drags a mouse or other pointing device around a pad which causes a cursor, arrow, hand, or other icon to move around the screen or performs certain functions. This in turn moves text or graphics around the computer screen. The most popular GUI is Microsoft's Windows version 3.1. Stay tuned for Windows 95 which is said to be even easier to use.
GRAPHICS CARD A hardware card that goes in one of your computers expansion slots, containing circuitry that produces images on the computer screen in different resolutions. The first PC came with a Monochrome Graphics Card which would only produce black and white text output. The first color card was the CGA which was rather poor in resolution. An improvement was the VGA with a vast improvement coming with the introduction of the Super VGA.
HACKER 1. A person who gains illegal entry into computer systems over phone lines. 2. Person who writes viruses or other destructive software in an attempt to disrupt or otherwise damage computer files. 3. Person who enjoys fooling around with a computer's hardware or software.
HANDSHAKING When one computer connects with another computer or a peripheral, such as a printer, properly. This is called establishing a common protocol or Handshaking between the two devices. Proper handshaking is accomplished by using the proper interconnecting cables, the proper software program or device driver and the proper parameters set up for the device. Proper handshaking allows rapid exchange of information. Improper linking (handshaking), on the other hand, results in poor communication between the devices and garbled output (or no output) resulting.
HARD DISK DRIVE A device (usually internally mounted) capable of storing large amounts of information and able to access any of the information at high speeds. They hold hundreds to thousands of times the data a floppy disk can hold. Hard disk drives are very intricate, containing many moving parts that can wear out or fail with little or no warning. This is the reason backing up the data on a hard disk is so important. They say that the question is not "if" a hard disk will fail, but "when". This failure is often refered to as a hard disk "crash".
HARDWARE The physical components of a computer system that you can touch. The computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer, and modem are all examples of hardware.
HELP FILE A text file sometimes included with software packages that contains helpful hints on using the software. Many times these help files can be accessed directly from within the software program as you need help. Many programs have context sensitive help which, when accessed, will give you help based on what part of the program you are in. Make it a practice to always look at any files with the extensions of .HLP, .DOC, or .TXT, or files with the names READ.ME or README.1ST, especially when reviewing a shareware distributed program.
HGC Short for Hercules Graphics Card, it was first introduced by the Hercules Computer Technology Company in 1982 to allow clear text and graphics display on a monochrome monitor.
HYPHENATION A wanted feature in word processing and desktop publishing programs. Most will automatically break words at syllables in order to achieve full left-right justification when writing text in columns. Most quality programs can also adjust the space between words and letters to give your writing a more polished look by using kerning.
ICON An Icon is an image, a picture, or a representation of an object or even a process or activity. The pointing at icons with a mouse is the main method of accomplishing tasks in a graphical user interface (such as Windows).
INPUT DEVICE Refers to those devices used to input data of one sort or another into a computer. the normal input device is the keyboard, but other input devices include the mouse, trackball, light pen, drawing tablet, scanner, etc.
IRQ LINE This is the copper trace or path on a printed circuit board that carries electrical signals. AT class computers have 16 IRQ lines for connecting devices to the computer. They are set to on/off states with DIP switches.
JUSTIFICATION Feature of word processing and desktop publishing programs to align text to both edges of a column. Sometimes the term is used as "left justified" if the left side only is aligned or "right justified" if the right side only is justified.
KERNING The reduction of space between some pairs of letters rather then having the same amount of space between all letters. Makes a document look better and easier to read.
KILOBYTE Also abreviated KB and stands for the unit of measurement for computer memory equivalent to approximately one thousand (1,024) bytes.
LASER PRINTER Produces the highest resolutions using electrophotographic processes. Typically starting at 300 DPI for the least expensive laser printers and going up to 2400 DPI or more for printers called image setters.
MACROS A feature of some programs to store a series of keystrokes which are automatically repeated whenever a special set of keys are pressed. This avoids repetitive data entry or long command line codes. Useful for performing many tasks automatically. Many software programs come with their own Macro Language.
MEGABYTE A unit of measure for computer memory equivalent to approximately one million (1,048,576) bytes.
MEMORY How much space is available for storage of data or used for running programs. Data can be permanently stored in ROM (Read Only Memory) or stored temporarily in RAM (Random Access Memory). RAM memory can be of three types: Conventional, Extended, or Expanded. In general, the more your computer has the faster it will perform tasks. How much memory you need depends on the type of software you will be using and what type of jobs you expect your computer to perform. A good starting point would be from 4 to 8 million bytes (Megabytes) of memory. The low end if you will only be writing letters or such and the higher end for spreadsheets, databases, or graphics intensive programs. Additional RAM can be easily added to your system as you find a need for it. See also Conventional Memory and Extended Memory.
MEMORY MANAGEMENT Process of assigning different types of memory to various uses, programs, etc. A memory manager program allows the use of expanded or extended memory by a program in order to free up conventional memory.
MEMORY RESIDENT Some programs are written so that they stay in memory even after exiting from the program. In this way they are still available fro immediate use. This is referred to a TSR, Terminate and Stay Resident.
MENU A list of choices to choose from in a software program. You select a menu option by using a mouse or arrow key to highlight the choice.
MICROPROCESSOR Also called a Central Processing Unit or CPU. The main chip or "brain" of a computer.
MIDI An acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or a means of connecting a musical instrument to a computer. Some amazing things can be done by combining computers and music. You can record your music digitally, then have previously recorded tracks play back as you record new tracks. You can literally create the sound of an entire orchestra on your computer.
MODEM A hardware device that allows one computer to be connected to another in order to transfer information over telephone lines.
MONITOR The part of a computer that resembles a TV. Some computer manufacturers don't consider the monitor as part of the computer system. Keep this in mind when comparing computers and prices. If you purchase a monitor separately or upgrade later, be sure the graphics card will be compatible with the monitor.
MOTHERBOARD The main printed circuit board inside a computer on which the CPU, memory chips and other parts of the computer mount.
MOUSE A hardware input device operated by moving it around your desk or a mouse pad. It will likewise move a cursor or arrow around the screen. Clicking one of the mouse buttons on an icon or on some part of the screen will cause a function, move an object or some other action. With a mouse you have greater control over the cursor when in a graphics program or desktop publishing program.
Chapter 12 Glossary of Computer Terms (Continued)
MULTIMEDIA Presenting information on a computer using a combination of text, graphics, sound and even animation or video clips.
MULTITASKING A feature of such operating environments as, Windows 95, OS/2 and DESQview that allows several program to run at the same time.
OCR Optical Character Recognition. Being able to 'read' a document (with a scanner) and convert the written letters to a digital form so a computer can use them or edit the documents.
OPERATING SYSTEM The main software program that controls a computer's internal functions. The most widely used operating system is DOS which stands for Disk Operating System. Windows, on the other hand, is not an operating system but rather a shell under which other programs run. Windows has been gaining favor by making a computer more user friendly.
OS/2 An operating system developed by IBM (along with Microsoft) which is a GUI similar in operation to Microsoft's own Windows 95
PARALLEL PORT One of the channels of data into or out of the computer. For example, the first parallel port is usually designated as LPT1 and connected to your printer. It differs from a Serial Port in that the eight bits of data representing characters are sent simultaneously over several wires rather than one after the other as with the serial port.
PASCAL A high level programming language which has developed into several variations, such as Turbo Pascal, etc.
PATH A stated route or path which tells DOS where to look for a program or file if it is not in the current directory.
PC, PC-XT, PC-AT PC stands for Personal Computer and was first introduced by IBM in 1981. It featured an Intel 8088 CPU chip and two 360k floppy drives. The PC-XT (or Personal Computer - Extended Technology) was brought out by IBM in 1983 and also featured an Intel 8088 CPU chip, but had a whopping 10 Mbyte hard disk drive. The PC-AT was introduced in 1984. This, Personal Computer - Advanced Technology, machine featured an Intel 80286 microprocessor chip plus many new features.
PERIPHERAL DEVICE Any externally mounted or connected hardware device used to input or output data from a computer is a peripheral device. These include printers, scanners, digitizing tablets, modems, keyboards, plotters, and tape drives among others.
PIXEL Also called a PEL, the word is a contraction of PICtureS Element and represents each of the tiny rectangular elements that make up a picture on a monitor.
PLOTTER An output device used to make drawings, as for Computer Aided Drawing (CAD).
POINT SIZE Refers to the size of the type (how large characters will appear on a monitor and on a printed page). The larger the point size the larger the chararcter is. Differences are relative to the font family or style and are not absolute. Thus it is possible to have an 8 point type from one font family actually be larger then a 10 point font in a different font family. Also see Fonts.
POSTSCRIPT LANGUAGE A complex language developed to have better control over printers (mostly Lasers). PostScript is perhaps the best language to use for desktop publishing, but the language (PCL5) used by Hewlett-Packard in their laser printers comes very close. Most desktop publishing programs support these languages, as well as others.
PRINTER A devise that produces printed pages (called hardcopy). Printers are undoubtedly the first accessory a new computer owner purchases. They come in many types and prices from a low of about $200 to $10,000 or more.
PRINTER-BUBBLE JET A better quality output choice than a dot matrix printer. Produces up to about 360 DPI output. Silent in operation but quite a bit slower than the dot matrix.
PROCESSOR CHIP Actually the "Brain" of the computer. Also called the CPU or Central Processing Unit. The original IBM PC used an 8088 processor which ran at 4MHz (four million cycles per second). The next generation of processor was the 80286 chip which ran at 8 MHz to 12 Mhz. Then the 80386SX chip came along which ran around 16 MHz. Full 80386 chips run between 20 Mhz and 33 Mhz. The 80486SX chips run at 25 MHz to 66 MHz, while the DX2 models run at 33 MHz to 100 MHz. The new "Pentium" chip has been distributed at both 66 MHz and 100 MHz speeds.
PROMPT The usual DOS prompt takes the form of C> or A>. The letter referring to the current drive you are working in.
PUBLIC DOMAIN SOFTWARE Software which can be copied freely and which is not protected by Copyright laws. Unfortunately, some public domain software was distributed with some very destructive viruses so if you don't know the source of the software, be very careful and run a virus checking program on any software before using it. You should also use an anti-virus program which will constantly check for computer viruses. Also see Computer Virus, and Anti-Virus Program
QUEUE Pronounced "Q", it is a list of data to be acted upon. For example, a Printer Queue would be a list of files waiting for your printer to print out.
RAM DISK A simulated disk drive using RAM memory and can run software much faster then from a hard disk.
RAM Acronym for Random Access Memory. A computer's dynamic or volatile memory. So called because anything stored in RAM is only temporary and will be lost when the computer is shut off, if not saved to more permanent storage such as a floppy or hard disk.
RESOLUTION The density of dots (pixels) on a printed page or monitor screen. Usually measured in dots per inch. The higher the resolution, the smoother will be the appearance of the text or graphics.
ROM Read Only Memory is that memory in your computer that cannot be changed. The information that is put into the chip at the factory cannot be erased or altered. It can be read only.
SCALEABLE FONT Fonts that can be called up and redrawn (as needed) in any size required from as small as 2 points to as large as 180 points.
SCANNED IMAGE 1. An image reproduced by a using a scanner. 2. Clip-Art which may be purchased from services which do the scanning. Also see Clip-Art.
SCANNER A device that "reads" a graphic or photograph with special software. The image may then be imported into a word processing or desktop publishing program. Text may also be scanned and then "read" by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software and also used in word processing or desktop publishing programs. Scanners come in desktop models of flatbed or sheet fed design, or hand held models which require the user to hand guide the scanner over the image to be scanned.
SERIAL PORT Allows the connection of many periferal devices--modems, mice, printers, etc. Most computers come equipped with one or two actual port out of four which may usually be addressed. Also see Parallel Port.
SHADING The ability of painting type software programs to produce varying background shades from light gray to black. Also used in some desktop publishing programs. Often used to set off blocks of text from the rest of a page.
SHAREWARE A very popular method of distributing software. For a small fee (usually two to five dollars per disk, which covers shipping and duplication fees only), you receive a software program to try out. If you like the program you send the author his registration fee. In return, many software authors will send their latest version of the program, a printed manual, or other incentives to get you to register. If you do not like the program you are expected to stop using it and remove it from your computer system.
SIG A Special Interest Group is a group of computer enthusiasts that all share the same interest in a particular subject or software program.
SOFTWARE A collection of commands and/or instructions written in a computer language that tells the computer what to do.
SPREADSHEET A type of software program which simulates an accountants worksheet. Made up of rows and columns into which formulas and data are entered to perform financial analyses, budget calculations, etc.
SUBDIRECTORY A directory located within or under another directory which is called the parent directory. The root directory is the main directory and the only directory which is not also a subdirectory.
SUPER HIGHWAY Refers to the network of computers all over the world which can be tapped into from your home computer using a modem and telephone line.
SUPER VGA GRAPHICS The VGA (or Video Graphics Array) was introduced by IBM in 1987 and provided a screen resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. One year later, they introduced the Super VGA which extended resolution to 800 x 600 pixels.
SYNTAX The rules about how a programming language's commands and instructions must be used and written.
SYSOP Stands for System Operator and is pronounced 'Sis Op' and not 'Sy Sop'. This is the person in charge of an electronic Bulletin Board System, or BBS.
TAPE DRIVE A device for easily backing-up data from a computer's hard drive. The process can even be automated and run in the background while working on other programs or can be performed at night or during off hours.
THESAURUS A Thesaurus can be a free standing program or part of a word processor that gives lists of synonymns and alternate words that can be used in a sentence. Can be used to improve or to spice up your writing.
TIFF Acronym for Tagged Image File Format and is one of the leading protocols for storing and exchanging digital images.
TRACK BALL An input device and alternative to a mouse. You move a small ball with your fingers or with the palm of your hand. Unlike a mouse, it remains stationary and takes up less desk space.
UNDO FEATURE A very handy feature of many software programs that allows you to undo the last event or command you made. Useful for recovering from mistakes.
UPS An Uninterruptible Power Supply is a battery operated device that will provide power to your computer in the case of a power failure. It insures that you will not lose valuable data because of a power failure.
VGA GRAPHICS A high resolution standard (640x480) for color monitors. Much better then EGA, but no match for Super VGA.
WRAP AROUND The ability of software to place text around graphics or to have words wrap around to the next line.
WIDOW and ORPHAN CONTROL A useful feature common on word processing or desktop publishing programs that controls the positioning of breaks for paragraphs and sentences. The last line of a paragraph is called a Widow when it is printed by itself at the top of the following page. An orphan is the first line of a paragraph when it is printed at the bottom of a page.
WYSIWYG Acronym for "What You See Is What You Get" and pronounced WIZZY-WIG. The idea being to show you on screen exactly what the final output will look like on paper.
XGA The eXtended Graphics Adapter was introduced by IBM in 1990 and extended video resolution to 1024 x 768 pixels.
ZIPPED FILE A type of compressed file created with the popular program called PKZIP.EXE written by PKware, Inc. It has become the file compression utility of choice.
ZMODEM A fast file transfer protocol used by most communications programs with modems.===================================================
Michael A. Tims is a retired time high school math teacher but has run a mail order business as a sideline for over 20 years. Being a self taught computer NUT, one of his passions has been to find unique ways to use a PC to enhance or enable a small business venture.
Mr. Tims has written numerous magazine articles on PC basics or using a PC in business and is the author of the published book, "101 Computer Related Businesses", as well as a syndicated column called, "PC Biz of the Month".
Visit his new web site at http://www.matcopublishing.com and let him know what you think of it. Many other articles may be read at http://www.matcopublishing.com/articles.htm
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