Learn the basics

Let’s start with the basics.

Monitor, Tower (the large metal box like piece of equipment that stores all of your data), Mouse, Keyboard (Laptops have all of these in one device)

The keyboard is one of the primary ways we communicate with the computer and enter data. There are many different types of computer keyboards, including wired and wireless. Although there may be differences in the location of some keys or features, keyboards are very similar and allow you to accomplish basically the same tasks.

The mouse is also known as a pointing device. It lets you point to objects on the screen, click on them, and move them. Usually you will use the left side of the mouse to select something.  Use the right click on the mouse when you want to open another menu to do something like “copy” when you want to paste it somewhere else.

There are two main types of mice: optical and mechanical. The optical mouse uses an electronic eye to detect movement and is easier to clean. The mechanical mouse uses a rolling ball to detect movement. Generally, a mechanical mouse is less expensive, although it may require regular cleaning to keep it working properly.

Traditionally, a mouse connects to the computer using a USB or PS/2 connection. However, you can also buy a wireless mouse, which can reduce clutter on your desktop.

There are other devices that can do the same thing as a mouse but have a different look and feel. Many people find them to be easier to use, and they also require less desk space than a mouse. The most common mouse alternatives include:

Trackball: A trackball has a ball on top that can rotate freely. Instead of moving the device like a mouse, you can roll the ball with your fingers to move the pointer. Some mobile devices have miniature trackballs that can be controlled with your thumb.  Some laptops may have a rubber “mouse” in the middle of the keyboard that you can also use your finger to navigate with.

Touchpad: A touchpad—also called a trackpad—is a touch-sensitive pad that lets you control the pointer by making a drawing motion with your finger. Touchpads are common on laptop computers.

The monitor (the screen you view with) works with a video card, located inside the computer case, to display images and text on the screen. Newer monitors usually have LCD (liquid crystal display) or LED (light-emitting diode) displays. These can be made very thin, and they are often called flat-panel displays. Older monitors use CRT (cathode ray tube) displays. CRT monitors are much larger and heavier, and they take up more desk space.  These have gotten pretty obsolete.

Most monitors have control buttons that allow you to change your monitor’s display settings, and some monitors also have built-in speakers.

LED displays are actually LCDs that are backlit with light-emitting diodes. This allows for greater contrast than a traditional LED.


The power cord is the link between the power outlet and the power supply unit in the computer casing. If the power cord is not plugged in, the computer will not power on. To protect your computer from voltage spikes, you can plug the power cord in to a surge protector. You can also use an uninterruptable power supply (UPS), which acts as a surge protector and provides temporary power if there is a blackout.

An operating system is the most important software that runs on a computer. It manages the computer’s memoryprocesses, and all of its software and hardware. It also allows you to communicate with the computer without knowing how to speak the computer’s language. Without an operating system, a computer is useless. Most of the time, there are many different computer programs running at the same time, and they all need to access your computer’s central processing unit (CPU)memory, and storage. The operating system coordinates all of this to make sure each program gets what it needs.

Web browsers: A web browser is the tool you use to access the Internet. Most computers come with a web browser pre-installed, but you can also download a different one if you prefer. Examples of browsers include Internet ExplorerFirefoxGoogle Chrome, and Safari (used on Mac’s).


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