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Inside the Box The Vital Pieces Operating Systems Printers New Canaan Library Winter 2002 What we will look at: CPU or Computer Chip Main Memory RAM (Temporary Storage) Hard Disk (Permanent Storage) Drives (Portable Storage) Video/Sound Cards Ports Monitors

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inside the box
Inside the Box
  • The Vital Pieces
  • Operating Systems
  • Printers

New Canaan LibraryWinter 2002

what we will look at
What we will look at:
  • CPU or Computer Chip
  • Main Memory RAM (Temporary Storage)
  • Hard Disk (Permanent Storage)
  • Drives (Portable Storage)
  • Video/Sound Cards
  • Ports
  • Monitors
  • Operating Systems (Software)
  • Printers
  • CPU (Central Processing Unit) or Chip is the heart of the computer.
  • CPU processes instructions, performs calculations and manages the flow of information throughout the computer system.
  • The CPU speed is a major (but not the only) factor in determining how fast a computer operates.
  • CPU speed is measured in megahertz (MHz), millions of cycles per second or gigahertz (GHz), billions of cycles per second.

Today there are several different types of CPUs with different speeds to choose from:

  • Intel Pentium Processor
  • Intel Celeron Processor
  • AMD Athlon Processor
  • AMD Duron Processor

Intel Pentium Processor

  • Pentium 4 is the latest generation, with a processing speed up to 2.0 GHz.
  • Pentium III’s are still common in new computers with speeds ranging from 700 MHz to 1.13 GHz

Intel Celeron Processor

  • An inexpensive CPU designed to meet the needs and budgets of most home computer users.
  • Similar to the Pentium, but have less built-in memory.
  • Available in speeds up to 900 MHz.

AMD Athlon Processor

The AMD Athlon is a high-performance processor manufactured by AMD, suitable for businesses and home users who need a powerful processor.


AMD Duron Processor

The AMD Duron is an inexpensive CPU designed to meet the needs of most computer users with speeds up to 900 MHz.


Recommended CPU:

Celeron or Duron based computers for the more cost conscious.

Pentium III, 4 or AMD Athlon for the power user.

memory temporary storage
Memory (Temporary Storage)

RAM (Random Access Memory) or Main Memory

  • The amount of RAM memory determines the number of programs a computer can run at once and how fast programs will operate.
  • Memory is measured in megabytes (MB). You should buy a computer with at least 128 MB of memory
  • Think of RAM as “work space”
  • You can improve the performance of your computer by adding more memory.
  • RAM is temporary memory

Memory comes in different forms

  • DRAM (Dynamic RAM) is a type of memory chip that makes up the main memory in many computer systems
  • SDRAM (Synchronous DRAM) is a faster type of memory chip found in most new computer systems. SDRAM transfers at a rate of 133 MHz
  • RDRAM (Rambus DRAM) is a new type of memory chip often found in high-performance computers. It can transfer data at up to 600 MHz.
  • ECC (Error-correcting code memory) Includes a special circuitry for testing the accuracy of data as it passes in/out of memory

Recommended Memory:

128 MB - 256 MB for all new computers. Look for SDRAM or RDRAM with ECC.

hard disk permanent storage
Hard Disk(Permanent Storage)

With Hard disk, both size and speed matters.

  • Today the amount of information a hard disk can store is measured in Gigabytes (GB)
  • The speed at which the platter in the hard disk spins is measured inRevolutions Per Minute (RPM)
  • The speed at which a hard drive finds data is the “Average Access Time” or “ Seek Time.”
hard disk
Hard Disk
  • Average Access Time or “Seek Time” is measured in milliseconds (MS). One millisecond equals 1/1000 of a second. Seek time is important to the overall performance of the computer
  • Most hard drives have an average access time between 8 to 15 ms.
  • The lower the average access time, the faster the hard drive.
hard disk18
Hard Disk

Types of hard disk interfaces:

  • EIDI
  • SCSI
  • Firewire

(SCSI and Firewire need a separate interface card, are more expensive but faster than EIDI)

hard disk19
Hard Disk

Types of EIDI drives:

  • Regular EIDI
  • DMA
  • Ultra ATA
hard disk20
Hard Disk

DMA and Ultra ATA hard drives runs faster faster than regular EIDI


DMA 5400 RPM

ATA 7200 RPM

hard disk21
Hard Disk

Recommended Hard Disk:

20 - 40 GB Ultra ATA 7-9 ms seek time, 7200 RPM

video card
Video Card
  • The video cardis the interface between the CPU and the monitor.
  • A video card has its own memory chip which stores information before sending it to the monitor.
  • Most computers require at least 2 MB of video card memory (VRAM).
video card23
Video Card
  • An Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) video card uses an AGP bus to communicate directly with the computer’s main memory.
  • This allows quicker display of complex images on the monitor.
  • AGP is specially designed to meet the high demands of displaying 3D images.
video card24
Video Card

Recommended Video Card:

2X - 4X AGP, 16-64 MB RAM, 3-D card with a good brand name.

Some good brand names are:

ATI, Creative and Voodoo

sound card
Sound Card
  • The sound card is the interface that allows you to listen to sounds on your PC
  • The sampling rate of a sound card determines the quality of the sound produced. The higher the sampling rate, the better the sound quality
  • Look for a sampling rate of at least 44.1 KHz
sound card26
Sound Card


  • A full-duplex sound card lets you talk and listen at the same time.
  • When using a computer to have a conversation over the Internet, a full-duplex sound card lets people talk at the same time.
sound cards
Sound Cards

Recommended Sound Card:

Diamond MX 300, 400, 600 or the family of SoundBlaster Live Cards.

drives portable storage
Drives (Portable Storage)
  • Floppy
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-RW
  • DVD
  • DVD-R

Floppy Drive

  • A floppy drive is a storage device that magnetically stores data.
  • Floppy drives use 3.5 inch floppy disks.
  • A floppy disk can hold 1.44 MBs of information.

CD-ROM Drive

  • CD-ROM means Compact Disc-Read-Only-Memory.
  • Read-only means you cannot change the information stored on the disc
  • A single CD-ROM stores up to 650 MB of information (that’s over 400 floppy disks)

CD-ROM Applications

  • Install Programs
  • Play Multimedia CD-ROM Discs
  • Play Music CDs

CD-ROM Speed

  • How fast the CD-ROM disc spins determines its speed
  • The higher the speed, the faster information can transfer from the disk to the computer.
  • You should buy at least a 48X (7,200 KB/s) CD-ROM drive.

CD-RW Drives

  • A CD-RW means Compact Disc-ReWritable.
  • CD-RWs allow you to write, and re-write, data on CD-RW discs.
  • CD-R discs allow you to write BUT NOT re-write data to the disk.

CD-RW Applications

  • Store and Transfer Data (Up to 700 MB)
  • Record Music (Up to 74 minutes)
  • Play Music CDs
  • Play Multimedia CDs

CD-RW Speed

CD-RW drives operate at several speeds.


Write 12X

Rewrite 10X

Read 32X

  • Write speed refers to how fast a CD-RW can record data on a CD-R disc
  • Re-Write speed refers to how fast it can write to a CD-RW disc
  • Read refers to how fast data transfers from a disc to the computer


Stands for Digital Versatile Disc-Read-Only Memory. You cannot change the information stored on a DVD-ROM.

A DVD-ROM is similar in size and shape to a CD-ROM, but can store much more information (4.7 to 17 GB)


DVD-ROM Applications

  • Play DVD Video (w/MPEG2 decoder)
  • Play Music CDs
  • Play Multimedia DVDs or CDs


The speed of a DVD-ROM drive determines how quickly data can transfer from a disc to the computer.

Current drives commonly have a speed of 6X


Recordable DVD Drives

  • A recordable DVD allows you to record data on rewritable DVD discs.
  • Recordable DVDs are also known as DVD-RAM and DVD-R.
  • DVD-Ram can play CD-ROMs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs music CDs and DVD Video.

USB and Firewire

  • USB and Firewire ports allow you to easily connect peripheral devices to your computer
  • USB and Firewire are very fast ports
  • USB/Firewall automatically detect and install the device

USB (Universal Serial Bus)

  • Current version of USB can transfer information at a speed of up to 12 megabits per second (Mbps).
  • USB 2.0 will be able to transfer information at a speed of 480 Mbps.
  • USB is often used to connect scanners, printers, keyboards, etc.

Firewire (a.k.a. IEEE 1394 or

  • A firewire port can transfer information at a speed of up to 400 Mbps.
  • Firewire is useful for connecting high-speed devices such as digital video cameras and external hard drives.


  • A modem lets computer exchange information over telephone lines
  • 56 Kbps (5,600 bits per second) is the highest speed dial-up.
  • V.92/V.44 is a new standard promising higher speed dial-up (300 Mbps), faster connection speed and the ability to take calls without disconnecting from the Internet
network adapter
Network Adapter

Ethernet Card

  • Is an adapter that allows you to connect your computer to a network.
  • Needed for Broadband connections to the Internet (e.g. Cable, DSL)

Monitor Size

  • Monitor size is measured diagonally across the screen. Common sizes are 14, 15, 17, 19, 21 inches.
  • Large monitors are more expensive and are good for working with graphics, video editing or large spreadsheets.


  • A flat-panel monitor uses Liquid Crystal Display (LCD).
  • Flat-panels are more expensive but are lighter, take up less desk space and use less electricity.

Dot Pitch

  • The dot pitch is the distance between pixels on a screen. A pixel is the smallest element on a screen.
  • Dot pitch determines the sharpness of images and is measured in millimeters (mm)
  • The smaller the dot pitch, the sharper the image. Select a monitor with a dot pitch of 0.28mm or less.

Refresh Rate

  • The refresh rate determines the speed that a monitor redraws, or updates, images. The higher the rate the less flicker on the screen.
  • Refresh is measured in hertz (Hz) and tells you the number of times per second the monitor redraws the entire screen.
  • Choose a monitor with a refresh rate of 72 Hz or more.
operating system
Operating System
  • Windows 98
  • Windows ME
  • Windows XP (Home Edition)

Windows NT and 2000 are more commonly used for running business applications. They provide advanced networking and security features.

operating system51
Operating System

Operating System (OS)

An operating system is the software that controls the overall activity of a computer.

  • Controls Hardware
  • Runs Software
  • Manages Information
operating system52
Operating System


  • A platform refers to the type of operating system used by a computer, such as Windows, Mac OS or UNIX.
  • Programs designed for use on one platform will not usually work on another platform.
operating system53
Operating System

Windows 98

  • Windows 98 is more stable than Win95
  • More maintenance tools
  • FAT 32 File system (uses hard drive space more efficiently)
  • More Internet Programs (Explorer, Outlook, Frontpage express)
operating system54
Operating System

Window ME

  • Movie Maker, allows you to record, edit and save videos on your computer
  • Enhanced version of Media Player to help manage your multimedia files
  • Home networking wizard
  • System Restore feature
operation system
Operation System

Windows XP

  • New visual design
  • Digital photo features
  • CD Burner Software
  • Video production
  • Instant messaging and video conferencing
  • Recovery tools
  • More secure, stable, reliable and dependable
  • Ink Jet
  • Laser
  • Ink Jet Color Photo Printer


  • The speed of a printer determines how quickly it can print pages
  • Speed is measured in pages per minute (PPM)
  • A higher speed results in faster output.


  • The resolution of a printer determines the quality of the images it can produce. A higher resolution yields sharper, more detailed images.
  • Resolution is measured in dots per inch (DPI). 600 dpi is good for most text documents. 1200 dpi is good for images.


  • Ink-jets produce high-quality documents at a low price. Ideal for routine business and personal documents
  • An ink-jet printer has a print head that sprays ink through small nozzles onto a page.
  • Speed: 2 - 10 ppm; Resolution: 360 - 2400 dpi


  • Laser printer is a high-speed printer ideal for business, personal documents and professional graphics
  • A laser printer works like a photocopier to produce high-quality images on a page

Laser Process:

A tiny laser beam scans across a rotating, electrostatically charged drum to create an image of the printed page. Toner sticks to the scanned image on the drum, which in turn rolls onto the paper, where the toner is fused at about 400 degrees to create a hard copy.


Laser Speed

  • Most lasers produce images at a speed of 4-16 ppm
  • All lasers have a CPU that processes instructions and manages information flow within the printe
  • Laser printers store pages in built-in memory before printing. Typical laser CPU speed is 2 MB to 8MB and can be upgraded
  • Memory is important for laser printers that produce images at high resolutions, such as 2400 dpi.
  • Memory is also important for laser printers that print on larger paper sizes and process complex print jobs.

Laser Resolution

  • The resolution or quality of the images produced by a laser printer ranges from 600 to 2400 dpi

Color Photo Printer

  • A color photo printer is designed to produce photographic-quality images.
  • Photo quality printers can accept special types of paper and use a different cartridge from standard ink-jet printers.
inside the box66
Inside the Box


inside the box67
Inside the Box


Jeff Zaino, Systems Librarian

New Canaan Library

Fall 2001