Getting to Know Your PC – Part 1

a basic desktop pcIn this first of a three-part series on getting to know your PC, we will cover the hardware of the computer (the box, monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc.). If you're looking for a guide for Macs, one will be coming shortly. A PC can have any number of optional parts, but the most common parts, which are used in nearly every home, are the Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers, and Computer Tower. We will cover the first four in this section, and the Computer Tower in part 2. For many of you, these are obvious, and need no explanation, but for some, the differences in how and why these connect to your computer are complicated and infrequently explained. If you've wondered what cables go where on the back of your computer (or if you have 10 minutes and literally nothing better to do), this is for you. MONITOR The computer monitor, pictured at left below, is essentially a TV which, since it can only (in most cases) connect to a computer, makes it completely useless as a TV. It is, however, very useful at displaying the graphics and pictures available on your computer. It can connect to the computer via DVI (below-middle) or VGA (below-right).

 KEYBOARD The keyboard, pictured below (guess which one), is what you use to type on the computer. It can connect to the computer in one of two ways: USB (more common, below-middle) or PS/2 (less common, below-left). It can also be connected wirelessly, but will require a signal receiver to be plugged into one of the ports listed above.

MOUSE The mouse, below-left (surprise!) is used to navigate through the computer,  for point-and-click interfaces like Windows. It can be connected either by USB (below-middle) or PS/2 (below-right). In older computers, the mouse PS/2 is always green; in newer ones, the port is half green, half purple, and a keyboard or mouse can be plugged in. Like the keyboard, the mouse can be set up wirelessly, but will require some sort of receiver to be plugged into either a USB or PS/2 port.

SPEAKERS Speakers have been around for ages, and most of you won't need to see a picture of them. Of course, I have one anyway, along with a picture of the color-coded input port (or jack, if you prefer) typically seen on modern computers. They can come in any combination from 2 (one right, and one left, basic stereo sound) all the way up to 24 (that would be 22.2 surround sound, which currently has no practical usage that I'm aware of; looks nice, though, I'm sure). The audio ports in the back of the computer are for microphone (pink), front (or only, if you only have 2) speakers (green), other audio input (blue), and optional extra speakers for surround sound (grey, black, and orange). Older computer models will generally just have the pink, green, and blue ports.

In Part 2 I'll discuss the Computer Tower, the central hub of the computer, into which all of the above peripherals (that's the technical term, but "things" works equally well) plug. I'll cover the basics of where things plug in, and show you a sample diagram of the back of a computer. I will also cover the basics of the printer and scanner, which will be covered more in-depth in a separate post.

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  1. [...] left and right speakers that go behind the listener in a surround sound setup. As mentioned in the previous post, there may also be a grey port. If so, that would be for the side speakers (extreme right and [...]

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