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The Personal Computer (PC)

Concepts will change as each day goes by!


The physical parts of a personal computer:

         Central Processing Unit (CPU) and related microchips,



          Drives (floppy, hard, CD, optical, tape, etc...),

          Peripherals such as mouse, printers, modems, scanners, and cards (sound, color, video) and a variety of different types of external or internal drives and devices.

Central Processing Unit (CPU) - Though the term relates to a specific chip or the processor, a CPU's performance is determined by the rest of the computers circuitry and chips.

The Pentium chip or processor is name of the chip made by Intel.   Prior to the Pentium were the 80286, 386, and 486 chips for DOS based systems. A Pentium is a 586 chip. A Core Duo 2 Chip uses 2 processor chips.

The AMD,  the Athelon Chip,  the Celeron Chip and others now supply competition in chip production and usage.

With faster processors the clock speed becomes important.  Earlier computers operated at below 30 megahertz (MHz) Pentium chips begin at 75 MHz and go up to 1G+ MHz and more.  Upgrading depends on the circuit board that the chip is housed in, or the motherboard. Naturally the motherboard would be at the controls!

Keyboard - The keyboard is the basic tool to input information. Different keyboard layouts and sizes are available. The standard QWERTY keyboard has 101 keys. Notebooks have embedded keys accessible by special keys and by using key combinations. Ergonomically designed keyboards are easier on the body and wrists. Thank goodness some one is thinking of comfort!

Some keys have a special use and are called command keys. Each key on a standard keyboard has one or two characters.  Some keys have even become obsolete!

Disk Drives – The Drives are the storage devices - to get information off and put information on the disk drives is referred to as read or write information. Drives are designed for a specific type of disk whether it is a CD, hard disk, floppy, DVD or Zip disk.  The term 'disk' and 'drive' are used to describe the same thing.  It is important to understand that the disk is the storage device and the drive is the mechanism that runs the disk.

Mouse - Most modern computers today use a mouse as a controlled pointer. The mouse has two buttons the left one is used to select objects and drag objects and text - while the right button is used to access the more intuitive menus.  There is a round ball under the mouse that rolls and turns two wheels to control the direction of the pointer on the screen.  Track pens, track balls and joy sticks are other tools to assist the user in controls. It is important to practice coordinated control of the mouse!  Using this tool effectively and efficiently can speed up the processing of data!

Monitors - The monitor shows information on the screen when you type. They provide interface between the user and the goings on of the computer. Most desktop computers use a monitor with a cathode tube and most notebooks use a liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor.  Graphic cards and color monitors are a standard for computers.

Printers - The printer produces copies of your data to print called a hard copy.  Basic printers are; dot matrix, inkjet, bubble jet and laser.

  • Dot matrix printers work like a typewriter transferring ink from a ribbon to paper with a series or 'matrix' of tiny pins.
  • Ink jet printers work like dot matrix printers but fires a stream of ink from a cartridge directly onto the paper.  A bubble jet is similar printing when the paper comes into contact with a tiny ink bubble.  These are both easily manufactured to print in color
  • Laser printers use the same technology as a photocopier using heat to transfer toner onto paper.

Modem - Modems transfer information through telephone lines. The term is condensed for modulate and demodulate.  This is the method to change the signal from digital, which computers use, to analog, which telephones use and back again.

Modems are measured by the speed that the information is transferred. The measuring tool is called the baud rate. Originally modems worked at speeds below 2400 baud.  Today speeds of 56,000 bps are common and quickly being outdated.  Anyone using the Internet has noticed that at times the information travels at different speeds. Depending on the amount of information that is being transferred the information will arrive at it's destination at different times. Internet peak periods are very slow. The amount of information that can travel through a line is limited. This limit is called bandwidth. There are many different potential solutions to the problem of limited bandwidth. ISDN is one up and coming technology that skips the modulation process and sends the information digitally (and much faster). Cable connections are another.  DSL is another method.  Watch how technology will progress in this area!! Things change at a faster rate then my keyboard skills!

Scanners - Scanners allow you to transfer pictures and photographs to your computer as a series of bits or a bitmap. You can then take that image and use it in a paint program, send it out as a fax & print it.  Scanners can be used effectively with text as an OCR reader An OCR reader gives the user a Text Document that can be edited by a word processor.

Computer case - The case houses the microchips and circuitry that run the computer.  They can be desktop models or towers.  Most models permit expansion with the use of expansion slots.   Connectivity is achieved by the use of the various ports and boards on the case.  Some ports are serial, parallel, USB, Phone ports, speaker and microphone plugs.

I-Computers – This type of computer is a specially design computer with somewhat less capabilities than a standard computer but with features that make it a great tool to access the internet.  Often the multimedia capabilities of this computer is souped up!

Notebook computers – Notebooks are light-weight travel computers with all the functionality of a larger computer. Some weigh as little as 3.5 lbs. Most newer Notebooks have a connection called a PCMCIA port that allows expansion or connection to exterior peripheral devices.  PCMCIA cards are themselves; the modem, the hard drive, or what ever.

Cards - Cards are components to computers that increase their capabilities.

Sound cards: produce sound like music and voice.  Speakers and microphones are attached here.

Color cards or graphics cards:  produce color (a color monitor is a must). 32 bit color is standard allowing monitors to display almost a billion separate colors.

Video cards: display video and animation. Video cards allow computers to display television as well as capture frames from video. A video card with a camera allows computers users to transmit live video.  A fast connection like an ISDN or network connection is needed for effective video transmission.  DVD Drives are now a standard accessory for any home computer.  Video can be transferred over the internet.

Memory - It is common to confuse chip memory with disk storage.  Memory is where the work is done and storage is where you keep your software and data.  Windows uses the computer's hard drive as temporary memory when the program needs more that the chips can provide.  This is cache memory.  Random Access Memory or RAM is the memory that the computer uses to temporarily store the information as it is being processed. The more information being processed the more RAM the computer needs.   Additional or extra memory helps improve the speed of processing.

Early computers came with as little as 512 KB of memory, which could be expanded, to a maximum of 640 KB. Today it is typical to have 64megs of RAM. 



The software is the information or programs that the computer uses to get the job done. There are many terms used for the process of accessing software programs such as running, executing, starting up, opening, operating and others.

Examples of software programs or applications would be the Operating System (DOS, Windows, O/S2, UNIX, Linux, Mac OS and various others), Word Processor (typing documents, letters, faxes), Spreadsheet (financial info), Database (client lists and address books), Graphics program and many others.

Anything that you create on your computer is referred to as software or data.  Any document that you create, graphic you design, sound you compose, file you make, letter you write, etc..  All software is stored in files or data files.  A thorough knowledge of file and disk management is vital.  TAKE A COURSE ON THIS!

Software is stored on a disk, a floppy, hard disk, CD, tape or one of the dozens of other storage devices available.  Software can be downloaded from the internet, purchased or acquired as freeware or shareware.

There are millions of different pieces of software available for almost every conceivable purpose. Software is available commercially through stores and mail order and on the Internet. Or software development companies can custom design software for you.  Software suites contain programs that work together and share information, making it easier to combine that information in versatile ways. For example when writing a letter you can get the address from a database, include a letterhead from a paint program and included a financial chart in the body of the letter.  An example of this is Microsoft Works.

The three basic types of software:

Commercial software comes prepackaged and is available from software stores and through the Internet. 

Shareware is software developed by individual and small companies that cannot afford to market their software worldwide or by a company that wants to release a demonstration version of their commercial product. You will have an evaluation period in which you can decide whether to purchase the product or not. Shareware software often is disabled in some way and has a notice attached to explain the legal requirements for using the product.

Public Domain software or freeware is created by generous programmers and released into the public domain for public use. There is often a copyright notice that must remain with the software product.


Disks and Storage

Disks are used to store information. All information on computers are stored in files. The size of a file is measured in bytes.

A byte is approximately one character (letter 'a', number '1', symbol '?' etc....).

  • About a thousand bytes is a kilobyte (KB).
  • About a million bytes is a megabyte (MB).
  • About a billion bytes is a gigabyte (GB).

A byte is made up of 8 bits. A bit is simply an on or an off signal which passes through the computers circuitry. Every piece of software can be broken down into a series of on or off signals or it's Binary Code.

Floppy disk are still a common way of transporting information (such as bringing files home from work) compact disks (CDs) have become the most popular way of selling software. Hard disks are the most common storage device.

Compact disks or CDs can store large amounts of information. One disk will store 650 Mb or about 70 minutes of music. They are sometimes referred to as a CD-ROM which stand for Compact Disk Read Only Memory. Unlike a floppy disk which can be written to many times a CD can only be written to once. Also CD recorders are still quite expensive for the average person.

Hard disks store the majority of information on today's modern computer. My first hard disk stored 52 Mb, 12 more than my colleague's 40 Mb. Today the standard hard disk stores 3 GB or more. Like a floppy disk information can be stored and deleted as necessary.

3.5 high density

1.44 Mb

720 pages


There are many other storage devices including tape, 3.5 inch diskettes, Zip & Jazz disks, VCR tape, DVD and many others. Innovation in storage technology is currently advancing rapidly.

Information is stored in an electromagnetic form much like a cassette or video tape. Keep disks away from strong electric or magnetic fields including x-rays. Be aware of high electromagnetic areas in the room such as televisions, speakers, high tension wires, etc... Use disks only at room temperature and keep them out of direct sunlight. If possible avoid passing magnetic storage devices through airport x-rays. In theory information stored on a disk will last indefinitely but the physical storage device will wear out with usage and time.


Operating Systems

All computers need an Operating System. The majority of modern home computers use some form of Microsoft's operating systems such as DOS (Disk Operating System) or Windows (3.x, 95, 98, NT, 2000 who knows when it will end) though some use IBM's O/S2 or Linux.  Mac computers use their own operating system, which is currently up to version 7.x. In the past large companies and institutions would have an operating system design exclusively for them but as the commercial operating systems become more sophisticated the benefits of this practice is becoming less apparent. Internet Service Providers (ISP) and mainframe computers use a different operating system such as UNIX or Windows NT.

Smaller operating systems exist but software is currently being developed only for the main operating systems. Many older computers with unique operating systems have lots of software already developed for them but there is very little new software being developed for the older computers. The proprietary operating systems exist but are quickly going away.  They can be very expensive to keep current.

The operating system controls the input and output or directs the flow of information to and from the CPU. Most of this is done automatically by the system but it is possible to modify and control your system if you need to.

When you turn your computer on it first needs to load the operating system sometimes referred to a booting up. Basically the computer starts from scratch every time you turn the power on. It checks all its components and will usually display a message if there is a problem. Loading the system is commonly automated scripts or small programs.

Once the system is loaded the user can start the application or program that they are going to use.

Many Microsoft users will run Windows at this point. Windows is a Graphic User Interface (GUI) which allows the user to control or run the computer using a Mouse and Icons. The user simply moves the mouse on a flat surface, rolls the trackball, or moves their hand over the touchpad to control a pointer. They then choose the option they want by pressing a button or touching the pad.

Without Windows the user controls the computer using the keys on the keyboard.

Introduction to Windows

This is a hands on course providing a comprehensive introduction to the powerful, productive, graphic environment of Windows.


  • Navigation and terminology
  • File management: Explorer and My Computer
  • Customize the environment: Control Panel
  • Working with Programs and Accessories

  Navigation and terminology

    • The Hardware (a.k.a. Machine) is anything you can physically touch (includes: the computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, modem, printer, etc.)
    • The Software (a.k.a. Programs or applications) is any program installed on your computer (includes: Windows Explorer, Calculator, Paint, Microsoft Word etc.)


In 1981, IBM released its first Personal Computer, Microsoft released MS-DOS, and the PC revolution began.  Through the 80s, millions of businesses and people learned to issue a variety of DOS commands and to use a variety of applications.  By the end of the decade, most users were working on a word processor, a spreadsheet, and possibly a database they used regularly.  They were looking for an easier way to work these packages in an easier way.

 In 1990, Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0, a program designed to maximize productivity.  Windows made computers easier to use.  Windows helped in creating a multitasking environment with a graphical user interface (GUI). Menus, Icons and dialog boxes replaced the often cryptic commands of DOS.   A multitasking environment permits several applications to be open at one time. Through the years Windows developed in keeping step with the many advances in hardware technology.


Windows at a glance:

Key Components: 

Desk Top                      Task Bar                      Icons

Start Menu                    Find                              Help

Menus                          Dialog Boxes                MS-DOS Prompt

Control Panel                Settings                        Run Command

                        Shut Down            Close Button         Mini/Max Button

                        Short Cuts                             Folders                   Recycle Bin                           My Documents

Click: Start --> Settings --> Control Panel --> Keyboard

This is the main input device (how you communicate with the computer). There are four main types of keys on the keyboard:

  1. The Typewriter Keys are in familiar QWERTY style
  2. The Function Keys range from F1 through F10, and are no longer widely used (originally used to shorten applications)
  3. The Arrow Keys move the onscreen cursor in the arrow
  4. The Numeric Keypad is used for fast keying of numbers and can also be used as arrow keys (you'll need to toggle Num Lock).
  5. The Special Command Keys; Ctrl, Alt, Del, Insert, Num Lock, Etc. 

Click: Start --> Settings --> Control Panel --> Mouse

This is the secondary input device. It is theoretically possible (but not easy) to maneuver around Windows without a mouse (it is impossible without a keyboard).

A mouse is a hand-held device that controls the movements of a pointer on your screen. When you position the pointer over an object, you can press (click or double-click) the mouse button to perform different actions on the object. For example, you can double-click to open and work in files, click and drag to move files and click to select files. The pointer usually appears as an arrow, but it can change shape.

You perform most of the tasks on your computer by pointing at an object on your screen, and then clicking a mouse button. To point to an object, move the mouse until the tip of the mouse pointer is over the item or area you want.

For now, if your mouse has three buttons, ignore the center one. The only two buttons that you will need to use are the left and right ones.

The four common mouse actions are:

    • Click: Press and release the left mouse button once. This selects a program.
    • Double-click: Quickly press and release the left mouse button twice (this needs to be done rapidly - if you're too slow, the computer will not open the program). This runs a program.
    • Right-click: Press and release the right mouse button once. This gives additional choices.

Dragging: To move a screen object, you first position the mouse pointer on the object. Next, you "pick up" the object by pressing and holding down the left mouse button. While you're still holding down the mouse button, move the mouse pointer to where you want to "drop" the object, and then release the mouse button. You also drag to select text, such as works in a document or the name of a file. To select text, you first insert your cursor (a blinking vertical line) where you want to start the selection. Then you hold down the left mouse button, move the mouse pointer to where you want to end the selection, and release the mouse button. This moves icons and text to different locations.


File Management and Windows Explorer

Seeing what is on your computer:

         Double Click My Computer

         Double Click Icons


         Dialog Boxes


Use Windows Explorer:




         Bits and Bytes – Basic Storage Measurement

         Hierarchy of folders and files – organized structure

         Naming Conventions


         Buttons for common tasks – previous, etc.

         Move, Copy, Delete.

         Create a new folder

         Copy between drives



Customize the Windows Environment

                                 Using My Computer


                                 Monitor settings – appearance of Windows



                                 Installing Hardware and Software

                                 Set up a Screen Saver


Working with Programs and Accessories

  • Word Processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • Database Management
  • Electronic Mail
  • Presentations
  • Calendars
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Graphics
  • Paint
  • Calculator
  • Modems
  • Scanners
  • DVD and other drives
  • Sound  

How Computers Work…

Input: Information and programs are entered into the computer through Input devices such as the keyboard, disks, or through other computers via network connections or modems connected to telephone lines. The input device also retrieves information off disks.

Output: Output Devices displays information on the screen (monitor) or the printer and sends information to other computers. It also displays messages about what errors may have occurred and brings up requesters or message box asking for more. The output device also saves information on the disk for future use.

Processing: The CPU is sometimes called the Control Unit and directs the operation of the input and output devices. The memory or RAM temporarily stores information (files and programs) while you are using or working on them.

Keyboard Layout and Data Entry

ENTER or RETURN - Moves the cursor down one line and Enters commands

DEL or DELETE - Deletes the character at cursor and/or characters to the right of the cursor

BKSP or BACKSPACE - Deletes the character to the left of cursor

SPACE BAR - Moves the cursor one space at a time to the right

SHIFT KEY - Use the shift keys to type capital letters and to type the upper character on keys with two characters on them

CAPS LOCK - Locks the keyboard so it types capital letters (a light goes on when caps lock is on)

TAB - Moves the cursor five spaces to the right (number of spaces are usually adjustable)

ESC or ESCAPE - Cancels a menu or message box

ARROW KEYS - Moves the cursor around document without changing text

FUNCTION KEYS or F KEYS - Access commands by themselves or in combination with the three command keys; CTRL, SHIFT, and ALT


Command or Special Keys

Command keys normally do nothing on their own but work in combination with other keys. Each piece of software uses the command keys differently though there is a move to standardize some functions. The Control key or Ctrl is often used to access commands. The Alternative key or Alt is often used to access menus. The Shift key is used to type CAPITAL LETTERS. As well the command keys are all used to move through documents and edit text faster and easier. As well many computers have Special keys design specifically for the particular computer.


Using Windows and the Desktop

The Start Button starts programs, opens documents, and access most parts of the system. It replaces program groups from previous Windows versions. It can be customized in Explorer using the Windows/Startup menu. Clicking with the right mouse button allows you to access "Explore", "Find". "Run" and other programs.

  • Program displays a list of the programs that are installed through Windows and available to use
  • Documents displays a list of the last 15 documents used allowing the user to open them directly from this menu
  • Settings displays system components, such as printers, control panel and taskbar
  • Find has search abilities to find files, folders and documents on your system
  • Help displays help topics broken up into contents, index and find components
  • Run allows you to start a program or open a folder from a command line
  • Shut down shuts down the computer, restarts the computer or logs you off a network
  • Favorites and Active Desktop is an option available to Windows 98 & Internet Explorer version 4.x users


  • displays the program running and windows open
    • to bring a program or window to the front single click on the item on the taskbar
    • right click to display a menu for the item
  • right click an open area for a Taskbar menu
  • the notification area on the right displays indicators for certain tasks
    (for instance a printer icon will appear when the printer is engaged)
    • double click the icon to display setting for the task
  • click and drag the taskbar to the top, bottom, left or right to customize it.
  • drag it to make it bigger or to move it off the screen
  • use Start/Settings/Taskbar & Start Menu to customize the settings

Control Panel

  • used to change system settings like screen savers, time, screen colors
  • also used to add and remove programs, fonts add and make changes to hardware and software settings

My Computer

  • displays all the components of the computer including disk drives and networks
  • all parts of the computer can be accessed through My Computer's hierarchical structure
  • double click on any icon to view the contents of a disk, folder or run a program


Windows are what the operating system was named for. All programs, folders, tasks and most other operations open in a window. Windows 95 has increased the capabilities of the window to:

  • share common attributes through out the entire system
  • contain menus for File, Edit, View and Help which update depending on the task
    • File
      • open, rename, delete or change properties of files and folders
      • Send To used to open files in a specified program
      • create "Shortcuts"
    • Edit
      • move, copy and paste files and folders
      • Undo the last change
    • View
      • change how menu items are displayed
      • toggles Toolbar and Status bar
      • sorts files with Arrange Icons
      • Options set system wide menu options
    • Help
      • displays help topics
      • Windows 95 displays resource and memory allocation


  • displays icon menu of main options (hold pointer over icon for description)

Status bar

  • shows current status of the window including hints


  • can be created anywhere you need to access a program, file or folder
  • select item and choose Create Shortcut then move it to its target folder (destination)
  • or open target folder and choose File, New, Shortcut
  • use the right mouse button to drag the item to the target and choose Create Shortcut Here from the menu that appears
  • when you delete a Shortcut the original remains intact

*Favorites is a feature available with Windows 98 and through Internet Explorer version 4.x

  • allow items (web pages, folders, document, etc...) to be added to Window menus

         Active Update - update Windows automatically through the Internet

Using Help

  • to get help about a specific procedure click the help button in the top right corner of the screen (or right click the item and choose What is This?)
  • Contents list general topics grouped by subject
  • Index list specific topics accessed by scroll bars or typing the topic
  • Find creates an index of words in Help and allows searches by word or phrase
  • click Help Topics to return to the Help menu

Windows Explorer (formally File Manager)

  • (not to be confused with Microsoft Explorer (yet))
  • displays drives and folders on the left side and files and sub-folders in the right
  • double click the folder to display contents on right
  • menu is similar to a folder menu
  • plus sign (+) beside a drive or folder indicates that there are sub-folders
  • click plus to expand or show the folders and minus to hide them

Hints & Shortcuts

Backing up files

  • there are a few system files that need to be backed up periodically
  • all initialization (.ini) files in the Windows directory
  • all registry files (.dat) files in the Windows directory
  • all password (.pwl) files in the Windows directory
  • all files referred to in; as well as the Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files
  • any other proprietary configuration and logon scripts
  • and of course your personal and business data

Four Methods of Opening Documents

  • Open a program and use the Open command in the File menu
  • Use the Documents command in the Start menu to open a recently used document
  • Use the Find command in the Start menu
  • Double click on an icon in a Desktop Folder

Creating Folders

  • Use the New option in the File menu (or right click) to create a folder in the active window

Moving and Deleting Files

  • Use Drag & Drop to drag the file or folder from one window to another with the right button
    • a menu will appear allowing you to Copy or Move the file or folder
  • Use Drag & Drop to drag the file or folder from one window to another with the left button
    • files on the same disk are moved (hold Ctrl to copy)
    • files on another disk are copied (hold Ctrl to move)
  • Use the Edit menu to Cut the file and Paste it in the destination window
  • Hold down Shift while Deleting a file to by pass the Recycle Bin and permanently delete files

Multiple Selection

  • to select files sequentially click on the first file and move to the last file, press hold and press click on the last file in the sequence
  • to select files non-sequentially click on the first file and hold Ctrl while clicking the rest
  • the two methods can be used together

Organizing your files

  • any folder created on the Desktop will be available as a root directory in any program designed for Windows 95
  • folder created on the Desktop are stored in the C:\Window\Desktop directory
  • My Documents is the default folder created by Windows



Word Processing

The keyboard of a word processor is similar to that of a typewriter, but its capabilities extend far beyond the typewriter's. For example, you don't have to press the Return or Enter key at the end of every line - in word processing, the line "wraps around" when it reaches the margin you've set and allows you to continue typing without stopping, you only press Enter (or Return) when you want to start a new paragraph or insert blank lines. If you make a mistake while typing use backspace or delete to erase it.

Editing functions such as inserting, deleting, moving, and copying characters, words, lines, and even blocks of text are fast and easy with only a few keystrokes. Advanced programs will number pages, repeat material in the same place on every page automatically, and check the spelling of every word in your document. You print your document only after it looks exactly the way you want it to. Finally, copies of all your documents are stored on a disk, enabling you to retrieve, edit, and print them at any time.

The text appears at the cursor. Use the space bar to place spaces between words. Use backspace to erase to the left of the cursor and delete to erase to the right of the cursor. Use Enter (or Return) to move the cursor down a line.

Word processors allow you to type your text in Bold, Italics or Underline. This is useful when you wish to highlight some word or line in a document. To activate Bold, Italics or Underline click the icon button on the Toolbar, type the text that you wish to have highlighted then press Toolbar icon again when you are finished. The indicator on the Toolbar will appear highlighted as long as the highlight style is on.

Changing the Font can also modify the text. A font is the shape and size of a character of text. The three main types are serif (with tails); sans-serif (without tails); and script (similar to handwriting). Text colors can also be changed.

Text can also be formatted by using indents and adding tab settings which modify where the text is placed on the page. Rather than press the space bar more than once get in the habit of setting tabs where you want the cursor to move to.

The page can be modified by changing the margins, adding headers or footers (repeating text on each page), page numbering, graphic images and various other ways.

The Insert key toggles between Insert and Typeover. Often an indicator on the bottom left side of the screen will display the typing mode you are in. Normally, any text after the cursor will be pushed down the screen as new characters are typed in. With Typeover on the new character will just replace the old character at the cursor.

Editing text is quite easy once you get used to it. Select text that you want to modify with the mouse or by holding down Shift and using the arrow keys. Holding Control (CTRL) will select text one word at a time.

Once you have the text selected use Cut (Ctrl-X) to cut the text off the page and into a clipboard. Use Copy (Ctrl-C) to transfer a copy of the selected text to the clipboard. Use Paste (Ctrl-V) to paste the text into the document at the cursor. The clipboard will only hold a single selection of text and is replace with each new cut or copy.

Most word processors will check your spelling and many have thesauruses and will check your grammar. Don't rely on the editing tools to replace a good proof reading though!



Database Operations

A Database is a collection of information stored in a way that makes it easy to retrieve, modify and search. A database can be stored in a single file with all the information stored together sometimes referred to as a flat database or stored in different files with similar information stored together referred to as a relational database.

Each person or item in a database has it's own Record. Each piece of information about that person or record are stored in Fields. All the information in all the records makes up the Data Base.

Each Field can have information typed into it. Use the Tab key to move forward through the Field and the Shift-Tab to move backwards. Many databases also allow users to use the arrow keys to move around as well.

Though many fields only allow a single line of input some allow multiple lines. When the cursor reaches the bottom of a field with multiple lines the text will scroll upwards to show any information that is below the line of sight. If there is more text in the field than there is room on the screen use the arrow keys to move the cursor through the text.

It is possible to format individual fields to make data entry easier. For instance the field for phone numbers can be formatted to only allow numbers to be entered.

There are many different ways to use information in a database. In order to use it you can search for information by field using various filters to allow or disallow certain records to display. This is referred to as a query.

It is crucial that the information typed into a Data Base or information updated be saved before leaving the program. Many data errors can be traced back to power-failures or accidental computer shut downs.

The data can also be used by other programs for things like invoicing and creating form letters. The data from a database can be merged with forms created in other programs for a wide range of uses.




Spreadsheets are used to work with financial material. Spreadsheet charts are laid out in numbered rows and lettered columns. Where the row and column intersect is called a cell. The cell is referred to by the letter and number of the intersection called the cell address. The first cell in a chart is at the intersection of column A and row 1 and is referred to as Cell A1.

















When working with numbers in a spreadsheet refer to the cell addresses when creating mathematical formulas. This is because any changes you make to a single cell will be automatically update without having to re-enter the numbers in the rest of the cells.

Use the plus sign (+) to add; the minus (-) sign to subtract; the asterix (*) to multiply; and the back slash (/) to divide.

Spreadsheets use formulas to create simple to complex mathematical equations. A chart can be built to handle the financial needs of a businesses.

Most of the standard editing features are available in the spreadsheet such as Bold, Italics, Underline, Move, Copy and Paste.

Most spreadsheet programs include templates for charts to handle many of the average financial needs of a home user or small business. These templates can be modified or customized to personalize them for your own needs.

Most modern spreadsheet programs allow users to work on many sheets at once and access information from any of the sheets in the worksheet group.


Graphic Images, Sounds & Animation Graphics

Computer graphics are anything that can be displayed on the screen except the text and sometimes even text falls into the graphics category if it is save in a graphics format.

There are basically two types of computer graphic, bitmapped and vector/structured.

Bitmapped graphics are images that are mapped to the monitor or screen. The screen is made up of tiny dots called pixels. These dots can display various colors depending on the type of computer hardware and software you have. Using shades of red, green and blue (RGB) an image can be displayed on the screen by mapping different colors to the screen in different sequences.

Vector graphics use objects created from mathematical formulas to represent things like lines, curves, fills, line thickness, etc. to create the image.

Each type of graphic has it's own advantages and disadvantages. HTML only recognizes bitmapped graphics so anything created for the Internet, using standard HTML, must be created or converted to a bitmap format.

Within each of the two main types there are dozens of different formats.

Graphics formats are distinguished by their filename extensions.

The two main bitmapped format graphics used on the Internet are .gif and .jpeg (.jpg). There are many others including .bmp, .tiff (.tif), .pcx, .ppm, .tga and a host of others.

Some of the structured formats are .ai, .cmx, .eps, .wpg, .cgm and a host of others.

Bitmapped graphics can be created and modified in a paint program and vector or structured graphics can be created and modified in a draw program.

The main tools in a graphics program allow you to select a section of a picture, erase part of a picture, fill a defined area, select a color, magnify a section, draw free hand, draw with various tools such as a straight line; a curved line; a rectangle; an oval; and a polygon. You can also modify a drawing by changing the size, color, placement, and, depending on the program, hundreds of other modification.  


Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) or .mpg is multimedia format that is an attempt to create a standardization among the various formats available. MPEG 3 has made it possible to place audio content on your website without having it sound tiny and hollow or taking an extreme amount of time to download. There are many different formats for sound including; Microsoft's .wav, Sun's .au & .snd, Real Network's RealAudio , .ra(*), and various others.

You may have heard .mid files play when visiting various websites. Musical Instruments Digital Interface (MIDI) files are basically sound tracks which use a collection of sounds contained in the .mid file to play a tune.

To create a sound file you will need an audio program. You can then record with a microphone or off of a pre-recorded medium. Your computer will need to have a sound card properly installed and a speaker to hear your recording. You can save the sound file to play back later.


With the advent of faster computers comes animation. Though it has been around for years the modern computer has made it possible to include animation in programs without causing them to slow down (much). As with every multimedia format there are a number of types.

You have probably seen .gif animation on website (the link to the Lakefield Virtual Village below is an example). A GIF animation is a series of separate images or frames that display one after the other to give the impression of movement. Other formats are Audio Visual Interleave's .avi, the aforementioned Mpg, Apple's Quick Time .qt, .aif(*) & .mov, RealNetwork's RealVideo .rm(*), Macromedia's Flash & Shockwave .swf, Vivo's .viv(*) as well as various others.

There are various animation or multimedia players available and most are free off the Internet (try typing the To create and record animation you will need a graphics program that is animation capable. Visit the various graphic company websites to read up on their product to see if they can do what you want.

You should also be aware that most content placed on the Internet is copyright unless explicitly stated otherwise.



The Internet or the Net is a collection of computers, all link together, to share information globally. It was first developed in the U.S. by two universities who were both working on the same military contract and wanted to share their data. They were faxing information back and forth and then retyping it until they came up with a piece of software called Unix to Unix Copy Program or UUCP.

The internet was born and has mushroomed outward from that point.

There are 4 things that are necessary to "get on the net" with a full graphic interface (picture, sounds, animations, etc...).

  • A computer - preferably with a fast processor (486 or faster) and lots of memory (8 meg or more)
  • A modem - preferably 14,400 baud or faster
  • Browser Software - can be downloaded off the internet
  • An ISP - An Internet Service Provider is a service that connects your home or office computer to the internet

There are 3 things you need to get on the internet with a shell or text account (just the text without the fancy backgrounds)

  • A computer - Any old computer with a serial port (connection on the back that allows it to be connected to a modem)
  • A modem - 2400 baud rate minimum
  • An ISP - You may have to shop around but there are many ISP that offer shell or text accounts including the community ISPs and Freenets and the ISP provides the software - usually Lynx

Once you have bought an account with an ISP you will be given an account name. This is often your email address as well. You will either be given a temporary password with instructions on how to change your password to a unique and personalized one or provide the service with one that should be change as soon as possible. Protect your password as you would any PIN number.

The ISP will also provide information on how to configure your software. This can be simple or difficult depending on your Operating System. Once configured you simply run the software to connect your computer's modem to the ISP's modem giving you access to the Internet.

There are a number of pieces of software that work together to connect you to the Internet.

The first and most complicated is the dialer or socket software. This is the software that makes the physical connection with the services computer and needs to be configured only once but you will need instructions from your ISP on how to do this as each ISP has a different setup.

The second piece is an Internet browser. This is the program that locates websites for you and allows users to maneuver around (surf) the World Wide Web and view web pages. The two most popular today are AOL's Netscape Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer though Mosaic was the first and still used by some people. There are also a number of different ones and new ones being developed every once in a while. Some ISP have a priority type of browser though most have given up this practice as it seriously limits the users abilities.

Another piece of software is an email program. Most can also be used to read postings (documents) on newsgroups.

All of this software can be obtained from your ISP though you may have to download the newest version yourself.

There are many different ISPs. If you attend a university or college or belong to a military or government organization you can most likely get Internet access through your school or work. If not you will most likely buy access from a commercial provider.

Another option, if you are in a major center, is the Freenet. Many major cities have groups devoted to making the Internet accessible to the greater majority of people and create Freenets allowing new users free access to the Internet. They run on private and public donations and usually only provide text accounts. It is an excellent way of learning about the Internet in a helpful environment. Another way that smaller centers have addressed the access issue is to create a small ISPs with a few dedicated people and then add equipment as people join.

Once you are connected you will have access to Email, Newsgroups, the World Wide Web (WWW), File Transfer Protocol (ftp), Internet Relay Chat (irc), Search Engines,  and other ISPs.

Email is a way you, the sender, can transfer a message and/or file to others electronically (electronic mail). There are many different mail reading programs or applications that control email but the basic functions are all the same. An email address directs a message to the recipient.

Email addresses are made up of...

  • the account name (often the users first initial and then the last name (sometimes only 8 characters)
  • then the @ symbol
  • then the name of the user's ISP
  • the last 2 or 3 characters describe the type of service called the top level domain name. For example .com stand for commercial site, .ca - non-commercial site in Canada, .mil - U.S. military, .gov - U.S. government, .au - non-commercial site in Australia, .net - network, etc... Look for a whole stream of new service extensions or top-level domain (TLD) names being added in 1998 (99?)!

As well as sending and receiving mail the recipient can save the address for future reference in an address book, reply to the original message, forward the message to a third party, edit a message, check the spelling and a wide range of other options. Many mail software applications allow the user to download the messages to read while offline. Users can also write or compose their messages while offline as users are often paying for the time they are online. You can also attach files to email messages.

Newsgroups are discussion groups that are going on all the time. You can write a message and post it to a newsgroup in the morning and come back to read a reply to the message in the afternoon. There are thousands of news groups covering as many topics. Some are moderated, meaning that a person who has knowledge or an interest in a certain topic will receive the message and read it before posting it. This keeps the discussion on topic. Most are not moderated and the discussion can go anywhere but it can be a great way to get a quick reply to many questions.

One problem with posting a message to a public newsgroup is that unscrupulous companies mine the newsgroups for email addresses and then send unsolicited email (spam) to the poster. It is possible to disguise your email address using your newsgroup software's preferences.

Many newsgroups have a publicly accessible faq. A faq is a collection of frequently asked questions that have been posted many times to a newsgroup. You may get a gentle reminder or a completely rude and insulting comment if you post a question that is on the faq. It is acceptable to post a question as where the faq is located and you may find that frequent posters will mention the faq in their message.

World Wide Web (WWW) is a collection of web pages connected together with hyperlinks. Each document or page has a unique address that allows you to find it among the millions of other documents on the Web. The address is called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or sometimes a Uniform Resource Indicator (URI). When you chose a new link by clicking on it or by typing it into the address field your browser moves you to that document which can be a different section of the current document, in the same directory as the original or on another computer in another city or country. Web pages are designed using hypertext markup language or HTML.

Designing a basic page is not difficult after mastering a few simple codes or if you are planning a website you can have a Website Designer (send me an inquiry) create one for you. The key to the web are the links to different, useful or interesting pages. Many web page user will collect links to their favorite sites or web pages and add them to a bookmark or favorites list.

File Transfer Protocol (ftp) allows users to transfer file and documents from one computer to another. There are a few different software programs that will make this process quite simple. If you are designing a website you can use ftp to update your website.

Internet Relay Chat (irc) allows users to participate in real-time discussions with other users through the Internet. A user logs on to an irc site and then types messages and replies to others messages as they are written. Often an irc discussions has a topic and users will join to discuss this topic. Other irc discussions are free flowing and regardless of how centered the discussion is it can take some time to sort out the different threads of discussion in a busy irc. They are also used for online conferences with a famous or knowledgeable person contributing their time to answer question and present information.

A new twist on this theme are online game sites were Internet users can compete against other users on the Net.

Search Engines make finding things on the Internet somewhat easier. Search engines are computers that collect information from the Internet, sort and categorize it and present the information to the user based on keyword searches or through indexes. It is worth taking some time to learn how to make an effective search as the amount of information that these Search engines provide can be overwhelming. It is common to be provided with 10s of thousands of references to any given search term. The results from a search are a list of pages with links to documents that match your search.  

Receiving information from another computer is called downloading. When a user chooses a web page to go to the browser automatically downloads the information from the page and displays it on the users computer screen. The user can also choose to download specific files. Sending information to another computer is called uploading. To place a web page on a ISP the user must upload the file from their computer to the ISPs computer. Much of the information that is available to download off the Internet is archived and compressed and you may need a utility to uncompress the files or programs that you download. One popular form of compression is Zip.

Being Online means being connected to another computer, whether that computer is your ISP, your friends computer across town or a remote office computer, through a modem, or digital connection. Going Offline means disconnecting your computer from the remote connection. If your ISP charges by the hour it is a good idea to compose your letters offline and then go online to send them.

Email Attachments  - Caution Watch for Terrorist & Virus problems

An attachment is computer files place inside an email message. Email was originally designed to handle only plain text (no formatting, i.e.. bold, centering, etc) which was transferred from one computer to another in a format called ASCII. ASCII is a standard across all computer types which makes e-mail universal. Today many modern email programs allow HTML (hypertext markup language) to be included in email messages which allow you to format your email messages with font sizes, bold, center and such. The recipient must have an HTML capable Email reader to see the formatting otherwise they will get a document marked up with HTML tags.

Most documents created on computer, such as word processing documents (Word, WordPerfect, etc.) or spreadsheet documents (Excel, Quarto, etc.) or graphic files (Corel Draw, Paint Shop, or .gif and .jpg files) are stored in their own unique binary code format. This binary format is determined by the program that the file is created with. Email documents are create as text files so in order to send a binary file or document via email, it must first be encoded into a text format and then attached to the email text message.

Such an 'encoded' document may end up looking something like:Hhoijoiojm]]]]]=-=-;lkp-p-[p[;;ooooo[][][][][][][]][[

These lines are all printable or lower-ASCII characters and can be sent via email. When it gets to your computer and you want to view the document, first it must be decoded or converted back to it's binary format before it can be opened. Today your Email program typically handles this.

Most modern Email programs work hand-in-hand with your operating system to try and open the correct program required to view the document sent as an attachment. This is done by matching the file extension such as .jpg, .gif, .doc, etc... with a registered file type.

Computer viruses can also be transferred via email attachments. Because your email software handles the decoding of programs sent as attachments it is easy to infect your computer simply by opening an infected attachment. Always check email attachment with an anti-virus program before opening them.

There are several reasons why an attachment will not display properly or at all:

  1. the encoded file is corrupted and cannot be decoded. This is usually due to damage in transit and happens very seldom these days.
  2. the encoding type is not supported by your e-mail program and so the file cannot be decoded back to it's original type.
  3. the document is from a program that you don't have on your computer or is not a registered file type.

When sending an attachment you should think about whether the intended recipient has the right decoder and the right viewing program. When you are sending an attachment to someone you should always use a standard encoding process (the one that comes with your email program) and send the document in a format that the recipient can view. If in doubt, ask them first by email.

If the formatting isn't important it's better to copy your document from the program the paste it into the body of the message rather than sending an attachment. Everybody's email software can read this ASCII format.


E Commerce

Electronic Transactions on the Internet are becoming common place. Books, software and even groceries can be bought and sold with the click of a button (and a credit card). The biggest problem with doing business over the Internet is the lack of common standards around security. There are dozens of different standards involving hundreds of different methods.

The Internet, by it's nature, is an open system which means that information can flow freely from one computer to the next. Information transmitted through the Internet can be intercepted and copied as any point along the path. For this reason it is not a good idea to send confidential information like credit card numbers through the Internet the same way you might send an email to a friend. In order to send confidential information you must be sure that your private information can not be intercepted along the way.

The most common method is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). A transaction computer with an order form for the product that you wish to purchase creates a secure connection which ensures that all the information that you send to it is not accessible to anyone else. If information from a secure connection is intercepted it will be encrypted making it useless to persons with malicious intent.

Most small businesses will not find it economical to setup their own secure server and can purchase a service from a third party which offers a transaction service. These services vary but all require a setup fee and some form of payment for transactions performed on their secure server. This payment can involve a monthly fee, a transaction fee, a percentage of the transaction, a credit card company fee, a combination of these or all of these fees.

When considering hiring a transaction service a company should decide whether they want to setup their own merchant agreement with the credit card companies or pay the transaction service to use theirs. Some transaction companies retain at percentage of receipts for security deposit until a proven transaction record is established anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Some allow limited outside development of the forms used on the secure server and other insist that the forms be developed in-house.

Another model is the Secure Electronic Transaction (SET). This model requires that the customer download and install a wallet into which they enter their password protected credit card information. The SET system development was promoted by the major credit card companies to provide a safe and secure environment for online transactions.

The SET "wallet" model requires that the customer obtain a Digital Certificate from a Certified Authority (CA) which they then use to perform the transaction. The Certified Authority, usually the bank or financial institution that the customer deals with, verifies the validity of the Certificate to the merchant. The customer enters their personalized password to verify that they have the authority to use the Certificate and the transaction is made. This model allows customers use their credit cards to purchase items from merchants without transmitting their actual credit card details to the merchant.

The merchant uses their merchant agreement with the credit card company to complete transactions, process refunds and verify the validity of the customers credit card information.

Though still in its infancy, many billing companies have begun Internet transaction projects using the SET model to allow their customers to pay their bills, check their account status and much more. Online businesses use other forms transaction tracking to pay companies that display their advertising on their web sites.

Scripts & Macros - Small Programming!

Scripts are used for many things on computers. Everything from customizing and automating repetitious tasks to changing the way the computer functions can be controlled with scripts. One standard script is the AUTOEXEC.BAT file. This script contains the steps that are necessary to get the computer up and running after turning the power on or resetting it. The CONFIG.SYS file controls how your computer's hardware is configure each time you restart it. These type of files contain instructions for your computer; one instruction per line. These instructions are usually DOS commands and can be modified in any text editor. Always be sure to make a backup before modifying a *.BAT file.

One of the most common scripts that the average user will come in contact with are macros. Most programs use some form of macro. A macro, at it's simplest, is a recorded series of keystrokes that help automate repetitive tasks. These tasks, once copied into a script, can be accomplished with a few keystrokes. You can use macros to help you write letters, create memos, or build reports. Some macros stop and beep when you need to enter information. Some present a screen with detailed information and multiple choices. Many programs allow the user to record personalized macros for their own unique use such as inserting your name and address.

Most computer users will use scripts in some way, perhaps without realizing it. One common script that users often use are Wizards or scripts that install new software. These type of scripts will take you step by step through complex processes and stop a certain points to offer users different choices.

On the Internet there are a number of script languages including JavaScript, perl, activeX and many others. These programs allow website programmers to create many interesting and useful functions. These scripts are most often stored on the server that you connect to when you go online and are accessed through Common Gateway Interface (CGI) commands. These type of scripts are used for processing forms, keeping statistics, counting visitors to website as well as limitless other processes with more being introduced each day.

There are many scripting languages and programming languages designed to be used with programming tools or as stand alone programs but lets stick to the basics for now.

Computer Viruses

A virus is a program designed by a computer programmer (hacker) to do a certain unwanted function. The virus program can be simply annoying like displaying a happy face on the user's screen at a certain time and date. It can also be very destructive and damage some or even all the computer's programs and files.

The reason why hackers create viruses are open for speculation. The most quoted reason is simply to see if it can be done. Other reasons are Ludite based "smash the machine" motivations, anti-establishment/anti-corporate actions, criminal intent, and various others that range into the "conspiracy theory" realm.

Viruses take two basic forms

One is a boot sector viruses which infect the section of a disk that is first read by the computer. This type of virus infects the boot or master section of any disks that it comes in contact with. The second is a program virus that infects other programs when the infected program is run or executed. Some viruses infect both and others change themselves (polymorphic) depending on the programs they encounter.

Though viruses do not damage computer hardware there have been attempts to create programs that will do things like run the hard drive until it fails or lodge itself in the computer's clock (which has a rechargeable battery) allowing it to remain active even months after the computer has been unplugged. Other viruses affect certain microchips (BIOS chip for instance). These microchips need to be modified under normal computer use but the virus program can produce changes causes them to fail. Other viruses will affect the characters or images displayed on the screen which may give the impression of monitor failure.

Viruses can cause a great deal of damage to the computers it infects and can cost a lot of time and money to correct it.

Computer viruses have been around for a long time, even before computers became widely used and they will likely remain with us forever. For that reason computer users will always need ways to protect themselves from virus programs. The main, common feature of a virus is that it is contagious! Their sole purpose is to spread and infect other computers.

A computer gets a virus from an infected file.

The virus might attach themselves to a game, a program (both shareware and commercial) or a file downloaded from a bulletin board or the Internet.

You cannot get a virus from a plain email message or from a simple text file! That is because the virus needs to be 'run' or executed before it can take effect. This usually happens when the user activates an infected program, accesses an infected disk or opens a file with an infected macro or script (e.g.. wizard) attached to it. A plain email message is made up of text which does not execute or run when opened. Modern email programs allow users to attach scripts to them for various purposes and it is possible for a malicious hacker to attempt to create havoc this way.

When you are accepting software or scripts on Internet sites or reading mail from unknown senders it is best not to run a program from that site or sender without checking it with an anti-virus program first.

Protect yourself

You can take safeguards against virus infection. The first thing is to get an anti-virus program. Most reputable companies that create virus protection programs release an evaluation copy that a Internet user can download for free (you can find one at This anti-virus program will be able to check your computer for the latest viruses and repair damage or delete files that are infected with viruses.

The second thing you can do is purchase a copy of the program. The reason for this is that viruses are constantly being created. When you purchase an anti-virus program you are also purchasing periodical updates which keep your anti-virus program up-to-date and able to deal with new viruses as they are encountered. Commercial virus programs also allow the user to customize when and how the program will check the computer for viruses.

If you find that your computer has been infected with a virus use an anti-virus program to clean your computer and make sure to check all the disks that you use. This includes all the hard drives on your computer(s) and all your floppy disks (and any media that you save information on). Remember that the virus can easily re-infect your computer from one infected file!

If you have to reload your computer programs, use the original program disks. You may want to check your original disks before reinstalling the software. If your original disks are infected contact the distributor to get replacements.

Always take the time to ensure that your computer is properly protected. Spending money on a good virus checking program could save you hundreds of dollars and lots of time later.

Internet Security

There is a lot of discussion these days about computer security as more people use email and more services such as banking, mail orders and subscriptions become available through the Internet. But how secure is the Internet and what is computer security?

Computers & Security

Before the Internet, computer security was limited to ‘closed systems’ or network computers such as offices or banks where only people physically in the office could use the computer system. It was quite easy for the network supervisor to set up user names and passwords and since that time people have become used to logging on before they can use these types of computers or resources.

With the advent of the Internet, computers users can now work in an ‘open system’ and security has become much more complicated. Even though you can now connect your home or office computer to the Internet and perform remote transactions without leaving the building you still want to be sure that the transaction is secure. The transaction takes place through the Internet by bouncing the information through various computers before it reaches, for example, the bank’s computer. You want to be sure that no one observes the transaction along the way and collects or modifies your transaction information.

This is where computer security comes in. There are many different types of security systems though most use a process called encryption. When you connect to your bank or other service to make a transaction you are often required to send your account number or user name as well as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) or password for verification. Though the sending of this information should occurs after you are connected to a computer which allows secure transactions you can confirm that you have a secure connection before sending this information. If you are using an Internet browser you will see a small closed lock appear often at the bottom of the window. Once you are connected to a secure server any information you send or receive is scrambled or encrypted using a mathematical formula and then reassembled or decrypted at the other end. The computer user usually will not notice this happening as they perform the transaction. Anyone with criminal intent who intercepts your transaction will be treated to a stream of garbled nonsense - (e.g.. qANQR1DBwU4D560EJv6XqrMQB)!

If this is the first time you use a new service you most often will need to setup an account and possibly download a small piece of software called a plug in which allows your computer to create the secure connection or link. The transaction often involves the exchange of a small file that keeps track of the transaction and acts a flag or bookmark when you next visit the service. These cookies as they are called, though not able to run programs, can contain information like the type of server you are connecting from, the type of browser you are using, the last site you visited and any information you volunteer. Windows users can view the cookies they are storing in C:\Windows\Cookies\.

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