What Does That Do? A Buyer’s Guide to Computer Acronyms

For the average consumer, buying a computer can be a daunting experience. Not only are there multiple manufacturers, models, and price points, but there are so many technical terms and acronyms associated with computer features that can make buyers feel like they need to be computer experts just to make a comparison. This guide is designed to help you better understand computer terms and so you can purchase the one that’s right for you. ADC – Analog-to-Digital Converter. If you have an old VHS tape and want to watch it on your computer, you’ll need an ADC. Computers can only process digital input, so older analog input from video tapes and 8mm film will not be read unless you have an ADC to convert the analog to digital. Bluetooth Bluetooth is a technology that allows wireless connection between other Bluetooth-enabled electronic devices. Because it utilizes radio waves instead of infrared light, the signal cannot be interrupted by objects in the way. Bluetooth works very well to connect multiple devices in small areas of less than 30 feet, but is not ideal for larger areas. Blu-ray – Blu-ray is essentially the next generation of optical storage. First there were CDs, then DVDs, and now Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray was made to handle the storage demands of high-definition (HD) video and TV and to produce better images when played on HD devices. Any Blu-ray disc with DL in the name simply means it is dual layer and has double the storage. BD-R and BD-RE These abbreviations refer to Blu-ray discs. BD-R is a Blu-ray disc upon which information can be stored, but not deleted. BE-RE means the Blu-ray disc can be used over and over because information can be stored and erased as many times as needed. CD-ROM Compact Disc Read-Only Memory. This means a CD upon which information can be stored, but not deleted. Good example of a CD-ROM would be the software CDs you get with your new computer. CPU Central Processing Unit. Also commonly called the, “processor” the CPU is the hardware that carries out the instructions of every computer program and function. DDR and DDR-SDRAM Double Data Rate. It can get a little complicated, but basically it’s a type of computer memory that has double the data transfer speed as SDRAM alone. DDR and DDR-SDRAM are important for small computers like notebooks because they use power efficiently. Dual Core and Quad Core – This term refers to a CPU (Central Processing Unit) with two processors that are integrated. A computer can have a single processor, two processors that work together but are separate, a dual core where the processors are integrated together, or a quad core where two dual-core processors are integrated. These may also be referred to as multi-core processors. If you’re operating software programs that require fast processing speeds, you may want to consider a dual-core or quad-core processor. DVI Digital Video Interface. DVI is simply a video connection. Most DVI ports can handle both digital and analog data without the need for an extra ADC (audio-to-digital converter). DVI-A is for analog information, DVI-D handles digital, and DVI-I means it can handle both. Ethernet – Ethernet allows computers to send data back and forth to other computers within a network. It’s a protocol, a set of rules that determine how information is exchanged. These connections can be via a physical cable that plugs into the back of the computer, or it can be via a wireless connection. LAN Local Area Network. As the name implies, a LAN network consists of computers within a limited area like an office building. Computers in a LAN can also connect to one another wirelessly, which is referred to as WLAN. LCD Liquid Crystal Display. Popular in laptops, LCD screens work by blocking light rather than producing it, resulting in a display that uses less power than other types of screens. LCD screens with TFTs (Thin Film Transistors) indicate a higher quality screen with brighter picture and smooth motion. LED Light-Emitting Diode. LED lights are everywhere, from digital clocks to street lights. In terms of computers, LED refers to the way a computer monitor displays light and color. LED monitors are often brighter than LCD screens. GHz Gigahertz. Computer speeds are measured in Gigahertz. The higher the number, the faster the CPU (processor) speed. RAM – Random Access Memory. Many people confuse RAM with the hard drive, or CPU, of the computer, but in fact it refers to temporary memory rather than the permanent memory the hard drive provides. Higher RAM, measured in GB (gigabytes), means better performance for your computer. Wi-Fi Wireless Fidelity. Put simply, Wi-Fi allows computers and other devices to access a router via a signal rather than a physical wire. The router, in turn, connects devices to each other or to the Internet, depending upon the user’s needs. USB Universal Serial Bus. A USB port is used to connect peripheral devices, such as your mouse, keyboard, webcam, removable storage (flash drive) devices, and more to your computer. Having lots of USB ports allows you to connect to multiple devices at the same time. Often consumers buy a USB hub for even more connection options.

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