Home Computer: Jargon buster

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Back-up: Many commercial users have back-up systems - computers which can take over if the main computer breaks down. For most personal users it means to take a copy - either of data, programs or whole disks - which can be copied back in the event of a system crash or hard disk failure. As it would take 60 high-density floppy disks and a large amount of time to 'back-up' a complete 80 megabyte hard disc, a more practical way is to keep all data files on the hard disk in one place and just copy those - programs can be reloaded from the original floppy disks. The more crucial your data - if your run a small business, for instance - the more often you should back-up your data.

Boot: To start the computer ('cold boot') or reset it when already on ('warm boot'). A contraction of 'bootstrap', as in pull yourself up by, indicating the ability of the computer when the power is switched on to check its various components, load an operating system from a hard or floppy disk and prepare itself for use.

Expansion slots: Long thin slit-like sockets on the motherboard that allow additional circuit boards to added, usually to control additional perpherals.

Motherboard: The largest and main circuit board in the computer containing the processor chip, the main memory (ram) and some of the interface systems that allows data to move about from where it is stored - usually on discs - to main memory for processing or to peripheral devices such as printers, screens and modems.

Option cards: Circuit boards that can be plugged into the motherboard's expansion slots to add additional functions, usually to control a peripheral device. The range from half-size cards which look like a rigid Jackson Pollock postcard to full-size cards which take up the whole width of the motherboard. Keyboards, printers and inreasingly screens are controlled from the motherboard, but if you want to add a modem, for instance, to communicate over the telephone system, you will need to fit a 'card' inside the machine to control it.

Peripheral: Any device attached the main processor unit. They are not peripheral in the sense of not essential - try using your computer without disks, keyboard or screen.

POWER SUPPLY: The sealed unit within the main processor box which transforms the mains power voltage into that used by the computer. on no account try to open the power supply box. It can be removed and replaced as a whole unit.

Ribbon cables: A distinctinive flat cable looking like the output of a steam-roller with all the separate wires in a line rather than twisted togther. They are used inside the main processor unit to connect the disk drives to the motherboard. They are also used to connect some older printers to the computer. Not the kind of cable you would try to attach to a kettle.

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