Megabyte (MB): standard data measurement unit. One megabyte contains 1,024 kilobytes.
Microprocessor: also known as the central processing unit (CPU), the microprocessor is the central 'brain' of the computer, controlling all functions and actions. Its speed is measured in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz), respectively millions or billions of cycles per second. The faster the microprocessor, the quicker the machine.
Modem (Modulator/Demodulator): a communication device via which the computer transmits and receives data over analogue telephone lines. Used for sending and receiving email and to browse and download information from the internet.
Motherboard: site of all of the internal circuitry for the system. The motherboard is the main circuit board inside the desktop computer, to which all other internal components connect. While it is not an element that can usually be specified, it is important to check it will support any necessary upgrades, such as a faster microprocessor and/or has space for additional cards.
Mouse: a small, hand-operated device that provides users with an intuitive way of moving the cursor and selecting areas of text.
Notebook: another word for ‘Laptop’- a portable computer with integrated keyboard, mouse and display.
Netbook: a light, compact, highly portable and generally inexpensive way to use the internet and email. While not boasting the higher spec of a laptop, a Netbook’s WiFi functionality makes for easy access of the internet while travelling.
NFC: a technology for wirelessly connecting two compatible devices simply by tapping them together.
Operating System (OS): the software handling the computer's basic functions.
PC (personal computer): desktop 'IBM-compatible' computer - not an Apple Macintosh.
Ports: the physical connection points that allows external devices such as printers and scanners to be linked to the computer.
Random Access Memory (RAM) also known as 'on-board' memory: temporary workspace where the computer holds the data it is currently processing. The higher the amount of RAM, the more and larger the applications that can be run simultaneously. Measured in megabytes (MB).
Read-Only Memory (ROM): permanent memory storage for data that does not change.
Resolution: this is measured by the number of pixels - the tiny dots that make up the overall picture. The greater the pixel count, the higher the resolution and the sharper the display. The size of monitor and resolution you will need will depend on what you will use the computer for. Anyone intending to spend any significant amount of time on the internet should aim for a 15" screen and a resolution of at least 1024 x 768 - increasingly the standard for web pages.
Solid State Drive: See Internal Storage.
Sound Card: the card that generates the computer's audio capability producing all the sounds required for audio tracks, games and so on.
Tablet: Mobile computers that are designed to be navigated through a touch screen.
Terabyte (TB): standard data measurement unit. One terabyte contains 1,024 gigabytes.
Tower: stand-alone desktop computer that requires an additional monitor and speakers for full functionality.
Ultrabook: lightweight, all-purpose mobile PC for travel, work and play. Powerful performance from Intel Core processors, wakes up in a flash and has battery life that lasts.
USB port: an interface that allows a host computer to be connected to any compatible device e.g. mouse, joystick, scanner, digital camera, printer, personal media player, flash drive, and external hard drive.
Video (or graphics) card: the card that allows your computer to communicate with your monitor, the video card has its own dedicated memory and is directly responsible for calculating the colour, position and size of all object on the screen. 3D cards are often a pre-requisite for many of today's best-selling games. Some computers come with a video card already incorporated into the mother card.
Virtual memory: the part of a hard disc used to store data on a temporary basis and swap it in and out of RAM as required.