Education And Debate


BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 08 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:106
  1. Nicholas Lee,
  2. Andrew Millman

    At first sight desktop computers seem very complex, but they are really quite simple. Understanding the purpose of each component and the way that they are put together will help you get the best from your system.

    External features


    By default graphics accelerator (VGA) monitors run at a resolution of 640 × 480 pixels (dots) on the screen. Super VGA monitors can be set to run at higher resolutions--for example, 800 × 600 or 1024 × 768. These resolutions allow more detail to be displayed on the screen, although text may become too small to read comfortably on a standard 14″ monitor. Higher resolutions are therefore best used on larger screens.

    System box

    This houses all the main components of the computer such as the motherboard, processor, memory, and hard disk as well as all the expansion cards and optional extras--for example, the CD ROM drive.

    Switches and buttons

    Keyboard lock--A key operated switch which disables the keyboard. Not as useful as it seems because the keys are often interchangeable.

    PC with a standard desktop case.

    Reset button--This switch instantly restarts the computer, which can be useful if a program locks for any reason. Pushing the button accidentally will result in permanent loss of all unsaved work.

    Turbo--Far from speeding things up, this button actually slows the computer down. It is provided because some very old programs will not run at high speed but is rarely needed or used.

    Floppy drive

    Floppy disks are used to transfer information and programs into and out of a computer. Older 5 1/4″ disks were literally flexible and vulnerable to damage. Modern 3 1/2″ disks have a hard plastic case that …

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