Why not learn to use a computer like you would any other subject? The basic skills taught as part of the IT curriculum in the past, like touch typing and the basics of the windows operating system, are being replaced by more advanced IT skills.

How's your computer literacy? Do you need to learn some basic computer skills? Is a lack of computer knowledge holding you back?

Whether you're new to computers and want to take computer classes to learn the fundamental computer basics like typing, word processing, or something more complicated like programming, before you pick up your keyboard and mouse (or any other computer hardware), you’ll need to know some of the lingo of IT, computing, and computer science.

Superprof’s here to help with an introduction to computers and some of the things you should know if you want to improve your digital literacy and shine in your next class. You’re welcome!

What is RAM?

Before you start messing around with your personal computer and embark on your computer training, let’s start with some of the basic concepts of computer technology that every beginner should know.

What is RAM?
How do the insides of a computer work? (Source: jeshoots.com)

RAM is short for Random Access Memory.

What does that mean?

RAM is the memory that central processing unit and the operating system can access directly and quickly. To put it simply, it’s where the computer (or smartphone, games console, ATM, etc.) stores all the information it needs to access quickly.

The interesting thing about RAM is that it’s rather volatile. If the electricity is cut off, the data in RAM will be lost. When choosing a computer, you should keep in mind that the amount of RAM will affect how quickly the computer can carry out tasks.

What’s an IP Address?

Beginners, especially those doing a networking or web design computer class, should be aware of basic things like IP addresses.

An IP address is a bit like a telephone number. Every computer has one and it’s completely unique. The IP address is related to a computer network card. IP is short for “Internet Protocol” which is a type of language that allows computers to exchange information with one another over the same network.

An IP address appears as: Each number is between 0 and 250. This number is provided by your router.

What is a Database?

Browsing the internet wouldn’t be possible without databases. Just like we classify books by author and a specific code in a library, the same is true for information in a database. A database is used to classify data as efficiently as possible.

This data is made available to users who can consult it or update it. You'll probably need to learn how to create databases given how much data there is on the internet.

If you want to learn more about IT, you’ll need to know more than just database management, though. So why not take some IT courses to learn more about computers?

What’s a Server?

Now that we’ve gone through a few of the basics, let’s have a look at something slightly more complicated. You’ve probably heard a lot of people talk about servers.

What are they?

Here’s a quick explanation. Everything on the internet is just data. The goal of the server is to take that data where it’s needed.

That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?

What does a server do?
A server delivers data. (Source: pixabay.com)

At the moment, you’re on Superprof’s website. Our site has a server which we published this article onto just once but hundreds of people can read it at the same time.

Whether you publish a video to YouTube, send a message on Whatsapp, or upload a document onto Google Drive, it’s the server that makes it all possible. These are the backbone of the internet nowadays.

At the end of the day, a server’s just a computer. While you can turn your computer into a server, you can be sure that YouTube doesn’t just use an everyday desktop computer or laptop to host their videos. They use servers in “data centres” which are hundreds of interconnected computers that were specifically designed to act as servers.

While your computer can be turned into a server, it probably won’t go the distance because it won’t be powerful enough. This doesn’t happen with YouTube.

So what’s the Cloud?

The Cloud is basically a marketing term. There’s no such thing as an actual cloud. If you upload a file to iCloud, for example, it’s just stored on an Apple server. Nothing more. Nothing less.

What is HTML?

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) isn’t a programming language. HTML is actually a language for the computer that you just need to learn how to type. HTML is just a markup language. Even if you’re not good at maths, you should get it quite quickly. It’s nowhere near as complicated as some maths problems.

HTML tells the computer which fonts to use, the size of the text, and the images to put in. To make things even simpler, these instructions are usually just a few abbreviations between angle brackets “<” and “>” so that the computer can tell these letters apart from the actual text.

If you want to tell the computer to put some text in bold, you just have to put <b> before the word or words you want to appear in bold. Then you need to put </b> at the end.

Learn the Basics of the Microsoft Office Suite

While this is nothing more than knowing how to use Microsoft Office, it’s very important for anyone working in IT (as well as a lot of people who aren’t). Microsoft Word, Excel, and even PowerPoint can be hugely important when it comes to building a website.

If you need a bit of training in Excel, for example, there are plenty of useful sites with tutorials to help you get to grips with the tool. If you want to get better, you can opt for private computer tutorials at your own home.

You don’t need to be an IT expert to have already come across a cookie. We’re obviously not talking about the food here. We’re talking about cookies in computers.

What do cookies do?
Almost every site you visit uses cookies. (Source: Lisa Fotios)

When you browse the world wide web, your browser can leave a file on your computer. The browser saves this file onto your hard drive. Don’t worry, these files are usually pretty harmless. This isn’t like a virus.

Cookies are generally used for e-commerce sites like Amazon. Imagine you’ve been looking round for a toaster. Later on while you’re scrolling through Facebook or watching videos on YouTube, you start seeing tonnes of ads for toasters. This is the work of a cookie.

Would you like to learn how to teach IT? Have a look at some of the qualifications you might need to do this.

What’s a VPN?

Why should you use a VPN? For digital security. The information on the internet isn’t always very secure.

After all, the internet is just a lot of computers connected to one another. Most of the information exchanged is not encrypted. Thus, if I send an email (electronic mail) to my business, it would be quite easy for a hacker to intercept the message and read it without me knowing.

Most of the time, this isn’t a problem. However, when it comes to sensitive information, you should encrypt the information.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is like a secure tunnel through the internet. The information that passes through this tunnel is safer. It can’t be read except by those who have the key to the tunnel. It’s quite simple to create one of these tunnels by downloading a VPN programme like OpenVPN or ExpressVPN. Some of these are free, others you’ll have to pay for.

What’s Binary Code?

At the end of the 1930s, Claude Shannon showed that it was possible to carry logic operations by using the number 1 as “true” and the number 0 as “false”. Encoding information this way is known as binary. Computers use these two states to encode information.

The bit (short for binary digit) is the smallest amount of information that a computer can deal with. A bit is one of two states: 1 or 0. A byte is 8 bits and can have 256 different values.

In everyday life, these values don’t tend to matter but you’ll need to be familiar with them if you want to programme in C or work in app development.

Programming Languages

Now that you’ve got this far, let’s speed things up a bit.

Are you interested in learning how to programme computers?

You may want to enrol in computer programming courses!

We’re not going to try and teach you how to code in this article. Instead, we’ll leave that to a quality private tutor.

Which are the best programming languages to learn?
There are several different popular programming languages. (Source: Sabrina Gelbart)

However, here’s some information for familiarising yourself with some of the different computer programming languages. Java, C, and Python are among some of the most popular ones.

A programmer will have to get to grips with several of them. For example, if you’re making a site on WordPress, it will probably be worthwhile learning a bit of JavaScript and PHP. However, if you’re working with Windows, you might need to learn C#.

You may find value in online computer courses!

What’s out advice for budding programmers? Choose Java or C++. Then you can move onto JavaScript. Afterwards, you can choose PHP, Swift, or Python. Once you’ve learnt how to programme a bit with each of these languages, you’ll be ready to learn any other programming language with relative ease.

Learn more about programming.

In short:

  • Almost everyone nowadays knows how to use the internet to some degree. However, very few people know a lot about IT systems and computers. It’s worthwhile learning more about them for your career.

  • You should now have a better understanding of some of the different important aspects of digital culture. Private tutorials could be useful for helping you learn even more about computers and IT. Remember that you can get free online computer tutorials and face-to-face tutoring.

  • Learning to code can be really useful for a number of IT jobs

Superprof has some really great professionals to give IT courses; why not check them out?

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