Computer terms and jargon made simple

For anyone looking to navigate the world of computers and all the associated hardware that go with them, it can be quite a daunting journey. Sure, there are those hardware experts who know the difference between a motherboard and a mother-in-law, but for most it is just a minefield of jargon and crazy terminology. But it doesn’t have to be that. A little bit of patience and a bit of desktop research will go a long way towards making the whole field a lot less complicated. And we are here to help by unpacking a few of these commonly heard phrases and terms.

Who has the power?

A computer has a lot of different parts that all combine to deliver you your online experience. One of the most crucial elements of the whole package is the computer power supply unit. This is an internal component that takes the alternating current that is delivered from the mains supply and converts it into regulated, low voltage, the direct current that powers all the components of the machine. This is a unit that can be replaced and improved on if required as in many modern machines this element is the most common failure point when the machine breaks.

Hard and soft

One of the most common phrases that you will hear bandied about are the terms of hardware and software. Once you understand the language it is quite easy to differentiate between the two, but when you are new to the realm of computing it can be tricky to fathom. In short software refers to computer programmes while hardware is the actual component that makes the physical product. In simple terms your monitor and keyboard are hardware while the programmes that you use, like MS Word or Google Chrome, are software. Easy!


These letters stand for read-only memory and random-access memory and they are both places where memory and software can be stored on the machine. ROM tends to be used for storing factory-installed code. This is often referred to as firmware as it is seldom if ever changed. It is where the machines operating systems are stored. RAM is what you use when you are installing your own programmes, where you put downloaded movies or files. A user will very seldom need to increase the computers ROM, but if you find that the machine is slow or lagging then more RAM may well help to solve that problem.

Coming out tops

Desktop, laptop, computer, PC… These are all terms that are used to describe the machines that we work on daily. A desktop and a laptop are both computers. As are calculators, mobile phones and main-frames. A laptop is a term used to describe a portable computer that can be folded down and placed into a case. They are light and portable and have a keyboard, processor and monitor all combined into one single unit. A desktop on eth other hand is a bigger piece of equipment – or pieces of equipment. It is typically a larger box into which other components are plugged – a monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, etc. While a desktop can be moved it is not designed to be highly portable.