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Analogies and number pads

Tech Talk

Analogies are helpful as a comparison between two things to explain technology in simple terms. Here are a few examples:

Wi-Fi – You can think of Wi-Fi as a sprinkler connected to a hose. Here the hose is the internet, and the Wi-Fi "sprinkles" internet to devices that can't directly connect to the hose.

Passwords – Your username and password combine to make the key to a lock on a door. The door can be your bank account, your email address or your account at Tractor Supply. The door is locked, and you'll need both your username and password to unlock the door.

Browser tabs – If you're checking your emails and see a notice from your bank, you open a new browser tab to check it out. The bank shows a charge from AOL. So you go to AOL to talk to a customer service rep to stop that monthly charge for dial-up access and finally give up and storm out of the house, leaving all those tabs open on your computer. Think of those browser tabs as conversations. You were having a conversation with a website and then suddenly left in the middle of that conversation. So now the tabs are waiting around for you to come back, using up resources on your computer, and you're not using them back.

The cloud – Companies providing cloud services are like standard utility companies. They all provide a commodity, like gas, water or power, and charge you for how much you use. Suppose we flip a switch, turn on a faucet, upload a zillion pictures or light a stove, and the right thing happens. In that case, we don't have to think about pipelines, circuit breakers, storage tanks or any infrastructure the utility companies use. Cloud computing and storage are like another utility.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) – The basic idea of 2FA is you need to know something and have something to get in. Usually, those two things are a password and a code sent to your phone. Prince Charming knows a beautiful princess was at the ball, at least until midnight. Only when the slipper fits can he know Cinderella is his princess.

Processor – The processor in your computer is where all the work happens. All the programs running on your computer need the horsepower the processor provides. Just like in cars and trucks, processors come in different power levels, from four-cylinder economy types to fire-breathing hemi V8s. Just like with auto engines, modern processors (called generations, the higher the number the better) are more efficient and faster than previous models.

RAM – Random Access Memory or RAM is where the computer stores the things it's working on. It's like a dining room table. The bigger the table, the more people can sit at the table at the same time. The more RAM your computer has, the more programs you can run or browser tabs you can have open at the same time.

Hard drive – Hard drives provide storage for your computer. The larger the hard drive, the more pictures, documents, movies and music you can store there. Having lots of stuff stored on your hard drive won't slow down your computer, just like having a garage stuffed to the rafters doesn't make a difference to how many people can sit at your table. Unless your table is in the garage, and then you'd have a problem.

Number pads

You've probably never wondered why there are numeric keypads on modern keyboards, you know, that grid of numbers and math operators on the right side of the keyboard? Confusingly, it's also called a tenkey layout, even though most layouts have seventeen keys.

The modern tenkey layout results from more than a hundred years of adding machine technology. Bet you never thought you'd see those words together, adding machine technology.

Until 1914, adding machines used a layout with over 90 keys. The modern tenkey design has been around since 1914. The patent expired in the 1950s, and everyone started using the smaller key layout on their adding machines. As electronic adding machines took over from the mechanical models, they used the tenkey design.

Generations of secretaries and accountants made their living using the tenkey layout of adding machines. When the computer showed up and needed lots of data entry, everybody already knew how to use the tenkey design, so it was natural to add it to the computer keyboard.

As far back as the 1950s, computer input devices have included a tenkey layout. When IBM launched the personal computer back in 1984, they added mathematical operators and arrow keys to the tenkey layout and made it standard on their PC.

Some people don't want or need the tenkey layout, and now we have tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards that are smaller than the tenkey layouts. TKL keyboards are popular with gamers and people with little physical room for their keyboards.

I've got no home, I haven't got control and I can't see any escape.

I should get a new keyboard.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at [email protected].