A few years back I worked in the “Old IBM Punch Card Building” in downtown Phoenix and one of my younger co-workers said, “What do you mean by punch card?”
I believe strongly that the younger generation needs to learn the history of computers prior to learning anything about computers. So, for those that do not know, here is a bit of computer lingo explained.
First, let’s start with the “Punch Card.”
For anyone in their 30’s or younger, you need to watch the Doris Day movie “That Touch of Mink,” where Doris works in a computer lab inserting punch cards into a mainframe computer.
Before Windows and before keyboards, information was fed into computers by punch cards. These punch cards were thick pieces of paper that contained digital information represented by the presence or absence of holes in the paper.
See the image above for an example.
Getting back to the “IBM Punch Card Building” in downtown Phoenix. The building’s windows make the appearance of a punch card. The building was never owned by IBM, which some think. It was built during the time of the IBM punch cards, thus the inspiration of the architect W.A. Sarmiento. See the slideshow below for pictures.
Click here to read the details of the architecture and building history.
Let’s move on.
When asked about your computer, often times techies ask you questions like “What is the size of your hard drive?” or “How much memory do you have?”
Hard drive – a device for the storage of digital data. This is the piece of equipment that contains the operating system that runs your computer.
Operating System – is the software that operates and manages the computer hardware and software.
A hard drive may contain 200 GB of space, for example.
GB – stands for Gigabyte.
Let’s talk about some basic prefixes before we continue.
kilo = means 1,000 (one thousand)
mega = means 1,000,000 (one million)
giga = means 1,000,000,000 (one billion)
tera = meaning 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion)
A bit is a 1 or a 0 (zero), based on the Binary Code which computers were built.
As with the “Punch Card Building” we spoke of earlier, the presence or absence of holes in the paper stood for a 1 or a 0 (zero).
A binary string of 8 digits represents a byte. This was the maximum amount of information computers could send at the time.
Therefore, a lowercase “a” is represented by the bit string 01100001.
I will cover more of that detail in another article.
So, if your hard drive contains 200 GB of space, it contains 200 billion bytes. Since the prefixes are based on the metric system, 1 GB would contain 1,073,741,824 bytes to be specific. You can do the math to calculate the 200 GB of space. Computer manufacturers thought it would be easier to round the numbers for simplicity.
These are just a few basics of computer lingo to help you understand a bit about your computer.
Check back as I’ll be sure to write more about computer lingo.