What You Need to Know To Understand Technology


I'm going to start by defining a few terms that I think will be helpful. We use a lot of jargon in the tech community, and if you're not familiar with it, it can be really confusing. I'm going to define three key terms:


Computer – A device that lets us input information, process information, and display information output from processing. That's a mouthful! You probably use computers all the time without realizing it. Computers are everywhere these days – even smart phones have microprocessors built into them so they can do amazing things like launch apps or browse the web (did you know your phone is really just a tiny computer?). The other day my mom was asking me how to take pictures with her camera (an old school thing) and she said "how does this work?". Well Mom, there's actually an app for that now! Download an app called Snapseed and you'll be able to edit your photos right on your phone instead of taking them over to Walgreens like we used to back in the day. I own a tech business so if you ever need help with your computer or smartphone, feel free to contact me.


Computer Science – The study of computers and how they work. If you're interested in computers, this is the right major for you! There are lots of classes that will teach you about programming, algorithms, internet security and other cool stuff that I'm sure you'll enjoy learning about. Computer science majors actually have the highest average starting salary (according to the US News & World Report). So if money is your concern when deciding what type of career to pursue, computer science is probably a great choice!


Computer Programmer – A person who writes programs for computers (or "software developers"). The word programmer comes from "programming language". It's kind of like learning a new language except instead of speaking it out loud like we do with human languages like Spanish or English, programmers code instructions into programming language which are then used by our devices to accomplish tasks. Some popular programming languages include Java and Python; there are many others as well. There are also different types of programming languages. Some are used for building websites, some are used to design applications, and some are used for writing software that is embedded in physical devices like airplanes or cars. A good computer programmer will know multiple programming languages so they can choose the one that is most appropriate for their project. And in addition to knowing how to code, programmers need excellent problem solving skills because sometimes you get stuck on a problem and need to figure out an elegant solution. As you can see, computer science is a very challenging field of study but it's really interesting too!


So now that we've defined these terms let's talk about how technology actually works! The best way I can describe it is with an imaginary diagram!


As you can see there are lots of different components inside computers which work together to make them run smoothly. We call all these components "software" or "firmware". Software means instructions written by programmers (or more commonly instructions generated by another program). When people say they have the latest version of something on their computer ("I just downloaded the newest version of Windows", "Update your apps before using them") they're talking about software updates that fix bugs or add new features. Firmware is a type of software used to make hardware function. For example, when you turn on your computer the firmware tells the processor how many times per second it should run in order to perform tasks.


Computers are often referred to as "things" because they are physical objects that we can touch. But computers are actually made up of tiny transistors which are built into chips called ICs (integrated circuits). These chips are installed inside motherboards, which connect together multiple ICs to create one big computer. I don't have enough room in this post for a full schematic diagram, but here's an image of what a motherboard looks like:


This motherboard has two processors installed in it so there's twice as much computing power! This means you can multitask better and use more programs at once without any slow down or lag time when switching between apps or screens.


There is a lot more to know about computers, but this is a good starting point. I hope it was useful!