Computers Made Stupid
Dr. Computer Science answers computer questions:
- Q: What are
bits and bytes?
- A: Bits and Bytes
are what a binary (base two) computer uses to think. Binary computers
only think about food, so the units of thought are expressed in terms
of eating processes. A bit is the smallest amount of cauliflower your
child can eat and still get away with saying that he has had a bit of
cauliflower. A byte is an entire piece of cauliflower. A byte
usually contains eight bits, unless you are eating on a DEC, some of
which allow a byte to vary in size from a single bit, to 36 bits.
This is possible only on a DEC since only there can your child manage
to drop small pieces of cauliflower through the spaces between the
floorboards, leaving fewer bits on the plate. With fewer bits on the
plate, each bit is a larger percentage of the whole, so a byte gets
- Q: Can I put a
double sided floppy disk in the envelope from a single sided
- A: No. You see,
single sided disks were invented because there all have a single song
on the other side. That's why they are the same size as a 45 rpm
record. Unfortunately, the sleeves are hard to remove so playing the
songs are harder than planned. Anyway, who has a turntable with a 45
RPM adapter that works? Well, you know how dirty all your records
get? All that dirt is inside the record and the sleeve, so if you put
a double sided floppy in the sleeve, all the dirt from the record side
will jump on the data and crash your system.
- Q: My computer
has 2 Meg of RAM. My friend's has 2048K of ROM. Who was more
- A: Your Friend.
RAM memory usually forgets everything when you turn off the power.
That means that when the power is off, you have NO RAM memory. ROM
memory remembers everything, even when the power is off. How much
more memory does your friend have? That depends on how much you turn
off your computer. You'd have to keep your computer turned on all the
time for you to have the same amount of memory as your friend.
- Q: Why does my
disk have free space?
- A: It's a bonus
from the manufacturer, to make you think you got a bargain. Notice
how that free space decreases as time goes on. That's because your
disk is becoming less of a bargain. When the free space becomes zero,
you'll have only the disk you paid for. This usually causes great
depression and concern because then you realize how little the dollar
Motherboard, daughterboard, backplane, front panel, what does it all
- A: That's all sales
talk. First came office computers. They were big and impersonal.
Then came personal computers. They were "user friendly". Now, a
computer is no longer a single machine. We have computer families.
The daddy computer talks to his daughters via the motherboard. Nobody
drives, they all take the bus. Or the pulse train. Computers are
sometimes like committees, they have several parts wasting time by
doing the same thing at the same time. They argue a lot about who
gets the front seat and who gets to drive. That's why they need bus
- Q: What is
cash memory, and why does it make computers faster?
- A: Cash memory is
the part of the computer that remembers how much money you spent on
your computer. The more you spend on your computer, the faster it
will work. That's why the million dollar computers work so fast -
they have more cash memory than you do.
- Q: But what if
I paid by check or a credit card?
- The computer will
find out. Every time you turn on the computer, the cash memory checks
to see if the check was cashed. This is the memory check. The memory
won't work until it's paid for.