Getting started Getting digital. Getting started

If you’re getting digitally involved from home, there are a few things you’ll need to get started.

A personal computer (PC)
There are two types of computer:

  1. A desktop computer
    These are the types of computers you often see in public libraries and offices. There are lots of different sizes available. In a PC there is a box called a base unit, which contains the hard drive. This connects to a monitor (the screen) and a keyboard.
  2. A laptop or notebook computer
    This type of computer has a built-in keyboard, monitor, touchpad and hard drive. They are much smaller than desktop computers making them portable. Netbooks are smaller laptops, this makes them easy to carry around but they have small screens which can make viewing more difficult.

The hard drive is the computer’s storage or memory. A computer’s storage is measured in gigabytes (GB).

A smaller storage space is fine if you just want to use your computer for the internet but if you want your computer to store music, video or film files or you want to play games you will probably need more storage.

Have a chat with the people in the computer shop if you are unsure about what you need.

The speed of a computer’s processor is how quickly it acts. This is measured in megahertz (MHz), or gigahertz (GHz).

Again you need to think about what you’ll be using your computer for. Have a chat with the people in the computer shop if you are unsure about what you need.

Internet provider
So that’s the equipment sorted. Now, to get online you’ll need an internet service provider.

The speed of your internet and the amount of information you can send or receive depends upon the amount of bandwidth you have.

You can access the internet through a telephone line (dial-up connection) or a mobile broadband device.

Dial-up internet connection
This is where your computer uses your telephone line to access the internet. It will keep your telephone line busy, is the slowest way of connecting to the internet and is becoming less and less common.

Broadband is faster and you can still use your landline home phone while connected to the internet. You can get a broadband connection through:

  • a telephone line and router
  • cable and satellite packages which combine television, telephone and internet services
  • wireless broadband (WiFi) which enables you to access the internet from any room in your home and lots of public places
  • a mobile broadband for internet access on the move with a laptop or through a mobile phone, using a small device called a dongle.

Web browser
Once you’re connected to the internet, you will need a web browser. This is a free piece of software which makes it possible for you to access websites on your computer. The most common are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

Safety and security
When your computer is connected to the internet it can be at risk from computer viruses. You should check that your computer has been installed with anti-virus software or find out about some of the free software available.


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