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Technical Buzzwords: A Shopping Challenge

All set to buy that new computer, cell phone, digital camera or superlight laptop? Read the ads and start trying to figure out what it all means.

Just try.

Digital zoom sounds really hi-tech, but is it any better than digital zoom? Is a Pentium 5 better with RAM or ROM?

And what the heck is cloud computing, anyway?

Each day, consumers will head for the mall or look online for electronic equipment and gizmos, hoping they can understand computer technical terms and special features, or the reasons why they should pick one brand over another.

Digital zoom vs. optical zoom?

When purchasing a digital camera, make sure you know the difference and ignore any claims about the quality of digital zoom (a method by which digital cameras simply zoom in with badly pixelated results) and concentrate on optical zoom, which actually telescopes into the image (the old fashioned way) for the crisp shot you want.

ROM Read-Only Memory vs RAM Random Access Memory?

Computers contain a small amount of ROM (Read-Only Memory) containing instructions for checking hardware and starting up the computer. Once your computer is powered up, RAM (Random Access Memory) kicks in to speed you along on any task at hand.

NOTE: the more resources given over to RAM, the more nimble your computer. If you often sit there watching that whirling egg timer icon as you patiently wait for your computer to catch up, get more RAM.

Still in a quandary over bytes vs kilobytes vs gigabytes?

The next time you're scratching your head over which is which, start with ,000 and recall the simple acronym KMG. Staring with kilobytes = 1,000 (thousand); megabytes = 1,000,000 (million) and gigabytes = 1,000,000,000 (billion). You're welcome.

Still confused? You're not alone. No one knows what it all means, but fear not. Here's more help:

Guides to technical jargon around the Web

Ask Leo - Helping non-techies since forever, with new and archived Q&A on a variety of computer problems and solutions told in clear, straightforward terms. For more, sign up for the newsletter.

Tech Terms Computer Dictionary
- Surf the left-hand menu for quick look-ups of computer, Internet, hardware and software terms, including tech acronyms.

Digital Camera Jargon Explained - guide with a good starting point on technical terms - and what they mean - before you go camera shopping.

Reviews and guides to buying electronics around the Web:

ZD Net Reviews - ZD Net is a place where computer savvy people hang out - but their product reviews are really helpful even if you are not fluent in computer-ese.

Computer Buying Help - This is a wonderful site. They explain just what you need to look for and why. You'll find out why a Mac is different than a PC and what it means to have ROM or RAM and... well, all those questions you need answered. Bookmark this one.


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