Understanding Computers
 
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I hate filing my income taxes, I can never find anything I need. Well, had I actually filed my receipts somewhere I wouldn't have so much trouble finding them. Computers don't have this problem, they store everything in files and a they know exactly where those files are. Every file is in a directory and every directory is in a drive. Computers have drives , directories and files
Drives in Windows computers come in three basic flavours: a: , c: , and d: . Typically, the a: drive reads from and writes to diskettes and is called the floppy drive. The c: drive is the Hard Disk Drive (HDD), or simply the hard drive. The d: drive is the CDROM. There are many, many variations. In case you were wondering, the b: drive went the way of the passenger pigeon and the dodo, you still see some in museums, but they're dead.
Directories are so much like file folders that the terms "directory" and "folder" are used interchangeably. Directories have a unique property; they can contain other directories, called sub-directories.
Files have two parts separated by a dot, the file name and the file extension. The extension which tells you what kind of file it is. For example, your tax file might be called 2000. tax . The file name is 2000 . The file extension, tax tells us that 2000 is a file of the type called tax .
Why is open architecture so significant? It spawned an industry. Suddenly hundreds of companies were producing their own parts in the hope of selling them to IBM. Unfortunately for Big Blue, it quickly occurred to someone that they didn't need IBM to build the boxes that held the modular parts. The clone was born and the computer boom followed. A very important part of that boom was the shed load of new software that only ran on the O/S that IBM hadn't bothered to buy from the fledgling Microsoft.
If I had actually put away last year's tax return and I wanted to see it, I would go to the file cabinet, open the drawer marked A Z , pull out the folder marked Revenue Canada and remove the papers marked 2000 .
I could describe this task in a kind of short-hand: A-Z \ Revenue Canada \ 2000 .
Suppose that my tax file was stored in my computer instead of the filing cabinet or on top of the piano. I would go to the filing cabinet by double-clicking My Computer . I would open the A Z drawer by double-clicking C: . I would pull out the file folder marked Revenue Canada by double-clicking the folder Revenue Canada . Finally, instead of pulling out the envelope marked 2000, I would double-click 2000.tax
In our special shorthand we would say: C: \ Revenue Canada \ 2000.tax .
Our special shorthand is really a step-by-step set of instructions that tells the computer where to find our file. The step-by-step set of instructions is called the file path or, more simply, the path .
You can use Windows Explorer to see all the drives, directories, and files on your computer. Click on the Start button, select Programs, and click Windows Explorer. Try clicking on the plus and minus icons, or double-clicking a folder to see what happens. Windows Explorer is a very powerful tool and should be treated with caution. To undo anything that makes you nervous by select Edit from the menu bar, then click Undo in the drop down menu.
Understanding the way that computers handle files is the single most important step you can take toward understanding computers.
Find out more about file paths
 
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