Often in my travels people ask me: “Where did you learn so much about computers and electronics?” “Why,” I say, “the answer is easy – I got a good foundation and then keep up with the fun stuff.” “Well, how,” they ask, “do you get started?” “Easy,” I say, “as every journey starts, with the first step.”
First and foremost, you need a good foundation. For myself, for some disturbing reason only my subconscious can answer, I have a deep and unabated interest in all things electric – but particularly computers. More than likely, if you’re reading this Tech Tip, you probably have such an interest too. If you are looking for something that’ll give you a good background in computer components, I’d recommend the book Upgrading and Repairing PCs by Scott Mueller (QUE Publishing). You’ll learn more than you ever wanted to about the ins and outs of computers and how they and their components work. You’ll also pick up many of the building blocks needed to catapult you into computer stardom. You can pick up a book directly from the publisher or, of course from Amazon. For those of you who want to try before you buy, you can take a look at portions of the 15th edition of the book (it is up to the 18th edition now) on Google Books Search.
Keeping up to Date
Books are great, especially for getting a solid foundation – but, because they’re static, books are good only up to the day that they’re published. After that, you’re either waiting for a new edition of the book or stuck in a technological no man’s land. What to do? Fortunately there are several good web resources for looking at trends as well as keeping up-to-date on the latest gadgets and gizmos while you’re waiting for that update. Speaking of gadgets and gizmos, two of the must have sites to keep up-to-date with are Engadget and Gizmodo. Engadget is, according to Wikipedia “a popular multilingual technology weblog and podcast about consumer electronics” – basically a blog with all sorts of gadgets highlighted. Gizmodo is a similar site that, according to Wikipedia, “is a popular technology weblog about consumer electronics” – again, another blog site, but with a little different angle then Engadget.
If you notice, to describe these two sites, I pulled information from the invaluable Wikipedia website. Wikipedia is (according to Wikipedia – sorry, I couldn’t resist), “a free, multilingual encyclopedia” that is completely user driven; that is, you and I can contribute to the content of the website - the idea being that in the hands of many users, the information is going to be more (or less) correct. The Achilles of Wikipedia is the same thing that makes it great; the information is not reviewed by experts who can put their stamp of approval on it and then lock it down - the content is endlessly edited and mistakes can easily be placed and kept in an article. That being said, if you have a sudden hankering to know just what a “Phenom II” is, or wondering what the difference between a 1.1 and a 2.0 profile on a Blu-ray player, then you can head over to Wikipedia and take a look.
To the Making of Many WebPages, There is No End…
“But,” you say, “there has to be more than just a couple of weblog sites and a user driven encyclopedia site.” Absolutely! For example, I get an e-mail update every morning from CNet news site that keeps me abreast of the top topics in the electronic industry. For unfamiliar terms that I may run across, I turn to Webopedia that will give you quick, concise definitions for such wondrous things as CardBus, NetBEUI and TWAIN (a word of warning though, these definitions tend to be a bit on the technical side.) If I want to see if a particular electronic do-dad fits my needs, I may want to check out some reviews on it. Some excellent sites to look at are CNet’s review site, Tom’s Hardware and also Amazon. Tom’s Hardware is particularly useful for getting more benchmarks than you knew existed on new processors, video cards and all sorts of computer goodies. For keeping abreast of the industry in general, some good sites are DigiTimes, EETimes and The Register – though these do tend to be very industry oriented, and assume that you have a good idea of some of the industry players and the jargon that they use. Of course, actually visiting the manufacturers’ website for product information can be beneficial as well (where better to learn about the newest Intel motherboard chipset than at Intel’s site.) There are of course other excellent sites that are but a few mouse clicks away via Google search on such terms as “computer tech sites”.
To get “in the know”, electronically speaking is no great mystery. First, you start with a solid foundation and then you build on it. So, mosey over to Amazon and pick up a copy of Scott Mueller’s tome of computer guts. Head on over to Engadget to see the latest “thing-a-ma-bob” being offered. Take a gander at DigiTimes to see who’s buying what and what industry trends look like. Then, you’ll find out about all that cool stuff you didn’t even know existed and you’ll now be not only “in the know”, but you’ll be a whole lot more Geeky for it.