A Friendly Tech Glossary

We understand that not everybody knows the ins and outs of tech lingo. Not only have we had to learn what stuff means through research ourselves, but none of us are really sure what Caleb is ever saying at any given time (including Caleb).

To that end, we're going to provide a friendly list of definitions for some common tech terms that you can use to understand what we're talking about in the podcast, to put some context on our reviews and roundups, or to understand what that extremely pale guy on the bus keeps muttering about under his breath.

Though if it were me, maybe don't sit next to that guy if it still sounds like he's speaking Latin after you've read this, yeah?

CPU - an initialism that stands for Central Processing Unit. Also known as a processor, this is usually (but not always) the most important microchip in any digital device. The CPU runs calculations by flipping electrical logic-gates based on processor instructions from software. This is what makes modern computing possible, and is for most of us basically indistinguishable from magic. The CPU is commonly called the "brain" of a computer, which is a little silly since it can't actually function without software of some sort. So it's a dead brain we're triggering with electrical shocks, basically.

GPU - an initialism that stands for Graphics Processing Unit. The GPU is usually (but not always) a separate chip from the CPU that specializes in rendering visual output from software. GPUs are often associated with some rather odd terms, like "shaders" and "FLOPS", are also basically indistinguishable from magic, and sometimes live on their own special circuitboard (see: Graphics Card) with a bunch of big fans. Anything with a screen has a GPU of some sort, though sometimes those GPUs are integrated into the same physical microchip as the CPU.

Graphics Card - a special circuitboard that holds a GPU, along with (usually) some rather large fans and at least one video connection port like HDMI or VGA. Also a useful metric for measuring the strength and intelligence of its owner, if some of the commenters on Reddit are to be believed.

Hard Drive - also known as a HDD or Hard Disk Drive. This was the standard of computer storage for decades and consists of metal platers inside a hermetically sealed case that would store data via magnetically charged bits that are modified and flipped by tiny needles. You'll still find these where cheap storage is needed, such as massive server setups or cheap PCs at Walmart. One of the many reasons we don't recommend you buy a PC from Walmart.

OS - An initialism that stands for Operating System. The OS of a device is the big software package that tells a device how to boot up and then communicates to the computer what to do with commands you input. It's not unlike an interpreter between you, your apps, and the hardware you're using. And just like an interpreter, it will occasionally go completely insane and kill all of your programs for no reason at all. That's uh... that's something interpreters do occasionally, right?

RAM - an acronym for Random Access Memory. RAM is a type of storage that is volatile (easily exploded?), meaning it requires a constant flow of electricity to actually store stuff (oooh... So not super flammable). RAM is where the operating system stores information it needs quick access to, since a computer can read information from RAM much more quickly than from a hard drive or even super fast SSDs. The more RAM a computer has, the better it will be at running really complicated programs or many programs all at once.

SSD - an initialism that stands for Solid State Drive. An SSD is the storage on most modern computers, replacing the older and much slower Hard Drive. Instead of physical spinning platters like computer storage used to use (or reels of actual tape if you're, like, REALLY super old), SSDs use flash storage, which is non-volitile microchip storage kinda like RAM, but not. Look... It's complicated.