Your laptop is good to go all by itself. Okay, you probably want to bring along an AC adapter to recharge the battery or run the machine off wall current. But other than that, when it comes to basic functions, it's all in the box. Figure 1 points out the features you can find on any laptop.
From the beginning of time, or at least laptop time, the laptop box has been built in what designers call a clamshell - two main components with a hinge at the back and a latch at the front.
When you open that latch and open that hinge, you have the following:
* The upper part: On nearly all laptops, the upper part is just a screen.
* The lower part: Where all the action is - the motherboard and its microprocessor, the memory, the hard disk, a CD or DVD drive (on most modern machines), and components ordinarily separated from a standard home or office PC: the keyboard, a pointing device, and a set of tiny speakers.
Take a quick tour of the basic components:
* Screen: Your porthole into the computer. Virtually all modern laptops use an LCD of one design or another.
* Keyboard: The primary means for entering your own information into the computer, by hunt-and-peck or fast-as-the-wind speed typing.
* Buttons, lights, and indicators: Every laptop has its own flashing or glowing lights and a passel of special-purpose buttons with unusual icons.
Here are some features you'll probably find on a modern machine:
* Power button: On and off, of course, but also (on many machines) the pathway to Sleep or Standby modes.
* WiFi on-off switch: Controls the activation of the wireless transmitter and receiver hardware in a modern laptop.
You also have to instruct the operating system to use the wireless facilities.
* Multimedia controls: Many modern machines offer a set of VCR-like buttons to directly control the playback of a video or audio disc in the CD or DVD player.
* Pointing device: Here's how to give your computer a hand, essentially reaching into the screen to identify, choose, or move text or graphics. On a desktop machine, you might generically call this a mouse, but on a laptop, you usually find one of the following miniaturized equivalents that don't require additional desk space:
• A touchpad
• A pointing stick embedded in the keyboard
• A trackball
You can also attach a mouse to a port on your laptop if you have the room to use it.
* Speakers, headphones, and microphones: Your laptop can talk or sing, or listen to what you have to say. The headphone jack not only serves to protect the guy in the next seat from having to listen to your soundtrack; on most models, it can output the sound to speakers.
* Optical drive: This is a technical way to refer to CD and DVD drives. Today, both CD and DVD drives are also able to write discs with your own information, and the most advanced can read, write, and rewrite (erasing old information in the process).
* Expansion and enhancement bays and slots: Nearly every laptop offers the ability to add one or more additional modules of random access memory (RAM). And most laptops allow use of credit-card-size PC Cards that can add functions to the machine. Some units include an extra bay that can hold a second battery or a second hard drive.
* Power supply and battery: The only essential components of a laptop that aren't permanently attached or enclosed in the sealed box are the power supply and the battery. The power supply can use a wall outlet to directly operate the laptop, and it can charge and recharge a battery that attaches to a bay on the side or bottom of the laptop at the same time.
You can also run many laptops by using a special power adapter that plugs into an automobile's DC output - what used to be called the cigarette lighter - or into a power source offered by some airlines.
* Security lock slot: The good news about laptops is that they're easy to move around. The bad news is that some bad people out there know this. You can purchase a cable to loop through your laptop's attachment point and around a pipe or other fixed object; a special lock (keyed or combination) fits into the slot.
* Cooling vents: Heat within a laptop (from the friction of electricity) is exhausted to the outside through the use of vents and one or more fans. Be sure not to block the vents - it could lead to overheating problems.