Thursday, December 4, 2014


Okay, I admit it. I am confused by the terms upload and download. I know I should understand them, but I don't. I know upload and download deal with computer data transfer, but I'm never quite sure which direction is which. I usually just use both words to cover myself such as, “I'm going to upload these pictures, or download them, or whatever.” I am confused and I think it's finally time to get myself straight.

I asked one of many experts around me, Wally, to help. He said that they were such basic terms that he hadn't thought about explaining them before. But he tried anyway using the floor and a high shelf to help me visualize. I listened to his explanation and thought, “So simple. So very simple.” I thought I had it and wrote down the definitions with examples.
But then Ward read what I had written and he told me that I was still confused. So I didn't have it. He says it's better to think of it as a client/server relationship. And then he proceeded to tell me things about restaurants and UPS stores to help me understand. When I tried to repeat back to him to make sure I understood, he said I made sense, but I was wrong.

So I thought about both Wally and Ward's examples for a while and I think I finally have it. Let's only use two devices in my explanation: my personal computer and the Internet. We will call the computer the initiating device or the client and the Internet the server. If the computer asks for data and gets it from the Internet that would be downloading data. Or if the computer sends data to the Internet like a picture to Facebook or Blogger that would be uploading. In other words, if data is coming to the computer/client/initiator then the data is being downloaded. If data is being sent away from the computer/client/initiator, then it is being uploaded.

Now it starts to get confusing when you add peripherals like your camera or phone. I think throwing these into the mix has been the complicating factor for me all along. Depending on the device, the computer or the device could be doing the asking for the data transfer so there could be either uploading or downloading going on. And if the data goes back and forth from peripheral to peripheral, I understand that sometimes there is no name for that—neither uploading or downloading.

So there you have it. Downloading and uploading. So simple. So very simple.  Or not.