Modern seismology has been able to take advantage of several technological advances. These include feedback loops in the seismometer, specialized digitizers with absolute timing, and compression formats for storing data. While all of these advances have helped improve the field, they can also leave newcomers a bit confused. Our goal here is to give a brief overview of how recordings of seismic ground motion originate. We discuss the chain of events that are required to obtain digital data plus how these steps can be reversed to recover units of ground motion such as acceleration, velocity, or displacement. Finally, we show a few examples of data that have become compromised because of various non‐ground‐motion signals. We hope this brief overview provides a quick practical introduction to allow the reader to become familiar with the various jargon used in observational seismology.