j0089184.wmf (7164 bytes)Purchasing a Computer

Hardware Considerations

It is easy to get confused when shopping for a computer. . . too many numbers and acronyms to make sense of.  Here are a few general rules of thumb when shopping:

Larger numbers on the computer specifications will usually mean larger numbers that begin with $.   Buy the largest that you can afford.  Specifically, look for the following as minimums when purchasing a $1000 system:

15-inch or 17-inch monitor.  These are becoming standard on computer systems

266 MHz or higher processor speed.  These numbers are indicators of how fast the computer will be able to complete instructions.  The higher the speed, the better.  At the time this document was written, 500 MHz is the new industry benchmark.  Processor speed is important if you want your computer to run really fast.

Pentium or Pentium II Processor.   These are the standard CPU's installed on most Windows-based computer systems.  If you are thinking of purchasing a Macintosh, take a serious look at the G3 family of products.  They all use the latest, fasted CPU from the Motorola group.   Also, if cost is a factor and you want to stay within a budget, you might consider buying a product with the Celeron CPU.  This is a cheaper product manufactured by Intel to compete in the $1000-and-under computer retail market.  Buy the best that you can afford.

6.0 or 8.0 GB Hard Disk Drive.  You can purchase disk drives that store gigabytes up in the teens.  You might be able to purchase a computer with a smaller hard drive (3.2 to 4.1GB) and it may be enough for your needs.  If the cost difference between the smaller drives and the larger ones is not too great, go for the bigger one.

32 MB RAM.  Extra RAM is one of the best investments you can make for your computer. If you can afford to get one with 64MB or even 128MB, go ahead and get it.  You'll never regret having more RAM in your computer, but you'll curse and stamp your foot if you have too little.

Color Inkjet Printer.  Color inkjet printers are being marketed for unbelievably low prices.  In fact, you can buy a really basic Lexmark for under $100.  Be aware that the ink cartridges are very expensive ($25 to $40).   A standard black cartridge will do about one ream (500 sheets) of paper if you do only text printing.  Many color inkjets require a black cartridge and a color cartridge.  This can get into your pocket quickly.  Learning to use the Print Preview function in most applications can save you a bundle in ink costs!

Software Considerations:

Most computers have an operating system installed when you purchase them.  The most recent operating system installed on Intel-based machines is Windows 98.  You can also buy computers that have Windows 95 or Windows NT installed instead (WinNT will cost you more).  On the Macintosh side of the world, all current Macs come with MacOS8  or a variant.  You don't have much latitude when you purchase their products.  Some computer distributors include additional software as a "bundle" when you purchase their product.  Here is a recommended list of generic software that you might want start with:

Word Processor:  There are numerous word processors available.   Windows 95/98/NT comes with a nice little package preinstalled called "Wordpad".  It is a scaled-down version of Microsoft's Word, a very powerful application.  If you don't require spell-checking, grammar-checking, tables, columns, and the like, you might be able to get by with Wordpad.  If you need something better, check our Microsoft's Word or Corel's Wordperfect. 

Internet Software:  Many computers ship with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and/or Netscape's Navigator.  Both will allow you to explore the World Wide Web.  Both packages also include an Email program.  These are two of the most useful Internet applications.

Depending on your computing needs, you might want to acquire a database/spreadsheet application, some games, financial packages, encyclopedias, and other useful applications.  A good all-purpose program that you might give consideration to purchasing is Microsoft Works (or its competitor, Appleworks).  If you wish to explore the world of desktop publishing, consider Microsoft Publisher'98.  Both Works and Publisher are under $100 at your friendly retail software store.