perfect for buying a new computer--new technology always lies ahead
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #371 December 3, 1996 High Tech Office
broke down and bought a new computer for my home office. I haven't
actually shopped in a store for a new computer since 1988, when I
got a clone Turbo-XT, running at a not very blazing 10 mHz (black
and green monochrome monitor, no hard drive).
not been because
manufacturers have been beating down my door to give me free hardware
in exchange for a favourable plug in this column. And it's not because
I've been happily typing away on that old XT. Instead, over the years,
I'd upgraded that original system piece by piece, ending up with a
486-66 with 16 megs of RAM, a one-gigabyte hard drive, and a reasonably
nice 15-inch monitor. (Upgrading like this reportedly has some tax
advantages compared to purchasing completely new systems. As well,
it's less noticeable to family members.)
fast in 1993 was no longer adequate for some of the new generation
of software (more on that later). And because of changes in technology,
simply replacing the motherboard for a newer model was no longer an
option. I'd also need new RAM, a new video card, and more.
it made sense
to get a whole new system.
good reasons to postpone buying right now: just on the horizon are
a number of technical innovations that promise to make significant
improvements in next year's models over what's available right now.
of processors promises dramatic improvements in multimedia, 3D, and
graphics programs like PhotoShop, for example. Universal Serial Bus
and Firewire offer simple new ways to connect new generations of speedy
peripheral equipment ranging from hard drives to video input. DVD
(digital video disc) promises to replace CD-ROM with high-capacity
storage for programs, reference and multimedia.
there's always something
looming as an excuse to wait. The first generation of all these
will undoubtedly command premium prices with few real options. By
the time they become affordable and widespread standards, it will
be time for me to upgrade again anyway. And then there are the
or PC? While I'd happily use either, I needed to maintain my investment
of time and money in PC software and add-on equipment. I continue
to be a PC owner.
issue was whether
to buy brand versus clone, through a big retailer versus a small store.
I chose to buy a clone system from a small store; today's PC is enough
of a commodity item that the name on the box doesn't matter as much
as it once did--the parts inside are all from respected manufacturers.
I got quotes from several local retailers, and wrote my cheque.
what I decided
on: a Pentium-166 processor with 32 megs of RAM, a two-gig hard drive
and generic video card, 16-bit sound card, and eight-speed CD-ROM.
I could have paid more for a supercharged video card or name-brand
sound card, but couldn't convince myself that they were worthwhile
at this time. I kept the keyboard, mouse, and monitor from my old
system, and retired the 486 to a life of testing multiple operating
systems. (It currently has Windows 95, Windows for Workgroups, NT 4.0,
and OS/2 Warp all installed on a single hard drive. I'm working at
getting Linux, the free Unix clone, onto it as well and then there's
Executor, a Mac-emulator that deserves more experimentation.)
computer is not
cutting-edge, and didn't cost me a cutting-edge price. But it is
faster and more powerful than the system it replaced.
eight-speed CD-ROMs in this column, I certainly noticed the increased
speed: when installing software from the CD, it seems nearly as fast
as a hard drive.
that I wanted a more powerful computer to deal with newer software.
Initially at least, this software was actually my 12-year-old's latest
games. Games are increasingly driving the home market, as they make
more demands on system resources than most office productivity
the tax people
notice this paragraph and make a note in their files, office software
isn't far behind. I've received a beta version of Microsoft's
upcoming Office 97 upgrade, and it too makes that old 486 feel