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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN BUYING A PERSONAL COMPUTER

BUYING A PERSONAL COMPUTER - General Information:

Familiarize yourself with some of the computer language

and terminology then shop at several different computer

stores and test some of the hundreds of different models

being offered.  Most of the computers and programs are

simple to operate and you can perform many valuable tasks

as well as play games.

Keep in mind that the cost of the system you purchase will

usually include only the basic "software" needed and you

will probably have to purchase more later in order to do

everything you want your computer to do for you.  Most

software is not cheap...

The basic system consists of the Central Processing Unit,

a Keyboard, Screen (Monitor) and Printer.  A "mouse" is

used on some brands and a cassette recorder can also be

used, mostly for games and short programs.  A flexible

disk (floppy disk) similar to a small phonograph record;

or a hard disk, together with an instructional manual,

contain the programs that tell the person... and the

computer, what to do.

A component that changes electric signals into audio

tones, called a "Modem" is used to link your unit with

others over the telephone.

Across the country are located large computer systems

which store a great amount of information on various

subjects.  You can hook the computer into one or more of

these systems with a "Data-Base Management" program, and

by paying a monthly user fee.

The smallest unit of information for the computer is the

"Bit".  8 Bits make a "Byte".  "Memory" takes two

forms...RAM which means Random Access Memory, is a

temporary memory picked up when you enter information into

the keyboard or from a disk...ROM means Read Only Memory

is measured in "K's" with 1,024 Bytes-1K.

The software program will display a "Menu" on the screen.

You choose what you want the computer to do and press the

proper keys specified in the menu in order to perform the

task.

One of the greatest uses of the computer is "word

processing", which is merely "glorified" typing, using the

keyboard with the copy appearing on the screen as you

type.  You can correct or change your copy in just about

any way imaginable and perform many other time saving

functions before the copy is "sent to the printer" or to a

disk to be stored for future processing or printing.

Before you make a decision on the purchase be sure you

have a good idea of what computer applications you want.

Are you going to use it extensively for word processing?

For Accounting?  Budgeting, Education, Entertainment, or

perhaps a mail-order newsletter which requires fancy

pictures and a good deal of art work, etc.

Pick up the brochures and booklets explaining the various

computers and the software programs so you can review and

study the various functions and make comparisons of ease

of operation, price refund policy, etc.

When you shop for a computer system ask to operate the

various computers yourself so that you will get the feel

of each different brand.

Find out about the warranty and service, the availability

of added hardware and software.

Does the dealer offer instructions with the purchase?  Get

the total cost for the unit and the software which will be

required to perform the applications you want.

Purchase only the minimum software you need to get started

and learn each program as you proceed.  You will have a

much better knowledge of just what additional software you

will need after you have had the computer for a short time

and have become more familiar with what it will do for

you.  However, since you will have substantial funds

invested it will pay to purchase all the software

necessary for your various needs so that you will get full

value from your investment, but be certain you are not

getting substitute programs or partial duplications of

ones you already have.

What do you need a computer for?

You can now purchase a computer that will run thousands of

different programs.  You can do just about anything; from

games and entertainment to instruction, mathematics,

engineering, managing any kind of data, to desk top

publishing, business inventories and accounting.  Those

old timers in the accounting profession and in business

management now look back over the many years of working

without a computer and wonder how it was possible to

accomplish what they did without a computer.  Printers can

now purchase a desktop publishing system for $10,0000

sufficient for many typesetting jobs that previously cost

$60,000 just a couple of years ago.  The computer-laser

system is much faster thus saving on labor costs and by

using plain paper at less than 1¢ a sheet instead of photo

paper at 30¢ to 60¢, they can cut operating costs

extensively.

What kind of computer do you need?

First look at the ease of use.  Is it "user friendly"?  Is

the instruction manual easy to follow?  Is there adequate

software available for it?  Does it give you a large

enough screen to fit any work you will require?  Can you

"import" other compatible programs, images, etc., and

merge with existing work?  Does it give detailed realistic

and high resolution results?  How about color?  Will you

need color now or in the future?  Is it easily expandable

so that more memory or circuit boards, etc., can be added

as your need grows?  What type of printers will the

computer handle?

Can you get questions answered and help when you need it.

What about repairs, guarantees and service contracts?  How

much memory comes with the basic computer and is it going

to be sufficient to handle all your projects?  Considering

the type of software being produced today you should

purchase a system with no less than 256K and preferably

much more.  Also get a computer with at least two disk

drives that will handle 2 sided, double density disks.

The keyboard can be an integral part of the computer or

detached.  Detached is generally preferable because it

gives you more flexibility.  Pick a computer that uses a

keyboard you feel comfortable with.  Most computers now

are built with standard keys.  Be sure it is easy to

control the "cursor", graphic keys, escape, repeat, break,

reset and return keys.

As to the display window (monitor) you will need, if you

are going to be doing a great deal of word processing

(typing) a monochrome with green color is much easier on

the eyes than black and white.  If you are going to be

doing color work or graphics you will need  color monitor.

Printer:

A printer is like a typewriter without keys.  It prints

out the information that is in the memory of the computer.

The main kinds of printers are the "Dot Matrix", "The

Letter Quality", and the various ink jet and laser

printers.  The dot matrix forms letters with tiny wires

that punch a pattern of dots on the ribbon for each

letter.  Some are low print quality, but others look

nearly letter quality.  Letter quality printers produce

typewriter quality print and are referred to as impact

printers.

Certain brands of electronic typewriters can be interfaced

(connected) with the computer and used as a printer.  If

you plan on going this route be sure to give it a good

test before you buy.  Many interfaced typewriters print

slowly and also there is the possibility that the warranty

on the typewriter may be voided.  There are several

different ways the paper is fed through the printer.

Check to be certain the method used is adequate for your

purpose.  Also make sure the printer will accept the width

and length of paper you require.  It will take at least 80

characters for 8 1/2" paper and you will need 132 column

printer for accounting or spreadsheets.  Check the speed

to determine how fast the printer works as there is a

large variation between various types and brands of printers.

The Laser printer is a great addition to the family of

printers.  Most good quality laser printers cost much more

than Dot Matrix or Letter-Quality printers, but for many

purposes they are well worth the difference.  They have a

great advantage when working with graphics, design,

typesetting or desktop publishing.  Perhaps a mail-order

newsletter which requires fancy pictures and a good deal

of art work etc.

Modem:

You can use your computer to connect to hundreds of

different sources of information through the use of a

modem.  This is an accessory that connects the computer to

the telephone line.  How fast you are able to send

information over the phone is determined by the Baud rate.

You should probably have a modem with 1200 baud that will

work with the majority of others.  Check with your dealer

to be sure it is adequate for your system.  You will need

communication software programs in order to send and

receive stored information.

Along with the line of communications, you can get a

speech synthesizer or voice recognition add-on that

converts your spoken words into writing or visa versa.  To

create computer game controllers, graphics and pictures

you can get such things as light pens, plotters, mice,

etc.  Other more expensive devices allow you to import

photos, text, etc., directly into the computer for

hard-copy printout.  You can add circuit boards to your

computer which will activate electrical devices; turn them

on or off, dial your phone, or make mechanical monsters do

what you command.

Software needed:

Software is simply instructions that tell the compute what

to do.  It comes in the form of cassette tapes, diskettes

or hard disks.  Applications software will do exactly what

you want to do; such as play a game, maintain a mailing

list or teach mathematics, etc.  Operating systems are

programs that manage all the things that are going on

inside your computer.  Each different brand of computer

has its own unique operating system so the software for

some will not work on others.  (Incompatibility)

Different versions of the same software programs are made

for each different type of system.  However there are

several operating systems that are "standard" compatibles

and work on many different brands thus making thousands of

programs available for most computers.  Be sure you buy a

computer with an operating system that can handle a great

number of the programs available.  Determine what you want

the computer to do for you; games, accounting, name lists,

desktop publishing, etc., then find out what software

programs are available for that particular brand.

You can get software for about any kind of game, for Music

composition, picture creation and transfers; for all kinds

of educational programs, Budgeting, home management,

mathematical analysis and engineering.  business software

includes word processing (which merely means an easy and

much better way to type than with a typewriter),

spreadsheets for financial analysis and planning,

accounting, mailing lists, and just about anything else.

For example, using the computer for all accounting

activities for a firm is a terrific time and money saver.

You can write the checks, enter receipts, accounts

payable, accounts receivable, control inventories, prepare

payrolls, and make the journal entries.  All of these

entries are automatically posted to the general ledger,

eliminating hand posting altogether, and the trial

balance, balance sheet, income statement, quarterly

payroll reports, W-2 forms, income tax returns and other

financial records are all ready to print out.

Before you settle on what software to purchase you should

check out how easy it is to use.  Are the instructions and

screen help menus easy to understand?  How fast does the

program run and does it do everything you need?  Does the

software publisher furnish support and updates, with a

number to call in the event of problems?  Is the warranty

adequate?  Can you return the software if it doesn't

perform as represented?  Is it protected so that it is

difficult or impossible to make a backup copy?

You can get software in the form of cassette tapes,

cartridges, diskettes or hard disks.  However cassette

tapes and cartridges have several disadvantages including

the fact that much of the best software is not available

on cassettes.  Preferably, settle for no less than

programs on two sided-double density floppy diskettes.

They are easy to use, store a great deal of information,

reasonably priced and you can find anything on the disk

almost instantly.

Programming:

Would you like to write your own software program?  Well,

they try to tell you that it is easy.  Don't you believe

it.  It takes a great deal of study and hundreds of hours

at the computer to learn to the extent you can create any

worthwhile programs.  Even though it is a challenge and

may be an enjoyable pastime there are so many programs

available today that unless you are an expert programmer

there is little chance you can come up with one that is

marketable.

Basic is the most used computer language and is probably

the one most valuable for you to learn, but since there

are several versions a program that runs on one computer

may not run on another brand.  Pascal and Assembler are

languages which are used mostly by expert programmers.

Scientists and engineers can use a language called FORTRAN

for best results.  Several other languages are used for

computer and video games.

Taking care of your computer system:

It is good policy to keep your computer and printing

equipment covered with anti-static dust free covers when

not in use.  Keep your screen and other equipment clean

and free of dust.  Use a head cleaning kit to clean your

disk drive in accordance with manufacturers

recommendations.  Place your computer so that air

circulates freely around it.  Use three wire plug ins with

a ground and get a surge protector to protect your

computer from sudden voltage changes.  Use a felt tip pen

for diskette labels and don't touch the magnetic surface.

Keep your diskettes stored away from sunlight or heat and

if you spill coffee or drink on a disk, forget it!

Read the small print of your warranty so you will know

exactly what to expect in the event of problems.  Keep the

original boxes and packing materials so that you can

safely ship your equipment back for repairs or adjustment.

 

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