Mac Daniel's Advice

Picking a Computer for Christmas

Manuel Mejia Jr - 2001.11.08

So you want to buy a computer for Christmas and do it for less than $600? Miracles like this can and do happen to people every day of the year! It would be a good idea to do thing through some issues before making your purchase.

The Golden Question: Why do you need a computer in the first place?

This is the most important question to ask when making a purchase. The future use of said machine will depend on the answer. Are you in need of a writing machine, a graphics machine, or an Internet machine? How much time do you plan to spend behind this machine? Is this machine meant to "keep up with the computing power of the neighbors?" Are you planning to use the computer as a tool to oversee a small business or a social organization? How much space in the house, apartment, or trailer do you have to store an operate the computer? Do you need the ability to print a color image? Are their little children running around said house, apartment, or trailer? Who is the primary user of the computer?

All of these questions (and perhaps others that I have not thought of) play a role in answering this question. They will also dictate whether you need a new $1,000 machine or a low-end computer. If your are dealing with an eight-year-old child who wants to learn how to type and create drawings that he or she can color in with a marker, a $60 investment in a Mac Plus with an ImageWriter II printer or a $100 investment in a Mac IIcx or an LC II with a StyleWriter 1200 printer (all used equipment) will meet and exceed the needs of that child and provide the rest of the family with a useful tool for other tasks like running a spreadsheet that tracks membership dues for the local social club.

In terms of software, a quick search of the Internet will turn up software that will handle typing, drawing, and spreadsheets. One will sometimes even get needed software with the computer !

If you are an adult with a need to do high end graphic work, Web page design, run state of the art Internet applications like IRC and JAVA, or keep up with the neighbors, then you will need a newer computer like an iMac and spend that $1,000. It is a small machine, and it is immune from laughter from your neighbors because it is so old.

Getting a laptop can blunt their laughter, because laptops are conceived as "modern" (even if it is a PB 100 with a black and white screen and based on early 1990s technology). However, laptops are fragile machines and not the best computer for a precocious eight year old. The laptop is even worse if there is a four year old in the house who sees the laptop and uses it as a toboggan or an island for dolls or toy soldiers. A desktop computer is far more resistant to these problems.

If you use a digital camera, you must get a state of the art computer because you will need the USB ports to download the images. Early digital cameras used to download images by old fashioned serial cables. Those cameras seem to be out of style these days.

What computer is best for you? It depends on your needs and preferences. Computers and their software and accessories are as varied as the people who use them. Shop wisely and get the most for the buck.

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