Thinking about buying a computer, but don’t know what to buy? You have a computer, but don’t know the best way to get hooked up to the Internet to view LifeSite and other family-friendly sites? You’re on the Internet, but find it confusing and useless?

You’re not alone. Since launching LifeSite, I’ve found that many of you are in the above categories. LifeSite is not being viewed properly or at all, because a lot of good folks are lacking basic computer and Internet knowledge, or have inadequate hardware.

Let me help. With the right equipment, the right set-up and some basic skills, I guarantee you will find the Internet a delightful, useful complement to daily life.

Buying a computer – clones or brand name

Don’t buy the cheapie specials. You will rue the day you did. Penny wise, pound foolish – no matter what the ads and sales staff tell you. But, seeming to contradict myself, Compaq and a few other name brands have recently introduced surprisingly good economy models. The downside is that they have limited upgrade and expansion potential.

Clones (no-name or private brand) normally provide the best value for your dollar. They are often just as good as and sometimes better than the name brands. A big caution is to buy from a reputable, friendly dealer who will provide you with  quick, hassle-free service.

I once bought a system from a company called Compu-Trend. The price was low, but the poor quality and terrible service caused months of grief. Don’t buy from someone across town just so you can save a few dollars. Service trips with your machine will frustrate you.

The big advantage of the more expensive name-brand computers, if you can afford them, is their usually top quality service programs.

PC or MAC?

  • if all you do  is word processing and Internet browsing, either a Macintosh or an IBM compatible (PC) computer will do.
  • if heavy graphics or desktop publishing is your specialty, a Mac is preferable, although PCs are now also heavily used for this;
  • any other circumstances – buy a PC. There is a far greater variety of software and hardware options for PCs. Also, because many more people use PCs, service is much more accessible and you are likely to encounter more people to advise and help you.

Components to buy

Here comes the technical jingo. Today, April, 1998, the minimum anyone should buy is a computer with: 200 Mhz MMX processor, 32 MB RAM (64 MB is better), video card with 2 to 4 MB RAM, 16-bit sound card (32 bit much preferable); 2.5 gigabyte hard drive, 56k modem, 15” monitor with .28 dpi  (dots per inch) pr better (I prefer .25 or .26 dpi). Do NOT buy a 14” monitor. Big mistake!; mid-quality speakers ($50); CD-ROM..

The Monitor

What you see is what you get. A fuzzy, small screen will ruin your computer enjoyment. A monitor is a long-term purchase. It usually outlasts the computer which becomes obsolete 2-3 years later. Therefore, buy a good monitor. $400-$475 will get you a good 15” monitor. Don’t buy Daiwoo, Daytek, Magitronic or other low end brands. Especially good value right now are the MAG DX500T, Panasonic PanaSync Pro P50, or for lower budgets, the Sceptre Dragon Eye D54. Most Viewsonic monitors are good. The Sony 100ES is a good buy. Consider a 17” monitor – this is the upcoming new standard.

Buy Flexibility

Make sure your system is upgradable – this will add a few years to your investment. If you can’t upgrade the processor, sound card, graphics card, modem or memory, look for another computer.

My mother is 74 years of age, but 29 years in outlook. Several years ago, she bought her first computer and learned how to use WordPerfect for her letters and lists. In 1996, she upgraded to a 486/100 and new monitor and took courses on Windows 3.1. Her new system had a modem so we gave her an Internet account for Christmas, but the Internet was slow going with even that hardware.

This past Christmas, I upgraded her system to a Pentium with 32 MB of RAM and a 33.6K modem. This made a big difference and now she is on the Internet every day for at least an hour.

It seems that Mom is typical of a new wave of seniors who have found the Internet and really like it.

Trouble is, now we should upgrade to a 56K modem – there may be a problem with the phone line, etc. … sigh!

Next month, guidelines for hooking up to the Internet and configuring your system.

See Internet viewing instructions at www.lifesite.net