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Seek simplicity in computers, too; you probably don't need the newest, most expensive machine.

You probably don't need the newest, most expensive machine

Reading COUNTRYSIDE, I find that there are people beyond the sidewalks using technology to ease their load. I am a computer consultant with 30 years' experience in mainframe systems and have been using PCs since 1987. My personal machine is a 386DX with a 250MB hard drive and 8MB RAM. I have been using this machine since I formed my own company in 1990 and find it more than adequate for my needs. Consequently, I must take issue with some information in previous articles.

The homesteader can opt for several pieces of equipment such as a calculator, typewriter, fax machine, etc. to perform the same functions of a computer. Doing so, however, limits their capabilities. The computer, if nothing else, is versatile and can perform many functions.

The average homesteader is looking for ways to save money, so why throw it away on expensive "power chip" machines? Mike and Lisa Boyd have outlined uses for computers on the homestead but then they recommended faster chip machines to embrace the "Windows" environment. Don't fall into this trap.

If a person takes the time to learn basic DOS commands to do his bidding, rather than using Windows, he can make his machine function more efficiently. Some programs, however, require the Windows environment just to operate.

Microsoft Windows is an operating system that controls your programs and the way they operate, providing structured, standardized guidelines for the software. The Windows environment takes up computer resources to make their software programs more eye-appealing. Windows also, allegedly, does your thinking for you. Windows provides a Graphic User Interface (GUI, pronounced gooey) which allows you to pick out small pictures (icons) such as a file cabinet to show you where your files go. This does not mean the machine works any better for you.

WordPerfect version 5.1 for DOS is the finest word processing software package I have ever had the pleasure to use and train people on and would fit right into the homesteading environment. Using an accounting package like Quickbooks for DOS also fits the bill.

There are many useful computers on the market that the homesteader can use. My daughter is using a Compaq 286 for all of her filing and typing needs and still has programs to entertain her. I do, however, recommend that you get as much random access memory (RAM) as is financially reasonable. RAM is the workspace where most functions of the computer are performed and a larger work area allows you to manipulate data more efficiently.

When shopping for a used computer look for a DX machine. These letters refer to the processor chip. An 80386DX machine is preferable to an 80386SX machine. The same goes for the 80486DX as opposed to an 80486SX machine. If you place the letter "u" between the S and X you will remember the net worth of the machine.

The 80386SX was developed to bring an inexpensive format to an expensive (at that time) chip. Computer manufacturers produced machines with 80386 chips using a 80286 motherboard that meant that although the processor worked faster, the machine could only function at the speed and bit path of the motherboard.

These same manufacturers did something similar with the 80486 chip. In this instance the full 80486DX came equipped with a math co-processor built into the chip. For whatever reason, if the math co-processor didn't work or wasn't produced in the chip, they then called it a 80486SX.

Sound confusing? It is! Just remember, if it is an SUX, take a pass.

Prices of used computers run the gauntlet from inexpensive to expensive. The best time of year to purchase a computer is at the end of the month of November when historically the prices of older generation machines plummet as the newer technology is introduced at the Comdex Show in LaN Vegas.

Assess your needs

Make an assessment of your needs before purchasing a computer. If your needs are extensive, you may have to purchase a top of the line, power chip machine. If, however, your needs are basic, you may be pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive a computer can be. I have seen used computers offered in various want ads priced at $200 to $800 and most include the software, monitor, and a printer.

Finally, I suggest that all who are interested in computers take a course in the basics of the machine and the software they anticipate using. Community colleges offer adult education classes that are more reasonable than private offerings of the same courses. Learning to use a computer and some software packages on the fly is extremely hard even for the experienced user. Using computers can be frustrating, but with perseverance you can prevail. Don't ever give up, is my motto.

My wife Glenda and I are planning to retire to our farm in Gladwin, Michigan in 1996. I hope the guidelines printed here are useful. I plan to use others' experience, through COUNTRYSIDE, when I raise my own crops and animals in the future. You can bet that I'll be using my computer to keep track of my records.



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COPYRIGHT 1996 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Nielson, John
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1996
Previous Article:The value of a homestead journal: it will help you know if you're meeting your goals.
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