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Time for a New Computer?

By JASON BAILEY
Sun Advocate/Progress Webmaster


The first successful digital computer system, ENIAC, was built in 1945 by members of University of Pennsylvania to compute World War II ballistic firing tables. The monstrosity filled an entire room the size of a small gymnasium, weighed thirty tons, and consumed two hundred kilowatts of power. Containing more than 19,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and hundreds of capacitors, resistors and inductors, the ENIAC generated so much heat that it had to be placed in one of the few rooms at the university with a forced air cooling system. Only very wealthy organizations and government entities had access to such enormous super-computers.

Nearly ten years after its debut, the ENIAC was deemed obsolete by engineers when compared to cheaper and faster descendants. It was permanently shut down in October of 1955.

Today, desktop computers (otherwise known as Personal Computers, or PCs) have many times the computing power of super-computers built only ten or twenty years ago and are manufactured at a fraction of the size and cost. As the PC has become reasonably affordable and available to the masses, millions of businesses and individuals around the world have adopted it as a useful appliance and worthy tool.

With technology evolving at an unbelievable rate, people often wonder when it is appropriate to upgrade or replace their PC. Although opinions vary among the computer-savvy, the reality is that there is no absolute answer to the question - it depends entirely on the situation. A common-sense rule of thumb, however, is to replace (or upgrade) the computer only when it fails to meet operating expectations. In other words, if it can still perform the job it is meant to do, then there's really no reason to replace it.

Most people usually don't have difficulties determining when an upgrade (or replacement) is necessary. Determining exactly what is adequate can be very difficult, especially with new PC purchases. Buyers are often convinced by sales people that they need the most expensive model when a cheaper alternative is more than adequate.

However, if you find yourself shopping for a new PC, you might find these basic suggestions helpful:

Flat panel screens are superior to typical computer monitors (CRTs) in nearly every way, but most people will find that they are far too expensive (the cost of a good 19" flat panel alone can easily exceed $600.00). They are, however, more energy efficient, radiation-free, and much easier on the eyes. If you spend a lot of time at the computer, it may be well worth the purchase.

Another suggestion is to purchase an optical mouse instead of the traditional ball mouse. Because optical mice use light to track movement, they don't suffer from dirt, grease or grime that a ball mouse can pick up over time, and won't stick, bind or jam as a result.

One last suggestion is to select a computer with USB ports located on the front of the case, which will make plugging in digital cameras, USB drives and other peripherals much more convenient.

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