Still scared of technology?

In the April, 2000, issue of CARPNews FiftyPlus, we met long-time CARP member Walter LaCroix, 69, and convinced him to make the leap into the world of computers. Walter took our advice, and has spent the interim period getting some hands-on experience at his local library. He has since become a proficient web surfer, and now regularly e-mails his grandson in England, and is even researching the LaCroix family tree through one of the many genealogy websites. Now ready to invest in his own computer system, Walter visited the CARPNews FiftyPlus offices recently for some advice.

FP: Walter, are you now convinced that computers are fun and educational and useful and…

Walter LaCroix: I’m convinced! I’ve been having a wonderful time. It’s opened up a whole new world. I’m surprised at how easy it was to learn. I got a few tips from people at the library, and before long I was flying solo. Now I want my own computer, but I’m concerned about how much it’ll cost, and how to get the right system.

FP: You don’t need a lot of technical know-how or money to buy a good computer. Write this down – it’s what you’ll neefor a solid system that will serve most needs: 500 MHZ CPU, 64 MB of RAM, 10 GB hard drive, 40x CD-ROM, 15″ or 17″ monitor, 56K modem, colour bubble jet printer, USB port, sound card, speakers, software (with original disks) and a one-year manufacturer’s warranty…

Walter: Hold on a minute! Except for the warranty and the speakers, that sounds like a foreign language! What does it all mean?

FP: Who cares!  Do you know how your car works? Do you need to know? Of course not. It’s the same with a computer. Take this list with you when you shop, and insist on seeing systems that meet these specifications. Then you can compare apples to apples while shopping, and you won’t have to worry about a bunch of jargon.

Walter: Isn’t it going to cost a lot of money?

FP: You can get a system like that for anywhere from $1,000-$1,500. The important thing to look for is quality, service, and after-sales support. To get that, stick with established brand names.

Walter: Where should I shop?

FP: Start with the local newspapers. Compare your list to the features offered in the ads, and you can easily measure value. The only major difference you’ll see among the ads is for extras in the software programs you receive with the computer. Look for packages that give you at least a basic word processor, financial program and Internet access software. These should all be installed on the computer.

Walter: Okay, so I’ve comparison-shopped and now I’ve got a couple of big boxes in my den. Who’s going to set it up?

FP: Since you spent a little extra on a name brand system from a reliable retailer, you’ll find the set-up very straightforward – it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. It’s just a matter of following colour-coded diagrams and plugging a few things in. It’s really no more complicated than setting up a home stereo. And, when you turn it on, it works right away, because the software is already loaded on the machine. If you’re still nervous about it, the same stores you bought it from will send someone to your home to set you up for an extra fee.

Walter: Okay, I’m sold. Will you come out to my house and see how I’m doing?

FP: We’d be delighted, and we’ll even bring along some of our favourite software programs and show you how to install them.

Walter’s computer checklist
To get the best value for his money, Walter is shopping for a computer system with the following features:

64 MB of RAM
10 GB hard drive
15″ or 17″ monitor
56K modem
Colour bubble jet printer
USB port
Sound card, speakers
Software with original disks included
One year warranty