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Your family can afford a computer

Buy it used

By Sharon Griggs

 

Issue #39 • May/June, 1996

You don't have a new car, you shop at rummage sales, and you gladly accept hand-me-down clothes for your kids. So why are you considering buying a brand new $2000 computer system? Don't let some salesman who has charged his credit cards up to the limit and needs the sales commission tell you that you need the newest, most impressive machine with all the bells and whistles.

There are people out there who are upgrading their systems and who will sell their old computers cheap. Often they are sold with software and accessories such as printers that don't come with a new computer. These are things that you would end up having to go out and buy extra and install, if you bought a new computer.

You say you are homeschooling your youngsters and you want them to be computer literate. Or you are running your own home-based business, and you want a computer for that. Or you want to get on the "information superhighway."

Well, believe it or not, you can probably do all these things for under $500, and maybe less if you are willing to shop around. In fact, I bought an old Texas Instruments computer at a garage sale for $10 that is perfect for learning basic programming on. Sure, I had to hook it up to an old TV (it didn't have a monitor), but it came with all kinds of illustrated books about basic programming. I even learned how to program graphics as well as words. You won't get that kind of information with your new gee-whiz right-out-of-the-box computer. And you won't be afraid to try things on a cheap old machine, daring things that you would be afraid to risk on an expensive new computer.

But you say you want a little newer technology. You want to be able to hook up a modem and explore the on-line world about your areas of interest. Here's where you really get lucky. Newer, faster modems are being put on the market all the time and people just gotta have 'em. Slower modems are getting cheaper, and faster ones are quickly being discarded and replaced with even faster ones. And there are "trial-run" offers all the time from on-line services that let you get on-line for 10 hours free. Why not try them all? A used 386 IBM-compatible computer or a used Mac should be plenty good enough to get you there. Like driving a good used car, you go a little slower, but you get there just the same.

Heard about Windows 95? Well, there are older versions of Windows out there, and lots of older computers have the older versions of Windows on them. When you buy one of them, you can upgrade, or you can use the old version while they work the "bugs" out of the new version.

There is also a world of free and cheap software available (such as shareware). Just be sure the software is "registered," or legal. In fact, some of the folks who started computing by using some of the older, cheaper programs are so attached to them that they wouldn't give up their old favorites for all the new ones in the world. You may find that you feel the same way about some of these "oldies but goodies."

Really broke? Believe it or not, you don't even have to buy a computer to compute. You can try one out at some public libraries or community colleges for free. One library near us has a computer that is hooked up to the Internet, and anyone can use it. There are also computers there that can be used for word processing (typing) or for bookkeeping for your business. Just buy a floppy disk and bring it with you. Usually someone will be glad to help you get started and get into the tutorial programs on the computer that teach you how to compute step by step, with demonstrations. There are also free classes at the library on how to get on and use the Internet. They attract a lot of "non-techies." In fact, my youngest son (who likes to work on the innards of computers and such but who normally hates to sit down at a keyboard) really likes exchanging points of view on-line with people in other countries.

Don't let a lack of funds slow you down. You too can start computing "on the cheap" and enjoying it as much as we do.




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