All I want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas

By Richard Heller

All I want for Christmas

With the holidays upon us, it’s time to think of a present for the family member that you spend the most time with–your computer. The computer has replaced the TV as the entertainment center in many homes, offering everything from education to games to movies and more. Let’s take a look at some of the goodies available.

When you bought that computer two years ago, that “large” 2 gigabyte (GB) hard drive sounded enormous and you thought that you would never use all the space. Now you find that you can’t install the new game or surf the web because you have no room left. The good news is that the price on hard drives has fallen so that you can buy a 20-30 GB drive for $100-$125.

Another item that is always useful is more memory or RAM. A couple of years ago memory was quite expensive and many computers came with 16 Megabytes (MB) of memory, enough that enabled Windows 95 to run but also caused the computer to run slow. This slowness was caused by the computer saving portions of your program to the hard drive as it required more memory than your computer actually had. This is what is known as a “swap file,” and is the large file named win386.swp that exists on your Windows-based computer. Memory has dropped in price so that you can add 32 MB for $30-$40. The extra memory will increase the speed of your computer by causing less of the data to be swapped to the hard drive.

Monitor prices have also dropped over the past year or so. You can now buy a 17″ monitor for $150-$200, while a 19″ screen can be purchased for $250-300. When you use a larger screen you can adjust your resolution so that more is displayed onscreen without causing the picture to appear compressed and difficult to read.

Nowadays, very few programs or data files will fit on a floppy disk. One way to transfer these files is with a Zip100 drive. A Zip100 disk holds 100 MB of programs and data (70 floppy disks worth) and sells for $10-$15 each. The Zip drive itself sells for $100-$150, depending on how you want to connect it to your computer. There is also a Zip250 drive available that allows you to store 250 MB of data on a Zip250 disk.

Rather than buy a DVD player for the home, you can purchase a DVD drive that allows you to play movies on the PC. An added benefit of this is that many of the new movies have special features only available when run on a computer, such as games and screen savers. The drive sells for $100-150 and also acts as a regular CD-ROM drive.

All prices mentioned in this article do not include installation charges. If you know how to use a screwdriver you can probably install these items yourself in less than an hour.