Which Home Computers? Reply

By Christian Weber

Originally published in EUG #16

Which Processor?

I can't deny that PC computers are overpriced, especially here in Britain, but MS-DOS is much easier and user-friendly than any 8-bit disk system I've encountered (Commodore, Spectrum, Amstrad, BBC DFS and Electron ADFS). I would also be surprised if somebody who was new to computers found it easier to navigate around a software package or disk system on any 8-bit compared to using WINDOWS, the ultimate user-friendly system. Well, until CHICAGO and DAYTONA arrive to replace it.

Americans being 'brainwashed' into buying more powerful machines for the home may well be true. It certainly is here. The popular computer press paniced thousands of 386-owners by saying that their machine was as good as dead and it was time to replace that motherboard (or complete system!) with a 486. Even as this year draws near to the end, we're told that the minimum system is going to be a 486DX33 with a minimum of 4MB RAM, preferably 8MB RAM. Nobody wants to own a machine that won't be able to run the latest software so out they go with their hard earned money to their nearest PC-dealer.

This problem is that, once, industry needed more powerful machines but now computer producers keep telling them that they need faster machines that can work with greater amounts of data. Not wanting to be left behind, the businesses buy the latest equipment. Of course, many businesses do need more powerful computers. For example, in CAD.

The 'Car Dealer' analogy was a little confusing to me. Surely a better one would be two car dealers: one selling only Model T Fords and another selling every other car that was released in 1994. Which one do you reckon will go bankrupt first?

The majority of the population want the best they can buy. Some, however, do not have great needs are are happy with what they've got. If you only want a computer for basic word processing then stick with your 8-bit. If you want to do serious DTP then buy a Mac or a PC. SP64 is a good little package on the Elk but for 'real world' uses, it's very primitive.

The perfect machine doesn't exist and it never will. Every day technology is advancing, thus changing how society functions down to the base levels. If it wasn't for technological advances and we all said, "We're not interested in it!" then we'd still be in caves eating raw meat and saying, "Ug!"

If I was running a large company that produced its own goods and delivered them worldwide, I can safely say that I wouldn't use my Elk to control the distribution process!

Which System?

Conservative keyboards? Have you seen the new keyboard from ENTA? It has the same layout as a standard AT keyboard but it looks as though the keyboard has been broken in the middle. It is designed to reduce RSI on the arms and hands. It may well be in the typically bland computer colours but not many people, or businesses, would buy brightly coloured computers or peripherals. Also pick up, literally, a PC keyboard made in 1986 and it's heavy! Pick up a PC keyboard made this year and it's not much heavier than a copy of the Yellow Pages.

The whole point of the QWERTY keyboard was originally to stop typists from typing so fast (as they used to jam the typewriter!). The standard PC keyboard layout is kept QWERTY as this is the standard layout almost worldwide and why bother to change where the other keys go? (I.e. numeric keypad and f-keys) I like them where they are and I'm sure that many others do. After all, if they didn't then I think it's fairly safe to surmise that they would have been changed already!

5.25" disk drives in a PC? Just how old was the PC you saw? Ok, many new PCs do have a 5.25" HD disk drive but it is purely for downward compatibility with very old PCs that only had 5.25" drives. The 5.25" drive will be secondary to the 3.5" HD drive. Replacing a 5.25" drive with a 3.5" HD is a relatively simple process - as long as your BIOS and DOS version allows it to be replaced.

Pentiums incompatible with older PCs? They're completely, to my knowledge, downwardly compatible with any PC below it. Same situation with graphics cards, sound cards and disk formats. Regardless whether the machine is a Pentium or a 486, it is still a PC and thus compatible with all other PC computers. Which was the whole point of IBM allowing other companies to produce their own computers that would be compatible with their IBM ones. (Except for Amstrad who make their PC-compatibles incompatible with just above every piece of modern PC hardware available!)

I'd like to replace my old 386SX16 with a nippy 486DX266 for the same reason my Dad wants a new car. Why put up with out of date things - be they computers, cars or cookers! - when, if you need the best there is, you can afford to get them?!

I will still use my Elk regularly but there will be times when I will have to use my PC. You can either embrace new technology with open arms or be left behind in technological obscurity.

Christian Weber, EUG #16