I was looking at some computer ads recently and marveled at how far the prices have dropped. One ad was for a $199 PC. As I read the specs, I realized that a similar computer would have sold for $2,000 a very few years ago. It contained an 80-gigabyte hard drive, 512 megabytes of RAM memory, a combination DVD and CD-ROM disk drive capable of watching movies, a 1.5-gigahertz processor, stereo speakers, keyboard, and mouse. As is typical with most desktop systems, this system is sold without a monitor, which must be added at extra cost. Instead of paying $2,000 or more for this amount of power as any of us would have done a few years ago, the system now sells for $199.99 plus a monitor for another $100 to $150 or so.
In fact, only a few years ago, an 80-gigabyte hard drive alone cost more than $199! Now you get an entire computer attached to the drive!
Even better, the low price includes an operating system, a great word processor, a decent spreadsheet program, a presentation program (similar to PowerPoint), a great web browser, and an instant messaging program that communicates with friends on a variety of chat networks, and it even makes telephone calls over the Web at little or no charge.
I wondered, “Is a $199 computer any good? Can it be used for genealogy purposes? Can it surf the Web as well as the more expensive computers do? If so, what makes the other computers worth more money?”
I decided to find answers to those questions. I needed a dedicated computer for a new project: I have been looking for a separate computer dedicated to just one program that I want to run 24 hours a day. I was expecting to pay $500 for a cheap Windows system or perhaps $800+ for a Macintosh. Instead, I ordered the new $199 computer.
I already had an extra monitor available that was left over from the time I upgraded another system to a larger screen. I decided to blow the dust off the old monitor and plug that into the $199 computer.
I received the computer a few days later and have now used it for several days. I believe I have found all the answers to my earlier questions.
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