Newsletter Comments from SCScompA

Newsletter Date: November 1, 1999


Home PC Configurations

I am often asked what type of PC configuration I would recommend for a particular home user. Although this question can have many answers and any of the answers can be justified -- or presented in such a way as to make the anwer too complex to be understood; I start the "answer" discussion with the following main points:

  • A few years ago I read an article in the Raleigh newspaper, written by their then-PC-staff-writer as he was leaving the job. He mentioned that if he learned anything during his time writing articles for the newspaper, he learned the magic of the $3000 rule. The rule is: If you spend $3000 for a home computer, you will always be pleased. I have found this to be true in 1997-thru-1999. So, I tell people who asked this question: "Budget yourself for $3000, go to a computer dealer whom you trust, and purchase your home computer":

    • PC, itself

      Operating system software and whatever application software your dealer includes in the PC purchase price. Although this varies with the particular dealer, the 1999 PC dealers generally include sufficient software for the home computer user to get started.

    • Printer

    • Scanner

      And once you have priced the above items:

    • Get as much memory as you can afford to end up with your total budgeted amount of $3000. Don't forget to account for the tax! (In North Carolina, USA, the tax is 6%).

  • Get a minimum of 128 meg memory. This is possible at any budget you may have for your home PC.

  • Ensure you have communications hardware (a modem) for access using your phone line to eMail and the Internet. Any PC you purchase should have such support included. If not, have your PC dealer set your machine up with what is called an "external modem" at a cost of less than $100. If asked, tell the PC dealer you want 56,000 BPS support. If not asked, accept what your trusted PC dealer sets up for you -- and, let me know if it ends up to be less than 56,000 BPS support once you figure that out!

  • Ensure your PC dealer includes in the price software similar to:

    • Windows 98 Second Edition. I use Windows NT (it will be Windows 2000 in upcoming years) in addition, and it is my operating system of choice. I recommend dual-boot support on the PC with Windows 98 as one choice and Windows NT as the other choice. Why two operating systems on a home PC? Because I like to run Windows NT and "trust" it. However, due to some application support -- I need to run Windows 98 some time. I, personally, do not have a problem with this and users I work with end up understanding why, eventually! This is a topic within itself.

      I do not know or use Apple equipment or operating systems. I am sure they are fine / usable and if for some reason you end up purchasing/using those: I am sure you will be happy!

      As of Oct., 1999: ensure you have at least Windows 98 Second Edition. If your PC dealer provides Windows NT as a second operating system and sets up a dual boot system for you: wonderful. If not, don't be concerned and accept "only" Windows 98 Second Edition.

    • Microsoft Word 97
    • Some organizer / diary package. I use Lotus SmartSuite Organizer 97 but anything similar will do as a start.
    • A presentation package such as Microsoft Powerpoint or Freelance Graphics.
    • A games package such as Hoyle Classic Card Games.
    • Some picture/graphics support. I use PaintShop Pro (the Oct. 1999 version is V6).
    • Some eMail/Internet support application. The software should be free. I use America Online (AOL) which has a monthly cost for unlimited hours of $21.95. I recommend an unlimited hours support-choice for any home computer user and any cost less than $30 per month is reasonable as a planning number (again I mention: AOL is in 1999 $21.95) for full service).

    At the most, depending upon what your PC dealer includes in the price of your PC, software such as the above would be less than $200 above what the PC dealer charges. If it is more than $200 above the PC-price for software such as the above, I recommend finding a different dealer who packages the PC and software together.

  • If you don't know what make of printer to buy and what features it needs, find an HP (Hewlett Packard) printer that sells new at multiple dealers for about $300. Write the HP model number and features it has down, and use that as a guideline for your purchase of whatever model printer you prefer. Any reputable PC dealer can assist you with such a discussion.

  • If you don't know what make of scanner to buy and what features it needs, buy from any PC dealer you trust a scanner for about $200. I use a 2-year-old Microtek Scanmaker E3 Plus and paid less than $200 for it at the time I purchased it. It does what I want (basic scanning of photographs and documents used for my purposes) and, although I see Microtek scanners around a lot -- I have no reason to either recommend nor discourage-use-of Microtek. Mine works and I would buy Microtek again -- or, any scanner from my preferred PC-dealer which has a cost of around $200.

  • An additional cost which any home user would want to consider is a digital camera. Use around $600 as a 1999-guideline. I use an Olympus 400 Zoom. The digital camera is in addition to a scanner. I recommend both.

Follow the above advice and discuss with your PC dealer what he/she recommends for less than $3000 plus the optional $600 for a digital camera and you will be well on the way to being a happy home computer user!

Sample PC Configurations - Nov, 1999

The following are three sample configurations. The systems are examples of what SCScompA would suggest for primary home-use computer systems including a printer, scanner, word processing software. Additional software such as PaintShop Pro and Hoyle Classic Card Games would be recommended and would increase the purchase price by about $150.

The configurations and prices are suggestions intended for planning purposes. Naturally rely on your own configuration work with reputable PC dealers and web sites for your actual costs.

  • The home user will no doubt have additional PCs in his/her home which are attached via a local lan or in some other way. The additional PCs would be, for example, laptop(s) used by family members outside the home or "smaller" PCs using the printer or applications installed on PCs such as the above-configured machines.
  • Next month in this newsletter we will discuss other-connected machines to the following PCS.

Don't hesitate to contact SCScompA to further discuss the following or any other matter. We are interested in your opinions and in why you are purchasing, installing, and using in your home computer environment.


Dell Dimension T Series

Dimension® XPS T500, Pentium® lll Processor at 500 MHz

Oct. 31, 1999

IBM Corporation - IBM Purchase Program for IBM Stockholder Offer mailed in Oct. 1999

Aptiva 550 with Intel Pentium III

Oct. 31, 1999

Intrex Inc., Raleigh NC (A local PC store)

Professional Series MultimediaPC-Gaming PC

Intel PIII  500

Oct. 31, 1999

Total: $2,953.47

$2,691.95 Purchase

This price includes Microsoft Works Suite 99, Network card, Zip disk etc., HP printer and its cable, HP scanner, APC (Power) Backup

Plus Shipping, etc.

Assume about $100

Plus State Tax (6% in North Carolina=$161.52




Naturally, check with Dell for latest prices!

Total: $2,533.76 (Minus possible $100 mail-in rebate from IBM)

$1,439 Purchase This price DOES NOT include following, so for planning purposes use:

Microsoft® Works Suite 99 $90

Netgear Network Card  PCI  10/100 $28

Internal 100 mb zip drive and 11 blank zip disks $80 (disk) plus $110 blank disks $190

HP Printer and its cable - HP 832C $200

HPScanjet4200Cse $200

APC(Power) Backup $149

-------------- Total Extras $857

Total: $2,963.76




$1,939 Purchase

This price DOES NOT include following, so for planning purposes use:

Microsoft® Works Suite 99 $90

Netgear Network Card  PCI  10/100 $28

Internal 100 mb zip drive and 11 blank zip disks $80 (disk) plus $110 blank disks $190

HP Printer and its cable - HP 832C $200

HPScanjet4200Cse $200

APC(Power) Backup $149

-------------- Total Extras $857

Plus Shipping, etc. Assume about $100

Plus State Tax (6% in North Carolina=$137.76

Naturally, check with IBM for latest prices!

Plus State Tax (6% in North Carolina $167.76

Assume no Shipping and Handling (Pick up at the store)

Naturally, check with Intrex for latest prices!

Intel Pentium® lll Processor at 500 MHz




128MB 100MHz SDRAM

20.4GB Ultra ATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM) with ATA 66 Controller Card

19"(17.9"viewable,.26dp)M990 Monitor

32MB NVIDIA TNT2 M64 AGP Graphics Card

8X DVD-ROM Drive with Software Decoding to be used with 32MB geFORCE Graphics Card

harman/kardon HK-195 Speakers

3Com® USRobotics V.90* PCI Telephony WinModem- for Sound Option

100MB Zip Drive with One Disk

10-Pak of Iomega 100MB Zip Disks


Microsoft® Windows® 98 Second Edition

Microsoft® Works Suite 99

McAfee VirusScan 4.02




QuietKey® Keyboard

Logitech MouseMan® Wheel (PS/2)

3-Yr Limited Warranty, 1-Yr Next Bus. Day On-Site Service

3Com® 3C905C TXM 10/100 Remote (Network Card)

1.44MB Floppy Drive

Intel Pentium III 500 MHz Processor





17GB Hard Drive



17" (15.9" viewable size) IBM Monitor



6X-2.5X DVD with software DVD-video playback




56K (V90 Compatible) Data/Fax Modem


CD-RW Drive

Note from SCScompA: This CD-RW drive may serve for the $80 zip drive

Windows 98 Second Edition

Lotus Smartsuite

Note from SCScompA: This may replace, for you, the need for the above-mentioned $90 Microsoft® Works Suite 99.

IBM Rapid Access II



1-Yr Limited Warranty on Parts and Labor





1.44MB Floppy Drive

Intel PIII  500

Enlight  ATX Mid-Tower

Case w/250W (7237)

CPU Fan PC100

ABit BE6 Motherboard


18GB Fast 7200rpm UDMA/66 Drive

19" SVGA Digital .26dp NI Monitor

Voodoo 3000 AGP Video Card

Creative Labs 5X DVD Drive

Creative Labs LIVE Soundcard

400W Subwoofer System


56K PCI Fax/Modem









Windows 98 (Note: SCScompA assumes this is Windows 98 Second Edition)







104 Enhanced Keyboard

Logitech USB Mouse


1-Yr Limited Warranty on Parts, Lifetime on Service




1.44MB Floppy Drive

HP DeskJet832, $199

10' IEEE Parallel Printer Cable $ 24.95

HPScanjet 4200Cse, $199

APC Back-UPS 500VA $149

(See Additions, above, in total price)

(See Additions, above, in total price)


Freecell Game/Deal of the Month

Monthly, I will put here a game number (Freecell or something similar) which I have completed which was of interest to me. Let me know if this Freecell game and its number of completed moves I report is about the same number of moves you require to solve the deal.

  • Freecell Deal Number: 28810

    Number of moves for me to complete it: 56
    Number of times I had to re-start to complete in 56 moves: 1

Let me know how YOU do!

To contact me about anything on this Web page, please: send mail to:

Or send snail-mail to:

P.O. Box 58223
Raleigh NC 27658


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