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April 19, 1988 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-04-19

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memory is to buy a new system board
altogether: a much more drastic and
expensive solution than an expansion
card, which simply plugs into the sys-
tem board.
Modems: All Alone,
or the Telephone?
Modems (short for modulator
demodulator, phew!) are little paper-
back-book-sized bundles of circuits
that allow computers to "talk" to
each other via telephone lines. With a
modem, you can buy access to all the
business, scientific, educational, and
other data bases available out there;
without it, you're computing in splen-
did isolation-not all bad if all you
need to do is revise that term paper
and correct the spelling on your chem-
istry homework: Still, attaching a mo-
dem to your PC can cost as little as
$100, and widen your academic and
even social horizons considerably-
after all, some data bases are dating
Most modems require an RS-232C
serial port; that is, a socket at the back
of the system unit into which a stan-
dard serial-type cable can be plugged.
Be sure that your modem supports
both the 300- and 1200-Baud data
transmission rates. (A "Baud" re-
flects the number of electronic im-
pulses, or bits, that can be sent or re-
ceived per second.) Be even more sure
that your PC doesn't already have a
modem built into it, since many do.
"Smart" (read "expensive") mo-
dems contain processors that can be
instructed to perform preset, timed,
dial and redial operations at low traf-
fic hours, even when you're asleep.
One Floppy Drive, or Two?
Will your PC support the addition
of a second floppy diskette drive? In
other words, is there an available slot
in your system unit, or an available
port for attaching an external one? A
second floppy diskette drive provides
greater flexibility and increased stor-
age for your own data.

Personal Writers:
The In-Between
Well, no, it's not exactly a type-
writer (can your typewriter auto-
matically count the - number of
words you've written on any given
2500-word essay?), but it isn't ex-
actly a PC either-do you know
any computers with their printers
built right in?
Personal writers look like PCs
and, as far as word processing goes,
act like PCs-they're even con-
trolled by semiconductor chips and
utilize floppy disks that can store
up to 140 pages of text-but they
really aren't PCs.
Introduced to the market more
than a year ago, personal writers
come complete with keyboards,
video displays, spelling checkers,
features that allow you to move,
edit, and rearrange whole blocks of
text at a time. They'll even print out
endless numbers of copies of what-
ever information they've been fed.
What won't they do?
Number crunching. Communi-
cating with other computers. Pro-
gramming. They can't prepare your
income tax. They won't keep an in-
ventory control of your loaned-out
rock tapes.
Still, they're easy to use. You
don't need to learn anybody's spe-
cial software commands to come up
with a neatly organized, correctly
spelled, tidy term paper (with an ex-
tra copy to send home to Mom to
show her how hard you're work-
ing). Operating instructions are
simple. You can even change type-
faces if you want.
It costs about the same as an ex-
cellent electronic typewriter, per-
haps less, as these in-between
machines become more popular.

There are 20- to 40-megabyte hard
disks and "hard cards" that can be in-
serted into the system unit, if space al-
lows. (A megabyte is approximately
equal to a million characters' worth of
space.) This will give you more than
120 times the storage of an ordinary
diskette, but this can pose increased
demands in time and money for
"backing up" (making second copies
for safe-keeping) of software and
data. Most home PC-users find that
expanding their systems to include two
diskette drives and a hard disk/drive
meets all their storage needs.
Daisies, Dots and Lasers:
A Printer's Tale
Of course, your PC has a compan-
ion printer, probably a dot matrix one
that forms characters by imprinting
clusters of dots on the paper. Clearly,
the greater the number of pins to make
the dots, the better-quality the re-
sult-and nine-pin printers are rapidly
giving way to 24-pin printers. Dot ma-
trix printers are relatively fast, and are
able to print graphics-an important
Daisywheel printers are quiet and
produce typewriter-quality charac-
ters; but they're slow and expensive,
considering their limitations (the most
minimal graphics capabilities). With
the advent of more advanced printer
technology, they have been steadily
losing popularity.
Laser printers, certainly the most
flexible and highest-quality of all the
printers on the market, are also the
most expensive. You might consider
renting one for such state occasions as
master's theses and resume prepara-
As you can see, adding on to what
you've got can provide the biggest
challenge since you unpacked and
plugged in that plain vanilla PC of
yours. But if you need it and can af-
ford it, go for the banana split with
cherries on top! Q

SPRING 88/plus 15

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