The Purchase: "Gimme, Gimme!"(computer System Purchase)

By Quint, Barabara | Searcher, February 1995 | Go to article overview

The Purchase: "Gimme, Gimme!"(computer System Purchase)


Quint, Barabara, Searcher


"Next month: the arrival of my new Dell Computer Dimension XPS P90 ($3,699 in the PC/Computing December 1994 issue, $3,149 in PC Magazine's December 4, 1994 issue)."

Hold it, buddy! Not so fast. Those concluding lines to last month's inaugural "The Great Upgrade" column turned out to be wishful thinking.

The first thing you learn after you've made the basic purchase decision for a new computer installation is that the purchase process takes a lot longer than you thought it would. For one thing, more than one purchase decision occurs when more than one player defines the purchase. Bundled packages of peripherals and software from computer sellers offer the best bargains. However, they also lead to an involved process of Chinese menu ordering ("One from column A, two from column B." , where the vendor's willingness to provide must synchronize with the buyer's wants and wishes.

As the decision process slows down, mired in lots of semi-negotiated choices, another danger strikes -- the onslaught of the dread disease, Technolust (Latin name: Moremore-itis). One would think that the innate reluctance to change my work environment which had kept me from buying new equipment all these years would have inoculated me for the disease. No such luck. One would have thought the shortness of funds which really stopped me from drunken revels at Computers `R' Us in the past would have left remnants of fiscal conservatism. HA!

The first faint realization that Technolust had me in its "grippe" came when a conversation with my cousin the programmer about the criticality of the V.34 modem standard ended with me telling him to order two and keep one for himself. As Lucy Ricardo once said to a helicopter pilot she was trying to persuade to fly her to Europe, "Money's no object. I have credit."

Final Negotiations

Now began a series of intense calls between the purchaser (me), the purchasing agent and adviser (my cousin), and the computer industry (Dell Computer Corporation et al. . The prebundled package closest to my original specifications priced out at $3,800, $200 below my $4,000 goal. It would include the Dell XPS P90 minitower computer with 8MB RAM and the usual equipment, plus. the special options requested of a 5-1/4-inch floppy drive, sound board and speakers, a 17-inch monitor, 28,800-bps V.34 fax modem, and a quad speed CD-ROM drive. But I don't want a minitower. It won't fit in my computer desk. I want a desktop model. And I want 16MB RAM and a bigger hard disk. And what about a SCSI bus?

My cousin goes back to renegotiate, but insists that I check out how essential a quad (4x) CD-ROM drive is. I call six colleagues expert in CD-ROMs. Three devotees of CD-ROMs assure me that the quad speed is essential. But one impartial techie indicates that 2x drives dominate the field, selling in the millions. The 3x and 4x work faster and better, but they still aren't fast enough to provide really good full motion video. A quad speed drive works at around half the speed of a television set. Then an article from Interactive Age points out that few CD-ROMs are designed to take advantage of the full potential of the quad drives. Nor is that likely to change with the prevalence of 2x drives driving product development. To illustrate, look at how few CD-ROMs are written to take advantage of the older 3x speed. Bottom line: it's not worth it, at this point. Funny. That's what my cousin said all along. When I sadly retract my demand for nothing but the best in CD-ROM drives, my cousin points out that I could buy a quad drive in six months, if I still want it, and probably cheaper.

So now that I've given up the quad speed CD-ROM drive, what can I buy with the extra funds instead? A LASER PRINTER! Another example of classic Technolust-fevered logic. Even a 4-ppm (page per minute) laser printer costs $600-$700, while the difference in CD-ROM pricing only supplies $300.

Once again, my stick-in-the-mud cousin wants me to re-think the decision.

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