Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is Software Preinstalled? Get Floppies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is Software Preinstalled? Get Floppies

Article excerpt

With the market in home computers booming, manufacturers are working overtime to produce friendly, consumer-oriented machines that inexperienced buyers can unpack, plug in and put to work without getting a doctoral degree in information science.

To make life easier on novices, these computers often come with software preinstalled and configured to work properly with the hardware. A typical IBM-compatible package will include DOS, Microsoft Windows, an integrated, multipurpose program such as Microsoft Works, and a menu program that can get new users started quickly.

It's a nice approach, but sometimes it can work too well because users never have to learn the basics of dealing with their program and data files, or how to back up critical information. Then, when they run into problems, they may be left with a machine that's virtually useless.

Consider this tale of woe from my friend Raymond, who called me one morning sounding sorely vexed.

"It's my son, the computer genius," Ray said. "He did it again. I think I'm going to strangle him."

In this case, Ray's 15-year-old son had read somewhere that you shouldn't clutter up your hard disk with unnecessary files. So he cleaned house and deleted a lot of stuff that he either didn't recognize or didn't think was important.

When Ray finally decided to do something useful with the machine and try out the Microsoft Works program that came with it, he clicked on the Works icon on his Windows screen and got a message telling him that Works wouldn't work because the files were missing. It turned out that Ray's son, in his zeal for the leanest and meanest hard disk in the neighborhood, had wiped out everything in the Works directory.

If Ray had bought Works at a software store, correcting the problem would have taken only a few minutes. All he would have to do is reinstall the program from the original floppy disks and tell his kid he'd be grounded for life if he ever deleted a file again.

Unfortunately, to save a couple of bucks, IBM neglected to provide original floppies for the software that came installed on the hard disk.

"When this happened, I finally got around to reading the manual, which I hadn't really done when I got the computer, and I found a little item about a program on the disk that was supposed to back up everything. …

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