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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Requirements Analysis | Determining Your PC Requirements ]

Do You Really Need A PC?

I've devoted my career to working with and writing about PCs. Therefore, you should definitely consider me a biased source on the matter of PC systems. I think that most people and most families can definitely benefit from owning a PC. But again, I'm biased. :^)

Despite my feelings, I recognize that everyone has different requirements. I think there are some people who don't own PCs for a good reason: they really don't need one. I'll even commit the "heresy" of saying that some people who buy PCs would have been better off not doing so! PCs are wonderful machines, but they are not for everyone. They are expensive to buy and time-consuming to set up and maintain, and they can be complicated to use. They can also develop problems that further increase their expense.

Here are some options other than PCs that you may want to consider for meeting particular requirements:

  • Apple Computers: Don't give me that look. :^) I like PCs but that doesn't mean I have to hate the competition. ;^) In fact, I don't have a lot to say about Apple computers because I don't personally have a lot of experience with them. Even though I prefer PCs, the fact remains that Apple has been around for two decades and they are a valid alternative to PC hardware. In particular professions they are the standard; if you're a graphics designer by trade you may find an Apple a better option than a PC. It's also possible that your kids will be more familiar with Apple hardware due to its prevalence in many schools. (For the record, my first computer was an Apple ][ kindly purchased for me in 1980 by my parents.)
  • "Personal Digital Assistants" (PDAs): If your primary reason for wanting a PC is to manage your schedule, to-do list, addresses and phone numbers and similar activities, you should consider a small hand-held device. Certainly, if your primary need for portable computing falls into this category, this is likely to be a far cheaper and simpler option than getting a notebook PC. Also called "handheld PCs", these units are much more limited than a real PC, but are also very compact and relatively inexpensive (most of them, anyway.) One of the most popular varieties of this type of hardware is the 3Com PalmPilot series.
  • WebTV: If all you really want is to get on the Internet, WebTV is an option that will let you do this without the expense of buying a full PC setup. While limited in capability (and much derided by some Internet snobs) WebTV is relatively inexpensive and can get you online cheaply. In most cases, an inexpensive PC is probably a better choice for most people, because it is so much more flexible--you'll be able to do more both online and off. However, be careful of people who compare prices and say you can get a PC for similar cost to that of a WebTV box. They often are not including everything in the price that you will need--like a monitor--and the quality of rock-bottom-priced PCs leaves a great deal to be desired.

Next: Cheap or Free Alternatives to Buying Hardware

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