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Benefits of a Computer

     Some people are afraid of computers. Other people dislike them but use them anyway as a necessary tool. Our staff analyst for the technology sector wonders how people get along without a computer. He is on his fifth computer, having purchased his first one in 1984. Rather than asking what is the cost of a computer, you should ask what is the cost of not having and using a computer. That's right, what is the real cost of opportunities you miss out on because you don't have a computer. Without a computer you pay more for goods and services, and you receive information later than others do. That costs you money out of your pocket every day. So how much does acquiring a computer cost? Generally you'll pay less than a $1,000 unless you get really carried away. A nice laptop computer will cost twice as much as a desktop unit but will give you geographic flexibility that is useful at the office, your vacation home, on business trips, or at your in-laws. If you take advantage of the on-line service subscription rebates of up to $400 offered by many company you can actually get a reasonable decent desktop computer and monitor for only $200-$300. (You're usually best off upgrading the monitor to a better model for $100.) These offers require a 3 year contract with an online service provider like MSN (Microsoft Network) or Compuserve at a cost of approximately $22 per month, but you need an online service anyway to access investment services and the Internet. There are complete "off-lease" computer systems available for $195 that would prove adequate for most people. As far as computer hardware goes, a 400 Mhz or faster processor, 64MB of memory, and a minimum 5 gigabyte (GB) hard drive and you're off to the races. People fear the unknown. Books like "Windows for Dummies", or "The Internet for Dummies" are excellent tools that walk the computer novice through computer and Internet use.

    What can you do with a computer? You can receive the Stock Traders Press on Tuesday evening on your home PC rather than catching it the next morning on your office fax. You can receive real-time stock quotes and make trades without even worrying if your broker is at lunch or taking the day off. Some online brokerage services are charging as little as $5 per trade, but the order needs to be entered online with your computer talking to the brokerage house's computer. You can do more online research if you have the time. Log on to a companies web site and get a feel for their business before you invest in their stock. You can do your taxes using tax software and file your return electronically. Make long distance and international phone calls for free using your computer and the Internet. You can buy airline tickets at a lower cost than most travel agents offer, and you can receive email directly from the airlines offering last minute airfare opportunities up to 70% below regular fares. Look at vacation homes on-line without waiting for the brochure to arrive via "snail mail". Take incredibly sharp snapshot pictures with a digital camera and view them a couple seconds later right on your computer screen. No more waiting for film to be processed. Leave your car in the garage; you don't need it to go pick up your photos. Take a picture of a newborn child or grandchild and have it arrive on a family member's computer on the other side of the country within a couple minutes of taking the picture. Try that with film. Using your computer you can video conference with business associates, or with friends and family at the holidays. Receive email messages, documents, faxes, or pictures anywhere in the world. To say that we've just scratched the surface of how you can benefit from owning a computer is to compare a common honey bee to a Boeing 747.

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