Dream Computer Essay
When deciding what will run my dream computer, processor-wise that is, I am reminded of a friends computer that last year, was running with two Pentium III’s, running at 650 Megahertz a piece. This year he is looking to upgrade on this design. I however, will be able to take his idea, and with money being no object, destroy the speed and reliability of his computer by installing two, one gigahertz Pentium III”s onto a Intel STL2 motherboard ($899). I chose this motherboard for it being one of the few on the market that comes with the capability of supporting dual processors. I don’t feel I need any more speed that 1 gigahertz, despite faster processors being on the market (namely the Pentium IV). I have yet to use any processors this fast, and I know for the most part the programs I use are incapable of running at too high of speed, let alone I don’t need that much power. I certainly don’t want to have to install any sort of cooling system in casing, as that would be extremely costly and hurt the electric bill. Since a megahertz is a million cycles per second, my processors would be capable of one billion cycles per second. One would think that with dual processors the speed would be double this, but the double processors don’t double the speed, they just double the amount of programs and tasks you can run at that particular speed without jeopardizing any of the computers integrity.
I love my computer running tons of programs at once, like even now as I’m writing this paper, I have two instances of Microsoft Internet Explorer running, AOL Instant Messenger with two windows associated with it, and some Mp3’s playing. In my taskbar I have about 10 items, most of which I can’t imagine living without. One is this Post-it notes program, which I now can’t live without. It keeps me organized just as post-it notes do, but not they are on my computer screen as opposed to them falling off the edges of my monitor as they once did. Getting to my point, I would definitely go no slower that one gigabyte SDRAM. It is superior to regular RAM is that it adds a separate clock signal to the control signals. SDRAM chips can contain more complex state machines, allowing them to support “burst” access modes that clock out a series of successive bits. Yet what I really would prefer in my memory selection would be an option for RDRAM. RDRAM is used mainly for video accelerators, and also in the Nintendo 64. It offers sustained transfer rates of around 1000 Mbps, compared to 200 Mbps for ordinary DRAM. I would think that as the bus speeds required by computers increase; RDRAM will become the primary form of memory. SDRAM can operate up to around 100MHz, but RDRAM has been demonstrated by the manufacturers running at 600MHz.
Despite the infrequent use of my 3.5 inch floppy drive now, I would still install one as a failsafe to my intended 250 megabyte zip drive and CD burner. Although most computers will soon have little use for the small 1.44 megabyte capacity of floppies, it is still a universal medium that will always be able to hold a good amount of important documents, at an extremely low cost. Floppies can be purchased at pennies per disk, and this comes in handy for transferring documents or small program files when they cannot be emailed or transferred by other means. The drive itself only costs about $15, and with my preferred casing, I have six bays in which to put drives so a cheap floppy drive I suppose could find a within my dream computer. Another one of these bays would be filled with a much more practical zip drive. Although zip drives have not yet caught on as I hoped they would, the University at Buffalo has done a good job of installing them into most computers located on campus, making the transportation of large files and projects from home to school quite convenient. Only one company, Iomega, only makes the zip drive. Iomega has come out with a 250 megabyte version of this product, but the 100 megabyte version is much more widely used, and is my choice for my computer ($59).
After unsuccessfully trying the Windows 2000 operating system, I have decided that the Millennium Edition of Windows 98 is the best OS for me ($110). Although I like the layout and professional options of Windows 2000, many of the programs I use have yet to release updates for their software to make them compatible or even operable with Windows newest system. Even if all my programs were to work, it would take me a considerable amount of time to search the Internet for updates to all my programs. A hassle I’d rather not deal with, as Millennium Edition has yet to fail me.
All CD-ROM drives on the market today, including those that both read and write CD’s, are classified by their speed. A one speed CD-ROM drive, or as it is often abbreviated: 1x, reads CD’s at a rate of 150 kilobytes a second. Most computers in homes today run at a speed of at least 8x. The faster the drive, the faster data can be read and the faster it can interact with your computer’s components. You may have the fastest graphics card on the market, but if the game you want to play is only being read at 2x, play will be extremely choppy or the game may not operate at all. A computer can only run at its maximum speed if all the components are capable of that same speed too. I know this all two well as my DVD drive only supports audio extraction at approximately 4x, while my burner runs at 8x. Thusly I can’t copy CD’s at the 8x I was hoping for when I bought the burner, a possible waste of money.
I will have two CD-ROM drives on my dream computer. The top being a Creative PC_DVD Ovation 12x ($119). This particular drive reads Digital Video Discs at 12x, and other CD-ROM’s at 40x. It also supports digital audio extraction at a rate that would be able to keep up with the Internal Iomega CD-RW (drive #31120) I intend to have below it. This particular CDRW drive writes to CD-R’s at 12x, and CD-RW”s at 10x. It also acts as a simple CD-ROM drive operating at 32x ($250). The major benefit of this particular CD burner is a new technology only employed by Iomega-a simple check built into the burning process that simply stops the burning process if the host computer for some reason fails to supply a steady stream of data to the drive. The burning process is then continued if and when the host computer regains stability. Finally a way to stop throwing away CD”s just because someone Instant Messages you!Before this “BURN-Proof” technology, one would have to purchase a significant sized buffer along with their CD burner, in order for the drive to continue writing to a particular CD-R if the process was even interrupted for two full seconds. At 12x, 1.2 megabytes of data are being written per second, so with a two megabyte buffer (standard) your computer could only slow up for a mere 1.6 seconds before incorrectly writing data to the CD in the drive at the time, oftentimes resulting in a ruined disc and wasted time. A four megabyte buffer would remedy this problem somewhat, but you still would only have an additional 1.6 seconds of time for your computer to catch up with the burning process before the CD was ruined. Iomega’s BURN-Proof technology would eliminate the need for a large, expensive buffer while saving money and time.
Tired of tangled wires and a cluttered desktop, I have chosen the Yahoo Freedom II 900 MHz Wireless Keyboard, equipped with a built in mouse ($129). This particular model can be used up to twenty feet away from the computer, but most importantly will operate from one’s lap. To save even more desk space, I have chosen a flat screen monitor. The Viewsonic Flatpanel 17.4 inch as my output method of choice. It has a resolution of 1600 by 1200, perfect for DVD viewing ($1200).To go along with this great screen will be a great sound system, to further enhance the movie theater like setup that my computer will be capable of. My system of choice is the Yamaha YST-MS55D ($100). With 80 watts of power this 3-piece speaker system will quickly turn my computer into a powerful Mp3 jukebox, as well as providing powerful bass from the included subwoofer.
My hard drive now is 7.4 gigabytes. When I purchased my computer I had no idea of the obsession that would take over my life. This obsession is Mp3’s. I now have over 1300 and don’t plan on stopping my collection anytime soon. This however is putting some strain on my hard drive space and now I am wishing I had gone at least one step up, to 13 gigs or so. I will not be making this mistake again, I will be going with a 76.8 gigabyte IBM running at 7200 rotations per minute ($400). A gigabyte is equal to 1024 megabytes, or roughly one billion bytes. I was considering dual hard drives, but this can quickly get very expensive and I hope I will not need any more space than 76.8 gigabytes anytime soon.
I rarely play games on my computer, outside of simple hearts, yet I still can’t stand when video games don’t run at their full potential. To do this I will need the ATI Rage Magnum 128 GL graphics card. With 32 megabytes of memory, my computer will be able to handle 31 bit true color 3D graphics up to 1920×1200 dots per inch. I also would like to hook up my video camera to my computer, to make some short videos into mpegs, as well as freeze frame some videos and turn them into jpegs. To do all this I will need the ATI All-In-Wonder Pro. ($219) In addition to having the ability to use my camcorder for video input and output, I will be able to watch television on my computer with the simple hookup of cable to the back of the component. This can be quite convenient for those of us who can’t miss our favorite sports if we need to write a paper.
With the high-speed Internet now available through such carriers as Adelphia (Powerlink), modem usage has been dramatically cut down due to its slow speed and its usage of one’s phone line. For a cost similar to such popular Internet services like America Online, one can have lightening fast Internet access that (theoretically) is always on. However, just as in the point I made about the floppy drive, it is always nice to have a failsafe. For this I would use a free Internet service, such as BlueLight or Freelane (Powered by Excite) to connect to the Internet at 56k. These are free programs, which can either be downloaded from the Internet, or received for free at stores such as Wal-Mart and Kmart. They provide free Internet service, usually connecting at speeds around 50 bps, with an advertisement bar that appears on a portion of your screen while it is in use. The speed isn’t great, and the ads can sometimes be irritating, but for free they are great services. The term “bps” stands for “bits per second”. It is often times more accurately abbreviated
as kbps, or kilobytes per second. Modems are not manufactured that run faster than 56k, as a standard telephone line can not handle more than 56 kilobytes of information per second.So for my dream computer a simple Lucent Technologies 56k internal modem will be just fine ($25).
Although one of my goals in setting up my dream computer was to preserve desk space, I feel it necessary to have a scanner hooked up to scan pictures and documents, using it primarily as a way to make copies of photos. I found that the Canon CanoScan N1220U was one of the most space saving on the market, while still having a scan area of 8.5 x 11.7 inches ($120). This is the standard scan area for most scanners on the market, yet the CanoScan was one of the thinnest models available. It scans photos up to a resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi, which can be enhanced to 9600 x 9600 dots per inch. To go alongside this great input device, will be my prized output device. The Epson Stylus Photo 2000P Inkjet Printer prints using a 6 color cartridge, at a resolution of 1440 x 720 dpi in black/white and color ($299). Not only that, but it is one of the coolest looking available in all black with silver trim. The dimensions of it are 28 x 15 x 12, making it one of the smallest on the market as well. Although it is not the fastest available, for the small size it can turn out some very impressive reprints of photos when using premium photo paper. Rounding out the extras that I will have included within my dream computer package is an attachable camera. The Logitech Quickcam Traveler acts both as a webcam and a digital camera ($125). With a built in microphone, video-conferencing is a breeze as well as the editing of short movies. Different from most webcams, the Traveler can detach from its cable and be used to take up to 200 still photos stored within its built in memory. Although cheap digital cameras are becoming more popular, and webcams are now sold for under $40, the Traveler is both convenient in that it acts as both, and is reasonably priced.
Last but not least is the software that would be run by this powerhouse of a computer. The school provided Microsoft Office 2000 would provide most of the programs I would need (Word, Internet Explorer etc). With access to the Internet (through an installed Ethernet card ($29)) I would then be able to download the necessary software titles I would require. One of the most important being AOL Instant Messenger, along with the full featured AOL. Another title I use quite frequently now is the Mp3 player Sonique. I find its interface much more use-friendly than the popular Winamp. In the situation of a possible network breakdown, I would have FreeLane (Excite) installed for emergency 56k Internet access, however I would hope the situation would never arise where I would need to use it. For my CD burning needs, I would have Adaptec Easy CD Creator installed. To manipulate and scan photos-Adobe Photoshop 6.0, and also from Adobe, for PDF viewing-Adobe Acrobat. Additional shareware programs I would have installed: Netmeeting (video telecounseling), Realplayer, QuickTime, Windows Media Player 6.4 (not the bulky 7.0), Napster (Future???), WinZip and Mulberry. Last but certainly not least would be Norton SystemWorks 2001. This program not only has the highly respected Norton AntiVirus, but also many other Norton utilities to help my system run smoothly. Many of the components I have chosen to have within my computer come with software, and of course I would install of these as well. Many programs they come with however are sub-par, in which case I would use my preferred program in place of the supplied one, as long as the components were compatible with the other software.
All of these products I have chosen for my dream computer have extended warranties, most lasting one to two years. A good warranty is key, along with having repair services available to you close to your home. No one wants to have to be without a computer for too long, nor have to mail it out. A good deal of the products used within this paper were from Soyata Computers located within ten minutes of my home in Rochester, NY. Their guarantees for their products are quite extensive and having repair close to home that is quick and usually free just makes sense. For the most part computer products seem to have a very low rate of failure while they are covered under warranty, but it never hurts to get the longest warranty available, even if it is at an additional cost. This cost is usually below the cost of repair and always under the cost of replacement.
This computer would cost a grand total of $4098, plus a few other additional costs such as the cost of the casing itself (15) as well as some other small cables and parts. This total does not reflect the cost of software, and although most of the software I have chosen is shareware, certain programs can get quite costly. Such as Adobe Photoshop and Adaptec Easy CD Creator. A more reasonable cost would be about $5000, when the cost of high speed internet access is taken into account ($20/month plus $100 initial connection) This total is an exorbitant cost, especially because within a year or so, all of this will be available for around half the price, with some of it on its way to becoming obsolete or unnecessary. Moore’s Law states that in the computer world, every 18 months the capacity of memory doubles. Amazing as this is, even more amazing is the fact that the price tends to decrease by 50%. Thusly no computer is essentially a “dream” computer. The computer industry changes too quickly for one to ever hope to keep up with all the latest technologies and speed/memory updates and expansions. The key to buying and keeping a computer up to date is to always realize that no matter what, your computer will not be perfect, nor the best at everything that computer are capable of. I think what’s important is to purchase with this in mind, and keep the costs reasonable, while buying components that will not become obsolete within two years. Also key is making the computer upgradeable, before any upgrades are necessary. Expansion slots for memory and other components, even an additional hard drive, are not that expensive and are extremely practical as no on wants to buy a new computer every few years. I would never spend more than $1500 on a computer and accompanying components, yet it is fun to dream of a computer so powerful and cutting edge.