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TECHNOLOGY Change in Focus

Not long ago, everybody wanted to have the most current computer on their desks.  The focus was on more memory and faster speed.  Today, the focus shifts from gigabytes and mhz, although still important, to how well our computers communicate with others and other computers.  In fact many organizations still have old hardware in operation such as 486s and Pentiums.  For them, opening multiple programs at once can be difficult, and connecting to the Internet can be slow and frustrating.  For those who have made the shift to upgraded hardware in the recent past, the emphasis is less on hardware and more on what can be done with the "network technology."


When evaluating a computer that is used for basic word processing and simple software applications, users may find that computers as old as 133-mhz machines still have enough power to get by if RAM (Random Access Memory) is 64 MB or more.  The change in thought, however, is in how fast one can access information outside of their PC, including networks, external devices, and storage.


Some assistance on the basics:

1.      DVD and read-write technology are becoming more commonplace as an alternative storage method.  When looking at the cost, a zip cartridge(discounted) may be $10.00 for 100 MB, while a CD falls in the $1.50 range with 650 MB.  In addition, the disk can last 75 years without fault.  Internal HD are also dirt cheap ($230 gets you 9GB) and once the average user gets over 18GB, it will take an exceptionally long time to fill up the space except for loading the now larger and larger applications.  If one were just to fill up storage with text-based documents, a 100-MB storage disk may hold 55,000 documents.  Granted that individuals who work with artwork or engineering, or who spend a lot of time scanning documents, may find these numbers to be limiting.  But it’s not the norm for a traditional workstation on a network to be storing all their files on the local drive.  In today's work environment, central servers are the storage device of choice, assisting in back-up and sharing of information.

2.      The important facets of the 2000's issues tend to be more on connectivity and bandwidth.  What modem speed should I have and how do I connect to the Internet—56K, ISDN, DSL, Cable, T1 etc.?  Can I view video clips and play music?  Getting the fastest and most reliable connection opens the doors for ASP's (Application Service Providers) as well as intranets and extranets.  Even important computer connectivity questions arise with 10 base-t and 100 base-t ethernet connections, or the growing USB.  For those somewhat confused there now are inexpensive wireless networks.  Can all your components be connected?  How quickly?  By whom?

3.      In the 90's, the rush for desktop speed was essential as applications were driving the size and type of equipment purchased.  These systems will more and more reside on other servers, not only internal but external to the organization.

4.      New items like Sprint's wireless telephones and Palm Pilot's organizers will also have their place in this new world.  If you're one who doubts the potential, stop in at a Sprint PCS store and try their wireless phone’s internet function.  It takes getting used to, but you can easily purchase a top-10 book from Amazon.com, or check hotel pricing and location, with the press of a few buttons.  At my first try I found within minutes that I could get a room down the street for $39.99, getting the phone number and address within minutes off my Sprint phone!!!!! A real treat for travelers.  You can even check you email and it works!!!!

5.      The focus has shifted from desktop to LAN (Local Area Networks) to WAN (Wide Area Networks) to Internet to extranet and beyond.


A few notes to keep marginally up to date: 

1.      Do your computers have at least a 56K modem?  Note that you can use Microsoft's "internet connection" tool to allow multiple users to connect to the net with one dial-up service at the same time.

2.      What percentage of your computers carry at least the Pentium-level chip.....the others...well...sorry...time to upgrade.  (Yes, people still use 486's or Pentiums with 32mb RAM.)

3.      To be current, you need hard drives with at least 6 MB of storage and at least 64 MB of RAM.

4.      Are your computers connected internally?  Simple pier-to-pier networks can be set up easily and are relatively inexpensive.  However, if you're making the jump, use a HUB—it makes the system easier and more flexible to use.  The benefit....you can take one PC off line and not interfere with the others.

5.      Evaluate the need for access to the web for both browsers and speed of connection.  Make sure your current on Microsoft's Explorer at version 5.0 (can be upgraded by going to www.microsoft.com).  Netscape is currently at 4.5 at www.netscape.com.  Check your local ISP for prices on ISDN, DSL, Cable.  The price may justify the time spent waiting for downloads or uploads (Download means into your computer, Upload means out of your computer).  If your firm is doing a lot of research on the web or graphical work involving transfer of artwork in some form, the cost is @ $1.00 per day for Road Runner Time Warner's service.

6.      Challenge how you may better serve your customers/clients with more access to information.  (Unfortunately, phone, fax, email, pagers, and v-mail keep people in touch 24/7...It’s the standard, and in order to be competitive, you must make the jump.)

7.      Get hip—look at the Mindspring products at www.mindspring.com for a comparable palm for half the price.  Upgraded pagers and cell phone technology are fast approaching usability as multi-usable tools.


Remember that in the world of technology, there are several factors that make it work.  Hardware, software, and brainpower....yours.  Without the proper use of all three, especially the brain power, you have a plastic box that would not even function well as a stepping stool.  Considering all the technological changes, humans are still the most important external device.

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