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How to shop for a laptop

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Morning News, Thursday, June 6, 1996
ACCENT/COMPUTERS
Real learning calls for more
than laptops in classrooms
How to shop
for a laptop
By William Casey
By Jean Nash Johnson
TOTAL UNITS SHIPPED: 9.9 million
Dallas Morning News
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Is this happening
in your neighborhood? Sis and
nlike the clumsy surrogate machines used on
little
brother Buddy, laptop computCompaq
тАв
тАв
тАв
тАв
тАв
11%
business trips in the 1980s, laptop computers now
ers
nestled
under their arms, await
offer roughly the same speed, power, memory
NEC тАвтАвтАвтАвтАв10%
the
yellow
bus
for the trip to middle
and other extras that you get with a desktop model.
IBM
school.
This
is
not a recognizable
Better yet, they're portable and lightweight (most
scene
in
most
places
at the moment,
weigh about 7 pounds), making them hot sellers at combut
neither
is
it
especially
farputerstores.
fetched.
But if you're about to buy a computer and you bypass
The notion that parents in suburdesktop models, you'll miss out on up-to-the-minute
ban
Fairfax County, Va., might be
technology. Laptops also cost more, offer smaller
required
to buy computers for their
screens and cramped keyboards and may be difficult to
sixth-graders
did an abrupt death
upgrade. .
recently.
A
May
10 article in The
What you should buy ultimately depends on how you'll
Knight-Ridder
Tribune/PAUL
TRAP
Washington
Post
was headlined,
use your computer and how much you have to spend. All
"Fairfax
May
Ask
Parents to Buy
things being equal, the price gap is about $1,000.
$1,800
Laptops
for
6th-Graders"; it
Consider some possible candidates for a laptop:
,
was
followed
a
day
later
by "Wave of
keep
in
mind:
The
slower
the
processor,
the
less
likely
тАв A young professional who travels frequently is ready
Criticism
Sinks
Fairfax
Computer
you'll
be
able
to
use
the
newest
software
as
the
years
pass.
to buy his first computer for his home and for work. He
Plan,"
'
While
you're
considering
the
internal
components,
needs portability because space is at a premium'in his*
that victory of common sense
small apartment. He wonders whether a laptop will satis- remember that many of the current software titles, parcould
easily prove Pyrrhic, Yes/the
fy his needs for a personal finance program, a word ticularly those'that run only on Windows 95, require at
battle
to beat back the computer forprocessor, a calender and his spreadsheet program for least 8 megabytes of RAM, or memory. The amount of
work. . . ..
тАв, ..'. .- . . . тАв . . , , . .
' -.,... тАв .. .; ... RAM your computer has determines how much work your everyrstudent proposal was joined
тАв A precocious 6-year-old asks for a laptop so she can computer can do at one time.
;
; and the enemy dispatched summariYou'll want as much additional memory and as much ly with a "deluge" of phone calls.
play her latest Magic School Bus title on the five-hour car
But the larger war is hardly overтАФтАв
hard-drive storage space as you can afford As you're
trip to Grandma's.
тАвA working mother with a toddler and a second-grader deciding, ask the sales clerk for advice and describe what in fact, it's still in its early stages.
is considering buying a portable. Saving time is important programs you work with and what sorts of documents and And the enemy isn't them, it's mostly
to her, and while she's getting dinner ready she could programs you'll store on the computer. Upgrading some us... тАв ' тАв _ . ' тАв . ' тАв , . ' тАв . . тАв' :тАв тАв"'.' тАв : :'
Oh- the surface, the question of
move a laptop to the kitchen, and pay the bills using portables may be tricky because of the small sfee of parts
computers in schools is a no-brainer.
Quicken, or keep an eye on the kids while they run edu- and the limited space inside the' machine, : , :
Pallab Chatterjee, who leads the Texas Instruments it would be nutty to insist that todays
cational software.
All may be ideal situations for a laptop. If you are ready notebook division, says the Dallas-based company tells technology shouldn't be used to
customers how to upgrade the machine themselves. TI's make the classroom experience
to invest, here's what to shop for. , .....Y;
more individualized, more effective,
The biggest consideration in any computer purchase is computers conte with a removable hard-disk bMve.
Once you've thought about the inside of the computer, more immediate, more exciting,
the processor/also known as the CPU or the "brain" of the
Computers have been in schools
computer. Newer machines feature the speedy Pentium take a look at the outside.
The size of the laptop computer display is not a selling more than 20 jrearsvтАФ and probably
or the slower 486 processor. On a Macintosh, a: Power PC
тАв
;
chip is the rough equivalent to a Pentium. Speed is mea- point. The largest screen now measures 12 inches. even do some good.
But the idea of a personal computsured in megahertz (millions of operations per second). Monitors sold with desktop packages measure from 14 to
You now can get a Pentium laptop with up to 120 mega- 17 inches, arid the picture resolution is sharper than the er as a necessary daily tool for every
laptop^ display. -тАвтАвтАв;" . \┬░'-fy"--^^:'-'r^'^*^\.-\': American grammar school pupil is v
hertzofpower.
'.
If there is a need for a larger screen when the laptop is altogether a different thing. Beware
Laptop technology still lags behind the desktop, but
makers say they've come a long way. "We used to be a year ' not on the road, you can connect it to any computer mon- the beguiling vision of lO^ear-blds
to two behind. That's shortened to six months/' says Eric itor, as well as other peripherals such as the printer, key- doing, the bulk of their workтАФ and
homework тАФ on a computer. It's
Shuster, a spokesman for Compaq, which built one of the board or mouse.
Laptops offer two types of screens: dual-scan passive another elusive silver bullet that
first laptops (at 28 pounds) in 1983.
promises to solve all of society's ills
Fast processors are essential for those planning to use and the more costly active-matrix screen. *
cutting-edge programs that use lots of video and graphics.
Dual-scan passive screens are fine when seeing a pic- through technology. Regardless of
Multimedia games perform very well on a Pentium ture in minute detail is not important The active-matrix whether parents or taxpayers buy
90MHz notebook. These computers Cost $4,000 to'$7,000. A color screen is more vibrant and allows you to view the the machinery, it's bad policy.
comparable desktop mddel could cost less than $2,000.
picture sharply even at a 60-degree angle.
Determining the proper role of
The active-matrix is a necessity for graphics professionChildren's "edutainment" titles, such as the ones used
by the 6-year-old in the example, perform adequately on ate; The professional also may want an active-matrix
a portable with Pentium 75 MHz, The wprldng mother of screen if his work involves slide or video presentations,
two, who doesn't require cuttin^edgei technology to run : Qn the downside, most active-matrix
screens are expenher finance programs or children's titles, also is a good sive and draining on the battery,1 which is especially
important if you use your laptop frequently for travel.
candidate for the machine.
The scaled-down keyboard also-may be a. concern.
speed range for a .little. more than $2,000. Texas People with large.hauds,aiid,those.with keyboard-delated
Instruments' new Extensa line offe;rs affordable note^ strains, may need to attach a~stariciard-size keyboard to
books that feature the Pentium 75MHz.
the portable duringjrOlgn|^djos^p^try out'the foldout
Machines with slower processors will be cheaper, biit keyboardsi available on sonie^newer; models.
' / ^
Toshiba
U
computers in schools is too impor- brand names. Most school systems
tant to be left to computer suppliers don't have the money to replace PCs
and educators. An educated public or Macs on the two- to three-year
with clear and realistic expectations cycle that shifting technologies
needs to help determine the right demand. On the other hand, $2,500 тАФ
the cost of just one computer тАФ
track for technology.
Educators, bless their hearts, for- invested in books for the school
ever seem to be casting about for the library produces an asset that has,
ultimate in curricular or teaching shall we say, a longer shelf life.
And who changes the factory cultools. They have a history of infatuation with innovation тАФ junior high ture of schoolrooms to allow computschool, new math, whole language, ers to be more effective? And who
open classrooms, mastery learning teaches the teachers? These are the
and phonics, to name a few. Some really tough issues тАФ the ones that
ideas turned out well and overtime more hardware won't solve.
Children are best served when
have earned permanent positions in
our education systems. Others schools contribute to shaping the
/ solid foundations
reflected change
oh which their
for change's sake
Exactly what is to be
future will be
and wound up in
the trash bin, solved with computers in built. The student who can
where .
they
schools? Are we looking read with curiosbelong.
Exactly what is to improve instructional ity and understandiqg, who
to be solved with
computers
in capacity and flexibility? has .mastered
basic mathematischools? Are we
cal concepts, who
looking
to '. тАв .
can
evaluate
.ideas
critically and
improve instructional capacity and
who
can
communicate
effectively is
flexibility? Are we trying to make
whom
we're
after.
This
is
particularteachers and aides more productive
by letting students take advantage of ly the case in an era when skill sets
programmed learning tools? this all have become so transitory. The role
sounds good, and much has been of personal computers in the educaaccomplished with computer-assist- tional mission can't be ignored, but
ifs also not central to it
ed instruction^
The same day on which The Post,
But that's not the same as making printed the article about laptops for
tiie computer a symbol of well-tem- sixth-graders, it carried another not
pered educational policy. There's ing that the Fairfax Comity school
danger in the message that a child is board had approved a mandatory
not fully educated if he or she can't summer reading list. "Students from
surf the World;\Vide Web with dex- grades 5 through 11 will be required
terity, move around in Windows or to read one book over the; summer,"
тАв the Finder, use a word processing says the article.
prbgrain, or program in Logo or
Well, one book is better than none.
Basic. './тАв ;тАвтАвтАв';'тАв' ; '; : , ' " ' тАв ' ' тАв тАв''':"тАв"тАв -.' тАв ' Let's hope it's not "Java for
These skills can be learned outside Dummies."
the classroom. Worse, the time it
takes students to acquire them is<
William Casey is The Washington
time stolen from the legitimate
teaching schedule-and that's a bad Post's director of computer-assisted
reporting. His e-mail. address is
trade.
caseyw (at) washpost.com.
And what kind of computers should
be purchased? We're not talking
Do You LikeYour
Mirror?
'll not...
Specialty
Store...
for children
Oglethorpe Mali
Savannah, Georgia тАв 912-352-7469
?5^?S-iC75?^Bt>^^SJ'
DEAR ABBY: I have been friends with a certain gentleman ifor 45 years. I'll call him 'Taiil" I had been very
friendly^ with Jlis wife, who passed away, eight years ago.
She was a good-hearted soul and I thanked her for/;
eyerything^she ever did for me тАФ or gave me. there was
only one problem. She never stopped reminding me of
what she had given me.
Now PauHs doing the same thing! Six years ago, he
gave jne a basket of artificial flowers for Easter and told
me he had paid $35 for it Every
.
time; he saw me after that, he
asked me if I was enjoying the
flowers that he paid $35 for.
Paul also sent me a Christmas
card that played "Silent Night"
when you opened it Abby, would
you believe that in July he asked
me if the Christmas card he gave
me was still playing "Silent
Night"?
Dear Abby
Abby, what on earth is this
man's problem? тАФ HAD IT IN
Abigail Van Buren
CARLSBAD, N.M.
DEAR HAD ITi It's anybody's guess. Perhaps he doesn't
want you to forget the amount of money and effort he's
invested in your friendship. At.least you'll never have to
worry about Paul's memory. He can remind the elephants.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a recovering alcoholic who loves to
entertain. The letter from the woman in Tucson who
abstains from coffee, tea and alcohol for religious reasons struck a chord with me. Like her. I'm comfortable
dining out with people who order drinks, but shopping
for liquor or keeping it around the house would present
too great a temptation I've found a couple of solutions.
One is to invite people for brunch instead of dinner.
When offered an assortment of herb teas or fruit juices,
no one clamors for a Bloody Mary Another is to let
guests bring whatever they want to drink. Here in the
Midwest, no one am>pts a dinner invitation without
asking. "What can 1 bring 1 '" 1 reply. "If you'd like wine
or beer* bring it along." Then I make sure they take
home the leftovers.
In the v^inter, I've found thai hot cider or hot chocolate
is always welcomed; freshly squeezed lemonade draws
raves in the summer.
If friends can't enjoy a few hours with you without
drinking, they need to take a long, hard look at their
own alcohol use. I know.тАФI've been there!
I didn't think I could have a social life in sobriety, but
I was wrong. Now I enjoy the parttes I give much more,
and I don't have to face the cleanup while coping with a
hangover.
тАв Y
Since I'm in AA, just sign me... SUE IN'WISCONSIN
DEAR SUE; Congratulations on your sobriety, and
thanks for a helpful letter.
y
. .
Yes, she did marry the groom and I returned her
4
check.
I did this because I already own two dresses, two purses and two pairs of shoes (never worn) costing a grand
total of $530.
This time, I covered my bases. тАФ TAMPA BRIDESMAID
Today is Thursday. .June 6. the 158th
day of 1WW There arc 2(W days 1H1 in
the ye MiToday's Highlight in History
On, J u n e H. 1944. the I) Da\ invasion
of Kurope took piaiv during World
War II as Allied forces stormed the
beaches of Normandy l-Vanre
On this date:
тАв In 1844. the Young Men's
Christian Association was founded
in Ix)ndon.
тАв In 1925, Walter Percy Chrysler
founded the Chrysler Corp
тАв In I9.TJ. the first drive in movie
theater opened, in Camden, N.,1
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What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and
getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every
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($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Iteen Booklet, P.O. Box
447, Mount Moms, 111. 61054-0447. (Postage is included:)
. TODAY IN HISTORY
By The Associated Press
& Physicians
WEIGHT LOSS
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тАв тАв ' . . , .
DEAR ABBY: Tell "Frustrated in New Jersey'' that
she shouldn't have to "swallow" anything^- -тАвтАв#тАв
Here's how I handled the bridesmaid thing with a
bride-to-be who gave the ring back to her fiance three
times.
With these bad vibes in mind, I asked the bride to sign
an agreement, with a post-dated (the date of the wedding) check so if the wedding didnt take place, I could
cash the check (for the dress only тАФ $180) and she
would get the dress. She agreed.
4jfwrs/
тАвnorvmtdkal dfrt onN
тАв In 1934. the Securities and
Exchange Commission was established.
тАв In 1942, Japanese forces retreat
ed in the World War II Battle of
Midway.
тАв In 1966, black activist James
Meredith was shot and wounded as
he walked along a Mississippi high
way to encourage black voter regis
t ration
тАв In 1968. Sen Robert F Kennedy
died at Good Samaritan Hospital in
I/os Angeles, a day after he was shot
by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
тАв In 1978, California voters over
whelmingly approved Proposition
13, a primary ballot initiative calling
for major cuts in property taxes
тАв In 1982, Israeli forces invaded
Lebanon to drive
Palestine
Liberation Organization fighters out
of the country. (The Israelis withdrew in June 1985.)
тАв In 1984. government forces in
India stormed the Golden Temple in
Amritsar in an effort to crush Sikh
extremists At least 1,000 Sikhs and
200 soldiers were killed.
тАв In 1985, authorities in Brazil
exhumed a body later identified as
the remains of I)r Josef Mengele, the
notorious Angel of Death of the Nazi
Holocaust.
Ten years ago: President Reagan,
speaking to Republican politicians
at the White House, appealed for
support for $100 million in military
and other assistance to rebels fight
ing the Nicaraguan government.
DANCE & GRAD
GIFTS!
Wilmington Island Mall
897-3982
CHEF ELIZABETH TERRY
Please join us to celebrate the
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