August 25, 1998

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


For some this will come as no surprise. As for me, I am still surprised. It ranks right up there with changing one’s sex or religion. Some will say I have joined the Dark Side, some will say I finally saw the light. Forgive me Steve Jobs, I have switched to Bill Gates. After fourteen years of nothing but Mac, I have switched to a Wintel box. After five Macintosh computers, I have bought a fully beefed-up 350 MHz Windows 98 machine capable of all kinds of wonders. I have made audio CDs, captured video off my camcorder, cruised the Internet at new speeds, and printed full color pages in less than 3 minutes. It has taken my breath away with its speed.

I have not fully forsaken my 18 month old Apple computer. It still sits fully operational and with three students in high school, it will not be wasted. It still handles graphics better. Because all five of us need computers for our work we became a two computer family. I can see times where it would be even better to have three or four computers, but I refuse to give up another room.

Alas, I am still rearranging the house to accommodate the new addition of a Power Spec Computer.

I had to banish my bookcases to the living room. Some of the lesser books that reflect unimportant authors of unimportant themes were packed away into boxes. Of course, I expect I will be proven wrong on that account and will have to go digging in boxes for a title that someone will need for school. My home library looks more like Mission Control than a library. With all the books removed, I suppose the library should be called a home office. Indeed, this seachange is evident in public libraries, where computers are demanding more room and are pushing the books to the background.

In many ways this reflects the futurists view of how knowledge has become information. I don’t know where wisdom fits into their twenty-first century vision, but it is with some regret to see attitudes change where computers overshadow books. It is to books that we owe our civilization’s progress. That role may be overtaken by computers very soon. Instead of a text book you will be issued a computer.

As to my new computer, I was surprised at how much progress Bill Gates has made in making Windows 98 user friendly. In the last three weeks I experienced only one 24 hour period of computer hell. Once, I did figure out how to revive the computer, I was surprised Windows 98 saved all my settings. I have also been pleased with the purchase of a minor name brand computer. PowerSpec is a small Wintel manufacturer. They use the same parts as Dell and Compac. The price for a computer with all the features I wanted would have cost $300 more. An Apple with the same features would have run over $1,500.00 more.

It was Apple’s persistence in charging a premium that drove me from their ranks. By choosing Power Spec over an Apple, I was able to buy a scanner, full color printer, a Jazz drive, a CD writer, a video capture board, and a big 17 inch monitor. It was a no brainer as far as my pocketbook.

One of my concerns is not being able to use all the Apple programs on my new IBM clone. My main program that we use for newsletters, ads, reports, and signs is called PageMaker. It is a $500 program. I wanted to use it on the new computer. My solution cost me $46.25. I found a Window 95 version at the ebay’s Internet auction site. I took three minutes to register and made a bid for $42.25 with a cap of $55.00. The ebay computer would raise my bid up to $55.00 in one dollar increments if anyone tried to top my bid. In the last 60 minutes it went up to $46.25. I sent a certified check to the New York seller and she mailed me the software within a week. This type of transaction is saving people millions of dollars. The power to buy over the Internet is a new form of competition that will change retailing.

In many respects it is still buyer beware. offers millions of titles of books. What they don’t do is discount books after they cease to be front titles (titles considered hot sellers). There is a discount bookseller in Minneapolis who sells several thousand dollars worth of old titles every month to Amazon which in turn sells them to people at full price. These are mostly books that once retailed for $39.00 and can be found on bargain tables for $5.00.

I can think of many things I would not want to buy over the Internet without first seeing. Yet people are proposing marriage, buying houses, clothes and many other items everyday over the Internet.

One area I do think will be empowering to everyone, is the ability to take college level courses at home. There is no reason why everyone can’t go to Harvard. I imagine someday you will be able to study at Oxford from your home computer. Not that I would want a medical doctor that received their degree over the Internet, but for many areas the Internet would be just fine.

I believe the advent of do-all computers is a good thing. I like the idea of copying music off of my CDs to make a “best of” CD. I hope to transfer some of my old 33 rpm albums onto CDs as well. On the flip side, I hope that controls to safeguard children and consumers are created and enforced. I hope that we can handle all this new information and somehow find a little wisdom as well.


     Return to Index of Beginning of the Road Column