6.0176 R: Response to Rensburger in Offline 38 (1/72)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 31 Jul 1992 14:58:09 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0176. Friday, 31 Jul 1992.

Date: Thu, 30 Jul 92 07:11:45 CDT
From: john@utafll.uta.edu (John Baima)
Subject: Notes to Offline 38

I must say that I was a little disappointed by the recent Offline
article by David Rensberger. While the article is helpful, it contains
some factual errors and the decision to buy at least a 386SX is the
easiest choice facing a DOS computer shopper. I could not even find a
286 last time I was in CompUSA. Not even a 286 laptop.

Most of the errors are not really that important, but I'll be a boor
and point them out anyway, "The 8088 performs internal operations and
communicates with other components of the computer 8 bits at a time."
The 8088 is a 16 bit processor that has an 8 bit data path.

"Furthermore, earlier computers [pre 386] could make extra memory
available to programs only with special and rather costly "expanded
memory" hardware, which works by switching 16 KB "pages" of the memory
on a special board into an address area in memory between 640 KB and 1
MB." 286 computers have extended memory that can also be used for
expanded memory. Several 286's had SIMM slots for several MB of RAM on
the motherboard

The advantage of a 486 over a 386 is not just the math co-processor. A
486 running at the same clock speed as a 386 will generally be about
twice as fast. The price differential between 486 and 386 computers is
rapidly vanishing for desktop models. The chips at the bottom end of
the 486 line now only cost about $124. A 486 no longer adds "hunderds"
of dollars to the system cost. Most 486 machines have more RAM, hard
disk space, and better video and thus the difference seems greater.

In the DOS world there is an almost continuous spectrum of prices. I
would not recommend anyone buying anything less than a 25 Mhz 386SX.
However there are many other parts to a computer.

If you just plan on running DOS, 2 MB of RAM memory is okay. For the
reasons David Rensberger describes, just a plain DOS machine is
probably not the best target. If you are planning on running Microsoft
Windows, you should get at least 4 MB of RAM. If you are looking at
OS/2, then you should get 8 MB of RAM. If you think Windows NT may
make it onto your dream machine, plan on a minimum of 16 MB of RAM.

How much hard disk space? For a desktop machine, I see little reason
to buy less than 100 MB. That may seem excessive to some, but 100 MB
drives now cost only a little more than $300 and users consistently
underestimate their long term disk storage requirements. A 100 MB disk
is adequate for Windows or OS/2. If you want Windows NT, plan on at
least 200 MB.

Why even mention OS/2 and Windows NT (Rensberger does not)? Some day
many of you will be using OS/2 or Windows NT (or one of their direct
descendents). OS/2 is the best DOS multitasker available. It will
probably prove to be the best DOS multitasker ever. For all it's
benefits, Windows NT will not be as good for DOS applications. OS/2
allows DOS users to download files, format diskettes, or run a long
search in the background better than anything else available today.

People ask me for recommendations about hardware from time to time and
this is what I would recommend: At least a 25 Mhz 386SX, 4 MB RAM
(easily expandable with SIMMs to 8 MB), 100 MB hard disk (and another
can be added internally) and VGA video. Cost: about $1,500. If I had
extra money, I'd buy a 200 MB disk (add ~$200). If I still had money,
I'd buy a 486 (add $50-$300). If I still had money, I'd buy a better
video sub-system (16-17" color monitor that can handle 1024x768
non-interlaced with an ATI Ultra or an ATI Vantage. Add $500-$600 for
the monitor and $200-$300 for the video card). Of course network
cards, CD-ROM drives and tape backup are common ways to spend more
money (and add value).

John Baima
Silver Mountain Software 1029 Tanglewood, Cedar Hill, TX 75104
john@ling.uta.edu Voice/Fax (214) 293-2920