July 99

Do you really need a new PC at home?

Recently I was reading a review of the new Intel processors and for the first time in a long time the author elaborated on one of my favorite topics. Is there any software that will use all of the new bells and whistles the processor has added?

To me, buying bigger faster PCs to do the same tasks read e-mail, write letters, use a spreadsheet program doesn't seem reasonable. With that said, I do realize that in today's market it can be less costly to buy more. It's all in the package price.

In this particular case the point is that the new Pentium III with MMX (Multi Media Extension) is great – if the software you are going to use on the PC happens to be written to take advantage of the extra instructions built into the processor. These new instructions do nothing to improve the performance of e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, etc.

Although the Pentium III is a 32 bit processor, it can still run 16 bit applications. In fact, if it didn't continue to run them many Microsoft applications would fail. Not all of Microsoft is 32 bit yet!

Recently Microsoft has started to push their upcoming version of Windows and the Microsoft Office Suite. These are Windows 2000 and Office 2000. Intel is all set to introduce a 64 bit version of its Pentium processor. In the WinTel world do you think that Windows 2000 and Office 2000 would be 64 bit programs to take advantage of the new processing power? Of course not, but in the Microsoft tradition of poor programming code they will need the horsepower just to make the same old new programs run at almost the same speed they do today!

You can't type any faster, you can't read any faster and most of us don't create spreadsheets or data bases that use more than a fraction of a second to process so what is this all about. It's about Marketing!!! Make a web page stand out with 3D and Multi Media sound and streaming video. To do this you need more horsepower. Intel spends millions creating a new chip. If they were only used in servers, where its performance can be a significant enhancement, the cost per chip would be prohibitive. But, if they can convince the mass market that we need a new machine every other year there are millions of chips to be sold.

Now who do you think Intel uses to convince you that you need a new PC – oh! – someone who sells you software with all kinds of bells and whistles that you can't live without! Microsoft lives by the old marketing scheme -- convince people that what they have doesn't work even though it does.

Why do you need more horsepower to surf the web? I checked CPU and Memory usage on a 125MHz PC with 24 meg of RAM while viewing my internet site .

The initial downloading of any page and animated images appear to be the most CPU intensive items while the use of RAM memory varied considerably from page to page. Video memory, which I could not measure, certainly was an issue. When I was scrolling through a page with a series of 24 photographs the images were not being displayed properly. Not much RAM or CPU was being used. Therefore, it had to be video memory.

What do you get with a new PC? A faster modem for downloading, a larger hard drive to store more and larger programs with lots of images, more RAM memory so that more programs can be active at the same time, or large graphic and sound intensive web pages can be displayed, and better, faster video with perhaps 64 meg of video RAM not just 4 or 8Meg, as was common. And, oh yes, the CPU is faster! As more people get higher speed access to the internet, more of the horsepower of the PC may be used but right now it's doing very little except waiting!

* These requirements are JUST for this program. The more programs you load on your PC the larger the hard disk drive you need. The more programs you have open at the same time the more memory you need.