It's not rocket science

Liz Green

Have you ever wanted to upgrade your computer, but found the variety of components bewildering?
Don't know rom from ram, or the difference between motherboards, daughter boards, bus speeds, graphic cards, sound cards, ethernet cards, etc? As we grow into using PCs, the range is mind-boggling, and I'm sure there are many of you who won't admit to being lost or in the dark regarding all this equipment. We have a saying in this house - "Hello, Voyager" - to denote that something is well above our heads.

We have all started from knowing nothing regarding computers, but some have grasped the concept easily and have great machines, while others lag behind due to their lack of knowledge. This site may well help to put you up with the elite - www.directron.com.
This has been very useful for me allowing me to understand what the heck it is that those in the know are rambling about.

Recently, our house has been a little in disarray due to Baz and David upgrading their computers, and finding some room to put their new or upgraded machines. From a rather hotpotch range of computers we have managed to provide articles for this magazine over the last few years. We started off having one Amiga A1200 with a small hard drive and no memory and upgraded slowly. We tried a fast track approach and bought a second hand Amiga 1200 with 030 accelerator, 16M memory and a 4.3Gig hard drive, modem etc. for a fair amount of cash, only to find it was the most unstable piece of kit immaginable.

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After learning the intricies of the Amiga inside out, and myriad swopping of parts, we finally made a stable machine, by back-stepping. Instead of running OS3.9 on 3.1 roms, and a 4.3 G drive, the Amiga modified itself by burning out it's roms and the interface for the hard drive leaving us scavenging other Amigas for roms and drives. What a sharp learning curve that was!

Finally we were left running a slightly down graded machine with a companion Amiga with smaller drive and less memory as a backup. We were content on 56K dial up internet connection and we managed. Along came broadband, and we wished to take advantage of this. More parts were required for the Amiga but they cost..........how much?!!!

Baz decided we would have to tower the Amiga and bought a case large enough to hold the motherboard, and started to hack about with the insides and back panel for ports, etc. A few weeks later, a friend of his offered a box of redundant PC parts for a small amount of money and two bulging cardboard boxes joined the case. We were hoping to scavange bits to use with the Amiga when towered, but there was sufficent to build a PC. Having inserted everything into the case, wiring it up, and getting it tidy was easy. Baz had it checked out by a mate of his, and together they got it working. This became known as Scrapyard Challenge - and we still have it two years later. It's not highly special, but he built it. Scrapyard Challenge is a Pentium II, running Windows 98SE, with quite a lot of storage space in the form of two hard drives (6G and 120G), CD-RW and enough memory to make it run reasonably fast - and utilising broadband.

David came next - for Christmas that year, his brother built a computer for him, a Pentium III running Windows 2000 Pro with 3.2G drive, CD-rom and a reasonable amount of memory. A further 60G drive was added very shortly after as he filled the first very quickly. They seemed quite happy with their computers, I am left with the Amiga, with an occasional foray on Baz's.

With a PC, a 12 year old boy, and games, came requests to join family in playing via a LAN. The two brothers, my ex-hubby and I spend all day playing Settlers III via a LAN router - fabulous. I use a spare PC of my ex-hubby's which after a few months became mine, and on which I am typing this. Called Nellie, it is a Dell Optiplex Pentium II, upgraded as far as it will go, with DVD-rom, 40G hard drive, and almost the maximum memory. It came along with a sister machine, Dell, identical except for CD-rom and less EDO memory. This was fine for office type work, but severely limited in every way. I only paid £50 for the pair, so I was content.

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We purchased a broadband router so we can all access the internet, and, if we wish, play games over the LAN. Baz is not a games player - he prefers constructive work, although I have found him playing Dune 2000 or Maj Jong on occasions!

Baz decided to get a better PC, and had a lucky find in a Pentium IV. An end of season sale at Comet turned up the computer I could have had on a HCI from work, which we decided was too costly. Although at entry level, this PC is better and quicker than all of the rest.

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David quickly hit his machine's limits, in the form of games he wanted to play. It's too slow for Call of Duty, Battlefield 1942 and the like - mostly graphic intensive games, and Baz is not having his new one used for games - David would hog it - so an upgrade was required. He decided to have his brother's motherboard, processor and graphics card, as he had upgraded, and between us we donated another 60G drive, DVD-RW, memory, and, finally, a new case. The machine has been up and running in his old case, but being over-clocked, the new board and components get too hot and cooling is a large issue in the case he has. Despite swopping the fans for larger ones, he has to run with the case exposed, and as everyone knows, teenage boys can be clumsy. A better case was required.

He decided on a Zorro or Sunbeam case, and I was lucky enough to find, bid and win a used Zorro on eBay for 10.50. Now we start stripping and rebuilding again.

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Then it's my turn. I have already ordered an Antec gamer's case chosen for it's appearance, and will use most of David's old parts, coupled with the best of Nellie. I may increase the memory and add a DVD-RW, it will depend on finances, and my needs, future-proofing as I go.

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Computers can be hazardous to your wealth and sanity, but great fun.





RIYAN Productions