The label “end user” dates me, but it’s accurate. An end user can do anything with a computer, as long as it can be done without opening the hard drive. There may be more to it than that, but as for a description of my expertise, that is where I am on the scale of techi-ness.
I got my Dell Dimension 4600 through the Department of Rehabilitation in 2004. Multiple Sclerosis made it hard for me to handle a 90-minute daily commute with Paratransit (public transit for people whose disabilities prevent them from using mass transit). The plan was for me to be able to work from home when my body rebelled. At that time, my office equipment included the Dell Dimension 4600, a ViewSonic G220fb 22-inch monitor (with an unpronounceable video card), and an HP7130 All-in-One printer/scanner/copier/fax. It all takes up nearly half our living room.
The Dell came preloaded with Windows XP Professional, Microsoft Office 2003, Dell Picture Studio, McAfee Anti-Virus Software (trial membership), a myriad of ISP dial-up software, and Internet Explorer. It has separate DVD and CD trays. It also has a diskette slot (now covered in dust), a jack for headphones or a microphone, and two extra USB ports in front (very convenient for charging iPods). It came with a six-month trial tech support contract, which I didn't need during the time it was active and couldn't afford to renew.
In order for me to work at home, I also had Adobe Creative Suite installed. I use AT&T DSL internet service. It has an 80 GB hard drive. Currently, I have 36.5 GB free.
When I first got it, I noticed a lag when working with PhotoShop. I didn’t think too much of it because PhotoShop is an enormous application, and I worked with large, high resolution files from my employer’s digital camera. Even on a Mac, PhotoShop can be a pain in the rear. My solution was to avoid having anything else open when I worked in PhotoShop.
Another RAM-hungry application I used in my job was one that converted cassette tapes to digital sound files to burn into CDs. We were in the process of changing from cassettes to CDs for alternate formats of our publications and needed to create new masters without spending money we didn’t actually have. The software was free, and I only had to set up and babysit while it worked. At work, we had all our files on a server allowing us plenty of RAM on our computers for working on documents or the internet while the application chugged away in the background. At home, it all happens in the same dark gray box. I learned to watch TV and crochet during the recording process. As long as I didn’t try to do anything on the computer, it would be fine.
What was a minor annoyance for the first couple of years, became a much bigger problem as my Dell began showing its age. It practically freezes when McAfee sends me updates. I enjoy playing online video games, but not when Microsoft decides it’s time to update. Playing Plants vs. Zombies becomes an exciting episode of watching paint dry as my brains become zombie-chow. The molasses drip of bits and bytes is especially apparent when I’m typing online. My typing speed is about 35 wpm on a good day, so when I have to wait for the display to catch up with me, I’m not a happy camper.
In a perfect world, we would all upgrade our computers as we do our cell phones. My friends (and my son) tell me that I could have a laptop with a bigger hard drive and a smaller footprint for a few hundred dollars. I understand that I’m working with a lumbering dinosaur. The thought of starting over with a new computer practically causes a panic attack. I have eight years of files – photos, resumes, sketches, articles, and spreadsheets – that I’d either have to move or delete.
As long as I’m writing and occasionally photo-editing for enjoyment and avoid intensive computing during automatic updates, I’ll probably put off getting a new computer. I don’t think my Dell is a lemon, I think it’s just over the hill. In its day, it was a good computer. The point is that computers have short working lives, and Dells are no exception.
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Amount Paid (US$): don''t know
Operating System: Windows
Processor: Intel Pentium III
Processor speed: Don''t Know
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: CD-RW and DVD
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50