Brave New Tech World

Q: The most technologically advanced thing my parents own is a microwave oven. They’ve recently decided they want to buy a computer. How and where should they start?
– S. Brown, Via the Internet

A: Microwave ovens are pretty advanced, so your parents are actually ahead. I’m still having trouble with mine. But seriously, your parents have several options when it comes to choosing a PC. They should first figure out what they want to do with the computer, though.

Most likely, your parents will be using their new computer for e-mail, photos, chats, managing personal finances, etc. If price is a concern, companies such as eMachines (www.emachines.com) and HP (www.hp.com) offer several options. eMachines offers the T2742 ($449) and the T2885 ($529), while HP offers a400- and a500-series PCs for under $600.

These models typically offer Intel Celeron or Athlon processors, although some offer the Pentium 4; ample RAM and hard disk space; and a software package that lets home users quickly take advantage of, say, digital image applications and the Internet.

The best thing to do is to go to the stores and check out the computers, see how they look and feel, and toss them around to see if they break (well, not literally, but your parents should make sure that they are purchasing a solid machine — inside and out). Good luck.

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