Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand
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Fact Sheets


Fact Sheet 1: Computer Basics

Computers, as experienced users will tell you, are either very clever or very stupid. They're very good at making your note to the milkman look like an important manuscript, but they're very bad at realising you've accidentally ordered 11 pints of milk a day for the next month while you're away on holiday.

The old computing acronym GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out - is very appropriate still today, and rule one is always to not expect the computer to do something you haven't told it to do.

That said, the things computers can do these days are incredibly varied, and can open up a whole world of information to you - there used to be a time when a computer could only repeat back the things you told it, but now computers can tell you things you have never heard of. Most home users will want to begin with things like writing a few letters, looking at CD-ROMs or DVDs and perhaps connecting to the Internet, all tasks well within the capabilities of the average modern computer.

Even if you don't want to look at CDs or surf the 'net, a computer can do many things for you. If you do something as simple as run a small club and have to send out the same letter to a few dozen different people each month a computer with basic word processing will allow you to personalise each letter and keep a database of members. Think of the computer in this case as a glorified typewriter with unlimited correctional facilities.

If you have children, you'll find a wealth of educational and informational software available on CD-ROMs which will bring the world of learning to life with video and sound, rather than just lying flat on the page of a book.

If you have a hobby of any kind, the Internet will provide the chance to contact like-minded people with whom you can share ideas and chat about your mutual interest.

And if you run a business, a computer will offer solutions to many of your problems - contacting customers and suppliers, working out your finances, keeping the bank manager happy, producing documentation - the list goes on.

Until now, the only thing prohibiting many people from engaging in all these exciting activities has been the cost, but now you can buy a decent computer which will give you access to all these activities for the price of a decent new television and video - 500 will get you on the way, 1,000 will add bells and whistles and 1,500 will buy you a state-of-the-art machine. Soon, we'll be able to buy boxes which will sit on top of our televisions and which will allow us to surf the Internet and send and receive e-mail, and they'll only cost a couple of hundred pounds.

Do you really need one? The answer is almost certainly 'Yes'. We all got along just fine before television, before cars, even before electricity came along. But would you want to go back to how it was before?