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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How to Keep Your PC Ahead of Obsolescence

Since personal computer, or PC, technology is now advancing at such a rapid pace, some think it is worth waiting for the optimum time to buy. Waiting for this moment, however, would be like trying to catch your shadow. In six months you are guaranteed to be able to buy a PC with specifications you cannot afford today. But by then there will be other, equally desirable, PCs waiting for you.

Last week Intel Corp., which makes the microprocessors inside the majority of the world's PCs, presented to Moscow journalists the company's predictions of where it saw the PC industry going in the next 12 months. Not long ago Intel Corp. only gave its largest customers -- the world's PC manufacturers -- details of its production and pricing plans. Today, however, Intel is keen to give us all a chance to plan our purchases.

What was clear in the presentation is that enhancements to PCs are arriving on the market more and more quickly. According to Intel, it is improving its production process at such a rate that a PC which today costs between $2,000 and $2,500, will cost between $1,200 and $1,500 by next January. The P133 -- Intel's fastest and most expensive Pentium processor until a few weeks ago -- will be installed in the cheapest "entry level" computers by next January.

Intel also predicts that there will be a divergence in the design of products used in the office and in the home. Until very recently, the computer which was part of a corporate network was basically the same device that kids played games on at home. Even today the multimedia accessories many manufacturers add to create a "home PC" look like an afterthought. Later this year, Intel will release a new multimedia-enhanced version of the Intel Pentium processor. This chip is designed to improve all of the entertainment-related functions of the PC, and will be aimed squarely at the consumer market. For example, the new processor, currently known as the P55C, should make video playback a feature of all home PCs. This means that by next year it should be possible to use any new PC to play your favorite CDs plus the accompanying video, though I doubt if this will be across the whole screen.

Internet access is also likely to be built into all PCs destined for the home market, meaning all PCs will come with an integrated high speed modem and Internet access software as standard.

Intel also promises something called the Universal Serial Bus, which will make peripherals easier to connect, using standard sockets on the back of a PC. Add-on cards will become much easier to fit as well.

My own view is that within a year the 3.5-inch diskette drive -- capable of holding only 1.44 MB of data --will die. There are several technologies vying to replace it -- my bet will be on a drive able to take both 1.44 MB diskettes and new erasable media holding up to 100 MBs.

So what does this mean if you are planning to buy a PC soon? With $2,000 to spend on a computer, buy the fastest processor you can afford. The processor is the most awkward item to replace, and it is the part of your PC that is devaluing the quickest. The price of RAM (Random Access Memory) and Storage (your hard disk) are also falling rapidly but buy only what you need since these parts are easy to upgrade. Likewise your system is a little more "future-proof" if it supports newer performance enhancing features like EDO RAM and Pipelined Burst Cache.

After that, resign yourself to the fact that your PC will almost certainly be obsolete in 18 months.

Robert Farish is the editor of Computer Business Russia. Internet e-mail:, fax: 198-6207.

The new features in the P55C will eventually be incorporated in all mass market Intel processors