LAW OFFICE COMPUTING
Now's The Time to Buy More RAM
ou may have noticed that RAM memory has dropped precipitously in the last few months. Eight megabyte chips that sold for $480 are now priced around $100. At the same time, the price of hard drives has fallen through the floor. As a result, you can add a full gigabyte of hard drive memory and 16 megabytes RAM memory for under $500. The increase in performance will be substantial and will allow you to extend the useful life of your existing 486 class computer for another year. I expect that at that time you will be able to buy a 200 plus megahertz Pentium Pro-based desktop computer for the price you would pay today for a Pentium 75mhz. Your 486 machine with 24 megs of RAM and an additional gigabyte of hard disk space will compete very favorably with the Pentium 75- 90 computers that are available today at bargain prices. The Pentium Pro 200 chip, however, will allow computers to perform tasks that they have not to this point been able to perform easily. One of the most obvious is the expectation that the high speed chip will allow high quality desktop video conferencing over ordinary phone lines within the next year. Intel has a version of its Pro-Share software that is ready for market and designed to accomplish exactly that. This is a time of very rapid change in the capabilities of the technology.
decided to invest $500 in my existing 486 machine and wait another year for the new family of Intel processors to settle into the marketplace. My first experience with the speed increasing capability of additional RAM memory came when I borrowed a notebook computer from David Fifer at CanSolve (792-1946), the Tucson law office network specialists. I was giving a speech in LA and I wanted to use the new Windows '95 version of PowerPoint to develop the presentation. My laptop computer would not accept Windows '95 and David's did. By the time I had loaded everything into the computer that I needed, it appeared to me to be slowing down mightily. I told David about the problem and he suggested added 8 megabytes of RAM to the machine. As soon as he slipped the additional 8 megabytes module into the bottom of the laptop, the performance change was remarkable. Indeed, the increase in speed was so dramatic that I asked David about retrofitting my old 486 box with some additional RAM. He opened it up and told me that he could add 16 megabytes of RAM giving me a total of 20 megabytes for somewhere around $200. I took him up on his offer and I was amazed at the dramatic increase in speed. I haven't run any formal tests like the magazines do, but I do have a Pentium 90 Hewlett Packard Vectra which all the gurus said was the fastest thing around a year or so ago, and frankly I don't see much difference between it and my old 486 with the additional RAM. I'm sure there is a difference but it didn't show up on one of my little tests.
ne of the major differences that I noticed immediately was that I was able to keep a lot of applications open at the same time. Since I am a big cutter and paster (my mom said I got top grades in scissors in kindergarten) multiple open applications mean a lot to me. I can now keep WordPerfect, ECCO(my calendar), Netscape Navigator and InfoSelect (my little database) open at the same time. I did have to run Memmaker, the DOS memory configuration program, but that was a breeze and this time it worked. Just remember, though, that Memmaker sometimes demolishes your startup files, so make a backup copy of config.sys, autoexec.bat and win.ini before you start. If you want to play it safe, let the guy who installs your RAM do the reconfiguration. If you like living on the edge, however, some of the RAM chips come with an instructional video that should allow you to do the job yourself while maintaining a semblance of sanity. At a practical functional level I find my 486 to suddenly be quite useable and instead of replacing it right now, I'm going to blow my budget on a new notebook, if I can find one somewhere on this side of the world.
n closing, let me tell you that the other thing that I discovered during this little escapade was that Windows '95 absolutely requires at least 16 megabytes of RAM to run at any reasonable speed. Don't listen to what "they" say about "eight is enough" for you. Indeed, the people at Microsoft are now recommending 32 megs of RAM as the basic configuration for Windows '95 machines. If you have a machine that was built for Windows '95, now is the time to buy some additional RAM.
ncidently, I'm still running Windows 3.11 on the 486 machine. Even with the extra RAM and the additional hard disk that I installed a few months ago, I am worried about converting it over to Windows '95 because the "BIOS" in my machine is very old and some have had problems with Win95 under those circumstances. So I intend to leave well enough alone. My 486 with Windows 3.11 and 20 megabytes of RAM is a very fast and functional machine. It was a rocket when I got it and with the new RAM configuration it is once again in the mainstream. But I can hardly wait for a Pentium Pro 200 with a couple of gigs of hard drive and video conferencing built in. That will be nirvana!!