Issue 4
December 1995

Thinking About Buying a Farm Computer?
Computer Buying Tips

By Kris Versdahl


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Prairie Grains is the
official publication of
the Minnesota
Association of
Wheat Growers,
North Dakota Grain
Growers Association,
South Dakota Wheat,
Inc., and the
Minnesota Barley
Growers Association.


For what reasons will you be using your computer? If family members will be at the keyboard, what are their needs? It’s important to know and anticipate applications, because the type of software you intend to use will, to a large extent, dictate the type of hardware and computer power you need.

Many personal computers (PCs) sold in stores today come pre-loaded with an operating system (Windows 3.1, Windows 95, or DOS) and software, including basic word processing and accounting packages, as well as a few games and educational programs.

Look for a faster computer with more memory and hard disk space if you plan to add software, such as a database program or a more sophisticated farm accounting package. Consider too that some games, educational programs and other non-farm applications require a lot of processing panache. Most software applications list their hardware requirements right on the box; ask the salesperson what the hardware requirements are if ordering software by phone.

Expect to pay, on average, at least $2,000 for a new PC. Bear in mind that the monitor (the TV-like video screen) may not be included in some packages. Also, don’t forget to budget for a printer. Some printers cost more to operate than others; ask how much the ribbon, ink cartridges, or toner supplies cost to replace. Another peripheral (PC attachment to get the output or input you desire) to consider is a modem, used to access the internet and send or receive e-mail and faxes. Many computers sold today include an internal modem. In any case, you would want at the minimum, a 14.4 bits per second data/fax modem. If you can afford it, a 28.8 bps modem is faster and better.

You may want to get a computer magazine at a newstand before buying a computer. Doing so will help you compare the options available, and expose you to software and computers available from mail-order companies. There are many reputable companies that offer high quality equipment at very affordable prices, but you may compromise hands-on demonstrations and service available from retail stores.

Books on buying computers may be found at your local library or sold in bookstores. A lot can be learned too by advice from computer owners or avid users whom you know.

Copyright Prairie
Grains Magazine
December 1995