Bit By Byte

“No Dave. You can’t buy a 386. It’s already outdated. Ancient history. You have to get a 486.”

My eyes were glazing over.

“And you’ll need a DX. That math coprocessor chip is a must.”

How many stores had I been in? Four? Five? I’d lost count. I barely possessed the qualifications to use a computer and here I was trying to buy one for my office.

Nothing in my background, training or schooling prepared me for this mission. I never took a computer class in high school or college. In fact, the closest I came to a computer in college was to help the pocket protected FORTRAN and COBALT devotees pick up their computer cards that they constantly dropped on the walkways outside of the Student Union.

I checked in to Case Western Reserve University in the fall of 1973. I had an English and Religion double major with a Political Science minor. I was going to be either a Rabbi or an attorney. In either case I would have no need for a computer. One day I had a startling revelation; I wasn’t holy enough to be a rabbi and I wasn’t amoral enough to be an attorney. I have been in the insurance business since 1979. Now I need a computer.

Actually Bill and I have a computer. It is an antique. Our XT clone has a 40 Meg hard drive, no graphics, and we use our typewriter for a printer. This is a system that would have amazed and satisfied all of my computer maven friends ten years ago. Today it brings derisive snickers.

Dealing with computer salesmen is a lot like fielding a solicitation from a charity. “Mr. Cunix you donated $50 when we called last year. We were hoping we could count on you for $100 this year.” No matter what you have done before, you will be pushed to do more.

If you tell the salesman that you want VGA graphics, he will push for Super VGA. Walk into the store in search of Super VGA and you will be advised to purchase Extended. Try shopping for Extended…well, you get the idea. No matter what you choose, you will be counseled by the “computer professional” that you need more.

A guiding maxim of my business is that you never buy more insurance than you need. I have been told that I can’t buy more computer than I need. So I’m looking for a mainframe. Of course, I also need a bigger office to house this new machine and someone to run it. Maybe I can still get into law school.