This is the first article in a series aimed at senior citizens who are new to computers. Maybe your children have talked you into getting a computer to ‘go online’, perhaps to keep in touch with loved ones by email, maybe to help with your genealogy research, or to shop online as it increasingly becomes easy to do so rather than face a trip to the shopping mall.
The first thing to understand is that you are not alone, ‘silver surfing’ – older people using the Internet – is the fastest expanding group of Internet users. Of course anything new can be daunting, more so the older you get; but there is a lot of help out there and you will probably be up and running much quicker than you expect.
The first decision is what sort of computer to buy. There are two basic types: a PC (personal computer) which probably has a ‘tower’ which holds most of the working bits, and a separate keyboard and mouse. Then there is the laptop and its smaller sister the netbook/notebook. These are portable and everything is contained in the one box which is about the size of a large book. Each has its pros and cons.
The advantages of a laptop are its portability, but as you are unlikely to want to carry it around with you this will be much less of an advantage than someone who uses theirs for work. A PC’s screen will be larger, as will the keyboard; and a mouse is less fiddly to use than the equivalent part of a laptop. So I would recommend a PC as your best buy. PCs are also cheaper than a laptop with the equivalent power.
If you visit a shop selling computers you will find the price range is huge. The good news is the cheapest end will suit your purposes as even at this price level you will be able to email, shop online, write letters, use a spreadsheet for the family budget, store and play music, store and manipulate photographs and many more tasks. More expensive machines are for those who wish to play sophisticated games or run complicated business software.
The only other thing you need to choose at this stage is the operating system. As the name suggests this is the software that makes the computer work. Most computers come with one of the Windows operating systems already installed. The alternative is a Mac, a rival system that has a cult following but which is more expensive. If you follow the Windows route there are several to choose from. Windows 7 is the new offering from Microsoft which will replace Windows Vista. It is an improvement, so faced with the choice go for ‘7’. However, there are several flavors of Windows 7. The one you want is Windows 7 Home Premium. This will enable you to surf the Internet, contact family and friends, watch and record TV programs, and create DVDs from your own photographs or camcorder.
Further articles in the series will show you how to get the most from your computer.