What Computer Should I buy?

Sheesh - this is ancient, but there's still some good advice here.  

For any computer, pick the software first.  Then read on.

What matters for kids software

Little kids have a weak sense of aesthetics, so they don't care as much as you think about the latest hardware.  (At least until they're 9 or so.)
Most of the best titles recommended below will run on a 386 with a 2x CD-ROM drive.   (If you don't know what that is, let it suffice to say that
this was state of the art in 1991.)

The educational stuff tends to run on older, crapped out computers, 'cause that's what schools and libraries have.

That said, let's talk about a few features that matter.

Autoplay - the Win95 feature that runs a CD-rom when you stick it in the machine.  This matters - kids do better (and are less hassle) if they can start up a program by just putting in a CD.  The autoplay extensions for older software can be handy too.

Processor power matters for things like Flight Simulator, Flight Unlimited,
and other simulation games. 

Controllers matter - mice and joysticks.  But they're cheap.   Sometimes they're free after rebates at officeMax.

So, here are the configurations I recommend

I just want to run kids software for kids below 9 years old

So, you've got your office computer for Quicken and work and such.  You just need something for the kiddies.

You want the kids to have their own machine.  Cheapest - go to Computer Renaissance.  Spend $200 on a late 486 with multimedia (CD, sound board) and another $80 for a monitor.  You'll be all set.  It runs any Living Books, Humongous or Edmark title, and a bunch of other stuff that you can get cheap.  The monitor will work with your next computer.  And the laptop you bring home on the weekend.

Get a microsoft Easyball mouse.  It's $35 and comes with Freddi Fish and the Missing Kelp Seeds.  A bargain.

I want to run quicken, Word, Excel, the internet and some games.  This is
my first computer.

A sub-$1000 computer from Compaq from Circuit City.  It'll take you two years to outgrow it, and by then today's $3,000 monster will be, you
guessed it, a sub$1000 computer from Circuit City. If you want really hot graphics and display, you can spend the whole $3000
for this year's hot computer.  Or for $129 you can get a playstation.  And it'll run most games better.

I'm into serious games like Doom and Myst and Duke Nukem and stuff for the kids

Are you sure you don't want a Playstation?  Or whatever the hot video game is this month?  OK, you're sure.  Then Send $2,000 to Gateway or Dell every two years.   Get used to it.  Give the old one to the kids.

I want to get on this internet thing.  Should I get an Imac?

How did you find this page?

Anyhow, the answer is No.  Get WebTV if that's all you want to do.  It'll keep you busy for a
year, maybe longer, for $200.  Then you'll be buying a computer that's
twice as fast, or more, for the same money you'd spend now.  Some people
stay on WebTV forever.  Hey, it doesn't need a desk, and it works well.

My mother-in-law bought an Imac.  I may revise this later.  Hey, TQ loves his, and they sure are cute.

I need a laptop to work on when I travel.  But boy, they're expensive.

That's 'cause you're looking at new ones.  But let's face it, when you travel, you type short things, solve small problems.  You can buy an older
laptop, cheap, at Computer Renaissance, and type in an older version of your software.   Or use Wordpad, or other windows freeware.

Or you can get a GoType! Keyboard for your PalmPilot, and skip the laptop altogether!

I Really Want a Macintosh

Here's some insight Chris, my good friend and Mac Evangelist.

The choice of personal computers for the home comes down to a simple question: "Should I buy a Mac computer or should I buy a Windows
computer?" Up until recently, for those considering a Mac this question boiled down to "Will the Mac survive?" or "Can I get the software I want
for the Mac." Read: "Which Windows computer should I buy?"

Two things changed in 1998 to alter this decision-making process.

1) The Mac has defied all predictions and made a market-share comeback.

2) Internet access has become the #1 reason to own a home computer and all computers surf the net equally well.

The Bottom Line: If you use PC's at work and want to bring your work home, get a PC. If you love video games and want to get the latest
titles, get a PC (Mac versions show up much later, but that's changing.) Otherwise, if you like Macs, go get one. They're competitively priced and with the new G3 processor, they pack the biggest big punch on today's desktop.