Chapter 11
Computer Applications

I'VE been using computers almost daily since 5th grade. They help me do my assignments, provide entertainment, and help get general work done.

I first started using the computer at 3 years old. The very first computer I used was called a Texas Instruments 994A system. It used a cassette recorder and program cartridges to operate. It also used a regular TV.

We also had an old computer that I used. It was called an IBM PCjr computer. Two years later, when I was five, I was already programming, using the BASIC programming language. BASIC stands for the Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Later on I began to program in Microsoft QBasic, which is a more advanced form of BASIC.

The computer was not the best you could get these days: it had no hard drive, simple 4-color graphics, and 3-note sound. (Actually, the 3-note sound was the only advantage it had over other old PCs.) Of course, it probably was an amazing computer at the time it was purchased.

I used this computer for a long time: approximately six years.

In 1993 I got my first advanced computer. It was really purchased for my dad's work, but I also used it.

It, for a change, had better graphics. It didn't have the 3 note sound, however. The main advantage it had was the internal hard disk.

The only problem with the system was it's design. It's physical characteristics were not very well made - the plastic case holding the unit together cracked and snapped about 6 times during the time we owned it. A small crack would start near the screws holding the hinges together. The stress on the hinges from opening and closing the computer would make the crack grow. When it got big enough, the hinge would fall apart and make it impossible to close the computer. In 1994, IBM replaced the computer because they knew there was a flaw in the design. The new laptop was called a Thinkpad 360C. It had one more advantage: Super VGA graphics. The hinge has never cracked on this computer.

I used that system for quite some time, probably two years. Then we got our brand new desktop computer that you'll be reading about later.

Another thing I do quite often with computers is fix them. Unlike popular beliefs, computers are not 100% perfect. Well, they are in calculations, but not in operation - sometimes, something goes wrong. I have fixed computers at home, at my mom's work, for friends, and, in the past, in school.

A simple process is usually followed when I fix a computer. First, I would find the problem. That's usually done by testing, using special programs I've always had. Next, I think of the possible reasons. As a matter of fact, it's almost like a science experiment: stating the problem is obvious, getting a hypothesis is guessing the problem, and experimenting is testing for that problem and fixing it. The conclusion is, of course, the result, usually that the computer works fine because whatever problem there was has been fixed.

I have many methods of fixing computers. The usual one is testing the computer with special programs. It tests everything and chooses which things need improvement, or which things are damaged. From that program I get an idea as to what to do. When a computer will not get to the point where the test software can be run, I must use information that I know about problems to decide what's going wrong.

One more thing I do is upgrade. That usually means software upgrading, but not necessarily. The things I've added to the computers we own at home are: memory, sound, video, and a scanner.

So, combining using, fixing, and upgrading, you have quite a computer user!

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