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MIT Computer Connection Offers Mac, PC Selection

By Ramy A. Arnaout
Executive Editor

For financial and practical reasons, choosing and buying a computer can be one of the most important decisions facing new students.

And the introduction of Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system and a new Macintosh line from AppleComputer in recent weeks doesn't make that decision any easier.

Buyers face a barrage of questions, including when and where to buy, how much to pay, and of course, which standard - Macintosh or PC - to buy into.

The choice of PC - considered faster and cheaper - or Mac - long-considered to be more user-friendly - and on the model "depends on a number of different factors," said Kathleen Moriarty, a consultant for the MIT Computer Connection store in the Student Center basement.

"We have non-technical weenies buying PCs and technical weenies buying Macs, frighteningly enough," Moriarty said. "People buy what they're most comfortable with at home."

Other questions include "Will the system have enough memory (RAM)?" - 16 megabytes are recommended - and "Will it have sufficient hard drive space?" with 500 MB recommended, Moriarty said.

However, a new student's biggest consideration "has nothing to do with the Mac or PC' question," Moriarty said. "Their biggest concern is they want to hook up with Athena, and it is our belief that both [systems] do that equally well."

Despite this advice, Macs have outsold PCs at the MCC by nearly three to one during the back-to-school season, which began this week. The MCChas sold about 300 computers so far, Moriarty said, with about the same number expected to sell in the next few weeks.

One problem for students who want to buy a Mac at the MCC or elsewhere will be availability. Because of demand and what Moriarty called Apple's "strategic allocation" of the new Macintosh models, the MCChas "almost none to sell over the counter," she said.

The extreme shortage - caused in part by Apple's poor anticipation of demand and which is also affecting other area dealers - is expected to last through the fall, Moriarty said.

Students can pay for their purchases by cash, check, or charge. But the MCC will not take personal checks for over $500, Moriarty said.

Popular Mac and PC systems

"I would be hesitant to say that everybody [who wants to buy a Mac] wants a 15-inch monitor with a PowerPC 603 chip with 16 megabytes of RAM" and a 500 to 700 MB hard drive, "though that is the most popular" Mac sold so far at the MCC, Moriarty said.

MCC's back-to-school deal on the Macintosh Performa 5200 - whose PowerPC 603 chip runs at 75 megahertz and which has 24 MB RAM, a 700 MB hard drive, an internal 15-inch monitor, and a CD-ROM drive - is advertised at $2,400.

In comparison, the 8 MB RAM, 1,000 MB hard drive Performa 5215 - the variation of the 5200 that Apple makes available to commercial resellers - sells for about $2,300 at Lechmere, Microcenter, and mail-order suppliers, according to advertisements. The advertised cost of boosting the RAM for this model more than accounts for the $100 difference.

The MCC's most popular PC offering is a Hewlett-Packard computer with a 75MHz Pentium chip, 16 MB RAM, a 540 MB hard drive, and a double-speed CD-ROM drive. The HP machine and the back-to-school 100 MHz model compare well price-wise to similarly-equipped machines from local resellers such as Lechmere. Mail-order suppliers were not compared.

IS won't soon support Windows 95

Those considering purchasing Windows 95 - the latest version of Microsoft's PC operating system, which PC users say makes PCs as user-friendly as Macintoshes - should keep in mind that it is not yet supported by MITInformation Systems.

Because of the major changes introduced in Windows 95, the new operating system may be incompatible with existing hardware and software. For that reason, IS advises current Windows users not to upgrade to Windows 95 until IS completes testing and training on the new system.

"New operating systems of this scale can take more than a year to stabilize. If you choose to upgrade at this time, some of your applications may not work. IS is in the process of checking Windows 95 for compatibility with MIT-supported applications," according to an ISrelease. Users can expect full support for Windows 95 in a matter of months, ISsaid.

The MCC has 30 to 40 copies of the new operating system in stock, Moriarty said.

Oleg E. Drozhinin contributed to the reporting of this story.