The 20th century’s discovery of the computer proved to be the most helpful of all the innovations man has come up with to facilitate him in his daily life. Of course prior to this there was the telephone which initiated the globalisation theory by enhancing fast and efficient long distance communication and regional interaction.
The computer is a fast and accurate electrical data processing system designed to perform millions of computations in just a few seconds.
In a bid to improve its functions, the computer has undergone various stages of evolution; each producing better efficiency, speed and size than its predecessor. This has produced a variety of specifications giving rise to various types of computers.
Some of the types of computers available today include the mainframes which consist of large, high speed servers mainly used in organizations with large database and high speed data transfers like banks and insurance companies.
The other type is the mini computer which performs basically the same functions as the mainframe but slightly smaller in size and has a lower performance scale. This type is used by smaller organizations with sensitive databases that need back up and regular data transfers like the military, ministries, co-operatives and micro-finance institutions.
In Rwanda the average cost of purchase and installation of a server would be around Frw3 million from local importers.
The Personal Computer (PC) also known as a desk top is perhaps the most common type of computer in use today especially in offices and homes due to its affordability and availability. This machine is designed to accommodate a lot of functionalities depending on the Operating System and Software installed in it. It is also user friendly depending on the Operating System: this is a set of programs that instruct the computer while running its processes.
The laptop is the most common and largest in size of the series of portable computers including notebooks and hand-held computers.
They were invented to facilitate mobility of users and reduce bulkiness as well as eliminate dependence on direct power supply. The laptop has a chargeable battery that can run for as long as three hours when new.
Buying a Computer
Due to the dynamic evolution of information and data processing, more and more users are finding it necessary to own one of these handy gadgets so as to catch up with the current socio-economic demands.
The factors considered when buying a computer may vary depending on the user and the kind of work it is intended for. Among the most important factors are; the model of the computer, the size, the price and the purpose for which it is intended, the processor speed, and the storage capacity among other specifications.
Among the challenges a buyer will face is whether to go for a locally assembled computer which is cheaper but mostly offering lower performance and shorter life spans or to buy a branded computer, which is usually more expensive but has an overall better performance and a longer life span.
Taking the computer model into consideration, the most common models on the local market today are Hewlett-Packard (HP), DELL, Compaq, Acer and Toshiba just to name but a few. These models are named after their manufacturers.
These have varying capacities, specifications and strengths which results into varying prices. The price also depends largely on the specifications mainly the type of processor, RAM and Hard disk capacity as well as the type of operating system and accessories.
When buying a computer one takes into consideration all these factors depending on the needs of the individual or the company. In other words the price will be determined by the choice of specifications dictated by the buyer.
Computers whether PCs or laptops, are tailor-made for specific purposes. For example a computer to be used by a secretary for simple office documentation would not need a large memory or high speed processors as one to be used for database compilation, programming or video editing and animation.
Compaq, HP and DELL models of computers are probably more commonly for office use since they are designed to provide high performance over long periods of time and can be obtained at affordable prices.
Computers use various types of Operating Systems. The American Software Manufacturing giant, Microsoft, provides the most user friendly series of Operating Systems which also have the advantage of having access to a wide range of readily available and compatible Software.
However, Windows Operating Systems are limited by constant virus attacks which force users to invest endlessly in antivirus to fight these harmful programs. This is worsened by the need for network connectivity between users that acts as gateways for these malicious programmes.
While still rare on the Rwandan market due to its high cost, Macintosh model of computers comes preinstalled with operating system and necessary software exposing it to minimum virus attacks.
There are also free operating systems on the Internet mainly the UNIX family which are immune to virus attacks making them popular server Operating Systems. But they are not user friendly and hence less popular among single users.
Rwanda in its efforts to become a regional Information and Communications Technology (ICT) hub, has taken the initiative of removing taxes on ICT imports to enhance affordability of these devices and improve their usage at offices, schools, and homes.
On the local market a good HP PC with a Pentium IV processor and about 160 GB Harddisk drive and 1GB RAM with a strong Operating System, would cost between Frw600,000 and Frw900,000 while a brand new laptop with similar specifications may range between Frw800,000 to Frw1,000,000. Of course there always cheaper options depending on the model, specifications or origin. Computers imported from Dubai are cheaper than those ordered from the UK or the US due to the Free Trade Zone. If your resources are limited you might consider buying a second hand machine in good working condition which can easily be upgraded. Such a PC may cost Frw 200,000 and above while a similar laptop may go for Frw300,000 and above on the local market.
Computer installation and usage
Once you have decided to buy a computer you need to ensure that it is in proper working condition, its accessories are all in place and functioning properly, it has the necessary and licensed Software and preferably has a guaranteed period of working without failure. You also need to refer to the user manuals for installation, powering and starting up the machine once powered off as well as troubleshooting and regular maintenance of the system and its accessories.
After buying a new computer, ensure that you secure copies of all the installed software and Operating System in case the system crushes and you need to format or repair it.