Home Computer: Electronic Mailbox

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The Independent Online
Each time I tear out the Home Computer Page for future reference, I think I ought

to write to you. This time I must actually do it.

I hope you have it in mind to collect into volume form the more permanent of these articles and put it on sale. I tend to forget about loose pages and a book would be so much handier.

Sir Angus Fraser KCB,TD



As someone who is relatively new to word processing and PCs, may I say that I find your computer page quite excellent. I work for a Civil Service department and we have recently received a Dell 386SX PC and a stack of manuals almost a foot high. At least your page takes away some of the mystery of computers to us mere mortals.

Could you tell me whether you intend to publish material in a book and whether it is possible to obtain photocopies of the first half a dozen pages of Home Computer.

Peter Medwell



Could you please give me a reference to an early article where you set out the basic criteria for making a choice of PC? I am about to do this and remember this as helpful.

Graham Galer

galer@well. sf. ca. us

I read your comments on 'Back-up' with some interest. I have owned my computer for only 12 months and knew nothing about them. It has not been easy going as I have two handicaps: partial sight and 80-plus years behind me.

I have, almost from the beginning, kept all data files on floppy disks. In the early days I was continually generating then erasing data files and believe that by using floppies I can avoid the problem of 'fragmentation'. I find the best back up system for data files is to keep another copy using 'Diskcopy', the Dos 'Backup' command being too slow and wasteful of disk space for this purpose.

I am unable to follow your advice completely regarding turning on and off. My computer is an Amstrad 386SX with Windows 3.1, MS-Dos 5, Wordstar 5.5 and a few small programs eg home accounts. My printer is a Panasonic KXP1123. If I turn it on before switching on the computer I get a system error message, so have to switch off the printer and start again. Since I use an anti-surge socket I hope that this will take care of the problem no matter in what order switching on and off is done.

G Williams

Whatton in the Vale


Both of your reviewers in today's paper (18 June) use their computers as a business adjunct. But if you need a machine that will assist you in writing letters and articles then something much simpler than Ami Pro or Word for Windows is required.

All you need from a word processor is the ability to set out words in the fashion you require. Icons, mice, mathematical abilities are just bells and whistles that are added on in the hope that are added value to be charged for.

A spell checker for someone like myself is absolute necessity, and a list of printer control characters to enable me to set out the way the final draft looks is all I really need. My word processor, the original bought 8 years ago, is now in its second upgrade and the reason I stick with it is that I am used to the way it behaves.

Please remember that not every user of a home computer uses it for business and not all of us have deep enough pockets to pay almost as much for a word processing program as for our home computers.

Martin Russell

Newcastle upon Tyne

On the whole a good article (25 June), but I would warn on the dangers of delving around in the insides of computers:

i) problems with static

ii) causing more problems by dislodging 'jumper' connections

iii) dislodging cables that may result in a inappropriate reconnection.

iv) possible problems with manufacturers' warranty clauses

v) with laptops, this can be a delicate operation and reassembly is not always easy.

Brian Warren

Computer Manager

Why only mention Compuserve and Cix in your E-mail feature on home computers (11 June)?

What about GreenNet? Not only are their service people amazingly helpful (by telephone or E-mail), it is a reasonably priced, non-profit making and environmentally aware global communications


For a comparatively small network, GreenNet is on the ball. The hardware has very recently been upgraded and there is now access to InterNet with all that means for accessing data.

Two months ago I was a complete beginner. Now I use it extensively. I am able to make instant contact with friends and colleagues all over the world for the price of a local call plus a few pence. There is also a fax-sending facility.

GreenNet can be contacted at:

23 Bevenden Street, London N1 6BH, 071 608 3040; or E-mail them at: support@gn. apc. org

Kenneth Polack


elmham@gn. apc. org

I too ordered a computer from this Wearnes Direct (11 June) and was forced to cancel my order when there was no sign of a delivery date after 10 weeks waiting. My order was placed during the last week in November and I was given a delivery time of four weeks. We experienced a lot of difficulty in contacting the company as the telephone was always engaged or you were left holding until you gave up.

When we placed our order we were told the credit card would be debited on despatch of the computer. Having cancelled the order I then placed an order with another company. Imagine my horror when I was told that Wearnes had debited my card at the beginning of January, at which time we had been told that there was no chance of delivery before the end of the month.

On finally contacting the company I was told that my money would be refunded within three working days. Not surprisingly, this did not happen, which left me with a bill for interest on my card. The money was finally refunded in full and fortunately the credit card company were very understanding and agreed to waive the interest charges under the circumstances.

Mrs P Watson


I too ordered a 486SX PC from Wearnes Direct way back in early November 1992. It eventually arrived in mid-February 1993, but only after I made many telephone calls, sent several faxes and wrote a couple of letters to constantly chase them up.

The introduction of a body such as the Personal Computer Direct Marketers' Association has to be a step forward. It's about time that buyers were given some assurance as to what they can expect from a direct seller, and some means of retribution if things go wrong.

Phil Clark

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing