CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Start with Solitaire...then move on

by Cathi Schuler

Buying a home computer is still a big step for most families, but the process has become fairly routine and painless. Do your homework, understand the basics about system requirements and you'll be up and running quickly. What to do with the beast, once it has assumed a place of prominence in your home office, continues to cause stress and strife for most new PC owners.

Over and over I hear the following: "This d--- thing has been here for months and all we do is play Solitaire!" Don't underestimate the importance of Solitaire for PC novices. The mouse is an integral part of computing and playing Solitaire is the very best way to learn new eye-hand coordination which is foreign to most people. But the point is well taken...if you've spent thousands of dollars to keep pace with technology and all you are doing is playing cards, it's time to rethink your entertainment strategies.

It is very common for new PC owners to be dazed and confused following a first-time purchase. So many choices in a foreign language using tools that are unfamiliar and awkward. A cacophony of information, sound and video bombarding the psyche all at once can cause even nuclear physicists to retreat to the comfort and familiarity of Solitaire. At first, only the children in your household will be ravaging through the contents of your computer's hard disk and crowing about their expertise. It's a humbling experience.

Like everything else in life, prioritize your needs and take one step at a time. What goals did you hope to accomplish in purchasing a new computer? Getting organized is the most common answer to that question and more specifically organization of personal finances. If tracking personal finances is a priority for you, then start here and be sure you have the proper software to accomplish this goal.

Personal finance software may or may not be included with your original PC configuration. Check the documentation that accompanied your purchase to determine what software was pre-loaded and look for references to perhaps Microsoft Money or Quicken. If you can't locate this software, you will need to purchase it. Either Money or Quicken are excellent programs for management of personal finances.

Each provide ample help facilities and a familiar "register" environment in which to work. The Deluxe CD-ROM version of Quicken offers the best tutorial of the two programs, but overall Microsoft Money is the easier of the two applications for beginners. The interface is simpler and less confusing than Quicken. Both these programs offer investment tracking and support online banking services, which is offered locally by the Bank of Stockton.

Once you have a feel for your personal finance software, you can venture into other programs which allow you to check on your stocks, mutual funds or other investments. America Online is a the perfect beginner package for your first online adventure. Here you can retrieve stock quotes that are updated every 15 minutes. AOL also offers the PC Financial Network to its subscribers for real-time quotes and actual trading from the comfort of your own PC.

If you decide to get a little daring, you can venture safely from the AOL platform out to the Internet and explore the World Wide Web in your quest to fine tune personal finances. Investors Edge at http://www.irnet.com/ is a great web site to "play the market".

You can set up a real or fantasy portfolio for free which includes up to 15 stocks and 15 mutual funds that are updated every 15 minutes. Stock news and performance graphs are also available. Certainly Investors Edge would like to sell you a subscription service, but there is a plethora of information available here for free.

Learning to use your computer requires you start with something that is meaningful and interesting to you. Whether it's organization of personal finance software or setting up recipes in a cookbook program, start with one program, learn it and build on that mastery.

The Windows operating environment and Windows-based applications have been designed with consistency in mind. The basic navigational skills you master in one application will translate easily to the next program. Go ahead and start with the safety of Solitaire...but do trudge ahead. The old adage "nothing ventured..nothing gained" has never been truer when it comes to conquering that new PC.

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