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Welcome to the computer buyer's guide

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 15, 1999

Not long ago, you could buy almost any personal computer you wanted -- so long as it was a beige box and cost about $2,000. And the only fine print you had to squint at in computer ads warned "Monitor not included."

Today, you can find curvy computers in Kool-Aid colors and, more important, you can find perfectly good computers -- monitor included -- for as little as $800. But the long overdue variety in today's PC marketplace makes shopping a challenge. And the fine print has become more mystifying. (That "free" computer that sounds so appealing may entangle you in a three-year contract for what may turn out to be an overpriced and slow Internet service.)

That's why we've come up with this special edition of our weekly Tech Times. We hope it will give you the information you need to do your holiday computer shopping.

This special edition was created by the team that produces Tech Times each Monday: Technology Editor Dave Gussow, Copy and Design Editor (and Mac fan) William Lampkin and regular contributors John Torro and Jules Allen. We thank the editors of PC World magazine for permission to reprint their best buy recommendations, which are based on extensive testing.

Our regular Business Times section will return next Monday, with the weekly Tech Times tucked inside.

-- LARRY LIEBERT, Deputy Business Editor

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