Computers help in farm management Computerized records increase the ability to market farm products, said Mike Adelaine, Extension computer specialist at South Dakota State University.
"It allows you to understand what your bottom line is and where you have to price your products," he said.
Adelaine said the most effective use of computers in a farm or ranch setting is the capability of the "what if" scenario.
"After the information is in the computer, one begins to think about marketing possibilities and different management mixes," he said.
"Whatever you're thinking, that's where the computer comes in handy, because, where you have to sit there with a paper and pencil and spend a lot of time, the computer can do it in a matter of seconds."
Adelaine said it is always a good time to buy a computer.
"If you have the need and the dollars in the budget, computers are continually changing; you're never going to get to the end of that," he commented.
Certain times of the year are better than others for computer purchase, however. He said from September through the first of the year computer prices stabilize for the holiday season. After Jan. 1 and throughout the summer, prices drop as companies debut new models and discount the old models.
When purchasing a computer, one should know what functions it will do and how much money one can afford to spend.
Many producers who buy a computer initially intend to use it for accounting purposes, but the family soon begins using it.
"Maybe the kids will do homework on it or maybe the wife has a home business she wants to do with it. All that has an impact on a machine," said Adelaine.
"With what you need in mind, you can pretty much go into the store and say, 'This is what I'm interested in," ' he said.
An averag e computer and printer should cost between $1,500 and $2,000. However, someone wanting all the bells and whistles may spend up to $4,000, he said.
Many inexpensive computers are also available, some as low as $500, but they may not include certain features, he warned.
Computers within the $1,500 to $2,000 price range should include a monitor, a CPU (central processing unit), basic software, a telephone modem and a basic printer.
Adelaine said the standard monitor is 17 inches. The quality of a monitor is determined by dot pitch, the lower the number, the better the quality. The current standard is .28 dot pitch.
"You can have the same resolution, 800 by 600, but have different dot pitches, so one image may look better than another one," he said.
Memory size has a big impact on Internet speed. Adelaine prefers 64 Megabytes (MB) of memory, although 32 MB may be adequate for those who are not concerned with speed.
The term used for hard drive size is gigabit (GB).
"For the most part, people are looking at a 10 GB hard drive," he said.
The graphic- and sound-use explosion on computers has pushed an increase of hard drive size. Picture and sound files are huge and take up a lot of space on a computer, remarked Adelaine.
As for a printer, the specialist recommends an ink jet, also called bubble jet, printer.
"Higher quality print, such as with a laser jet, will cost you more. If you want good quality and color, the ink jet is the way to go," he said.
Local contact is important when purchasing a home computer.
"If they can go to a neighbor's house to see what they're doing or go to the local school system for night classes, that is good," he said.
When buying a computer locally, Adelaine recommended to find out if the seller is building his or her own systems and if they are using standard components.
"Local folks have been building their own computers and so people buy them, then the business only lasts a short time. Find out if they're using standard components or what happens if the go out of business," he cautioned.
Adelaine said a computer cannot be compared to a tractor�one will not use the same computer for a lifetime.
"A computer should be depreciated out and you should be looking to buy a new one in three years," he said. "The time window is getting down to 18 months for people keeping on the cutting edge of technology."
"You don't necessarily want to buy the bloody edge technology, you may not want to even buy the cutting edge technology. You may want the mainstream technology."
For more information on buying a home computer, contact your local Extension educator or Mike Adelaine, 605-688-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.