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Tip of the Day
Language: Web Development
Expertise: Beginner
Mar 11, 1997

The effect of processing speed on Internet access and multimedia

Question:
I teach an Internet class to middle school students. My computers only have 33 MHz processors and no multimedia capabilities. How much effect is the processing speed having on my Internet access? Even if I upgrade memory and add sound cards and so forth, won't I still have a computer that is too slow for multimedia production and reasonable Internet access?

Answer:
Depends on what you mean by "multimedia production" and "Internet access."

To access much of the Internet, all you need is an old Apple II, a DOS clunker or closet-bound Amiga. This gives you non-graphical browsing of the Web (via telnet and Lynx) as well as services such as ftp, Gopher, Usenet, e-mail, etc. The limiting speed is not the speed of your computer, but of your communication link.

To browse the Web in a graphical fashion, the browsing software is becoming greedier by the month. You need at least a slow 486 (33 MHz). This will work for pages that have text, graphics and even some Java applets. Again, the limiting factor is the speed of your communication link.

To browse the Web with multimedia, you need a modern PC with sound card, SuperVGA, and at least 8 MB RAM, preferably 16. These are around $1,500 in mass-market stores.

To produce multimedia at a professional level, you need lots of RAM and disk space, and even then it's not enough. A professional will spend around $10,000 on the bleeding-edge, top of the line machine, which will be obsolete in about six months.

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