Technology changes at an alarming rate. New products enter the
marketplace rendering more and more items obsolete. In the last
article, the price of obsolescence was discussed, and here, Iíll tell
you how to evaluate your own technology needs. This article wonít tell
you what you need, or how to obtain what you need Ė thatís for experts.
What I will tell you is how to determine whether you need to upgrade and
how to recognize youíve outgrown your current technology.
With the advent of electronic publishing and the internet, the world has
opened up for writers. Now in addition to being able to craft good
prose, we have to be promotion geniuses, web site developers, and more.
So, instead of an old electric typewriter or word processor, the
technology writers need has expanded considerably.
Letís take a look at the basics. A writer needs a program in which to
write. An internet connection for sending and receiving email as well
as web searches has become a necessity. A spreadsheet can help balance
profit and loss statements. A means to create and update a website also
has become a must, especially for writers who donít wish to pay for or
canít afford professional website development. This means the average
writer needs four items, plus the computer on which to run everything.
Are you wired?
No matter how youíre published, you need an internet connection.
Dial-up, DSL, cable, or satellite, the how you get connected doesnít
matter so long as it works for you. But how to you evaluate your
current connectivity needs? A few simple questions are all it takes.
1) How many emails do you send/receive on average?
2) Do you spend a lot of time on the web for research?
3) Do you often send/receive or download large files (files larger than
Each person is different, but if you receive a limited number of emails
(friends, family, and publisher, but few mailing lists), you donít use
the web for much research, and the only files you send/receive are your
manuscript(s), then dial-up will most likely work for you. However, if
you are on large volume mailing lists, or several mailing lists, and
spend extensive time on the internet (including participating in chats),
then high speed makes things much easier. Now, if you have dial-up at
home, but can go to places such as cafes or bookstores where high speed
is available, then the need to change may not be as pressing. The
decision between DSL, cable, and/or satellite, will most likely be
decided by your location and whatís available in your area.
Unfortunately rural areas may have limited options or even no access to
high speed internet.
How slow can you go?
Your computerís speed is determined by several factors including
processor speed, hard drive space, RAM, and operating system.
Thankfully, you donít need to become a computer technician to determine
what you need. Simply think about your computer. Does it take fifteen
minutes to start up? Are you constantly waiting for windows and
screens? If you are, then it may be time to think about updating your
computer. You may want to discuss your needs with a computer
professional to determine what you do, and donít need.
For example, a writer will not need a high-end graphics card or sound
card, not unless he or she spends a lot of time playing computer games.
In fact, most ďoff the shelfĒ computers designed for home or family use
also work just as well for writers.
Prose, Profit, and Loss
The software packages you chose depend a lot on personal preferences and
what came with the computer. Some people adore WordPerfect and Corel
products, while others swear by Microsoft Office. OpenOffice is a free
alternative to both suites of programs, and a search of the internet
reveals numerous programs for tracking money and composing written
documents. I wonít say much here except as long as the program can
convert the files into an industry standard format (such as Rich Text
Format) and you like it, stay with it. A writerís software choice may
be influenced by what her peers are using or by what her editor uses.
Surfing in Style
Thereís no doubt that an internet presence helps an author. Online
promotion can make, or break, a writerís career. While the ďhow toĒs of
creating a website would take up an entire article on their own, and
there are as many ways of creating websites as there are people who
create them, a few questions will help determine your needs.