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If you haven't made up your mind about buying a computer system for a loved one for Christmas, you still have an option or two.

The most obvious option is a gift certificate to put under the tree. Most computer stores and discount retailers will be glad to sell you a gift certificate that can be exchanged later for the equipment the recipient really wants.

Gift certificates have an additional plus in that their value -- say $500 -- remains constant while the equipment may become cheaper after Christmas. In other words, an item or small system priced at $500 before Santa makes his annual trip may sell for $450 after Christmas.

A word of caution, however: Buy the certificate from a dealer who has been in business for a while and is likely to still be around when the time comes to exchange the certificate for merchandise.

Western New York 99ers to meet

The Western New York 99ers user group is alive and well, according to James Cavanaugh of Eggertsville. Cavanaugh, retired president of Buffalo Bearings, said the group, organized back in the days when Texas Instruments was making TI-9 9/4 A computers, meets on the second Tuesday of the month.

The next meeting will be held at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 8 in the VFW post behind the Marine Midland branch bank at 5556 Main St. "We hope to have a demonstration by a Toronto man of an inexpensive 80-column card he has developed to go into the console," Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh said the group still has more than 40 active members and that the number remains fairly constant because old TI equipment, which actually may be new or nearly new, is given to friends and relatives by owners who have no further use for the machines.

There may be thousands of TI-9 9/4 A computers stored in closets, waiting to be given to new owners, according to Cavanaugh, and the new owners may need some help in learning how to use the equipment. That's where his group enters the picture.

President of the group, which has members throughout Western New York and southern Ontario, is Richard Simpson of Fort Erie, a retired teacher and an authority on Sherlock Holmes as well as the proud owner and driver of a collection of antique cars that include a Rolls Royce and a Mercedes Benz.

"We never know which antique car he will be driving to a meeting," said Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh said persons interested in attending a meeting of the group may call him at 835-8100 for information. He also operates a bulletin board for TI users called AM-CAN friends. The bulletin board number is 835-5316.

"We get calls not only from TI uses, but also from operators of IBM, Commodores, Atari, and other computers," Cavanaugh said.

PC owners are more affluent

The December edition of Home Office Computing reports that the median income of PC owners is $42,000, while the median income for non-PC owners is $28,000.

Quoting results of a recent study by the market research firm HTI of Port Washington, N.Y., the magazine reported that 82 percent of PC owners live in a family setting, 52 percent have children and 45 percent are between 30 and 45 years old.

HTI, a division of the NPD group, also found that 88 percent of PC owners have VCRs, 42 percent have answering machines, 29 percent have modems, and 28 percent have compact disc players.

The final statistic quoted was that 60 percent of PC owners are more likely to be entrepreneurs than those without them.

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