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It is possible to buy a good home computer system for a reasonable amount of money if you are willing to spend some time reading and shopping.

One of the first decisions the potential buyer must make is what he or she wants the computer to do. If you want it mainly for word processing and maybe some game playing, you don't need to spend several thousand dollars for a system that has more power and speed than you will ever need.

For example, the Magnavox/Headstart computer package advertised this month by Paul Rosa's Superstores is about as much equipment as the average home personal computer user will require, and the price -- $499 -- appears reasonable.

After receiving one letter and several calls from readers who wanted to know if the offer at Rosa's was "too good to be true," I decided to check for myself.

I found out that the IBM PC-compatible system offered included 512 kilobytes of random access memory, a 40 megabyte hard disk drive, a CGA color monitor, a mouse and a software package with word processing, a filing program and calculator. For another $99 the stores are offering a 9-pin dot matrix printer.

Sales personnel said the Magnavox/Headstart equipment comes with a one-year warranty and "free lifetime labor."

Now for the downside.

There may not be enough of the systems available for purchase in time for Christmas. A salesman said the stores had sold 200 of the $499 systems and had no more in stock. He said he was taking orders until more systems arrive but expected a repeat of the sell-out.

The prospective buyer also should realize that you don't just sit down and start doing complicated things on the Magnavox/Headstart equipment. First, you have to do some reading.

You should read the manuals that come with any equipment you buy. Then you should find a manual or book on DOS, which stands for "Disk Operating System." Read it.

And as soon as possible, you should visit and possibly join a user group like the Buffalo IBM-PC User Group, better known as BIBMUG. There will be guests and members with IBM compatible equipment and problems just like you have. You can exchange ideas and get hands-on help at the meetings.

But don't be impatient. You can enjoy using whatever system you buy while still in the learning process.

Meanwhile, this Christmas season has become a buyer's market. If you don't find what you want at one store, keep looking. There are many good buys out there.

Software library

Ken Lindstrom, president of Alpha Prime Software, will present the public domain software library available to ProMac members at the group's monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Room 202J of Baldy Hall, UB Amherst Campus.

The meeting is open to the public and people wishing to make connections with other professional Macintosh computer users. For information, call Jeff Raugh at 692-4191 or Mary Ellen Mest at 652-7594.

Personal Computers welcomes your questions and programs as well as advance notification of computer group meetings. Mail your correspondence to Lonnie Hudkins, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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