Computer technology changing for the better

Technology may be changing for the better. The other day I purchased a new piece of equipment for my computer. It came with a single sheet of instructions. It told me to connect one wire to the computer, connect power to the device and insert one installation compact disk. It worked.

Why am I so excited? Not too many years, or months, ago, connecting a new device to the computer was a daunting task. Remember in the beginning when we connected a printer. We had to find the "parallel" port on the back of the machine. Then we inserted a diskette and had to type in the command "install." Then we had to turn off the machine and hope that when it came back on it recognized the printer and we could print documents.

Next we thought about installing a new scanner. Maybe we had to open the computer case and install a printed circuit card called a "SCSI." This was connected to the scanner. Or we purchased a scanner with a "parallel" connection. We removed the printer plug on the back of the computer and replaced it with the plug from the scanner. The printer then was connected to the back of the scanner. After going through the diskette or cd installation program, we hoped both devices would work. In some cases the scanner worked but the printer wouldn't. Finally we called the scanner manufacturer and were told that particular printer wouldn't work with that scanner. Oh well.

And, of course, when we decided we wanted a ZIP drive attached to all this, we threw up our hands. Maybe we were told to install another printed circuit card with an extra parallel port. We did this and hoped that everything would work together. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't. Sometimes we had to resolve, "Interrupt conflicts" to get things to work. Oh well, again.

But yesterday I installed a new device using what is called a Universal Serial Bus, or USB, connection. This is something on newer computers with Windows 98. It's the current answer to adding multiple devices to one computer. And it works.

In my case, I installed a Hewlett-Packard 8210e, external cd read-write device. This allows me to create my own compact disks. It had a USB connection. I didn't even have to turn off my computer. I just put the plug in the USB socket on the back of the computer and put the installation cd in my cd drive. Everything installed itself. I made my first cd about five minutes later. Yes, I'm excited.

Actually I have a second USB device that I connect to my computer. For it and the cd writer to work at the same time, I purchased what is called a USB "hub." This is a device that gets power from the wall socket and has four USB sockets on the back. I plugged the hub into my computer and plugged both devices into the hub without turning off my computer and everything worked. A great improvement over the past.

USB is solving the connection problem for the time being. Modern computers will support up to 127 USB devices connected through hubs to the computer. More and more devices are coming with USB connections, something you should look for if you're considering purchasing things to add to your computer.

Of course, like everything else in computing, the next generation probably will use something called "Firewire" instead of USB, but that's for later.

To learn more about USB or Firewire, visit "Coffee and Computers" any Friday morning in the Conference Room of the Tustin Area Senior Center. Bring your computer questions.

In the mean-time, keep the neurons happy, the synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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