If you already have a computer, and your appetite's whetted by multimedia software, you could upgrade your machine (see below). You need to bring your machine up to approach today's model. You could add and swap bits on your computer until you're left with just the original wall plug.
But you can get away with a lesser machine though Steve Bonnick from Apple dealers Chromasonic explains a problem: "All CD-Rom drives are pretty slow anyway but when you use them with a very old machine, the speed of the computer itself seriously slows everything down. Video clips are the main casualty - they run like a machine gun, very jerkily."
As a rough and ready guide, if you bought a new and current computer this year, you should be able to add memory, sound capability and a CD-Rom drive and gain a bearable result. So if you have a Macintosh LCIII or a 486 PC you are probably OK to go ahead. But if you have a Macintosh LCII or a 386 PC it would be wise to have a test run with a borrowed external drive. An Acorn Archimedes of the same vintage is more likely to cope, though the lack of software is a bigger problem.
Bob Hart of education consultancy Imagination Technology puts it down to a simple costing exercise, "Look at what you want it to do, what the costs are and compare that with throwing it away and starting again." Yes, the computing business is a black and not very green comedy. Along comes multimedia software demanding more powerful computers and then it's oops, there goes the ozone layer.