What a bargain?!?

11th February 2000 at 00:00
I am writing to let you know the situation regarding information and communications technology (ICT) as it currently stands. Still there is no sign of money in real terms. With no disrespect to our head, he has now had a Pentium 2 laptop given to him and I have a 386 (with Windows 3.1 and 8mb memory) which I rebuilt and installed myself from some old 286s in the IT stock cupboard. I use it for word processing and databases. Mr Blunkett has announced that all classroom teachers will be able to get up to a pound;500 cashback if they purchase an approved PC from an approved supplier. How thick does he think we are? Go to http:cft.ngfl.gov.ukusershowsystems.php3 and see for yourself.

The systems there are now out of date and are listed at the prices they were originally set at when they came out last year. The fastest machine listed is the Compaq Deskpro with a Pentium III 550mhz processor with 128 mgs of memory, which sounds OKI but you only get a 15-inch screen, a 20x CD-Rom drive and a 6-gbyte hard drive. There is no mention of the sound or graphics cards and you only get Windows 95.

So I pay out pound;1,170 for an out-of-date system at their original prices on my own Visa account. I then sign a declaration that I am indeed a teacher. I then get written confirmation that I will attend the New Opportunities Fund teacher training. I then sign a commitment that the PC i for my own use in relation to my work. I then wait over a month for reimbursement and pay the interest on my Visa into the bargain!

I built my own home system last year and know what the current prices are for hardware and that nowadays you should be thinking in terms of at least a "midi" tower system with an ATX Motherboard and, if you can afford it, a "Slot A". Currently from computer supplier DABS an exact match to the Compaq would be pound;700.27 so I get a PC for pound;1,170-pound;500=pound;670. And pound;700-670 = pound;30 cheaper than if I had to buy it myself.

I could build myself the above spec with an AMDK63 processor (arguably a better chip), increase the drive to 20gb, buy a printer and scanner, a creative TNT graphics card, 6x DVD Encore drive, SB surround kit 1024 and a 17-inch monitor for pound;1,144.98 including VAT and delivery. Now which would you prefer?

Don't get me wrong, I don't have sour grapes with regard to the head getting a free laptop and I am not naive enough to think all teachers can build their own systems. What I object to is that we are being treated in very general terms as if we are all new users and what worries me is that teachers who are new to PCs will be misled and ripped off at the same time.

In the end the Government get some good publicity, the computer companies get the money and we get the hassle.

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