Made To Order

Custom-built computers, e-mail they'll want to read.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the January 1998 issue of . Subscribe »

When Ron Frank, owner of RDF Co. Inc., an aircraft sales and appraisal company in Carrollton, Georgia, decided to buy a computer, he had three criteria. "I wanted to maximize memory for my large database of aircraft information and get a faster modem to search online sites for additional information," he says. "And I didn't need the software that usually comes preloaded on computers."

Frank met with Christopher Thompson, president of Thompson Technical Systems Inc. (TTS), also in Carrollton, to discuss these needs. Thompson designed a computer that met Frank's desire for increased memory and speedy Internet access--and stayed within Frank's budget.

If you have special hardware needs, buying a custom-built personal computer may be for you. Buying only what you need can save you money, and you can choose the brands of components you want and put them all together in one machine. Because you're not using proprietary parts, when you get ready to upgrade, you can do so easily because you're not limited to the few parts that may be available from a particular manufacturer. "With a custom-built computer, you're not limited," says Thompson. "You don't have to buy a whole new one."

When designing your computer, consider your requirements for each hardware component. Do you need a large monitor to do design work? Do you need a CD-ROM drive to access a large clip-art collection or industry-specific reference materials? Do you need a modem for e-mail and to get online? Do you want to be able to send faxes from your computer? Do you need large amounts of memory?

You may need expert help to make your final decision. Check the Yellow Pages and ask around; Frank found TTS through his accountant.

Thompson says it takes several days to build a custom computer. Most computer designers offer service plans and ongoing support for both hardware and software problems, and the components should be covered by manufacturers' warranties.

Donna Chambers is a freelance business writer and small-business owner. She can be reached at

Read Me

How can you make your e-mail stand out from the crowd when the recipient scans his or her list of incoming mail? Put your subject line to work. Here's how:

  • "One of the ways I try to capture the reader's attention is by making the subject line state the gist of the message," says Nell Barnard of Virginia Geotechnical Services PC in Richmond, Virginia. "Hopefully, this makes them want to read it."
  • Frank Fox, executive director of the Professional Association of Resume Writers in St. Petersburg, Florida, suggests including the recipient's name on the subject line. For instance: "John: Request for Proposal."
  • "Many e-mail programs have a priority switch the sender can turn on," says Donna Caissie, office manager at UltraNet Communications, an Internet service provider in Marlboro, Massachusetts. "The e-mail program I like is Eudora Lite, and its priority switch lets me prioritize my messages as `highest,' `high,' `normal,' `low' and `lowest.' " She suggests using this switch to let your recipient know whether your e-mail should be opened immediately or could be put aside for a more convenient time.

It's All In The Wrist

The increased use of personal computers has resulted in another increase: repetitive stress injuries--especially carpal tunnel syndrome--from excessive typing. Manufacturers have responded to this problem by developing ergonomic keyboards. These split keyboards are designed to keep your hands aligned with your arms rather than allowing them to turn inward, as may happen with a conventional keyboard.

Until recently, ergonomic keyboards were fairly expensive, but their popularity has resulted in more affordable models. One you may want to try is ErgoComfort from DataDoc Electronics Inc., an electronics manufacturer in Austin, Texas. In addition to the split keyboard, ErgoComfort has an oversized palm rest, an adjustable slant, separate number and cursor pads and an oversized "enter" key. Priced at close to $100, this keyboard can be an affordable cure for repetitive stress injuries.

Contact Sources

Data-Doc Electronics Inc., P.O. Box 203730, Austin, TX 78720-3730,

Professional Association of Resume Writers, (813) 821-2274, fax: (813) 894-1277,

RDF Co. Inc., 121 Dunwoody Dr., Carrollton, GA 30117, (770) 832-8263, fax: (770) 832-1756,

Thompson Technical Systems Inc., (770) 830-8756,

UltraNet Communications, 313 Boston Post Rd., West Marlboro, MA 01752, (508) 229-8400, fax: (508) 229-2375,,

Virginia Geotechnical Services, 8211 Hermitage Rd., Richmond, VA 23228-3031, ,


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