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Fast Forward: Hardware Reviews [The Washington Post]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Fast Forward / Business section
The Washington Post

Hope has been a regular software / hardware reviewer for Fast Forward in the Business section of The Washington Post. Starting in 1996, she wrote dozens of reviews about newfangled PCs, cell phones, and educational software programs.

November 19, 1999

When I lifted this new eTower from its big turquoise box, it rattled. This wasn’t good. But I attempted to set up the computer anyway. The result was a 90-minute series of misfires, and eventually frustrated phone calls to eMachines’ tech staff (whom I thankfully reached after being on hold for only five minutes at long-distance rates).

Upon their recommendation, I removed screws from the back of the computer, squeezed off the cover and found the source of the clatter: A little black box containing the system’s cooling fan was dangling from two wires. The tech advisor offered to ship me another computer, pronto.

It’s more than a tad unnerving to find the a brand new PC to be DOA, (especially since this is the second eMachines reviewed by Fast Forward with power-supply defects.) The replacement unit, fortunately worked fine and everything was up and running in less than 15 minutes.

EMachines bundles just minimum of software on this model—including Microsoft’s ubiquitous Works program, and the usual Windows freebies. Likewise, the internal hard ware is bare-bones stuff—perfectly adequate for most web use but likely to chose on the first game you try to install.

The innards are easy to get at, but the machine only has slot of for additional memory; so make that purchase of extra memory count. A better upgrade option might be signing up with eMachine’s $19.95-a-month Internet access; after two years, you can upgrade to whatever the company is selling at your computer’s original price for only $99.

Assuming you get a fully assembled model, this eMachine is fast and cheap and offers what a novice computer user needs.

September 24, 1999

Call quality isn’t Sprint’s strong point; voices often sounded bubbly and swishy, in a talking underwater-in-a-pool way. I also often heard my own from the phone, as if I were on one of those bad long-distance. These effects got worse if I called from a moving car.

Coverage s another thing entirely, with the service far surpassing its crummy performance in last year’s review. It never dropped a connection in downtown DC at lunch hour to Reston at brunch hour; I even got a connection at the lakefront beach in the Falls Church neighborhood of Barcroft, where a friend swears that her Bell Atlantic service never works.

Further, the phone switched effortlessly from analog to digital service, took my messages without a glitch and stayed charged for days.

I’ll actually hate to part with this phone. Aside from the mediocre quality, it served me well. Sprint’s new wireless-Web features assuming they work as promised.


More Washington Post / Business Articles

"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.