"Serious" desktop publishing is my term for those people who want to use their computer to best advantage in text and graphic design. "Serious" desktop publishing requires a certain amount of computer horsepower -- gadgets and hardware requirements above and beyond simple word processing.
Let's start with the computer itself. A year ago, computer stores ballyhooed "640K RAM" as being "all the memory you need." Now many stores advertise a full megabyte of memory as a standard feature. If you want to desktop-publish as a professional, you will need more RAM -- at least 2MB, preferably 4MB. Desktop publishing programs hunger for memory, as do graphics.
You should get either a fast 286 computer (12 megahertz or more) or, better yet, a 386sx or 386. This is because speed does make a difference when your pages get loaded with graphics.
The computer should have at least a 40MB hard disk -- larger if you expect to use many fonts or graphics. Fonts and graphics take up a lot of disk space, as do desktop publishing programs. Ultra-serious publishers might get one of the new read/write optical drives (about $5,000) for storing projects and graphics.
You should get a VGA color monitor if you expect to be dealing in colors at all. Otherwise a monochrome monitor is fine.
The basic elements of desktop publishing consist of text and graphics. To create your text, you need a word processing program. (More on this in a future column when I discuss software.) Such software does not typically need any extra hardware. Even so, you might consider getting a modem so you can get text from information services -- online encyclopedias or newspaper data bases, for example -- or from writers with a computer and modem.
You can acquire graphics in several ways. With a combination of draw and paint programs, you can create your own. Clip art -- prescanned images on disk that is copyright free -- is another good way. With a scanner, you can import graphics from a printed page. Scanners read a page in much the same way photocopying machines do, but instead of shooting out a copy on paper, you get a copy on screen and in a file on your hard disk.
Two types of scanners are offered: full-page and hand scanners. Hand scanners are smaller and less expensive than the full-page ones. They also offer convenience in that you can grab small images off pages easily without having to take apart books or magazines.
Full-page scanners are more convenient for big images and necessary for optical character scanning ("OCS," which is yet another way of importing text) and for FAX boards. The Hewlett-Packard Scanjet Plus may be the best full-page scanner. For a hand scanner, try Logitech.
You'll need a laser printer. I favor lasers with a Canon engine, such as Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and more. You'll need at least 1.5MB of memory in your printer to get a full page with graphics at 300 dots per inch. Buy up to 3MB of memory if you plan on using a number of graphics per page. (The more memory, the faster the printer prints graphics.) You may also want to buy a Postscript board for the printer if you need Postscript compatibility.
Last, you will also need a mouse, a roll-around device seen on Macintosh computers and now more and more on PCs. Most desktop publishing programs require a mouse.
So that's hardware: computer, special monitor, modem, scanner, laser printer, mouse. Next, software.