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I remember may first computer a PS/1 IBM Personal computer. It was 20mhz, 4mb of ram, and I remember correctly a 100mb hard drive which ran Windows 3.1, it was a great little computer and began my interest in computer and programming. My first game that I bought was Sim City 2000 and it cost a $100, which was a lot bought it from EggHead when they still had retail stores.
Computer Hardware prices have been falling every year, which is great for us, faster computers, smaller gadgets.
The other day I saw a 500 gigabyte hard disk for sale for only $200
Choosing the right computer to Buy
The first thing you need to do is make a list of what you want the computer to do. Are you going to be using it for the internet? Word Processing? Digital Photos? High Tech Games?
It used to be cheaper to build your own PC but now I believe you are better off getting a computer from a local store just don't buy any of the warranties and if something does happen to your computer do not throw it out. Yes, I have heard of people throwing out their computer just because it did not work.
My current computer it works fine for me.
Windows XP Pro
768mb of ram
Two hard disks one 20gig hard disk for the operating system the other 60 gigs for files. This would be ideal situation if your operating system gets messed up, your files are still safe.
Cost I believe was around $400 with monitor a couple years ago.
The only thing I added since then was a GeForceFX so I could play some of the newer games.
Windows XP Home (Only get Windows XP Pro if you are software / or web developer)
2.0 ghz or greater (Only really need the speed if you are big into gaming or data intensive applications) There are tons of processor choices right now AMD or Intel then 64 bit AMD processors which I would avoid until 64bit Windows XP is released, then there is Intel processors with HyperThreading, and the new Intel D processors (Dual Core)
512mb of ram (If you are big into gaming or working with huge datasets 1 gig or higher of ram I suggest)
DVD-RW - lets you watch and record dvd movies.
Get a flat panel monitor either a 15 inch or 17 inch the prices have been coming down.
That's pretty much the basic information you need to know when buying a computer