To me, the prospect of learning about the inner workings of a computer conjures up images of watching sausage being made. Ummmm, maybe not.

All I want to know about a computer is how to turn it on and put the mouse in motion. I realize this attitude is not correct with the "don't-you-know-we-are-entering-a-new-millennium" crowd. In these designer times, many feel it is most important to be able to speak intelligently about goat cheese and mother boards.But, pedestrian soul that I am, all I can muster is a passing interest in food and technology trends. Provolone works fine for me, and so does a computer that allows me to word process, home account, e-mail and Internet.

So when I looked to buy a new computer, I started making a list of what I use a computer for - simple fare though it may be. Knowing what I need would help me choose among the dim sum-like assortment of Y2K ("Hey, don't-you-know-we-are-entering-the-year2000[Y2K]") techno-options with which I would be bombarded in computer stores.

Before I entered a store, I needed to know what type of computer I should buy to give my investment the longest shelf life possible. Even in my state of technological malaise, I am aware that the right type of modem, sound card, etc., makes a huge difference in the computer's ability to blend appetizingly with tomorrow's technology.

I also began my search knowing that computers, like food stuffs, go bad in time. No matter how fancy the vinegar, it still can go sour - even in "the new millennium." There is that fine line between buying imported balsamic just because and buying it because it blends better. You know what I mean. Therefore, I decided what my price range would be, remembering that buying too little would be as useless as buying too much.

My current computer, bought in my salad days when I was even more technologically ignorant, had turned rancid. Really. Working on a putrescent, moss-colored screen had been a primary motivation for buying a new computer system. It is true that obsolescence and computers go together like endive and romaine, still, buy enough computer, or all that lettuce you let leave your wallet will be poorly invested.

So counseled the computer chef from whom I sought guidance. I suggest that before you buy your new computer, you get a similar shopping list that will meet your needs. His essential ingredients:

- 3 GB hard drive (minimum).

- 56K modem.

- Pentium 200 MHz.

- MMX (multimedia capacity) and 512K pipeline cache (at least).

- Upgrade-able speakers (pre-installed speakers are often lower quality; you may want to upgrade for better sound).

- Video card - 2 mb RAM (at least), upgrade-able to video accelerator, 3D capabilities, 1024 X 768 resolution (at least). Note: The resolution must be the same as the monitor's.

- 3-4 PCI expansion slots.

- 1 ISA slot (at least).

- 17" monitor - 0.28 dot pitch monitor, 1024 x 768 resolution.

I added:

- Pre-loaded software with capability to make or acquire back-up copies. (If my software dis-ap-pears in some Y2K food weirdness, how can I reinstall it?)

- On-site warranty and local service.

Chilean grapes I might buy, but hardware from lands afar, I won't buy. I have discovered that good help on the phone is very hard to come by and returns of broken hardware are expensive in down time and mailing costs. If you don't already know how to succeed with souffles or software, a mail-order class in either won't perfect your skills, as I see it. Computer owners like me are better off buying hardware and software locally where we can get help in the moment of need (or knead).

Besides that, as new technologies, like new foods, waft through the consumer marketplace, it is helpful to have a local vendor who can tell you if the latest and tastiest will work well on your equipment now and in "the new millennium."