Celeron or Pentium II?
Author: Pallav Gupta
Instructor: Lisa Anne Culp
The computer industry is flourishing because of the advent of new, powerful processors. Recently, Intel Corp. released its Pentium II-450 MHz chip: the fastest processor on the planet. But because the chip is overpriced, Intel is also marketing the downgraded version of a PII, the inexpensive Celeron-333 which has a 128K cache compared to the PII’s 512K cache. To potential computer buyers, this situation presents a dilemma because they must decide whether to opt for price (i.e. buy the Celeron) or speed (i.e. buy the PII-450). In an attempt to answer this question, Lincoln Spector of PC World and Christopher Yates of PC Week analyze the two chips in their articles entitled Double Feature and Intel Celeron Cache in With New Power, published in October and August of 1998 respectively. In this paper, a rhetorical and discourse analysis will be performed on the two articles to examine the similar and different strategies used by Spector and Yates in presenting their arguments. The strategies will determine which article is more convincing. Since the articles are present in magazines that pertain to the genre of computer and computer writing, it is first also necessary to analyze the genre.
Comparing and contrasting the magazines can obtain an introduction to the way material is presented and organized. The criteria for the analysis include the types of articles present in the magazines. In addition, analyzing the sources of evidence used to support the claims can provide crucial information to the kinds of appeals (i.e. logos, ethos, or pathos) used by the authors writing in the genre of computer writing. Other similar factors such as article length, ads, and the advertisers can also be examined. But the demographic data of the magazines is of utmost importance because it describes the audience and thus, defines the way authors write for their audience.
PC World and PC Week have a circulation of 1,125,000 and 305,443 respectively. The former is published monthly and the latter is printed weekly. Eighty-eight percent of the audience of PC World is male and the remainder is female, with ages ranging from 25 to 54 years. Thirteen percent of both magazines’ readers are employed by the computer industry, while 59% of PC World’s compared to 13% of PC Week’s readers work in some sort of management (SRDS 445). In addition, Online survey results show that most readers of PC World have a college education with 31.1% holding a bachelors, 15.3% a masters, and 3.9% a doctorate degree. The high educational statistics indicate why the average annual income of the readers is $73,884. Because demographics for PC Week were unavailable, it is hard to make comparisons with PC World’s. But because most of the readers are employed in management and other technical areas, one may assume that the readers of PC Week have a college education. Because the readers are diverse in terms of their employment status, the magazines contain a variety of articles.
In the genre of computer writing, statistics and data are the main source of evidence that is used to support the claims in the articles. Thus, the use of logos is prevalent. Statistics in this paper implies the use of numbers and experimental data. Certified lab results displayed in the form of graphs are used to convince the readers that PC World provides accurate information. In addition, flowcharts and diagrams effectively communicate complex ideas. Numbers such as percentages and price figures are abundant throughout the magazine. On the other hand, PC Week uses statistics in moderation. Unlike PC World, which uses them to explain all its statements, PC Week uses them to emphasize the main points of its articles only. PC Week also quotes many CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations to prove its assertions. Both magazines sometimes include statistics in their ads.
The similarities that exist between the magazines are the ads and pictures, the advertisers, and the article length. About one-third of each magazine is dedicated to ads. The products advertised include software like Adobe PhotoShop and hardware like modems, printers, and network hubs. Specifications, prices, and pictures of these products are featured. For example, a Compaq ad in PC World will print a photo of one of its computer models and say, Model 6300: Intel Pentium II Processor @ 350 MHz, 32 MB SDDRAM…$1719.00 (173). Fancy pictures of motherboards, dialog boxes, and zip drives help capture the audience’s attention and coerce them into reading the articles or the ads. The advertisers of ads that are placed between articles and in the opening pages of the magazines are rich corporate firms like Hewlett Packard, Dell, and IBM. Ads of small companies like TigerDirect Sys., which have smaller revenues, are crammed with other advertisers towards the end of the magazine. Most of the articles in the magazines range from a quarter of a page to a page maximum. However, each issue focuses on three to four main topics. For example, the Y2K (Year 2000) problem can be analyzed in four to five pages. These articles are nicknamed Topics of the Month.
One such topic of the month is the performance analysis of the Celeron chip against the PII-450 chip. The author of Double Feature, Lincoln Spector of PC World, argues that although the PII-450 is a fast chip, it is overpriced. He supports the new Celeron-333 chip, which provides quality performance at an economical price (55). To convince the audience of his viewpoint, Spector makes effective use of organization, tone, his role as a writer, and language in writing his article. Using several ways to present his evidence, Spector maintains the reader’s interest and skillfully persuades him or her to believe the article.
The author presents his evidence by using different methods that appeal to the logical senses of the reader. The first strategy used is comparing and contrasting the two chips. Comparing and contrasting not only provides background information on the chips, but it also helps focus the reader’s attention on the author’s thesis. Spector reports, Celeron…runs like a PII-333 but shows up in systems starting at just $999 (55). He further mentions the Celeron is a price/performance winner, thanks to its built-in secondary cache, a crucial feature that the original Celeron lacked (55). To contrast the PII and the Celeron, Spector says, PII-333’s cache…operates at half the processor’s speed. In contrast, the Celeron’s cache…functions at full processor speed (57). Because of the logic of the argument that the Celeron runs as fast as a PII and is relatively cheaper, the reader is convinced in Spector’s argument that Celeron chips are a better deal.
To strengthen his argument further, Spector makes use of rebuttals to claims that support the PII-450. By using rebuttals as evidence to tarnish the reputation of the PII chip, Spector is successful in reinforcing his point in the reader’s mind. Although he acknowledges that the PII-450 performed 8% faster than…the PII-400, he describes the boost as unnoticeable and insignificant (56) for the $140 to $300 the reader will spend for a PC that’s not much faster on business apps (55). When it comes to games, Spector appears impressed by the PII-450 for it outstripped the fastest PII-400… (56). However, he dismisses this event because the results were due in large part to the impressive Millennium G2000 graphics card that the PII-450 machines used (56). The use of rebuttals allows Spector to brush off the superiority of the PII. Spector provides the final blow with statistics and data.
Abundant statistics and charts are present in the article to help Spector support his thesis. The statistics include percentage values like 8 percent faster and 3 percent variation (56), computer prices such as $2675 Compaq Deskpro and $999 Avanta E333 (57), and other numbers like 99 frames per second and score of 176 (56). In addition to statistics, Spector uses precise, graphical, and well-organized charts that show actual lab results to indicate the performance of the Celeron against the PII. Legends and other information necessary to understand the charts are provided. At a single glance, the reader sees that the Celeron performed as well as a PII-333 with scores of 171 and 172, respectively. However, the PII-450 received an insurmountable score of 198 (56). Upon assessing the scores, the reader might question Spector’s credibility for there is a huge difference. However, an anticipating Spector, uses another chart entitled, What Your Dollar Delivers to show that the Celeron-333 start at low prices of just $999 while the PII-450 begin at prices of $2700 (57). By using test results and statistics, Spector’s credibility skyrockets because he is successful in dispelling any doubts the reader might have about the Celeron.
Although Spector succeeds in logically convincing the reader of his goal, he still needs to develop his credibility. How does the reader know that the information he has provided is valid? By mentioning pitfalls, Spector shows his concern for his reader. He develops a relationship similar to parents advising their children on first-time experiences. He addresses the opposing viewpoints. Although Spector favors the Celeron, he provides the pros and cons of buying either chip. He warns the reader like everything before the PII-350, the Celeron still chugs along a 66-MHz system bus (58). In addition, the reader won’t be able to add upgrade future Pentium chips on a Celeron system. If he or she doesn’t like this limitation, buy a PII-350 or better… (59). If the reader is planning on buying a PII chip, Spector cautions him or her by saying, confirm with the vendor the PII has no potential BIOS problems (59). Spector’s reputation increases immensely when he explains that problems were encountered during the testing of the chips. He states, due to certain conflicts…we were unable to complete…tests for the HP and Compaq machines (56). This helps assure the author’s interest in the reader and vice-versa. It also establishes Spector’s credibility and makes him an expert on the subject.
To help facilitate the reader’s understanding of the author’s argument, Spector logically organizes his article. In doing so, he takes a step-by-step approach to the subject. This holds the reader’s attention and makes it easy for him or her to follow along without getting distracted. He starts off by comparing and contrasting the two chips. Next, he moves on to analyze the PII-450. To deter the attention of the reader from the PII, Spector uses a catchy subtitle Big Bargain. Using a tantalizing introductory sentence, he focuses the reader’s attention on the Celeron: But maybe you don’t need an expensive computer at all. With Intel’s new improved Celeron chip… (56). The core of his argument rests in the following paragraphs where he advocates the Celeron. He concludes his article by promoting the best Celeron system deals. Yet, he also shows how the situation would be should the reader chose to buy a PII system.
Spector leaves it for the reader to decide which chip he or she should buy. Spector plays the role of an investigative expert. Like a reporter, his tone is informative and mainly neutral. Since he doesn’t appeal to the reader’s emotions, he doesn’t use any pathos to convince them. Without the use of pathos, Spector is able to distance himself from the topic and does a good job maintaining neutrality. He isn’t biased against a chip. Though he favors the Celeron chip, based on the factors of price and performance, he is unperturbed by the prospect of his reader buying a PII. He is even courageous to say that, if you want every bit of performance currently available, a PII-450…may be worth the expense (59). But he reiterates that the Celeron systems strike a smart balance between low price and fast performance…A good PC value is much more satisfying (59). Spector’s neutrality gains him respect from the reader because it allows the reader to contemplate the evidence presented by Spector and come to his or her own conclusions. The language used by Spector in presenting his evidence makes the task of decision-making easier.
The language used by the author is relatively simple. There is some computer terminology like secondary level cache, bus speed, and graphics port accelerator that the reader may not understand (56). Moreover, there are many products like Microsoft DirectX or STB Velocity 128zx that may be unknown (56). Based on the context clues provided, Spector assumes that the reader will be able to understand their meanings. The sentences are short and precise. They allow Spector to move quickly from point to point without getting bogged down. Vocabulary is relatively simple with the toughest words being tempo and outstripped (56). A high school student should have no problem in reading the article. Words like Celeron and PII are repeated several times to help the author differentiate between the two chips. Simple language enables Spector to write an effective article. An article in PC Week also addresses the same topic.
Christopher Yates, the author of Intel Celeron Cache in With New Power, argues that both the Celeron and the PII-450 produce excellent performance results. Like Spector, Yates tries to make effective use of organization, tone, his role as a writer and language in writing his article. However, some of these factors work against Yates preventing him from writing an effective article.
Yates makes a similar argument to Spector’s, but fails to provide an in-depth analysis of the two chips or give advice as to which chip the reader should buy. However, Yates praises both of the chips immensely saying that the largest performance improvement comes from Intel’s revved-up Celeron…and Intel has also turned up the heat on its PII, now available at 450 MHz (35). Unlike Spector, who uses various strategies to present evidence for his argument, Yates is not very creative.
Like Spector, Yates uses logos as his primary means to convince the reader of his argument. However, Yates’s only form of evidence comes from the few statistics and a single chart that support his claim. The chart presents lab results of tests conducted on the chips. Additional information necessary to understand the visual aid is available. As with Spector’s article, the use of statistics helps Yates gain some credibility from his reader. He says, the L2-equipped Celeron was…33 percent faster than the non L2-equipped Celeron (35) while the PII-450 performed as high as 20% over the PII-400 (35). In addition to using percentages, Yates also uses computer prices like $1,349 for the 3000 GL Celeron equipped and $2,400 for the Deskpro EN PII-450 equipped to show that the Celeron is cheaper than a PII. Backing up his argument with the use of statistics helps Yates to gain some credibility for a moment.
As the article proceeds, Yates begins to lose his credibility. After a couple of paragraphs, he gets sidetracked. Yates dedicates two whole paragraphs differentiating between the two kinds of Celeron. He says, all non-cache versions of Celeron are…while the Celeron processor with 128KB L2 cache will all be… (35). Although one might see this as background information necessary to get acquainted to the subject, many readers (like I) will get annoyed because it doesn’t pertain to Yates’s argument. It shows that Yates has little knowledge on the subject. Yates gets back on track but deviates again in his conclusion. This time Yates talks about the expansion (upgrade) capabilities of the computers that he mentions in his article. He says, expansion in all three devices is more than adequate with at least two PCI slots and two ISA slots… (41). His conclusion coupled with unwise organization leaves the reader without a clue of the author’s main point.
Yates organizes his article into parts to help divide the contents of his subject. Like Spector, he tries to use a step-by-step approach so that he can move efficiently. Although organization plays an effective role in helping focus the reader’s attention on a particular subtopic like distinguishing between the two kinds of Celeron, it doesn’t provide the overall coherence. Yates first introduces the Celeron and the PII. In the next section, he contrasts the two types of Celerons, which is irrelevant and in doing so, initiates the first point of alienation. He then proceeds to analyze three models of computers equipped with the Celeron and the PII chips. In the end, he talks about the expansion capabilities of the computers. Yates, unlike Spector, ends up talking about too many things at the same time without being able to interconnect them. But although his article has many faults, Yates is successful in maintaining a neutral tone.
Yates’s article is informative. The role played by Yates is that of a news reporter. His article begins with a typical, dull, straightforward statement one would find in a newspaper: Two new processors form Intel Corp. boost performance on PCs from IBM and Compaq Computer Corp. to new heights (35). The article provides a lot of sometimes-irrelevant information and doesn’t portray any feelings. Thus, Yates, like Spector, doesn’t use pathos in his article. He doesn’t develop a close relationship with the reader because he doesn’t provide any advice on the chips. A feeling of separation occurs in the reader’s mind because he or she feels that Yates is just throwing out facts without showing any concern for his audience. This has a dramatic impact because the reader is always alienated from the subject and never gains full interest. This is also due to the complex language Yates uses.
Yates assumes that the reader is familiar with basic computer terminology like L2-equipped, expansion, and non-cache chip (40). Unlike Spector, he takes time to define some of these words. Unfortunately, the strategy works against him because Yates wastes too much time on explaining, which distracts the reader. Like Spector, Yates also uses short sentences to keep the article flowing at a fast pace. However, the vocabulary level is much more complex. Many words like miniscule, disparity, and nomenclature which may not be part of the reader’s vocabulary are present (35). Yates provides plenty of context clues for experienced readers to decipher the meaning of the word. For example, by looking at the miniscule savings just aren’t worth the performance hit, the reader should be able to figure out the meaning of miniscule. Yates also uses many abbreviations like Corp., PCI, and ISA to save paper space. He assumes that the reader is familiar with them. Finally, he repeats the words Celeron and PII throughout the article to help differentiate between the chip that is being discussed. Overall, Yates doesn’t do a good job in presenting his argument.
Between the two articles, Lincoln Spector’s Double Feature was more effective. The use of various sources of evidence, a neutral tone, logical organization, and simple language helps the reader easily understand Spector’s topic. Although Yates’s article shares some of these characteristics, Spector does a better job than Yates in analyzing and giving advice on the two chips. After reading the articles, I am convinced of Spector’s credibility. Upon seeing the way Yates writes, I think that he has little knowledgeable on the subject. Thus, inexperienced computer buyers interested in gaining insight on the Celeron and the PII should read Double Feature. Reading this article will help prepare them better to face the challenge of buying the right computer.