Keeping Up With the High-Speed Net World

An outdated PC gets Cramer thinking about what it's like to be an online producer.
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Have you been on a 486 lately? This weekend, my girls and I went down to see my dad at National Gift Wrap & Box Co. in Philadelphia. Pop hasn't hooked up his new Pentium II machine yet, so we were stuck going on the Net with his $3,000

Gateway

(GTW)

relic to find out more about the

Kennedy

tragedy.

We had to quit after a few minutes of surfing. Very few sites worked, and those that did were so hopelessly slow that I could walk across the street and buy a paper in the time it took for things to fully download.

For people of my father's generation, the notion of tossing a $3,000 investment a few years after its purchase doesn't make sense. Regretfully, however, in the world that is the Net, you have no choice.

Can you imagine the nightmare that faces Net producers like

America Online

(AOL)

? Can you imagine what television companies would be like if they had to make programming for a TV set which changes every six months, making the previous iteration near worthless?

This 486 episode gave me newfound respect for the successful online companies. They are truly engineering masterpieces, attempting to straddle fast-changing technology with good programming. No TV programmer I know could handle such a challenge.

More important, the experience on this antebellum Gateway tells me that a huge replacement market lurks as the online providers develop more exciting products that can utilize the power and speed of the new high-speed processors. We tend to think that it is just modem speed that matters, but my dad's computer reminded me of how important a role

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

plays in this revolution. You don't want just a super-fast modem. You want the fastest processor possible to get the most out of the Net. It all matters and it's a great opportunity for all of the hardware companies.

Random musings:

Speaking of the Web, National Gift has to go on it. My fictional National Gift Wrap.com has turned into a reality because all of my father's competitors are doing pretty good business on the Web. (He is a wholesaler of gift wrap and boxes to merchants who aren't big enough go to the mill directly.) Too many missed sales without the Web for this old war horse of a business. ... Best of luck to

Carly Fiorina

, one of the truly great execs out there. She's a

Margaret Thatcher

type who will make us wonder why a woman hasn't become president of the U.S. yet. Best thing to happen to that company since

Hewlett

and

Packard

got together.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long America Online, Hewlett-Packard and Intel. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

jjcletters@thestreet.com.