Even though PCs have been around for more than a decade and prices have plummeted while technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, not everyone can afford to lay out large wads of cash in one go for the latest high-tech gadgetry, especially the latest range of multimedia desktop computers. This is not a phenomenon unique to the computer industry, which is why, for example, a large number of video and television sales agents offer people hire purchase terms. However, few computer companies do so for their customers. But all is not lost for people who need to buy a computer but cannot afford to pay for it all at once. At last, more and more computer dealers are offering customers 'value-added purchases'. Companies like Hitachi Credit and Thorn EMI offer hire purchase and rental schemes to help these individuals make the first purchase of a computer - a godsend for many would-be computer users. Hitachi Credit, for example, offers hire purchase terms through dealers such as JOS Mart and Computer 88, spokesman K S Yeung said. Mr Yeung said the hire purchase scheme was very popular in Hong Kong as most customers used this method to buy their first computer. Hitachi accepts orders of only $15,000 and above, mainly for home users. The customer places an order at any of the company's dealers and pays the necessary deposit. He or she will receive the goods between three and six days. The hire purchase scheme is becoming very popular in Hong Kong as more and larger dealers allow this method of sales and as more potential home users find it difficult to pay up front for expensive equipment. Hitachi sells a number of reputed brandname systems in Hong Kong, including Acer, AST, Compaq, Packard-Bell and Hewlett-Packard. It is, however, not the only company that offers this scheme. Thorn EMI also offers hire purchase and rental services to its customers. While PC buyers may like the type of hire purchase schemes offered by the likes of Hitachi and Thorn EMI, PC rental schemes are not as popular, according to Thorn EMI spokesman Samuel Chan. 'The rental service Thorn EMI offers is for second hand computers, so this is not as popular among customers,' Mr Chan said. 'Since new models of machines come out nearly every month, they prefer to purchase a new computer.' The rental scheme the company offers is for Packard-Bell and Compaq computers. A customer has to pay a two-month deposit and either $750 or $600 per month, depending on the computer, for 18 months, after which the computer being rented belongs to the customer. Thorn EMI's hire purchase scheme is more standard, requiring a deposit up front and the designated payments to be made on a monthly basis. For security purposes, the company requires the customer to give a form of identification and a personal reference. Thorn EMI delivers goods within three working days. Computer user Thomas Cheung, who bought his first computer from a JOS Mart outlet using the hire purchase scheme they offered, was 'very happy' with what he got. 'Since this was my first purchase of a computer, I looked around in all the computer malls in Hong Kong, but the deals I was offered were not reasonable,' Mr Cheung said. 'Then I visited a JOS outlet and they told me about the hire purchase scheme and I took the offer as it fitted my budget perfectly.'