Picture quality poses a problem on old IBM compatible computer

I HAVE been using an IBM compatible clone for about 18 months now and I have just bought a SoundBlaster compact disc read-only memory (CD-ROM) kit to go with it.

Everything was set up for me and I can run applications from my CD-ROM without any trouble, with the exception of video programs. For some reason, the quality of video that my super VGA monitor displays is very choppy and grainy and I can barely see anything on it. I have eight megabytes (MB) of random access memory (RAM) on my computer.

I do not think I have a problem with my monitor because I have no trouble displaying still images on it - such as GIF files. Can you offer any advice on this score? By the way, I still use the old 120-MB hard disk drive that came with the machine (I have compressed it with Stacker). However, I desperately want to get a new hard disk.

What size would you suggest considering I want to switch to OS/2 Warp and use some high-end graphics programs in the very near future? And how much should I expect to pay for a new hard disk? DILAN MANOHARAN Tsim Sha Tsui I suspect your video problems are caused by the lack of video RAM in your system. Check your system for VRAM, or take it to the shop at which you had your CD-ROM system installed and have them check it for you. With any luck, if you do not have VRAM on board, your system's video card will have space for VRAM chips. You can have these installed without any trouble. Many new PC systems sold on the market come with two MB of VRAM on-board, and this amount of VRAM should be fine for you. If your video card does not have space for video RAM, you will have to get a new card. Once again, the shop should have no problems installing one for you.

Hard disks have dropped dramatically in price in the past year. You can buy a one-gigabyte Quantum SCSI (small computer systems interface) hard disk for about $4,500 today, and IDE drives are a bit cheaper.

A 540-MB Quantum SCSI drive is about $2,000, and if you have been surviving on 120-MB (even increased by compression), a 540-MB disk will be sheer heaven for you. For a while, anyway.

No matter how much hard disk space you have, you will eventually run out - if the rate with which application sizes are increasing continues.

If you plan to invest in a hard disk right away and want to keep using your computer for a while, I would suggest you go for a one-gigabyte (GB) drive right away and live happily for a while.

By the way, if you are serious about switching to OS/2 Warp soon, I would strongly recommend getting yourself more RAM. Although Warp is supposed to run on a system with four MB of RAM, we at Technology Post have found it to be slow even on a system with eight MB. Get yourself four or eight more MB, depending on the 'high-end graphic programs' you want to start using soon.

ON Page 6 of last week's Technology Post, in an article titled 'IBM unit ready for sales assault', there was mention of software that switches a computer on to receive incoming faxes and off again after reception is complete. I would like to know the name of the software and the dealer/distributor from whom I can obtain it.

P. B. RAO Taikoo Shing The program is called Wake-Up On Ring and comes bundled with IBM's Aptiva family of PCs aimed at the home market. For more information about the application, call IBM on 825-0027.

I HAVE long been a fan of keyboard templates because of the speed increase in my work when I use them. I first started using them with WordPerfect 5.1 and have since used templates with programs such as Harvard Graphics and Windows itself. However, I am running out of space on my keyboard - and desk - for these templates. There must be a gadget of some sort out there that can act as a template FiloFax of sorts. Do you know of anything. ALFRED WONG Kowloon Bay If you are really lucky, you will be able to find a Rota-Temp (or something similar) in one of Hong Kong's computer plazas (Shamshuipo would be a good bet to begin with). This gadget is a template organiser and attaches to the top of your keyboard. Your templates go on it and can be flipped over.

If you are unlucky, you will have to order a Rota-Temp from its makers, Sarasota Technologies of Florida. The gadget costs US$24.95. Fax Sarasota at (813) 923-0951 for more information.

Sarasota also sells templates for more than 25 programs, including WordPerfect, Harvard Graphics and Windows.

E-mail Larry Campbell at larry via the Internet.