If you measure productivity in gigahertz, the computer industry indeed is delivering more for less. Today you can buy a computer with a 1.6-gigahertz (GHz) Pentium 4 processor, a 17-in. monitor, a 40-gigabyte (gB) hard drive, a rewritable CD drive and lots of other goodies for about $1,350. A year ago a similar package (but with a slower Pentium III 1-GHz processor) sold for about $1,800.

A consumer on a budget can purchase a mid-range, 1.2-GHz Celeron processor with a 20-gB hard drive and a 15-in. monitor for less than $600 today, several hundred dollars less than a year ago.

Laptop prices have fallen at least as much.

If you are not in the market for a new computer, upgrading a current system with a new printer or a recordable, rewriteable CD drive, a scanner, or other peripheral is cheaper than ever, too. Each can be had for $150 — in some cases, considerably less.

Computer memory is a good value as well. A 128-megabyte (mB) random access memory (RAM) module that sold for $50 a year ago (and $170 in mid-1999) is now going for about $40. So if your machine could use some extra oomph, adding memory is a budget-conscious bet.

As in agriculture, the computer industry isn't just about price. It's also about continuous innovation. Take a look at a few of the most innovative products and newest trends in the computer and electronics market, beginning on the next page.