it used to be fashionable to re-fer to OSAP student loans as the Ontario Stereo Assistance Plan.Students moving out of home for the first time would get some much-needed tuition assistance, make a few rash calculations about how much was actually needed for school and then blow the rest on a massive, dorm-shaking stereo system. No longer.
These days, the loan-busting purchase of choice, if you actually have any money left over, is a computer with a CD burner attachment. Despite hysterical music industry announcements about creating burn-resistant CDs that will self-destruct rather than be copied freely, trading discs between pals is more popular than ever.
With many residences offering free high-speed Internet access, it's no surprise that universities and colleges routinely had the highest uses of Napster. A computer, a decent pair of speakers and a stack of CD-Rs is all you need to suitably distract yourself from your schoolwork with top tunes.
The real problem is finding the gear cheap. Luckily, Toronto is overflowing with discount computer stores, second-hand shops and cool places to get digital goodies for less. Never have the words "refurbished technology" sounded so appealing.
Two of the best sources for used computers, scanners, monitors and just about everything else you could attach to your machine are CP Used and PC Used (488 Dupont, 416-533-2001). CP Used deals with Mac technology, PC Used handles the PC side of things.
Tiny Mac shop Carbon Computing (673 Dupont, suite 304, 416-535-1999) sells mostly new machines, but they often also deal in refurbished scanners, printers and CD burners, sold with a manufacturer's warranty at a fraction of the new price. Check their Web site at www.carbonation.com for what's in stock.
The same goes for Clickon Mac Solutions (400 Eastern, 416-778-6848), a cool shop that will repair your dying machine or sell you a used one for cheap. www.clickonmacs.com.
Many of the best deals in discount PCs can be found in a strip of computer shops on College between Spadina and Augusta.
The signs outside clearance outlets like Factory Direct Computer Outlet (290 Spadina, 416-962-7788) and A-Plus Software (280 Spadina, 416-324-9876) routinely advertise seemingly impossible deals -- CD burners for $50! -- and are packed with shelves of machines at bargain basement prices.
You often have to put your own bundle together, but the cash you save makes it worthwhile.