Rating Today's Computer Makers

TheStreet.com

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- My graduating class at Georgia Tech was the last of the slide rule era, as the class of 1966 did not have any class work that involved the use of a computer. As soon as I joined Grumman Aerospace after graduation I knew that computers would be important throughout my business career.

While at Grumman I attended the Farmingdale campus of Brooklyn Poly to get my masters degree including learning programming and the use of computers. I taught myself Fortran which is considered the Latin of programming languages in today's world.

The first computers I used were the IBM 1030 and the mainframe IBM 360. I was fortunate that both Grumman and Brooklyn Poly had IBM 360s and both granted me computer time to hone my skills. As a Grummanite for five years, I worked on projects related to the Lunar Module and my scheduling computer program written in Fortran was used in the preparation for the contract that awarded Grumman the F14 Tomcat fighter program. The Lunar Module put man on the moon in 1969. The deployment of the F-14 began in 1974, and this fighter plane was used into September 2006.

My first job as a Wall Street bond trader was in 1972, and the back office functions of that primary dealer were performed on an IBM 1030 and was written in Fortran. I made a simple change in the software that eliminated the overtime that was used in month-end processing.

It took many years before computers took over the trading desks, but in 1984 I began to develop my proprietary analytics on an Apple 2E. I also used this PC to learn how to type, which came in handy as I transformed my career from trading to research.

At the end of 1988 I formed Global Market Consultant and converted a bedroom at home to my office and computer center. The graphics package I used ran on a Sun Sparc workstation. My word documents and spreadsheets were run on two Compaq PCs.

Over the years the graphs package migrated to PCs and to laptops, which are my platforms of choice today.

My first laptops were IBM Think Pads, and today this platform is now owned by Lenovo. I still use the laptop I purchased in 2007, which still runs using Microsoft's Window XP.

As I profile seven computer-related stocks I will describe my personal experiences with products from each company.

Reading the Table

OV/UN Valued: Stocks with a red number are undervalued by this percentage. Those with a black number are overvalued by that percentage according to ValuEngine.

VE Rating: A "1-engine" rating is a strong sell, a "2-engine" rating is a sell, a "3-engine" rating is a hold, a "4-engine" rating is a buy and a "5-engine" rating is a strong buy.

Last 12-Month Return (%): Stocks with a red number declined by that percentage over the last 12 months. Stocks with a black number increased by that percentage.

Forecast 1-Year Return: Stocks with a red number are projected to decline by that percentage over the next 12 months. Stocks with a black number in the table are projected to move higher by that percentage over the next 12 months.

Value Level: Price at which to enter a GTC limit order to buy on weakness. The letters mean; W-weekly, M-monthly, Q-quarterly, S-semiannual and A-annual.

Pivot: A level between a value level and risky level that should be a magnet during the time frame noted.

Risky Level: Price at which to enter a GTC limit order to sell on strength.

Apple ($415.05) traded as low as $385.10 on April 19, and dipped below $400 again on June 28 to $388.87. My weekly value level is $401.45 with my annual pivot at $421.05 and annual risky level at $510.64. I haven't bought an iPad, iPod or iPhone, or any other Apple product since the Apple 2E.

Dell ($13.44) has been trading back and forth around $13.00 as the potential deals to take the company private continue to take shape. On Monday, Michael Dell's $24 billion LBO was endorsed by ISS.

Three years ago I bought my first Dell desktop computer and it's been three years of grief. About a month after setup and installing all my software and files the computer kept crashing. They wanted to send me a new hard drive and install it myself. Finally they sent me a new computer. After another month or so I tried to print graphs and the keyboard was faulty as that function would not work. Dell had to send me a new keyboard. Then two months ago my computer crashed again. Dell support sent me a new operating system to install. This did not work so they told me that I needed new hard drives. I fired them and went to a local PC expert and with fingers crossed I am back up and running. My son had a similar experience with a Dell laptop. I say avoid Dell products and I hope they go private so I do not have to track the stock anymore.

Hewlett Packard ($25.17) set its 2013 high at $25.87 on June 19 and again on July 8. My semiannual value level is $24.24 with a monthly risky level at $26.67. Remember when HP was considering getting out of the PC business? My son is glad they didn't as he endorses his new H-P laptop. We recently found an old Packard PC in our storage garage, vintage mid-1990s. My son set it up over the weekend and it still worked. He was able to extract all of the files he wanted.

IBM ($194.98) set its 2013 low at $187.68 on April 22 and on June 28 there was a secondary low at $188.41. My annual value level is $171.70 with a weekly pivot at $197.12 and monthly risky level at $203.60. I owned and liked three Think Pads over the years and was upset when that line was sold to Lenovo.

Intel ($23.18) set its 2013 high at $25.98 on June 4 and traded down to $23.03 on Monday on a Wall Street downgrade. Weakness in the stock price resulted in an upgrade to buy from hold at www.ValuEngine.com. My monthly value level is $22.95 with a weekly pivot at $24.01 and quarterly risky level at $25.38. I like Intel as most of my PCs and Laptops had 'Intel Inside.'

Lenovo ($17.93) set its 2013 low at $16.55 on April 18, then traded up to $20.96 on June 4 and that established a trading range for this stock. My weekly pivot is $19.83 with a semiannual risky level at $21.84. The Lenovo laptop I bought in 2007 still works, but I have a Toshiba as a backup. I like my Windows X/P and prefer it over Windows 7 so I am trying to keep my Lenovo operating for as long as possible.

Microsoft ($34.33) set its 2013 high at $35.78 on June 7 then traded down to $32.57 on June 24. My monthly value level is $32.41 with a semiannual pivot at $33.95 and a semiannual risky level at $35.89. I use a service called AOL Tech Guru and they diagnose and fix computer issues by taking over your PC or laptop. With regards to my Dell Desktop they blamed Windows 7 for my latest crash saying that there's a bug when the computer goes into sleep mode. Now my backup Toshiba has a bug thought to be a virus that prevents receiving Windows 7 updates. My plea to Microsoft is to please continue to support Windows X/P.

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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