Saturday, April 5, 2008

A personal computer (PC) is a computer whose price, size, and capabilities make it useful for individuals.
We may never know who coined the phrase with the intent of a small affordable computing device but John W. Mauchly described such a device in a November 3, 1962 New York Times article entitled "Pocket Computer may replace Shopping List". Six years later a manufacturer took a risk at referring to their product this way when Hewlett Packard advertised their "Powerful Computing Genie" as "The New Hewlett Packard 9100A personal computer"
Personal computers can be categorized by size and portability:
In their early years personal computer was interchangeable with Microcomputers and home computers. Often, the term "personal computer" is used exclusively for computers running a Microsoft Windows operating system, but this is erroneous. For example, a Macintosh running Mac OS and an IBM PC compatible running Linux are both personal computers. This confusion stems from the fact that the term "PC" is often used as a shorthand form for "IBM PC compatible" and historically Mac OS has run on non-IBM compatible hardware like the PowerPC architecture. Newer personal computing devices have had their OS wars with WindowsCE struggling with PalmOS in the PDA markets and now the cell phone devices have gotten powerful enough to start a whole new struggle to define the personal computer, it's operating system and how we use it in our daily lives.
Desktop computers
Laptop or notebooks
Personal digital assistants (PDAs)
Portable computers
Tablet computers
Wearable computers
Cell Phones Mainframes and large minicomputers
One early use of the term "personal computer" appeared in a November 3, 1962, New York Times article reporting John W. Mauchly's vision of future computing as detailed at a recent meeting of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers. Mauchly stated, "There is no reason to suppose the average boy or girl cannot be master of a personal computer.

Computers at home
It was the launch of the VisiCalc spreadsheet, initially for the Apple II (and later for the Atari 8-bit family, Commodore PET, and IBM PC) that turned the microcomputer into a business tool. In fact, An Apple employee discovered in 1980 that IBM's San Jose research lab had purchased several Apple IIs, solely to run VisiCalc.
This was followed by the August 12, 1981 release of the IBM PC, which would revolutionize the computer market. The Lotus 1-2-3, a combined spreadsheet (inspired by VisiCalc), presentation graphics, and simple database application, would become the PC's own killer application. Good word processor programs would also appear for many home computers, in particular the introduction of Microsoft Word for the Apple Macintosh in 1985 (while earlier versions of Word had been created for the PC, it became popular initially through the Macintosh).
In the January 3, 1983 issue of Time magazine, the personal computer was named the "Person of the Year" for 1982.

Back to business
During the 1990s, the power of personal computers increased radically, blurring the formerly sharp distinction between personal computers and multi-user computers, such as mainframes. Today higher-end computers often distinguish themselves from personal computers by greater reliability or greater ability to multitask, rather than by brute CPU ability alone.
In today's common usage, personal computer and PC usually indicate an IBM PC compatible. Due to this association, some manufacturers of personal computers that are not IBM PCs avoid explicitly using the terms to describe their products.
Due to networks, the Internet and such factors as digital rights management, modern personal computers are no longer the exclusive tools of their users. Support of desktop computers in business now requires as much bureaucracy and professional training as did operating a time-sharing system, with the drawback of much lower security and many users skilled enough to get into trouble but not skilled enough to get out.
Modern computers are thousands of times more powerful than those of only twenty years ago. Multi-core processors, a gigabyte of RAM and hard drives of several hundred gigabytes have become the norm. These numbers eclipse even supercomputers from past decades.

Personal computers are normally operated by one user at a time to perform such general purpose tasks as word processing, Internet browsing, Internet faxing, e-mail and other digital messaging, multimedia playback, computer game play, computer programming, etc. The user of a modern personal computer may have significant knowledge of the operating environment and application programs, but is not necessarily interested in programming nor even able to write programs for the computer. Therefore, most software written primarily for personal computers tends to be designed with simplicity of use, or "user-friendliness" in mind. However, the software industry continuously provide a wide range of new products for use in personal computers, targeted at both the expert and the non-expert user.

This section describes the typical personal computer called a desktop computer because one can easily look inside the case. The other types of personal coputers have the same basic setup, but usually lack the peripherals.

CPU (Microprocessor)
Primary storage (RAM)
Expansion cards
Power supply
Optical disc drive
Secondary storage (Hard disk)
Mouse Configuration

Main article: Computer hardware Computer components

Main article: Motherboard Motherboard

Main article: Central processing unit Central processing unit

Main article: Primary storage Main memory

Main article: Hard diskPersonal computer Mass storage

Main article: Video card Video card

Main article: Laptop Laptop computers

List of other non-IBM-PC-compatible business PCs
This is a list of non IBM PC compatible business personal computers (PC), and Personal Workstation (PW) computers, that came on the market before the IBM-PC (August 1981).

Apple III designed as a business system by Apple Inc.
Astrocom 760 by Astrocom Corporation
C4P and C8P systems made by Ohio Scientific
Commodore Business Machines (CBM) a series of mostly compatible machines by Commodore International
CompuColor 8001 by Intecolor
Cromemco (S-100 compatible computers)
DEC Professional (computer) from Digital Equipment Corporation - three models
The Digital Group (multiple platform microcomputers)
DPS-1 by Intersystems
Gimix (SS-50 SWTPC compatible computers)
Helix (SS-50 (and later SS-64) SWTPC compatible computers)
Midwest Scientific (SS-50 SWTPC compatible computers)
Morrow Designs (S-100 compatible computers)
NorthStar Horizon by North Star Computers
HP-85A From Hewlett-Packard
MSI computer systems from Midwest Scientific Instruments
M20 from Olivetti
Noval 760 by Noval/Gremlin
Ohio Scientific (multiple platfomrs micro computers)
QDP-100 and QDP-8100 systems from Quasar Computer Systems
RCC REX by Realistic Controls Corporation
S-100 bus systems, built from components made by various companies, mostly running CP/M
SBC/9 by Percom
SBS-8000 by Small Business systems
Sol-20 by Processor Technology
Sphere computer by Sphere inc.
Smoke Signal Broadcasting (SS-50 SWTPC compatible computers)
Superbrain by intertec Data Systems
Telmac 1800 by the Finnish company Telercas
SWTPC (South West Technical Products Corporation) systems
Tano Systems (SS-50 SWTPC compatible computers)
TRS-80 model I and Model II by Tandy Corporation
H-8 CP/M microcomputer by Heathkit
Z-89 by Zenith/Heathkit Pre-IBM-PC personal business computer systems
This is a list of non IBM PC compatible business personal computers (PC), and Personal Workstation (PW) computers, that came on the market after the IBM-PC (August 1981).

Acorn Archimedes & RiscPC
ACT Apricot by ACT (runs MS-DOS but is not IBM PC compatible.) Post-IBM-PC personal business computer systems

Microsoft Windows
Desktop replacement computer
Gaming PC
History of computing hardware (1960s-present)
Home computer
Mainframe computer
Altair 8800
Osborne 1
Apple Inc., Apple II, Apple Lisa, and Macintosh
TRS-80, Commodore PET
Personal Computer Museum
Silent PC
Xerox Star
Public computer
List of computer system manufacturers Notes

John Markoff: What the Dormouse Said (ISBN 978-0143036760), Viking 2005. How the sixties counterculture shaped the personal computer industry.

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