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A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose
computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as Computer program, programs. These programs enable compu ...

computer
whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an
end user In product development, an end user (sometimes end-user) is a person who ultimately uses or is intended to ultimately use a product. The end user stands in contrast to users who support or maintain the product, such as sysops, system administrato ...
, rather than by a computer expert or
technician A technician is a worker in a field of technology who is proficient in the relevant skill and technique, with a relatively practical understanding of the theoretical principles. Specialisation The term technician covers many different specialisa ...

technician
. Unlike large, costly
minicomputer A minicomputer, or colloquially mini, is a class of smaller computers that was developed in the mid-1960s and sold for much less than mainframe and mid-size computers from IBM and its direct competitors. In a 1970 survey, ''The New York Times ...
s and
mainframe A mainframe computer, informally called a mainframe or big iron, is a computer used primarily by large organizations for critical applications, bulk data processing (such as the census A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, a ...
s,
time-sharing In computing, time-sharing is the sharing of a computing resource among many users at the same time by means of multiprogramming and computer multitasking, multi-tasking.DEC Timesharing (1965), by Peter Clark, The DEC Professional, Volume 1, Numb ...
by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers. Institutional or corporate computer owners in the 1960s had to write their own programs to do any useful work with the machines. While personal computer users may develop their own applications, usually these systems run
commercial software Commercial software, or seldom payware, is a computer software that is produced for Selling, sale or that serves Commerce, commercial purposes. Commercial software can be proprietary software or free and open-source software. Background and chall ...
, free-of-charge software ("
freeware Freeware is software, most often proprietary software, proprietary, that is distributed at no monetary cost to the end user. There is no agreed-upon set of rights, Software license, license, or EULA that defines ''freeware'' unambiguously; every p ...

freeware
"), which is most often proprietary, or
free and open-source software Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing), data that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast to Computer hardware, physical hardwa ...
, which is provided in "ready-to-run", or
binary Binary may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Binary number In mathematics and digital electronics, a binary number is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal ...

binary
, form. Software for personal computers is typically developed and distributed independently from the hardware or
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...

operating system
manufacturers. Many personal computer users no longer need to write their own programs to make any use of a personal computer, although end-user programming is still feasible. This contrasts with mobile systems, where software is often available only through a manufacturer-supported channel, and end-user program development may be discouraged by lack of support by the manufacturer. Since the early 1990s,
Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells Software, computer software, consumer electroni ...

Microsoft
operating systems and
Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California. It is the world's largest semiconductor chip manufacturer by revenue, and is the developer of ...

Intel
hardware dominated much of the personal computer market, first with
MS-DOS MS-DOS ( ; acronym for Microsoft Disk Operating System, also known as Microsoft DOS) is an operating system for x86-based personal computers mostly developed by Microsoft. Collectively, MS-DOS, its rebranding as IBM PC DOS, and few operatin ...
and then with
Microsoft Windows Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several Proprietary software, proprietary graphical user interface, graphical operating system families, all of which are developed and marketed by Microsoft. Each family caters ...
. Alternatives to Microsoft's Windows operating systems occupy a minority share of the industry. These include
Apple An apple is an edible fruit produced by an apple tree (''Malus domestica''). Apple fruit tree, trees are agriculture, cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus ''Malus''. The tree originated in Central Asia, wher ...
's
macOS macOS (; previously Mac OS X and later OS X) is a Proprietary software, proprietary graphical user interface, graphical operating system developed and marketed by Apple Inc. since 2001. It is the primary operating system for A ...
and
free and open-source Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing), data that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast to Computer hardware, physical hardwa ...
Unix-like A Unix-like (sometimes referred to as UN*X or *nix) operating system is one that behaves in a manner similar to a Unix system, while not necessarily conforming to or being certified to any version of the Single UNIX Specification. A Unix-like Ap ...
operating systems, such as
Linux Linux ( or ) is a family of free and open-source software, open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an Kernel (computing), operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linux is t ...

Linux
. The advent of personal computers and the concurrent
Digital Revolution The Digital Revolution (also known as the Third Industrial Revolution) is the shift from mechanical and analogue electronic technology Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'', "art, skill, cunning of hand"; ...
have significantly affected the lives of people in all countries.


Terminology

The term "PC" is an
initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...
for "personal computer". While the
IBM Personal Computer The IBM Personal Computer (model 5150, commonly known as the IBM PC) is the first computer released in the IBM PC model line and the basis for the IBM PC compatible de facto standard. Released on August 12, 1981, it was created by a team of eng ...
incorporated the designation in its model name, the term originally described personal computers of any brand. In some contexts, "PC" is used to contrast with "Mac", an
Apple Macintosh The Macintosh (mainly Mac since 1998) is a family of personal computers designed, manufactured, and sold by Apple Inc. since January 1984. The original Macintosh is the first successful mass-market personal computer to have featured a graphic ...

Apple Macintosh
computer. Since none of these Apple products were mainframes or time-sharing systems, they were all "personal computers" and not "PC" (brand) computers. In 1995, a CBS segment on the growing popularity of PC reported "For many newcomers PC stands for Pain and Confusion".


History

In the
history of computing The history of computing is longer than the history of computing hardware The history of computing hardware covers the developments from early simple devices to aid calculation to modern day computers. Before the 20th century, most calculation ...
, early experimental machines could be operated by a single attendant. For example,
ENIAC ENIAC (; Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. It was Turing-complete, and able to solve "a large class of numerical problems" through reprogramming. Altho ...

ENIAC
which became operational in 1946 could be run by a single, albeit highly trained, person. This mode pre-dated the batch programming, or time-sharing modes with multiple users connected through terminals to mainframe computers. Computers intended for laboratory, instrumentation, or engineering purposes were built, and could be operated by one person in an interactive fashion. Examples include such systems as the Bendix G15 and
LGP-30 The LGP-30, standing for Librascope General Purpose and then Librascope General Precision, was an early off-the-shelf computer. It was manufactured by the Librascope company of Glendale, California Glendale is a city in the Verdugo Mountains ...

LGP-30
of 1956, and the Soviet
MIR ''Mir'' (russian: Мир, ; ) was a space station A space station, also known as an orbital station or an orbital space station, is a spacecraft capable of supporting a human crew in orbit In physics, an orbit is the gravitational ...
series of computers developed from 1965 to 1969. By the early 1970s, people in academic or research institutions had the opportunity for single-person use of a
computer system A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out Sequence, sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as Computer program, programs. These programs enabl ...

computer system
in interactive mode for extended durations, although these systems would still have been too expensive to be owned by a single person. The personal computer was made possible by major advances in
semiconductor A semiconductor material has an Electrical resistivity and conductivity, electrical conductivity value falling between that of a Electrical conductor, conductor, such as metallic copper, and an insulator (electricity), insulator, such as glass. I ...
technology. In 1959, the
silicon Silicon is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Si and atomic number 14. It is a hard, brittle crystalline solid with a blue-grey metallic lustre, and is a Tetravalence, tetravalent metalloid and semiconductor. It is a member ...

silicon
integrated circuit An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuit File:PExdcr01CJC.jpg, 200px, A circuit built on a printed circuit board (PCB). An electronic circuit i ...

integrated circuit
(IC) chip was developed by
Robert Noyce Robert Norton Noyce (December 12, 1927 – June 3, 1990), nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley", was an American physicist who co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel Corporation in 1968. He is also credited with the realizatio ...
at
Fairchild Semiconductor Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. was an American semiconductor A semiconductor material has an Electrical resistivity and conductivity, electrical conductivity value falling between that of a Electrical conductor, conductor, such as ...
, and the metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) transistor was developed by
Mohamed Atalla Mohamed M. Atalla ( ar, محمد عطاالله; August 4, 1924 – December 30, 2009) was an Egyptian Americans, Egyptian-American engineer, Physical chemistry, physical chemist, cryptographer, inventor and entrepreneur. He was a semiconducto ...
and
Dawon Kahng Dawon Kahng ( ko, 강대원; May 4, 1931 – May 13, 1992) was a Korean-American electrical engineer and inventor, known for his work in solid-state electronics. He is best known for inventing the MOSFET (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect ...

Dawon Kahng
at
Bell Labs Nokia Bell Labs (formerly named Bell Labs Innovations (1996–2007), AT&T Bell Laboratories (1984–1996) and Bell Telephone Laboratories (1925–1984)) is an American industrial Research and development, research and scientific development S.A. ...
. The MOS integrated circuit was commercialized by
RCA The RCA Corporation was a major American electronics company, which was founded as the Radio Corporation of America in 1919. It was initially a patent trust owned by General Electric General Electric Company (GE) is an American Multination ...
in 1964, and then the silicon-gate MOS integrated circuit was developed by
Federico Faggin Federico Faggin (, ; born 1 December 1941) is an Italian-American Italian Americans ( it, italoamericani or ''italo-americani'', ) are citizens of the United States of America who are of Italians, Italian descent. The majority of Italian Ameri ...

Federico Faggin
at Fairchild in 1968. Faggin later used silicon-gate MOS technology to develop the first single-chip
microprocessor A microprocessor is a computer processor where the data processing logic and control is included on a single integrated circuit, or a small number of integrated circuits. The microprocessor contains the arithmetic, logic, and control circuitr ...

microprocessor
, the
Intel 4004 The Intel 4004 is a 4-bit computing, 4-bit central processing unit (CPU) released by Intel, Intel Corporation in 1971. It was the first commercially produced microprocessor, and the first in a List of Intel microprocessors, long line of Intel CP ...

Intel 4004
, in 1971. The first
microcomputer A microcomputer is a small, relatively inexpensive computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations k ...
s, based on microprocessors, were developed during the early 1970s. Widespread commercial availability of microprocessors, from the mid-1970s onwards, made computers cheap enough for small businesses and individuals to own. In what was later to be called
the Mother of All Demos File:SRI Computer Mouse.jpg, The Mouse (computing)#Early mice, first prototype of a computer mouse, as designed by Bill English (computer engineer), Bill English from Douglas Engelbart's sketches "The Mother of All Demos" is a name retroactively a ...
,
SRI Shri (; Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (''Nāgarī'', ),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-right abugida . ''May Śiva p ...
researcher
Douglas Engelbart Douglas Carl Engelbart (January 30, 1925 – July 2, 2013) was an American engineer Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are Professional, professionals who Invention, invent, design, analyze, build and test Machine, machines, co ...
in 1968 gave a preview of features that would later become staples of personal computers:
e-mail upThe at sign, a part of every SMTP email address">email_address.html" ;"title="at sign, a part of every SMTP email address">at sign, a part of every SMTP email address Electronic mail (email or e-mail) is a method of exchanging messages ("m ...
,
hypertext File:Douglas Engelbart in 2008.jpg, Douglas Engelbart in 2009, at the 40th anniversary celebrations of "The Mother of All Demos" in San Francisco, a 90-minute 1968 presentation of the NLS (computer system), NLS computer system which was a co ...

hypertext
,
word processing In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also corres ...
,
video conferencing Videotelephony comprises the technologies for the reception and transmission of audio- video signals by users in different locations, for communication between people in real time.McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of EngineeringVideotelephony McG ...
, and the
mouse A mouse, plural mice, is a small mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which i ...
. The demonstration required technical support staff and a mainframe time-sharing computer that were far too costly for individual business use at the time. Early personal computersgenerally called microcomputerswere often sold in a kit form and in limited volumes, and were of interest mostly to hobbyists and technicians. Minimal programming was done with toggle switches to enter instructions, and output was provided by
front panel A front panel was used on early electronic computers to display and allow the alteration of the state of the machine's internal registers and memory Memory is the faculty of the brain by which data or information is encoded, stored, and re ...

front panel
lamps. Practical use required adding peripherals such as keyboards,
computer display A computer monitor is an output device that displays information in pictorial or text form. A monitor usually comprises a electronic visual display, visual display, electronic circuit, some circuitry, a casing, and a power supply. The display dev ...
s,
disk drive Disk storage (also sometimes called drive storage) is a general category of storage mechanisms where data is recorded by various electronic, magnetic, optical, or mechanical changes to a surface layer of one or more rotating disks. A disk drive is a ...
s, and printers. Micral N was the earliest commercial, non-kit microcomputer based on a microprocessor, the
Intel 8008 The Intel 8008 ("''eight-thousand-eight''" or "''eighty-oh-eight''") is an early byte-oriented microprocessor A microprocessor is a computer processor where the data processing logic and control is included on a single integrated circuit, ...

Intel 8008
. It was built starting in 1972, and a few hundred units were sold. This had been preceded by the
Datapoint 2200 The Datapoint 2200 was a mass-produced desktop personal computer File:Crystal Project computer.png, upright=0.9, An artist's depiction of a 2000s-era desktop-style personal computer, which includes a metal case with the computing components, ...
in 1970, for which the Intel 8008 had been commissioned, though not accepted for use. The CPU design implemented in the Datapoint 2200 became the basis for
x86 x86 is a family of instruction set architectures initially developed by Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California, in S ...

x86
architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Architecture (Latin ''archit ...
used in the original
IBM PC The IBM Personal Computer (model 5150, commonly known as the IBM PC) is the first computer released in the IBM PC model line and the basis for the IBM PC compatible de facto standard. Released on August 12, 1981, it was created by a team of engi ...

IBM PC
and its descendants. In 1973, the
IBM International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The company began in 1911, founded in Endicott, New York, as the C ...

IBM
Los Gatos Scientific Center developed a
portable computer , one of the first portable IBM PC compatible systems Image:MIT Suitcase Computer 1975.jpg, The MIT Suitcase Computer, MIT Digital Systems Laboratory, 1975 A portable computer is a computer designed to be easily moved from one place to another ...
prototype called SCAMP (Special Computer APL Machine Portable) based on the IBM PALM processor with a
Philips Koninklijke Philips N.V. (literally ''Royal Philips'', commonly shortened to Philips, stylized in its logo as PHILIPS) is a Dutch multinational conglomerate corporation that was founded in Eindhoven. Since 1997, it has been mostly headquarte ...

Philips
compact cassette drive, small
CRT CRT may refer to: Science and technology Medicine * Calreticulin, a protein *Capillary refill time, the rate at which blood refills empty capillaries *Cardiac resynchronization therapy, a treatment for heart failure, and CRT defibrillator (CRT-D ...

CRT
, and full function keyboard. SCAMP emulated an
IBM 1130 The IBM 1130 Computing System, introduced in 1965, was IBM International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The co ...
minicomputer in order to run APL/1130. In 1973, APL was generally available only on mainframe computers, and most desktop sized microcomputers such as the
Wang 2200 The Wang 2200 appeared in May 1973, and was Wang Laboratories' first minicomputer A minicomputer, or colloquially mini, is a class of smaller computers that was developed in the mid-1960s and sold for much less than mainframe and mid-size compu ...
or HP 9800 offered only
BASIC BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a family of General-purpose programming language, general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use. The original version was designed by ...
. Because SCAMP was the first to emulate APL/1130 performance on a portable, single user computer, ''
PC Magazine ''PC Magazine'' (shortened as ''PCMag'') is an American computer magazine publishing, published by Ziff Davis. A print edition was published from 1982 to January 2009. Publication of online and offline, online editions started in late 1994 and c ...
'' in 1983 designated SCAMP a "revolutionary concept" and "the world's first personal computer". This seminal, single user
portable computer , one of the first portable IBM PC compatible systems Image:MIT Suitcase Computer 1975.jpg, The MIT Suitcase Computer, MIT Digital Systems Laboratory, 1975 A portable computer is a computer designed to be easily moved from one place to another ...
now resides in the
Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Founded o ...

Smithsonian Institution
, Washington, D.C.. Successful demonstrations of the 1973 SCAMP prototype led to the
IBM 5100 The IBM 5100 Portable Computer is a portable computer , one of the first portable IBM PC compatible IBM PC compatible computers are similar to the original IBM Personal Computer, IBM PC, IBM Personal Computer XT, XT, and IBM Personal Computer/ ...

IBM 5100
portable microcomputer launched in 1975 with the ability to be programmed in both APL and BASIC for engineers, analysts, statisticians, and other business problem-solvers. In the late 1960s such a machine would have been nearly as large as two desks and would have weighed about half a ton. Another desktop portable APL machine, the
MCM/70 The MCM/70 was a pioneering microcomputer first built in 1973 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and released the next year. This makes it one of the first microcomputers in the world, the second to be shipped in completed form, and the first portable comp ...
, was demonstrated in 1973 and shipped in 1974. It used the
Intel 8008 The Intel 8008 ("''eight-thousand-eight''" or "''eighty-oh-eight''") is an early byte-oriented microprocessor A microprocessor is a computer processor where the data processing logic and control is included on a single integrated circuit, ...

Intel 8008
processor. A seminal step in personal computing was the 1973
Xerox Alto The Xerox Alto is the first computer designed from its inception to support an operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (compu ...

Xerox Alto
, developed at
Xerox Xerox Holdings Corporation (; also known simply as Xerox) is an American corporation that sells print and electronic document, digital document products and services in more than 160 countries. Xerox is headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut (hav ...
's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). It had a graphical user interface (
GUI#REDIRECT graphical user interface The graphical user interface (GUI "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ) is a form of user interface that allows User (computing), users to Human–computer interaction, interact with electronic devic ...

GUI
) which later served as inspiration for Apple's
Macintosh File:Steve_Jobs_and_Macintosh_computer,_January_1984,_by_Bernard_Gotfryd_-_edited.jpg, Steve Jobs promoting the Macintosh 128K, Macintosh 128k in January 1984 The Macintosh (mainly Mac since 1998) is a family of personal computers designed, man ...

Macintosh
, and Microsoft's
Windows Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provi ...

Windows
operating system. The Alto was a demonstration project, not commercialized, as the parts were too expensive to be affordable.Roy A. Allan, A Bibliography of the Personal Computer lectronic resource the Books and Periodical Articles, Allan Publishing – 2006, p. 73 Also in 1973
Hewlett Packard The Hewlett-Packard Company, commonly shortened to Hewlett-Packard ( ) or HP, was an American multinational information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" ...
introduced fully
BASIC BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a family of General-purpose programming language, general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use. The original version was designed by ...
programmable microcomputers that fit entirely on top of a desk, including a keyboard, a small one-line display, and printer. The
Wang 2200 The Wang 2200 appeared in May 1973, and was Wang Laboratories' first minicomputer A minicomputer, or colloquially mini, is a class of smaller computers that was developed in the mid-1960s and sold for much less than mainframe and mid-size compu ...
microcomputer of 1973 had a full-size
cathode ray tube File:CRT monochrome.png, 250px, Cutaway rendering of a monochrome CRT: 1. Deflection coils2. Electron beam3. Focusing coil4. Phosphor layer on the inner side of the screen; emits light when struck by the electron beam5.&nbs ...

cathode ray tube
(CRT) and cassette tape storage. These were generally expensive specialized computers sold for business or scientific uses. 1974 saw the introduction of what is considered by many to be the first true "personal computer", the
Altair 8800 The Altair 8800 is a microcomputer A microcomputer is a small, relatively inexpensive computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can ...
created by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). Based on the 8-bit
Intel 8080 The Intel 8080 (''"eighty-eighty"'') is the second 8-bit microprocessor designed and manufactured by Intel. It first appeared in April 1974 and is an extended and enhanced variant of the earlier Intel 8008, 8008 design, although without binary ...
Microprocessor, Wayne Green visited MITS in August 1975 and interviewed Ed Roberts. Article has several paragraphs on the design of the Altair 8800. the Altair is widely recognized as the spark that ignited the
microcomputer revolution The history of the personal computer as a mass-market consumer electronic device began with the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s. A personal computer is one intended for interactive individual use, as opposed to a mainframe computer where t ...
as the first commercially successful personal computer. The
computer bus In computer architecture In computer engineering, computer architecture is a set of rules and methods that describe the functionality, organization, and implementation of computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry ...
designed for the Altair was to become a ''de facto'' standard in the form of the
S-100 bus The S-100 bus or Altair bus, ''IEEE696-1983 (withdrawn)'', is an early computer bus In computer architecture, a bus (a contraction of the Latin '' omnibus'', and historically also called ''data highway'') is a communication system that tra ...
, and the first programming language for the machine was Microsoft's founding product,
Altair BASIC Altair BASIC is a discontinued interpreter (computing), interpreter for the BASIC programming language that ran on the Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, MITS Altair 8800 and subsequent S-100 bus computers. It was Microsoft's first product ...
. "This announcement ltair 8800ranks with IBM's announcement of the System/360 a decade earlier as one of the most significant in the history of computing." In 1976,
Steve Jobs Steven Paul Jobs (; February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011), known as Steve Jobs, was an American business magnate, industrial designer, investor, and media proprietor. He was the chairman, the chief executive officer (CEO), and a co-founder of ...

Steve Jobs
and
Steve Wozniak Stephen Gary Wozniak (; born August 11, 1950), also known by his nickname "Woz", is an American electronics engineer Image:Silego clock generator.JPG, Printed circuit board Electronic engineering (also called electronics and communications en ...

Steve Wozniak
sold the
Apple I The Apple Computer 1, originally released as the Apple Computer and known later as the Apple I, or Apple-1, is a desktop computer released by the Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.) in 1976. It was designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak. T ...
computer circuit board, which was fully prepared and contained about 30 chips. The Apple I computer differed from the other kit-style hobby computers of era. At the request of
Paul Terrell Paul Terrell is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States ( ...

Paul Terrell
, owner of the
Byte Shop The byte is a units of information, unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character (computing), character of text in a computer and for this ...
, Jobs and Wozniak were given their first purchase order, for 50 Apple I computers, only if the computers were assembled and tested and not a kit computer. Terrell wanted to have computers to sell to a wide range of users, not just experienced electronics hobbyists who had the soldering skills to assemble a computer kit. The
Apple I The Apple Computer 1, originally released as the Apple Computer and known later as the Apple I, or Apple-1, is a desktop computer released by the Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.) in 1976. It was designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak. T ...
as delivered was still technically a kit computer, as it did not have a power supply, case, or keyboard when it was delivered to the Byte Shop. The first successfully mass-marketed personal computer to be announced was the
Commodore PET The Commodore PET is a line of personal computer File:Crystal Project computer.png, upright=0.9, An artist's depiction of a 2000s-era desktop-style personal computer, which includes a metal case with the computing components, a display monito ...
after being revealed in January 1977. However, it was back-ordered and not available until later that year. Commodore press release. "The PET computer made its debut recently as the first 100 units were shipped to waiting customers in mid-October 1977." Three months later (April), the
Apple II The Apple II (stylized as apple ] '') is an 8-bit home computer">8-bit.html" ;"title="'') is an 8-bit">'') is an 8-bit home computer and one of the world's first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products. It was designed primaril ...
(usually referred to as the "Apple") was announced with the first units being shipped 10 June 1977, and the
TRS-80 The TRS-80 Micro Computer System (TRS-80, later renamed the Model I to distinguish it from successors) is a desktop microcomputer launched in 1977 and sold by Tandy Corporation through their RadioShack stores. The name is an abbreviation of '' ...

TRS-80
from
Tandy Corporation Tandy Corporation was an American family-owned leather goods company based in Fort Worth, Texas Fort Worth is the List of cities in Texas by population, fifth-largest city in the U.S. state of Texas and the List of united states cities by popu ...
/ Tandy Radio Shack following in August 1977, which sold over 100,000 units during its lifetime. Together, these 3 machines were referred to as the "1977 trinity". Mass-market, ready-assembled computers had arrived, and allowed a wider range of people to use computers, focusing more on software applications and less on development of the processor hardware. In 1977 the Heath company introduced personal computer kits known as
Heathkit Heathkit is the brand name of kits and other electronic products produced and marketed by the Heath Company. The products over the decades have included electronic test equipment, high fidelity home audio equipment, television Televisio ...
s, starting with the
Heathkit H8 Heathkit Heathkit is the brand name of kits and other electronic products produced and marketed by the Heath Company. The products over the decades have included electronic test equipment, high fidelity home audio equipment, television ...
, followed by the Heathkit H89 in late 1979. With the purchase of the Heathkit H8 you would obtain the chassis and CPU card to assemble yourself, additional hardware such as the H8-1 memory board that contained 4k of RAM could also be purchased in order to run software. The Heathkit H11 model was released in 1978 and was one of the first 16-bit personal computers; however, due to its high retail cost of $1,295 was discontinued in 1982. During the early 1980s,
home computer Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a si ...

home computer
s were further developed for household use, with software for personal productivity, programming and games. They typically could be used with a television already in the home as the computer display, with low-detail blocky graphics and a limited color range, and text about 40 characters wide by 25 characters tall.
Sinclair Research Sinclair Research Ltd is a British consumer electronics company founded by Clive Sinclair in Cambridge. It was originally incorporated in 1973 as Westminster Mail Order Ltd, renamed Sinclair Instrument Ltd, then Science of Cambridge Ltd, then ...
, a UK company, produced the ZX Seriesthe
ZX80 The Sinclair ZX80 is a home computer Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first ...

ZX80
(1980),
ZX81 The ZX81 is a home computer Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, we ...

ZX81
(1981), and the
ZX Spectrum The ZX Spectrum () is an 8-bit personal home computer developed by Sinclair Research. It was first released in the United Kingdom on 23 April 1982 and went on to become Britain's best-selling microcomputer. Referred to during development as the ...

ZX Spectrum
; the latter was introduced in 1982, and totaled 8 million unit sold. Following came the
Commodore 64 The Commodore 64, also known as the C64 or the CBM 64, is an 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982 by Commodore International (first shown at the Consumer Electronics Show, 7–10 January 1982, in Las Vegas). It has been listed in the ...
, totaled 17 million units sold and the
Amstrad CPC The Amstrad CPC (short for ''Colour Personal Computer'') is a series of 8-bit home computer Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers ...
series (464–6128). In the same year, the
NEC PC-98 The , commonly shortened to PC-98 or , is a lineup of Japanese 16-bit and 32-bit personal computers manufactured by NEC from 1982 to 2000. The platform established NEC's dominance in the Japanese personal computer market, and, by 1999, more than ...
was introduced, which was a very popular personal computer that sold in more than 18 million units. Another famous personal computer, the revolutionary
Amiga 1000 The Commodore Amiga 1000, also known as the A1000 and originally marketed as the Amiga, is the first personal computer A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out seq ...
, was unveiled by
Commodore Commodore may refer to: Ranks * Commodore (rank) Commodore is a senior naval rank used in many navies which is equivalent to brigadier and air commodore that is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. It is either regarded as ...
on 23 July 1985. The Amiga 1000 featured a multitasking, windowing operating system, color graphics with a 4096-color palette, stereo sound, Motorola 68000 CPU, 256 KB RAM, and 880 KB 3.5-inch disk drive, for US$1,295. Somewhat larger and more expensive systems were aimed at office and small business use. These often featured 80-column text displays but might not have had graphics or sound capabilities. These microprocessor-based systems were still less costly than time-shared mainframes or minicomputers.
Workstation A workstation is a special computer designed for technical or scientific applications. Intended primarily to be used by one person at a time, they are commonly connected to a local area network A local area network (LAN) is a computer net ...

Workstation
s were characterized by high-performance processors and graphics displays, with large-capacity local disk storage, networking capability, and running under a
multitasking operating system Multitasking may refer to: * Computer multitasking, the concurrent execution of multiple tasks (also known as processes) over a certain period of time ** Cooperative multitasking ** Pre-emptive multitasking * Human multitasking, the appare ...
. Eventually, due to the
influence of the IBM PC on the personal computer market 275px, The IBM Personal Computer (model 5150) Following the introduction of the IBM Personal Computer The IBM Personal Computer (model 5150, commonly known as the IBM PC) is the first computer released in the IBM PC model line and the basis ...
, personal computers and home computers lost any technical distinction. Business computers acquired color graphics capability and sound, and home computers and game systems users used the same processors and operating systems as office workers. Mass-market computers had graphics capabilities and memory comparable to dedicated workstations of a few years before. Even local area networking, originally a way to allow business computers to share expensive mass storage and peripherals, became a standard feature of personal computers used at home. IBM's first PC was introduced on 12 August 1981. In 1982 "The Computer" was named Machine of the Year by ''
Time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component qua ...
'' magazine. In the 2010s, several companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Sony sold off their PC and laptop divisions. As a result, the personal computer was declared dead several times during this period. An increasingly important set of uses for personal computers relied on the ability of the computer to communicate with other computer systems, allowing interchange of information. Experimental public access to a shared mainframe computer system was demonstrated as early as 1973 in the
Community Memory Community Memory (CM) was the first public computerized bulletin board system. Established in 1973 in Berkeley, California, it used an SDS 940 Time sharing, timesharing system in San Francisco connected via a 110 baud link to a teleprinter at a rec ...
project, but
bulletin board system A bulletin board system or BBS (also called ''Computer Bulletin Board Service'', ''CBBS'') is a computer server running software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing), data that tell a ...
s and
online service provider An online service provider (OSP) can, for example, be an Internet service provider, an email provider, a news provider (press), an entertainment provider (music, movies), a search engine, an e-commerce E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the acti ...
s became more commonly available after 1978. Commercial
Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''network of networks'' t ...

Internet
service providers emerged in the late 1980s, giving public access to the rapidly growing network. In 1991, the
World Wide Web The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information system An information system (IS) is a formal, sociotechnical Sociotechnical systems (STS) in organizational development is an approach to complex organizational w ...
was made available for public use. The combination of powerful personal computers with high-resolution graphics and sound, with the infrastructure provided by the Internet, and the standardization of access methods of the
Web browser A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is application software for accessing the World Wide Web upright=1.35, A global map of the web index for countries in 2014 The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an in ...

Web browser
s, established the foundation for a significant fraction of modern life, from bus time tables through unlimited distribution of free videos through to online user-edited encyclopedias.


Types


Stationary


Workstation

A workstation is a high-end personal computer designed for technical, mathematical, or scientific applications. Intended primarily to be used by one person at a time, they are commonly connected to a
local area network A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office building. By contrast, a wide area network (WAN) not only covers a larger ...
and run multi-user
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...

operating system
s. Workstations are used for tasks such as
computer-aided design Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computers (or ) to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design. This software is used to increase the productivity of the designer, improve the quality of design, improve comm ...
, drafting and modeling, computation-intensive scientific and engineering calculations, image processing,
architectural upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Architecture (Latin ''archit ...
modeling, and
computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers. Today, computer graphics is a core technology in digital photography, film, video games, cell phone and computer displays, and many specialized applications. A great deal ...
for animation and motion picture visual effects.


Desktop computer

Before the widespread use of PCs, a computer that could fit on a
desk A desk or bureau is a piece of furniture with a flat table-style work surface used in a school, office, home or the like for academic, professional or domestic activities such as reading, writing Writing is a medium of human communicati ...
was remarkably small, leading to the "desktop" nomenclature. More recently, the phrase usually indicates a particular style of
computer case A computer is a machine A machine is a man-made device that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an action. Machines can be driven by animals and people A people is a plurality of person A person (plural ...
. Desktop computers come in a variety of styles ranging from large vertical
tower case A tower is a tall Nonbuilding structure, structure, taller than it is wide, often by a significant factor. Towers are distinguished from guyed mast, masts by their lack of guy-wires and are therefore, along with tall buildings, self-supporting ...
s to small models which can be tucked behind or rest directly beneath (and support)
LCD monitor A thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT LCD) is a variant of a liquid-crystal display display. A liquid-crystal display (LCD) is a flat panel display, flat-panel display or other electronically modulated optical device that uses t ...

LCD monitor
s. While the term "desktop" often refers to a computer with a vertically aligned computer
tower case A tower is a tall Nonbuilding structure, structure, taller than it is wide, often by a significant factor. Towers are distinguished from guyed mast, masts by their lack of guy-wires and are therefore, along with tall buildings, self-supporting ...
, these varieties often rest on the ground or underneath desks. Despite this seeming contradiction, the term "desktop" does typically refer to these vertical tower cases as well as the horizontally aligned models which are designed to literally rest on top of desks and are therefore more appropriate to the "desktop" term, although both types qualify for this "desktop" label in most practical situations aside from certain physical arrangement differences. Both styles of these computer cases hold the systems hardware components such as the motherboard, processor chip, other internal operating parts. Desktop computers have an external monitor with a display screen and an external keyboard, which are plugged into ports on the back of the computer case. Desktop computers are popular for home and business computing applications as they leave space on the desk for multiple monitors. A gaming computer is a desktop computer that generally comprises a high-performance video card, processor and RAM, to improve the speed and responsiveness of demanding PC game, video games. An all-in-one computer (also known as single-unit PCs) is a desktop computer that combines the monitor and processor within a single unit. A separate keyboard and mouse are standard input devices, with some monitors including touchscreen capability. The processor and other working components are typically reduced in size relative to standard desktops, located behind the monitor, and configured similarly to laptops. A nettop computer was introduced by
Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California. It is the world's largest semiconductor chip manufacturer by revenue, and is the developer of ...

Intel
in February 2008, characterized by low cost and lean functionality. These were intended to be used with an Internet connection to run World Wide Web, Web browsers and Internet applications. A Home theater PC (HTPC) combines the functions of a personal computer and a digital video recorder. It is connected to a TV set or an appropriately sized
computer display A computer monitor is an output device that displays information in pictorial or text form. A monitor usually comprises a electronic visual display, visual display, electronic circuit, some circuitry, a casing, and a power supply. The display dev ...
, and is often used as a digital photo viewer, music and video player, TV receiver, and digital video recorder. HTPCs are also referred to as media center systems or media servers. The goal is to combine many or all components of a home cinema, home theater setup into one box. HTPCs can also connect to services providing on-demand movies and TV shows. HTPCs can be purchased pre-configured with the required hardware and software needed to add television programming to the PC, or can be assembled from components. Keyboard computers are computers inside of keyboards. Examples include the
Commodore 64 The Commodore 64, also known as the C64 or the CBM 64, is an 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982 by Commodore International (first shown at the Consumer Electronics Show, 7–10 January 1982, in Las Vegas). It has been listed in the ...
, MSX,
Amstrad CPC The Amstrad CPC (short for ''Colour Personal Computer'') is a series of 8-bit home computer Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers ...
, Atari ST and the
ZX Spectrum The ZX Spectrum () is an 8-bit personal home computer developed by Sinclair Research. It was first released in the United Kingdom on 23 April 1982 and went on to become Britain's best-selling microcomputer. Referred to during development as the ...

ZX Spectrum
.


Portable

The potential utility of portable computers was apparent early on. Alan Kay described the Dynabook in 1972, but no hardware was developed. The Xerox NoteTaker was produced in a very small experimental batch around 1978. In 1975, the
IBM 5100 The IBM 5100 Portable Computer is a portable computer , one of the first portable IBM PC compatible IBM PC compatible computers are similar to the original IBM Personal Computer, IBM PC, IBM Personal Computer XT, XT, and IBM Personal Computer/ ...

IBM 5100
could be fit into a transport case, making it a portable computer, but it weighed about 50 pounds. Before the introduction of the IBM PC, portable computers consisting of a processor, display, disk drives and keyboard, in a suit-case style portable housing, allowed users to bring a computer home from the office or to take notes at a classroom. Examples include the Osborne 1 and Kaypro; and the Commodore SX-64. These machines were AC-powered and included a small CRT display screen. The form factor was intended to allow these systems to be taken on board an airplane as carry-on baggage, though their high power demand meant that they could not be used in flight. The integrated CRT display made for a relatively heavy package, but these machines were more portable than their contemporary desktop equals. Some models had standard or optional connections to drive an external video monitor, allowing a larger screen or use with video projectors. IBM PC-compatible suitcase format computers became available soon after the introduction of the PC, with the Compaq Portable being a leading example of the type. Later models included a hard drive to give roughly equivalent performance to contemporary desktop computers. The development of thin plasma display and LCD screens permitted a somewhat smaller form factor, called the "lunchbox" computer. The screen formed one side of the enclosure, with a detachable keyboard and one or two half-height floppy disk drives, mounted facing the ends of the computer. Some variations included a battery, allowing operation away from AC outlets.Scott Mueller, ''Upgrading and Repairing Laptops'', Que Publishing, 2004, , pp. 18–21 Notebook computers such as the TRS-80 Model 100 and Epson HX-20 had roughly the plan dimensions of a sheet of typing paper (Paper size, ANSI A or ISO A4). These machines had a keyboard with slightly reduced dimensions compared to a desktop system, and a fixed LCD display screen coplanar with the keyboard. These displays were usually small, with 8 to 16 lines of text, sometimes only 40 columns line length. However, these machines could operate for extended times on disposable or rechargeable batteries. Although they did not usually include internal disk drives, this form factor often included a modem for telephone communication and often had provisions for external cassette or disk storage. Later, clam-shell format laptop computers with similar small plan dimensions were also called "notebooks".


Laptop

A laptop computer is designed for portability with "Flip (form), clamshell" design, where the keyboard and computer components are on one panel, with a hinged second panel containing a flat display screen. Closing the laptop protects the screen and keyboard during transportation. Laptops generally have a rechargeable battery (electricity), battery, enhancing their portability. To save power, weight and space, laptop graphics chips are in many cases integrated into the CPU or chipset and use system RAM, resulting in reduced graphics performance when compared to desktop machines, that more typically have a graphics card installed. For this reason, desktop computers are usually preferred over laptops for Video game, gaming purposes. Unlike desktop computers, only minor internal upgrades (such as memory and hard disk drive) are feasible owing to the limited space and power available. Laptops have the same input and output ports as desktops, for connecting to external displays, mice, cameras, storage devices and keyboards. Laptops are also a little more expensive compared to desktops, as the miniaturized components for laptops themselves are expensive. A desktop replacement computer is a portable computer that provides the full capabilities of a desktop computer. Such computers are currently large laptops. This class of computers usually includes more powerful components and a larger display than generally found in smaller portable computers, and may have limited battery capacity or no battery. Netbooks, also called mini notebooks or subnotebooks, were a subgroup of laptops suited for general computing tasks and accessing web application, web-based applications. Initially, the primary defining characteristic of netbooks was the lack of an optical disc drive, smaller size, and lower performance than full-size laptops. By mid-2009 netbooks had been offered to users "free of charge", with an extended service contract purchase of a cellular data plan. Ultrabooks and Chromebooks have since filled the gap left by Netbooks. Unlike the generic Netbook name, Ultrabook and Chromebook are technically both specifications by Intel and Google respectively.


Tablet

A Tablet computer, tablet uses a touchscreen display, which can be controlled using either a stylus pen or finger. Some tablets may use a "hybrid" or "convertible" design, offering a keyboard that can either be removed as an attachment, or a screen that can be rotated and folded directly over top the keyboard. Some tablets may use desktop-PC operating system such as Windows or Linux, or may run an operating system designed primarily for tablets. Many tablet computers have USB ports, to which a keyboard or mouse can be connected.


Smartphone

Smartphones are often similar to tablet computers, the difference being that smartphones always have cellular frequencies, cellular integration. They are generally smaller than tablets, and may not have a slate form factor.


Ultra-mobile PC

The ultra-mobile PC (UMP) is a small tablet computer. It was developed by
Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells Software, computer software, consumer electroni ...

Microsoft
,
Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California. It is the world's largest semiconductor chip manufacturer by revenue, and is the developer of ...

Intel
and Samsung Electronics, Samsung, among others. Current UMPCs typically feature the Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Linux
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...

operating system
, and low-voltage Intel Atom or VIA C7-M processors.


Pocket PC

A pocket PC is a hardware specification for a handheld-sized computer (personal digital assistant, PDA) that runs the
Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells Software, computer software, consumer electroni ...

Microsoft
Windows Mobile
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...

operating system
. It may have the capability to run an alternative
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...

operating system
like NetBSD or
Linux Linux ( or ) is a family of free and open-source software, open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an Kernel (computing), operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linux is t ...

Linux
. Pocket PCs have many of the capabilities of desktop IBM PC compatible, PCs. Numerous software, applications are available for handhelds adhering to the Microsoft Pocket PC specification, many of which are
freeware Freeware is software, most often proprietary software, proprietary, that is distributed at no monetary cost to the end user. There is no agreed-upon set of rights, Software license, license, or EULA that defines ''freeware'' unambiguously; every p ...

freeware
. Microsoft-compliant Pocket PCs can also be used with many other add-ons like Global Positioning System, GPS receivers, barcode readers, RFID readers and cameras. In 2007, with the release of Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft dropped the name Pocket PC in favor of a new naming scheme: devices without an integrated phone are called Windows Mobile Classic instead of Pocket PC, while devices with an integrated phone and a touch screen are called Windows Mobile Professional.


Palmtop and handheld computers

Palmtop PCs were miniature pocket-sized computers running DOS that first came about in the late 1980s, typically in a clamshell form factor with a keyboard. Non-x86 based devices were often called palmtop computers, examples being Psion Series 3. In later years a hardware specification called Handheld PC was later released by Microsoft that run the Windows CE operating system.


Hardware

Computer hardware is a comprehensive term for all physical and tangible parts of a computer, as distinguished from the data it contains or operates on, and the software that provides instructions for the hardware to accomplish tasks. Some sub-systems of a personal computer may contain processors that run a fixed program, or firmware, such as a keyboard controller. Firmware usually is not changed by the end user of the personal computer. Most 2010s-era computers require users only to plug in the power supply, monitor, and other cables. A typical desktop computer consists of a
computer case A computer is a machine A machine is a man-made device that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an action. Machines can be driven by animals and people A people is a plurality of person A person (plural ...
(or "tower"), a metal chassis that holds the Computer power supply, power supply, motherboard, hard disk drive, and often an optical disc drive. Most towers have empty space where users can add additional components. External devices such as a computer monitor or visual display unit, computer keyboard, keyboard, and a pointing device (Computer mouse, mouse) are usually found in a personal computer. The motherboard connects all processor, memory and peripheral devices together. The RAM, graphics card and processor are in most cases mounted directly onto the motherboard. The central processing unit (microprocessor chip) plugs into a CPU socket, while the ram modules plug into corresponding ram sockets. Some motherboards have the video display adapter, sound and other peripherals integrated onto the motherboard, while others use expansion slots for graphics cards, network cards, or other Input/output, I/O devices. The graphics card or sound card may employ a break out box to keep the analog parts away from the electromagnetic radiation inside the computer case. Disk drives, which provide mass storage, are connected to the motherboard with one cable, and to the power supply through another cable. Usually, disk drives are mounted in the same case as the motherboard; expansion chassis are also made for additional disk storage. For large amounts of data, a tape drive can be used or extra hard disks can be put together in an external case. The keyboard and the mouse are external devices plugged into the computer through connectors on an I/O panel on the back of the computer case. The monitor is also connected to the input/output (I/O) panel, either through an onboard port on the motherboard, or a port on the graphics card. Capabilities of the personal computer's hardware can sometimes be extended by the addition of expansion cards connected via an expansion computer bus, bus. Standard peripheral buses often used for adding expansion cards in personal computers include Peripheral Component Interconnect, PCI, PCI Express (PCIe), and Accelerated Graphics Port, AGP (a high-speed PCI bus dedicated to graphics adapters, found in older computers). Most modern personal computers have multiple physical PCI Express expansion slots, with some having PCI slots as well. A peripheral is "a device connected to a computer to provide communication (such as input and output) or auxiliary functions (such as additional storage)". Peripherals generally connect to the computer through the use of USB ports or inputs located on the I/O panel. USB flash drives provide portable storage using flash memory which allows users to access the files stored on the drive on any computer. Memory cards also provide portable storage for users, commonly used on other electronics such as mobile phones and digital cameras, the information stored on these cards can be accessed using a memory card reader to transfer data between devices. Webcams, which are either built into computer hardware or connected via USB are video cameras that records video in real time to either be saved to the computer or streamed somewhere else over the internet. Game controllers can be plugged in via USB and can be used as an input device for video games as an alternative to using keyboard and mouse. Headphones and speakers can be connected via USB or through an auxiliary port (found on I/O panel) and allow users to listen to audio accessed on their computer; however, speakers may also require an additional power source to operate. Microphones can be connected through an audio input port on the I/O panel and allow the computer to convert sound into an electrical signal to be used or transmitted by the computer.


Software

Computer software is any kind of computer program, Algorithm, procedure, or documentation that performs some task on a computer system. The term includes application software such as word processors that perform productive tasks for users, system software such as
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...

operating system
s that interface with computer hardware to provide the necessary services for application software, and middleware that controls and co-ordinates Distributed computing, distributed systems. Software applications are common for
word processing In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also corres ...
,
Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''network of networks'' t ...

Internet
browsing, Internet faxing,
e-mail upThe at sign, a part of every SMTP email address">email_address.html" ;"title="at sign, a part of every SMTP email address">at sign, a part of every SMTP email address Electronic mail (email or e-mail) is a method of exchanging messages ("m ...
and other digital messaging, multimedia playback, playing of computer game, and computer programming. The user 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 "usability, 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.


Operating system

An operating system (OS) manages computer resources and provides programmers with an User interface, interface used to access those resources. An operating system processes system data and user input, and responds by allocating and managing tasks and internal system resources as a service to users and programs of the system. An operating system performs basic tasks such as controlling and allocating Computer data storage, memory, prioritizing system requests, controlling input/output, input and output devices, facilitating computer networking, and managing files. Common contemporary desktop operating systems are
Microsoft Windows Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several Proprietary software, proprietary graphical user interface, graphical operating system families, all of which are developed and marketed by Microsoft. Each family caters ...
,
macOS macOS (; previously Mac OS X and later OS X) is a Proprietary software, proprietary graphical user interface, graphical operating system developed and marketed by Apple Inc. since 2001. It is the primary operating system for A ...
,
Linux Linux ( or ) is a family of free and open-source software, open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an Kernel (computing), operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linux is t ...

Linux
, Solaris (operating system), Solaris and FreeBSD. Windows, macOS, and Linux all have server and personal variants. With the exception of Microsoft Windows, the designs of each of them were inspired by or directly inherited from the Unix operating system. Early personal computers used operating systems that supported command line interaction, using an alphanumeric display and keyboard. The user had to remember a large range of commands to, for example, open a file for editing or to move text from one place to another. Starting in the early 1960s, the advantages of a graphical user interface began to be explored, but widespread adoption required lower-cost graphical display equipment. By 1984, mass-market computer systems using graphical user interfaces were available; by the turn of the 21st century, text-mode operating systems were no longer a significant fraction of the personal computer market.


Applications

Generally, a computer user uses application software to carry out a specific task. System software supports applications and provides common services such as memory management, network connectivity and device drivers, all of which may be used by applications but are not directly of interest to the end user. A simplified analogy in the world of hardware would be the relationship of an electric light bulb (an application) to an electric power generation plant (a system): the power plant merely generates electricity, not itself of any real use until harnessed to an application like the electric light that performs a service that benefits the user. Typical examples of software applications are word processors, spreadsheets, and media player (application software), media players. Multiple applications bundled together as a package are sometimes referred to as an ''application suite''. Microsoft Office and LibreOffice, which bundle together a word processor, a spreadsheet, and several other discrete applications, are typical examples. The separate applications in a suite usually have a user interface that has some commonality making it easier for the user to learn and use each application. Often, they may have some capability to interact with each other in ways beneficial to the user; for example, a spreadsheet might be able to be embedded in a word processor document even though it had been created in the separate spreadsheet application. End-user development tailors systems to meet the user's specific needs. User-written software include spreadsheet templates, word processor macros, scientific simulations, graphics and animation scripts; even email filters are a kind of user software. Users create this software themselves and often overlook how important it is.


Gaming

PC gaming is popular among the high-end PC market. According to an April 2018 market analysis done by ''Newzoo'', PC gaming has fallen behind both console and mobile gaming in terms of market share sitting at a 24% share of the entire market. The market for PC gaming still continues to grow and is expected to generate $32.3 billion in revenue in the year 2021. PC gaming is at the forefront of competitive gaming, known as esports, with games such as ''Overwatch (video game), Overwatch'' and ''Counter-Strike: Global Offensive'' leading the industry that is suspected to surpass a trillion dollars in revenue in 2019.


Sales


Market share

ImageSize=width:375 height:350 PlotArea=left:60 bottom:51 top:10 right:16 AlignBars=justify Period=from:0 till:400 TimeAxis=orientation:horizontal Colors= id:gray value:gray(0.5) id:line1 value:gray(0.9) id:line2 value:gray(0.7) ScaleMajor=unit:year increment:50 start:0 gridcolor:line2 ScaleMinor=unit:year increment:50 start:0 gridcolor:line1 BarData= bar:1996 text:1996 bar:1997 text:1997 bar:1998 text:1998 bar:1999 text:1999 bar:2000 text:2000 bar:2001 text:2001 bar:2002 text:2002 bar:2003 text:2003 bar:2004 text:2004 bar:2005 text:2005 bar:2006 text:2006 bar:2007 text:2007 bar:2008 text:2008 bar:2009 text:2009 bar:2010 text:2010 bar:2011 text:2011 bar:2012 text:2012 bar:2013 text:2013 bar:2014 text:2014 bar:2015 text:2015 bar:2016 text:2016 bar:2017 text:2017 PlotData= color:tan1 width:10 bar:1996 from:start till:70.90000 text:70.9 million bar:1997 from:start till:80.60000 text:80.6 million bar:1998 from:start till:92.90000 text:92.9 million bar:1999 from:start till:113.500000 text:113.5 million bar:2000 from:start till:134.700000 text:134.7 million bar:2001 from:start till:128.10000 text:128.1 million bar:2002 from:start till:132.40000 text:132.4 million bar:2003 from:start till:168.90000 text:168.9 million bar:2004 from:start till:189.0000 text:189 million bar:2005 from:start till:218.50000 text:218.5 million bar:2006 from:start till:239.4 text:239.4 million bar:2007 from:start till:271.20000 text:271.2 million bar:2008 from:start till:290.80000 text:290.8 million bar:2009 from:start till:308.30000 text:308.3 million bar:2010 from:start till:350.90000 text:350.9 million bar:2011 from:start till:365.400000 text:365.4 million bar:2012 from:start till:351.100000 text:351.1 million bar:2013 from:start till:316.50000 text:316.5 million bar:2014 from:start till:313.70000 text:313.7 million bar:2015 from:start till:287.70000 text:287.7 million bar:2016 from:start till:269.70000 text:269.7 million bar:2017 from:start till:259.40000 text:259.4 million TextData= pos:(70,20) textcolor:gray fontsize:S text:Worldwide PC sales TextData= pos:(70,5) textcolor:gray fontsize:S text:(1996–2017)
In 2001, 125 million personal computers were shipped in comparison to 48,000 in 1977. More than 500 million personal computers were in use in 2002 and one 1,000,000,000 (number), billion personal computers had been sold worldwide from the mid-1970s up to this time. Of the latter figure, 75% were professional or work related, while the rest were sold for personal or home use. About 81.5% of personal computers shipped had been desktop computers, 16.4% laptops and 2.1% Server (computing), servers. The United States had received 38.8% (394 million) of the computers shipped, Europe 25% and 11.7% had gone to the Asia-Pacific region, the fastest-growing market as of 2002. The second billion was expected to be sold by 2008. Almost half of all households in Western Europe had a personal computer and a computer could be found in 40% of homes in United Kingdom, compared with only 13% in 1985. The global personal computer shipments were 350.9 million units in 2010,Global PC shipments grew 13.8 percent in 2010 – Gartner study
Jan 13, 2011, retrieved at September 12, 2011
308.3 million units in 2009
May 27, 2010, Andy Patrizio, earthweb.com, retrieved at September 12, 2011
and 302.2 million units in 2008.Worldwide PC Shipments in 2008
March 16, 2009, ZDNet, retrieved at September 12, 2011

January 14, 2009, Andy Patrizio, internetnews.com, retrieved at September 12, 2011
The shipments were 264 million units in the year 2007, according to iSuppli, up 11.2% from 239 million in 2006. In 2004, the global shipments were 183 million units, an 11.6% increase over 2003. In 2003, 152.6 million computers were shipped, at an estimated value of $175 billion. In 2002, 136.7 million PCs were shipped, at an estimated value of $175 billion. In 2000, 140.2 million personal computers were shipped, at an estimated value of $226 billion. Worldwide shipments of personal computers surpassed the 100-million mark in 1999, growing to 113.5 million units from 93.3 million units in 1998. In 1999, Asia had 14.1 million units shipped. As of June 2008, the number of personal computers in use worldwide hit one billion, while another billion is expected to be reached by 2014. Mature markets like the United States, Western Europe and Japan accounted for 58% of the worldwide installed PCs. The emerging markets were expected to double their installed PCs by 2012 and to take 70% of the second billion PCs. About 180 million computers (16% of the existing installed base) were expected to be replaced and 35 million to be dumped into landfill in 2008. The whole installed base grew 12% annually. Based on International Data Corporation (IDC) data for Q2 2011, for the first time China surpassed US in PC shipments by 18.5 million and 17.7 million respectively. This trend reflects the rising of emerging markets as well as the relative stagnation of mature regions. In the developed world, there has been a vendor tradition to keep adding functions to maintain high prices of personal computers. However, since the introduction of the One Laptop per Child foundation and its low-cost OLPC XO-1, XO-1 laptop, the computing industry started to pursue the price too. Although introduced only one year earlier, there were 14 million netbooks sold in 2008. Besides the regular computer manufacturers, companies making especially rugged versions of computers have sprung up, offering alternatives for people operating their machines in extreme weather or environments. In 2011, Deloitte consulting firm predicted that, smartphones and tablet computers as computing devices would surpass the PCs sales (as has happened since 2012). As of 2013, worldwide sales of PCs had begun to fall as many consumers moved to tablets and smartphones. Sales of 90.3 million units in the 4th quarter of 2012 represented a 4.9% decline from sales in the 4th quarter of 2011. Global PC sales fell sharply in the first quarter of 2013, according to IDC data. The 14% year-over-year decline was the largest on record since the firm began tracking in 1994, and double what analysts had been expecting. The decline of Q2 2013 PC shipments marked the fifth straight quarter of falling sales. "This is horrific news for PCs," remarked an analyst. "It's all about mobile computing now. We have definitely reached the tipping point." Data from Gartner showed a similar decline for the same time period. China's Lenovo Group bucked the general trend as strong sales to first-time buyers in the developing world allowed the company's sales to stay flat overall. Windows 8, which was designed to look similar to tablet/smartphone software, was cited as a contributing factor in the decline of new PC sales. "Unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," said IDC Vice President Bob O’Donnell. In August 2013, Credit Suisse published research findings that attributed around 75% of the operating profit share of the PC industry to Microsoft (operating system) and Intel (semiconductors). According to IDC, in 2013 PC shipments dropped by 9.8% as the greatest drop-ever in line with consumers trends to use mobile devices. In the second quarter of 2018, PC sales grew for the first time since the first quarter of 2012. According to research firm Gartner, the growth mainly came from the business market while the consumer market experienced decline.


Average selling price

Selling prices of personal computers steadily declined due to lower costs of production and manufacture, while the capabilities of computers increased. In 1975, an Altair kit sold for around only US$400, but required customers to solder components into circuit boards; peripherals required to interact with the system in alphanumeric form instead of blinking lights would add another $2,000, and the resultant system was of use only to hobbyists.Marvin B. Sussman ''Personal Computers and the Family'' Routledge, 1985 , p. 90. At their introduction in 1981, the US$1,795 price of the Osborne 1 and its competitor Kaypro was considered an attractive price point; these systems had text-only displays and only floppy disks for storage. By 1982, Michael Dell observed that a personal computer system selling at retail for about $3,000 US was made of components that cost the dealer about $600; typical gross margin on a computer unit was around $1,000. The total value of personal computer purchases in the US in 1983 was about $4 billion, comparable to total sales of pet food. By late 1998, the average selling price of personal computer systems in the United States had dropped below $1,000. For
Microsoft Windows Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several Proprietary software, proprietary graphical user interface, graphical operating system families, all of which are developed and marketed by Microsoft. Each family caters ...
systems, the average selling price (ASP) showed a decline in 2008/2009, possibly due to low-cost netbooks, drawing $569 for desktop computers and $689 for laptops at U.S. retail in August 2008. In 2009, ASP had further fallen to $533 for desktops and to $602 for notebooks by January and to $540 and $560 in February. According to research firm NPD Group, NPD, the average selling price of all Windows portable PCs has fallen from $659 in October 2008 to $519 in October 2009.


Environmental impact

External costs of environmental impact are not fully included in the selling price of personal computers. Personal computers have become a large contributor to the 50 million tons of discarded electronic waste generated annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. To address the electronic waste issue affecting developing countries and the environment, Extended producer responsibility, extended producer responsibility (EPR) acts have been implemented in various countries and states. In the absence of comprehensive national legislation or regulation on the export and import of electronic waste, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and BAN (Basel Action Network) teamed up with electronic recyclers in the US and Canada to create an e-steward program for the orderly disposal of electronic waste. Some organizations oppose EPR regulation, and claim that manufacturers naturally move toward reduced material and energy use.


See also

* Public computer * Portable computer * Desktop replacement computer * Quiet PC * Pocket Computer, Pocket PC * List of home computers * List of computer system manufacturers * Market share of personal computer vendors * Electronic waste, e-waste * Personal Computer Museum * Computer virus * Computer cooling * Gaming computer * Enthusiast computing * Overclocking * IEC 60320


References


Further reading

* ''Accidental Empires: How the boys of Silicon Valley make their millions, battle foreign competition, and still can't get a date'', Robert X. Cringely, Addison-Wesley Publishing, (1992), * ''PC Magazine'', Vol. 2, No. 6, November 1983, ‘'SCAMP: The Missing Link in the PC's Past?‘’


External links

* How Stuff Works pages: *
Dissecting a PC
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** wikihow:Build-a-Computer, How to Build a Computer *
Global archive with product data-sheets of PCs and Workstations
{{Authority control American inventions Classes of computers Home appliances Office equipment Personal computers,