A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing 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, free-of-charge software ("freeware") or free and open-source software, which is provided in ready-to-run form. Software for personal computers is typically developed and distributed independently from the hardware or 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 only available 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 operating systems and Intel hardware have dominated much of the personal computer market, first with MS-DOS and then with Windows. Alternatives to Microsoft's Windows operating systems occupy a minority share of the industry. These include Apple's macOS and free and open-source Unix-like operating systems such as Linux. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) provides the main alternative to Intel's processors.
The advent of personal computers and the concurrent Digital Revolution have significantly affected the lives of people in all countries.
"PC" is an initialism for "personal computer". The IBM Personal Computer incorporated the designation in its model name. It is sometimes useful to distinguish personal computers of the "IBM Personal Computer" family from personal computers made by other manufacturers. For example, "PC" is used in contrast with "Mac", an 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
The “brain” [computer] may one day come down to our level [of the common people] and help with our income-tax and book-keeping calculations. But this is speculation and there is no sign of it so far.
In the history of computing, early experimental machines could be operated by a single attendant. For example, 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-30of 1956, the Programma 101 introduced in 1964, and the Soviet MIR 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 in interactive mode for extended durations, although these systems would still have been too expensive to be owned by a single person.
In what was later to be called the Mother of All Demos, SRI researcher Douglas Engelbart in 1968 gave a preview of what would become the staples of daily working life in the 21st century: e-mail, hypertext, word processing, video conferencing, and the mouse. The demonstration required technical support staff and a mainframe time-sharing computer that were far too costly for individual business use at the time.
The development of the microprocessor, with widespread commercial availability starting in the mid 1970's, made computers cheap enough for small businesses and individuals to own.
Early personal computers—generally called microcomputers—were 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 lamps. Practical use required adding peripherals such as keyboards, computer displays, disk drives, and printers.
Micral N was the earliest commercial, non-kit microcomputer based on a microprocessor, the Intel 8008. It was built starting in 1972, and few hundred units were sold. This had been preceded by the Datapoint 2200 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 architecture used in the original IBM PC and its descendants.
In 1973, the IBM Los Gatos Scientific Center developed a portable computer prototype called SCAMP (Special Computer APL Machine Portable) based on the IBM PALM processor with a Philips compact cassette drive, small CRT, and full function keyboard. SCAMP emulated an IBM 1130 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 or HP 9800 offered only BASIC. Because SCAMP was the first to emulate APL/1130 performance on a portable, single user computer, PC Magazine in 1983 designated SCAMP a "revolutionary concept" and "the world's first personal computer". This seminal, single user portable computer now resides in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.. Successful demonstrations of the 1973 SCAMP prototype led to the 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.
A seminal step in personal computing was the 1973 Xerox Alto, developed at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). It had a graphical user interface (GUI) which later served as inspiration for Apple's Macintosh, and Microsoft's Windows operating system. The Alto was a demonstration project, not commercialized, as the parts were too expensive to be affordable.
Also in 1973 Hewlett Packard introduced fully BASIC programmable microcomputers that fit entirely on top of a desk, including a keyboard, a small one-line display, and printer. The Wang 2200 microcomputer of 1973 had a full-size cathode ray tube (CRT) and cassette tape storage. These were generally expensive specialized computers sold for business or scientific uses. The introduction of the microprocessor, a single chip with all the circuitry that formerly occupied large cabinets, led to the proliferation of personal computers after 1975.
1974 saw the introduction of what is considered by many to be the first true "personal computer", the Altair 8800 created by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). Based on the 8-bit Intel 8080 Microprocessor, the Altair is widely recognized as the spark that ignited the microcomputer revolution as the first commercially successful personal computer. The computer bus designed for the Altair was to become a de facto standard in the form of the S-100 bus, and the first programming language for the machine was Microsoft's founding product, Altair BASIC.
In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sold the Apple I 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, owner of the Byte Shop, 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 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 after being revealed in January 1977. However, it was back-ordered and not available until later that year. Three months later (April), the Apple II (usually referred to as the "Apple") was announced with the first units being shipped 10 June 1977, and the TRS-80 from Tandy Corporation / 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.
During the early 1980s, home computers 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, a UK company, produced the ZX Series—the ZX80 (1980), ZX81 (1981), and the ZX Spectrum; the latter was introduced in 1982, and totaled 8 million unit sold. Following came the Commodore 64, totaled 17 million units sold.
In the same year, the NEC PC-98 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, was unveiled by Commodore on July 23, 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 (for example, running CP/M), or sometimes a home computer with additional interfaces and devices, although still low-cost compared with minicomputers and mainframes, were aimed at office and small business use, typically using "high resolution" monitors capable of at least 80 column text display, and often no graphical or color drawing capability. Workstations were characterized by high-performance processors and graphics displays, with large-capacity local disk storage, networking capability, and running under a multitasking operating system. Eventually, due to the influence of the IBM PC on the personal computer market, 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.
In 1982 "The Computer" was named Machine of the Year by Time 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, but bulletin board systems and online service providers became more commonly available after 1978. Commercial Internet service providers emerged in the last 1980's, giving public access to the rapidly growing network.
In 1991, the World Wide Web 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 browsers, established the foundation for a significant fraction of modern life, from bus time tables through unlimited distribution of free pornography through to online user-edited encyclopedias.
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 and run multi-user operating systems. Workstations are used for tasks such as computer-aided design, drafting and modeling, computation-intensive scientific and engineering calculations, image processing, architectural modeling, and computer graphics for animation and motion picture visual effects.
Before the widespread use of PCs, a computer that could fit on a desk was remarkably small, leading to the "desktop" nomenclature. More recently, the phrase usually indicates a particular style of computer case. Desktop computers come in a variety of styles ranging from large vertical tower cases to small models which can be tucked behind an LCD monitor.
The term "desktop" typically refers to a computer with a vertically aligned computer case that holds 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 USB 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.
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 nettops computer was introduced by Intel in February 2008, characterized by low cost and lean functionality.These were intended to be used with an Internet connection to run 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, 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 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.
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. TheIBM 5100 could be fit into a transport case, making it a portable computer in 1975, but with a 50 lb overall weight.
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 desk top 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. 
Notebook computers such as the TRS 80 Model 100 and Epson HX-20 had roughly the plan dimensions of a sheet of typing paper (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".
A laptop computer is designed for portability with "clamshell" design, where the keyboard and computer components are on one panel, with a hinged seccond panel containing a flat display screen. Closing the laptop protects the screen and keyboard during transportation. Laptops generally have a rechargeable battery, enhancing their portability. To sve power, weight and space, laptop graphics cards are in many cases integrated into the CPU or chipset and use system RAM, resulting in reduced graphics performance when compared to a desktop machine. For this reason, desktop computers are usually preferred over laptops for 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 or no battery battery capacity. 
Netbooks, also called mini notebooks or subnotebooks, are a subgroup of laptops suited for general computing tasks and accessing web-based applications. They are often marketed as "companion devices", with an intention to augment other ways in which a user can access computer resources. Walt Mossberg called them a "relatively new category of small, light, minimalist and cheap laptops." By August 2009, CNET called netbooks "nothing more than smaller, cheaper notebooks." Initially, the primary defining characteristic of netbooks was the lack of an optical disc drive, requiring it to be a separate external device. This has become less important as flash memory devices have gradually increased in capacity, replacing the writable optical disc (e.g. CD-RW, DVD-RW) as a transportable storage medium.
At their inception in late 2007—as smaller notebooks optimized for low weight and low cost—netbooks omitted key features (e.g., the optical drive), featured smaller screens and keyboards, and offered reduced specifications and computing power. Over the course of their evolution, netbooks have ranged in their screen sizes from below five inches to over 13 inches, with weights around ~1 kg (2–3 pounds). Often significantly less expensive than other laptops, by mid-2009 netbooks had been offered to users "free of charge", with an extended service contract purchase of a cellular data plan. In the short period since their appearance, netbooks have grown in size and features, converging with new smaller and lighter notebooks. By mid-2009, CNET noted that "the specs are so similar that the average shopper would likely be confused as to why one is better than the other," noting "the only conclusion is that there really is no distinction between the devices."
A 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.
Smartphones are often similar to tablet computers, the difference being that smartphones always have cellular integration. They are generally smaller than tablets, and may not have a slate form factor.
The ultra-mobile PC (UMP) is a small tablet computer. It was developed by Microsoft, Intel and Samsung, among others. Current UMPCs typically feature the Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Linux operating system, and low-voltage Intel Atom or VIA C7-M processors.
A pocket PC is a hardware specification for a handheld-sized computer (personal digital assistant, PDA) that runs the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system. It may have the capability to run an alternative operating system like NetBSD or Linux. Pocket PCs have many of the capabilities of desktop PCs. Numerous applications are available for handhelds adhering to the Microsoft Pocket PC specification, many of which are freeware. Microsoft-compliant Pocket PCs can also be used with many other add-ons like 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.
Computer hardware is a comprehensive term for all physical 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 only require users to plug in the power supply, monitor, and other cables. A typical desktop computer consists of a computer case (or "tower"), a metal chassis that holds the 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, keyboard, and a pointing device (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 memory modules plug into corresponding memory 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 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 computers hardware can sometimes be extended by the addition of expansion cards connected via an expansion bus. Standard peripheral buses often used for adding expansion cards in personal computers include PCI, PCI Express (PCIe), and 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 of the having PCI slots as well.
Computer software is any kind of computer program, 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 systems that interface with computer hardware to provide the necessary services for application software, and middleware that controls and co-ordinates distributed systems.
Software applications are common for word processing, Internet browsing, Internet faxing, e-mail 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 "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.
An operating system (OS) manages computer resources and provides programmers with an 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 memory, prioritizing system requests, controlling input and output devices, facilitating computer networking, and managing files.
Common contemporary desktop operating systems are Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, 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, which was developed at Bell Labs beginning in the late 1960s and spawned the development of numerous free and proprietary operating systems.
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 1960's, 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 21t century, text-mode operating systems were no longer a significant fraction of the personal computer market.
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 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.
PC gaming is popular among the high-end PC market. According to an April 2014 market analysis, Gaming platforms like Steam (software), Uplay, Origin, and GOG.com (as well as competitive e Sports titles like League of Legends) are largely responsible for PC systems overtaking console revenue in 2013.
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 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% 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, 308.3 million units in 2009 and 302.2 million units in 2008. 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 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 for gifts and personal use. 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.
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 only around 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 only of use to hobbyists.
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 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, the average selling price of all Windows portable PCs has fallen from $659 in October 2008 to $519 in October 2009.
External costs of environmental impact are not fully included in the selling price of personal computers. This impact differs between desktop computers and laptops.
Personal computers have become a large contributor to the 50 million tons of discarded electronic waste that is being generated annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. To address the electronic waste issue affecting developing countries and the environment, extended producer responsibility (EPR) acts have been implemented in various countries and states. Organizations, such as the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Basel Action Network, Toxics Link India, SCOPE, and Greenpeace have contributed to these efforts. 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 32 electronic recyclers in the US and Canada to create an e-steward program for the orderly disposal of manufacturers' and customers' electronic waste. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition founded the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a coalition that advocates for the production of environmentally friendly products. The TakeBack Coalition works with policy makers, recyclers, and smart businesses to get manufacturers to take full responsibility of their products. There are organizations opposing EPR regulation, such as the Reason Foundation. They see flaws in two principal tenets of EPR: First EPR relies on the idea that if the manufacturers have to pay for environmental harm, they will adapt their practices. Second EPR assumes the current design practices are environmentally inefficient. The Reason Foundation claims that manufacturers naturally move toward reduced material and energy use.
The iPad is not a personal computer in the sense that we currently understand.
There is little question that the current enthusiasm in personal computing was catalyzed by the introduction of the MITS Altair computer kit in January 1975.
...its venerable PC 9800 series, which has sold more than 18 million units over the years, and is the reason why NEC has been the number one PC vendor in Japan for as long as anyone can remember.
AT&T announced on Tuesday that customers in Atlanta could get a type of compact PC called a netbook for just 50 US$ if they signed up for an Internet service plan... 'The era of a perfect Internet computer for 99 US$ is coming this year,' said Jen-Hsun Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia, a maker of PC graphics chips that is trying to adapt to the new technological order.
The Amstrad CPC (short for Colour Personal Computer) is a series of 8-bit home computers produced by Amstrad between 1984 and 1990. It was designed to compete in the mid-1980s home computer market dominated by the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, where it successfully established itself primarily in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and the German-speaking parts of Europe.
The series spawned a total of six distinct models: The CPC464, CPC664, and CPC6128 were highly successful competitors in the European home computer market. The later plus models, 464plus and 6128plus, efforts to prolong the system's lifecycle with hardware updates, were considerably less successful, as was the attempt to repackage the plus hardware into a game console as the GX4000.
The CPC models' hardware is based on the Zilog Z80A CPU, complemented with either 64 or 128 KB of RAM. Their computer-in-a-keyboard design prominently features an integrated storage device, either a compact cassette deck or 3 inch floppy disk drive. The main units were only sold bundled with either a colour, green-screen or monochrome monitor that doubles as the main unit's power supply. Additionally, a wide range of first and third party hardware extensions such as external disk drives, printers, and memory extensions, was available.
The CPC series was pitched against other home computers primarily used to play video games and enjoyed a strong supply of game software. The comparatively low price for a complete computer system with dedicated monitor, its high resolution monochrome text and graphic capabilities and the possibility to run CP/M software also rendered the system attractive for business users, which was reflected by a wide selection of application software.
During its lifetime, the CPC series sold approximately three million units.Apple II
The Apple II (stylized as Apple ][) is an 8-bit home computer, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products, designed primarily by Steve Wozniak (Steve Jobs oversaw the development of the Apple II's foam-molded plastic case and Rod Holt developed the switching power supply). It was introduced in 1977 at the West Coast Computer Faire by Jobs and was the first consumer product sold by Apple Computer, Inc. It is the first model in a series of computers which were produced until Apple IIe production ceased in November 1993. The Apple II marks Apple's first launch of a personal computer aimed at a consumer market – branded towards American households rather than businessmen or computer hobbyists.Byte magazine referred to the Apple II, Commodore PET 2001 and the TRS-80 as the "1977 Trinity."
The Apple II had the defining feature of being able to display color graphics, and this capability was the reason why the Apple logo was redesigned to have a spectrum of colors.Computer hardware
Computer hardware includes the physical, tangible parts or components of a computer, such as the cabinet, central processing unit, monitor, keyboard, computer data storage, graphic card, sound card, speakers and motherboard. By contrast, software is instructions that can be stored and run by hardware. Hardware is so-termed because it is "hard" or rigid with respect to changes or modifications; whereas software is "soft" because it is easy to update or change. Intermediate between software and hardware is "firmware", which is software that is strongly coupled to the particular hardware of a computer system and thus the most difficult to change but also among the most stable with respect to consistency of interface. The progression from levels of "hardness" to "softness" in computer systems parallels a progression of layers of abstraction in computing.
Hardware is typically directed by the software to execute any command or instruction. A combination of hardware and software forms a usable computing system, although other systems exist with only hardware components.Desktop computer
A desktop computer is a personal computer designed for regular use at a single location on or near a desk or table due to its size and power requirements. The most common configuration has a case that houses the power supply, motherboard (a printed circuit board with a microprocessor as the central processing unit (CPU), memory, bus, and other electronic components), disk storage (usually one or more hard disk drives, optical disc drives, and in early models a floppy disk drive); a keyboard and mouse for input; and a computer monitor, speakers, and, often, a printer for output. The case may be oriented horizontally or vertically and placed either underneath, beside, or on top of a desk.History of personal computers
The history of the personal computer as a mass-market consumer electronic device began with the microcomputer revolution of the 1980s. The 1981 launch of the IBM Personal Computer coined both the term Personal Computer and PC. A personal computer is one intended for interactive individual use,, as opposed to a mainframe computer where the end user's requests are filtered through operating staff, or a time-sharing system in which one large processor is shared by many individuals. After the development of the microprocessor, individual personal computers were low enough in cost that they eventually became affordable consumer goods. Early personal computers – generally called microcomputers – were sold often in electronic kit form and in limited numbers, and were of interest mostly to hobbyists and technicians.Home computer
Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977, that started with what Byte Magazine called the "trinity of 1977", (the Apple II, the TRS-80 Model I, and the Commodore PET) and which 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 single nontechnical user. These computers were a distinct market segment that typically cost much less than business, scientific or engineering-oriented computers of the time such as the IBM PC, and were generally less powerful in terms of memory and expandability. However, a home computer often had better graphics and sound than contemporary business computers. Their most common uses were playing video games, but they were also regularly used for word processing, doing homework, and programming.
Home computers were usually not electronic kits; home computers were sold already manufactured in stylish metal or plastic enclosures. There were, however, commercial kits like the Sinclair ZX80 which were both home and home-built computers since the purchaser could assemble the unit from a kit.
Advertisements in the popular press for early home computers were rife with possibilities for their practical use in the home, from cataloging recipes to personal finance to home automation, but these were seldom realized in practice. For example, using a typical 1980s home computer as a home automation appliance would require the computer to be kept powered on at all times and dedicated to this task. Personal finance and database use required tedious data entry.
By contrast, advertisements in the specialty computer press often simply listed specifications. If no packaged software was available for a particular application, the home computer user could program one—provided they had invested the requisite hours to learn computer programming, as well as the idiosyncrasies of their system. Since most systems shipped with the BASIC programming language included on the system ROM, it was easy for users to get started creating their own simple applications. Many users found programming to be a fun and rewarding experience, and an excellent introduction to the world of digital technology.The line between 'business' and 'home' computer market segments blurred or vanished completely once IBM PC compatibles became commonly used in the home, since now both categories of computers typically use the same processor architectures, peripherals, operating systems, and applications. Often the only difference may be the sales outlet through which they are purchased. Another change from the home computer era is that the once-common endeavour of writing one's own software programs has almost vanished from home computer use.Home theater PC
A home theater PC (HTPC) or media center computer is a convergence device that combines some or all the capabilities of a personal computer with a software application that supports video, photo, audio playback, and sometimes video recording functionality. In recent years, other types of consumer electronics, including gaming systems and dedicated media devices have crossed over to manage video and music content. The term "media center" also refers to specialized application software designed to run on standard personal computers.An HTPC and other convergence devices integrate components of a home theater into a unit co-located with a home entertainment system. An HTPC system typically has a remote control and the software interface normally has a 10-foot (3 m) user interface design so that it can be comfortably viewed at typical television viewing distances. An HTPC can be purchased pre-configured with the required hardware and software needed to add video programming or music to the PC. Enthusiasts can also piece together a system out of discrete components as part of a software-based HTPC.Since 2007 Digital media player and Smart TV software has been incorporated into consumer electronics through software or hardware changes including video game consoles, Blu-ray players, networked media players, televisions, and set-top boxes. The increased availability of specialized devices, coupled with paid and free digital online content, now offer alternatives to multipurpose (and more costly) personal computers.IBM
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational information 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 Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) and was renamed "International Business Machines" in 1924.
IBM produces and sells computer hardware, middleware and software, and provides hosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology. IBM is also a major research organization, holding the record for most U.S. patents generated by a business (as of 2019) for 26 consecutive years. Inventions by IBM include the automated teller machine (ATM), the floppy disk, the hard disk drive, the magnetic stripe card, the relational database, the SQL programming language, the UPC barcode, and dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). The IBM mainframe, exemplified by the System/360, was the dominant computing platform during the 1960s and 1970s.
IBM has continually shifted business operations by focusing on higher-value, more profitable markets. This includes spinning off printer manufacturer Lexmark in 1991 and the sale of personal computer (ThinkPad/ThinkCentre) and x86-based server businesses to Lenovo (in 2005 and 2014, respectively), and acquiring companies such as PwC Consulting (2002), SPSS (2009), The Weather Company (2016), and Red Hat (2018). Also in 2014, IBM announced that it would go "fabless", continuing to design semiconductors, but offloading manufacturing to GlobalFoundries.
Nicknamed Big Blue, IBM is one of 30 companies included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and one of the world's largest employers, with (as of 2017) over 380,000 employees, known as "IBMers". At least 70% of IBMers are based outside the United States, and the country with the largest number of IBMers is India. IBM employees have been awarded five Nobel Prizes, six Turing Awards, ten National Medals of Technology (USA) and five National Medals of Science (USA).IBM Personal Computer
The IBM Personal Computer, commonly known as the IBM PC, is the original version and progenitor of the IBM PC compatible hardware platform. It is IBM model number 5150, and was introduced on August 12, 1981. It was created by a team of engineers and designers under the direction of Don Estridge of the IBM Entry Systems Division in Boca Raton, Florida.
The generic term "personal computer" ("PC") was in use years before 1981, applied as early as 1972 to the Xerox PARC's Alto, but because of the success of the IBM Personal Computer, the term "PC" came to also mean more specifically a desktop microcomputer compatible with IBM's Personal Computer branded products. Since the machine was based on open architecture, within a short time of its introduction, third-party suppliers of peripheral devices, expansion cards, and software proliferated; the influence of the IBM PC on the personal computer market was substantial in standardizing a platform for personal computers. "IBM compatible" became an important criterion for sales growth; after the 1980s, only the Apple Macintosh family kept a significant share of the microcomputer market without compatibility with the IBM personal computer.IBM Personal Computer/AT
The IBM Personal Computer AT, more commonly known as the IBM AT and also sometimes called the PC AT or PC/AT, was IBM's second-generation PC, designed around the 6 MHz Intel 80286 microprocessor and released in 1984 as System Unit 5170. The name AT stood for "Advanced Technology," and was chosen because the AT offered various technologies that were then new in personal computers; one such advancement was that the 80286 processor supported protected mode. IBM later released an 8 MHz version of the AT.IBM Personal Computer XT
The IBM Personal Computer XT, often shortened to the IBM XT, PC XT, or simply XT, is a version of the IBM PC with a built-in hard drive. It was released as IBM Machine Type number 5160 on March 8, 1983. Apart from the hard drive, it was essentially the same as the original PC, with only minor improvements. The XT was mainly intended as an enhanced IBM PC for business users. Later floppy-only models would effectively replace the original model 5150 PC. A corresponding 3270 PC featuring 3270 terminal emulation was released later in October 1983. XT stands for eXtended Technology.Laptop
A laptop, also called a notebook computer or simply a notebook, is a small, portable personal computer with a "clamshell" form factor, having, typically, a thin LCD or LED computer screen mounted on the inside of the upper lid of the "clamshell" and an alphanumeric keyboard on the inside of the lower lid. The "clamshell" is opened up to use the computer. Laptops are folded shut for transportation, and thus are suitable for mobile use. Its name comes from "lap", as it was deemed to be placed for use on a person's lap. Although originally there was a distinction between laptops and notebooks, the former being bigger and heavier than the latter, as of 2014, there is often no longer any difference. Laptops are commonly used in a variety of settings, such as at work, in education, in playing games, Internet surfing, for personal multimedia and general home computer use.
Laptops combine all the input/output components and capabilities of a desktop computer, including the display screen, small speakers, a keyboard, hard disk drive, optical disc drive, pointing devices (such as a touchpad or trackpad), a processor, and memory into a single unit. Most modern laptops feature integrated webcams and built-in microphones, while many also have touchscreens. Laptops can be powered either from an internal battery or by an external power supply from an AC adapter. Hardware specifications, such as the processor speed and memory capacity, significantly vary between different types, makes, models and price points.
Design elements, form factor and construction can also vary significantly between models depending on intended use. Examples of specialized models of laptops include rugged notebooks for use in construction or military applications, as well as low production cost laptops such as those from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization, which incorporate features like solar charging and semi-flexible components not found on most laptop computers. Portable computers, which later developed into modern laptops, were originally considered to be a small niche market, mostly for specialized field applications, such as in the military, for accountants, or for traveling sales representatives. As the portable computers evolved into the modern laptop, they became widely used for a variety of purposes.List of artistic depictions of Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs (; February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s (along with engineer, inventor, and Apple Computer co-founder, Steve Wozniak). Shortly after his death, Jobs's official biographer, Walter Isaacson, described him as the "creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing."MS-DOS
MS-DOS ( em-es-DOSS; acronym for Microsoft Disk Operating System) is an operating system for x86-based personal computers mostly developed by Microsoft. Collectively, MS-DOS, its rebranding as IBM PC DOS, and some operating systems attempting to be compatible with MS-DOS, are sometimes referred to as "DOS" (which is also the generic acronym for disk operating system). MS-DOS was the main operating system for IBM PC compatible personal computers during the 1980s and the early 1990s, when it was gradually superseded by operating systems offering a graphical user interface (GUI), in various generations of the graphical Microsoft Windows operating system.
MS-DOS was the result of the language developed in the seventies that was used by IBM for its mainframe operating system. Microsoft acquired the rights to meet IBM specifications. IBM licensed and re-released it on August 12, 1981 as PC DOS 1.0 for use in their PCs. Although MS-DOS and PC DOS were initially developed in parallel by Microsoft and IBM, the two products diverged after twelve years, in 1993, with recognizable differences in compatibility, syntax, and capabilities.
During its lifetime, several competing products were released for the x86 platform, and MS-DOS went through eight versions, until development ceased in 2000. Initially MS-DOS was targeted at Intel 8086 processors running on computer hardware using floppy disks to store and access not only the operating system, but application software and user data as well. Progressive version releases delivered support for other mass storage media in ever greater sizes and formats, along with added feature support for newer processors and rapidly evolving computer architectures. Ultimately it was the key product in Microsoft's growth from a programming language company to a diverse software development firm, providing the company with essential revenue and marketing resources. It was also the underlying basic operating system on which early versions of Windows ran as a GUI. It is a flexible operating system, and consumes negligible installation space.Microcomputer
A microcomputer is a small, relatively inexpensive computer with a microprocessor as its central processing unit (CPU). It includes a microprocessor, memory, and minimal input/output (I/O) circuitry mounted on a single printed circuit board. Microcomputers became popular in the 1970s and 1980s with the advent of increasingly powerful microprocessors. The predecessors to these computers, mainframes and minicomputers, were comparatively much larger and more expensive (though indeed present-day mainframes such as the IBM System z machines use one or more custom microprocessors as their CPUs). Many microcomputers (when equipped with a keyboard and screen for input and output) are also personal computers (in the generic sense).The abbreviation micro was common during the 1970s and 1980s, but has now fallen out of common usage.Nettop
A nettop (or miniature PC, Mini PC or Smart Micro PC) is a small-sized, inexpensive, low-power, legacy-free desktop computer designed for basic tasks such as web browsing, accessing web-based applications, document processing, and audio/video playback. The word nettop is a portmanteau of Internet and desktop. It is the desktop counterpart of the netbook.
Compared to ordinary desktop computers, nettops are not only smaller and cheaper, but they also consume much less power. For example, CompuLab's fit-PC2 consumes no more than 8 watts of power whereas a typical desktop would easily consume more than 100 watts of power; consequently, nettops require significantly less cooling and may even be completely fanless. Some do not have an optical disk drive and use a solid state drive, making them completely silent. The tradeoff is that the hardware specifications and processing power are usually reduced and hence make nettops less appropriate for running complex or resource-intensive applications.PC game
A PC game, also known as a computer game or personal computer game, is a video game played on a personal computer rather than a dedicated video game console or arcade machine. Its defining characteristics include: more diverse and user-determined gaming hardware and software; and generally greater capacity in input, processing, and video output. The uncoordinated nature of the PC game market, and now its lack of physical media, make precisely assessing its size difficult.
Home computer games became popular following the video game crash of 1983, leading to the era of the "bedroom coder". In the 1990s, PC games lost mass-market traction to console games, before enjoying a resurgence in the mid-2000s through digital distribution.Newzoo reports that the PC gaming sector is the third-largest category (and estimated in decline) across all platforms as of 2016, with the console sector second-largest, and mobile/smartphone gaming sector biggest. 2.2 billion video gamers generate US$101.1 billion in revenue, excluding hardware costs. "Digital game revenues will account for $94.4 billion or 87% of the global market. Mobile is the most lucrative segment, with smartphone and tablet gaming growing 19% year on year to $46.1 billion, claiming 42% of the market. In 2020, mobile gaming will represent just more than half of the total games market. [...] China expected to generate $27.5 billion, or one-quarter of all revenues in 2017."PC gaming is considered synonymous (by Newzoo and others) with IBM Personal Computer compatible systems; while mobile computers – smartphones and tablets, such as those running Android or iOS – are also personal computers in the general sense. The APAC region was estimated to generate $46.6 billion in 2016, or 47% of total global video game revenues (note, not only "PC" games). China alone accounts for half of APAC's revenues (at $24.4 billion), cementing its place as the largest video game market in the world, ahead of the US's anticipated market size of $23.5 billion. China is expected to have 53% of its video game revenues come from mobile gaming in 2017 (46% in 2016).Personal Computer Memory Card International Association
The Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) was a group of computer hardware manufacturers, operating under that name from 1989 to 2009/2010. Starting with the eponymous PCMCIA card in 1990, it created various standards for peripheral interfaces designed for laptop computers.Tablet computer
A tablet computer, commonly shortened to tablet, is a mobile device, typically with a mobile operating system and LCD touchscreen display processing circuitry, and a rechargeable battery in a single thin, flat package. Tablets, being computers, do what other personal computers do, but lack some I/O capabilities that others have. Modern tablets largely resemble modern smartphones, the only differences being that tablets are relatively larger than smartphones, with screens 7 inches (18 cm) or larger, measured diagonally, and may not support access to a cellular network.
The touchscreen display is operated by gestures executed by finger or stylus instead of the mouse, trackpad, and keyboard of larger computers. Portable computers can be classified according to the presence and appearance of physical keyboards. Two species of tablet, the "slate" and "booklet", do not have physical keyboards and usually accept text and other input by use of a virtual keyboard shown on their touchscreen displays. To compensate for their lack of a physical keyboard, most tablets can connect to independent physical keyboards by wireless Bluetooth or USB; 2-in-1 PCs have keyboards, distinct from tablets.
The form of the tablet was conceptualized in the middle of the 20th century (Stanley Kubrick depicted fictional tablets in the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey) and prototyped and developed in the last two decades of that century. In 2010, Apple released the iPad, the first mass-market tablet to achieve widespread popularity. Thereafter tablets rapidly rose in ubiquity and briefly became a large product category used for personal, educational and workplace applications, with sales stabilizing in the mid-2010s.