personal computer

a.k.a. PC

(pronounced: P-C)

A computer designed for use by one person at a time. The term "PC" commonly describes what used to be known as an IBM-PC, as opposed to an Apple Macintosh, but both are personal computers. In fact, it's been said the entire evolution of the PC can be viewed as an effort to catch up with the Mac.

The distinction between PCs and Macs is both technical and cultural: a PC (or clone) has an operating system (such as DOS or Windows) that is written to use the Intel microprocessor; the Apple Macintosh uses a Motorola microprocessor architecture and its proprietary operating system. The PC is associated with business (as well as home) use and is used commonly by programmers; the Mac, known for its more intuitive graphical user interface (GUI), is associated with graphic design, desktop publishing, and home use and is used commonly by graphic designers.

The PC became a communication tool with the invention of networking, which began on a local basis at first (with LANs) and eventually spread to WANs, the basic foundation of the Internet. Now the PC is just one device in a rapidly expanding universe of computing.

Historical perspective: In 1985 the Amiga 1000 was the first personal computer released by Commodore. It was originally designed as a successor to Atari, but evolved into both a game console and a home computer. Most of what we know about computers initially came from magazines such as PC Magazine, PC World, MacWorld, Personal Computing, and David Bunnell who founded all of these magazines.

It is believed the term "personal computer" was coined in 1974 by Stewart Brand, American writer, editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and founder of The WELL.


Apple - Makers of the Macintosh line of computers and the Macintosh operating system. Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and is considered one of the most innovative personal computer companies. Creators of "the computer that changed everything," they also manufactured one of the first microcomputers, as well as the earlier Apple I, Apple II, and Lisa computers. These user-friendly, desktop computers made use of a mouse and a visually-oriented GUI (graphical user interface) that made them more appealing to the average computer user than the text-based DOS operating system. Here is where the term drag-and-drop came from: instead of having to type in lines of commands at the C prompt, all you had to do was use your mouse to open and close files and to move them around.

Apple achieved a cult following because people who use Macs feel it is a superior machine and a better operating system than Windows. In fact, after the hype of the Windows 95 launch, many Mac users pointed to plagiarism as Windows looked and operated almost exactly like a Mac (it even had a mouse). This was unheard of for IBM-PC users, who had grown accustomed to the DOS interface, and eventually a paradigm shift occurred, resulting in two camps: designers who use Macs and techies who use Windows-based operating systems (or others).

Known as the first company to bring a user-friendly approach to the personal computer, Apple's innovations include color monitors, built-in networking, plug-and-play expansion, a new expansion bus, QuickTime, integrated television, and more. Apple Computer manufactures all of their own equipment (and does not sublease it out), which means they have control over their manufacturing line (versus other PC makers, such as Dell or Compaq, which build hardware with the Windows operating system and an Intel chip). One early battle for Mac users on the Internet was that most of the new Internet software was initially developed first for Windows users and later for Macs. Apple has proved its worth, however, and even though the company experienced some internal problems along the way, it has revolutionized aspects of the multimedia industry (with QuickTime) and came back into popular demand (with the i-Mac series).

Did you know? The number of parents naming their daughters "Apple" jumped 15% in 2012 over the previous year, while the popularity of the name "Mac" for boys rose 12%. The number of people naming their baby daughters "Siri" also rose 5% from the previous year.


Microsoft - Aptly known as "the software giant," Microsoft's mission critical business was to have "a personal computer on every desk and in every home." It practically succeeded in that regard, and in the process, became a household name. Based in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen (one of whom was a college dropout). Now Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world (as is Paul Allen), due to a number of initiatives. One of his most revolutionary ideas not only made technology a powerful tool for all of us but created a new industry that changed our world: namely, the operating system for the desktop computer.

Did you know? In July 2012, Microsoft posted its first quarterly loss in its 26 years as a public company. The company reported a loss of $492 million, largely as a result of taking a $6.2 billion write-down on its failed online ad business, aQuantive.



Historical perspective: IBM, known informally as "Big Blue," is one of the largest, most well-known corporations that designs and manufactures computer systems, software, networking systems, storage devices, and microelectronics. Credited with inventing the first PC, in 1981, they are known for many inventions -- including the "casual Friday" dress code, a button-up blue shirt and a pair of khaki pants. IBM is responsible for many innovative products including ASP, BITNET, Bluetooth, Customer Information Control System (CICS), Data Encryption Standard (DES), holy war, IBM-PC, mainframe, MS-DOS, OS, PAN, PC-compatible, PGML, reverse engineering, SQL, and wild ducks


NetLingo Classification: Net Hardware

Updates