A personal computer or PC is a general-purpose, digital computer designed for a single end-user. A typical personal computer consists of one CPU (central processing unit) that handles all the device’s computing tasks. It also contains internal memory, storage, and input and output ports. It is connected to external devices such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and network. Its operations are controlled by the software called the Operating System.
Business Computers vs. Personal Computers
Business-grade computers which are massive in physical size and computer power are used by large and small businesses, governments, and scientific and educational institutions. Personal computers, on the other hand, are made for individual use. They are lightweight, portable, and affordable by individuals.
Timeline of Computer Evolution
Although no exact date of its inception is known, it is generally accepted that the first computer was invented by Charles Babbage in 1822. That computer was, however, far from what a typical computer looks like today. Over the years, the computer has evolved dramatically. Let us examine this evolution.
The early computers were created for business or scientific use. The first generation of computers worked by vacuum tubes and used magnetic drums to store memory. This is the period when the ENIAC (Electric Numerical Integrator and Computer) came into being. The ENIAC covered 1800 square feet and weighed 30 tons. There were several issues with the first round of computers, paving the way for improvement.
The second generation of computers replaced vacuum tubes with transistors as it was a more reliable mechanism. It helped spur the growth of smaller and more manageable computers, closer to the ones we see today.
However, the lifespan of transistors was short-lived as integrated circuits started becoming popular. This significantly improved the computers’ speed and efficiency, making them more affordable and accessible to a larger mass of people.
The fourth generation, which is the present age of computers saw the invention of microprocessors. Microprocessors helped the production of personal computers in a mass scale. Microprocessors contain thousands of integrated circuits on a single silicon chip, the CPU, input and output controls, and memory.
Today’s Personal Computers
The evolution of computers shows how accessibility and affordability created the personal computer, now used by a single user for work and entertainment. Personal computers were truly born in 1977, with the launch of three mass-produced personal computers: Apple Inc., the Personal Electronic Transactor (PET) of Commodore International, and the Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80, which all used microprocessors. Personal computers became affordable and popular during the 1980’s.
Personal computers changed the way people live and interact with one another today. They enable a user to engage in numerous activities, including work, internet browsing, online social interacting, gaming, multimedia streaming, and online shopping, just to list a few. The evolution of personal computers has been rapid and steady. It is hard to imagine life without a personal computer today.
About the Author: Amita Vadlamudi had a long career in the computer industry for over 35 years. After retiring from the field, Amita Vadlamudi now spends her time reading and blogging on various topics, including computers.