PC stands for personal computer. PCs are multipurpose computers suited for individual end users, as opposed to high-performance computers that are typically reserved for IT specialists for carrying out tasks such as managing servers. PCs typically run on commercial operating systems (OS), commercial software applications, and freeway and open source software.
Types of PCs
PCs can be categorized into two general categories: stationary or portable.
Stationary PCs remain in a single location and are more robust in size and functionality than portable PCS. The two main types of stationary PCs are desktop computers and workstations.
- Desktop computers: The term PC has become synonymous with desktop computers. These stationary PCs are computers whose core components are held in a computer case, sometimes called a tower. This case is separate for external equipment used to operate the computer.
- Workstations: this refers to high-end PCs that are used for running technical, mathematical, and scientific applications, typically in a professional setting. They are usually connected to a larger network via a local area network (LAN).
Unlike desktop computers, portable PCs house all of the core components as well as the equipment needed to operate in one enclosure, including keys and a screen. Some of the most common portable devices are laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Here are some of the most important hardware components in a PC:
- The CPU (central processing unit) is the brain of the computer. It’s the most important component of a PC.
- The GPU (graphics processing unit) is used to create and render elements for 3D visual representations.
- Storage devices, including HDDs (hard disk drive) and SSDs (solid state drive), are used to store and transfer data.
- The motherboard is the main circuit board inside a PC. It is used to connect all components of a computer to the CPU so it can implement commands.
- The power supply is the component that provides electricity to power the PC.
- External equipment is used to manually operate a PC. The most common external components are monitors, keyboards, and mice.
Software is a digital program used to carry out tasks. It can either be installed locally or deliver over the cloud as software-as-a-service (SaaS). The most important piece of software is the operating system. It manages the computer hardware as well as the other software resources. The most popular operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX systems.
Applications are the second most important software component of a PC. They deliver functionality and tools to the end user. Some commonly used software applications include email, web browsers, SMS, and word processors.
History of PCs
The Altair 8800 from Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) is considered to be the first true personal computer. It was first introduced in 1974. In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak developed the Apple I running on the Macintosh OS, which they soon followed up with the far more popular Apple II in 1977.
Then, in 1981, IBM entered the fray with its first personal computer, known as the IBM PC. The IBM PC quickly became the personal computer of choice. Since the first personal computer produced by IBM was called the PC, increasingly the term PC came to mean IBM or IBM-compatible personal computers, to the exclusion of other types of personal computers, such as Macs.
Around this time, Microsoft partnered with IBM to run its Microsoft Windows OS on their hardware computers. Microsoft OS and IBM, along with Intel hardware, have dominated the PC market since the early 90s. Apple’s Mac OS is their biggest competitor.