personal computer (PC)
In its more general usage, a personal computer (PC) is a microcomputer designed for use by one person at a time. Prior to the PC, computers were designed for (and only affordable by) companies who attached terminals for multiple users to a single large computer whose resources were shared among all users. The advent of the era of the personal computer was acknowledged by Time magazine in 1982, when they broke with tradition by choosing the PC as their Man of the Year. By the late 1980s, technology advances made it feasible to build a small computer that an individual could own and use.
The term PC has been traditionally used to describe an IBM-compatible personal computer in contradistinction to an Apple Macintosh computer. The distinction is both technical and cultural and harkens back to the early years of personal computers, when IBM and Apple were the two major competitors. Originally, the IBM-compatible PC was one with an Intel microprocessor architecture and an operating system such as DOS or Windows that written to use that microprocessor. The Apple Macintosh uses a Motorola microprocessor architecture and a proprietary operating system. The IBM-compatible PC was associated with business and use, while the Mac, known for its more intuitive user interface, was associated with graphic design and desktop publishing. Although the distinctions have become less clear-cut in recent years, people often still categorize a personal computer as either a PC or a Mac.
According to Michael Dell, there were 240 million PCs sold worldwide in 2005.
This was last updated in January 2011
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