What is Personal Computer (PC)? Types, Features & More

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What is Personal Computer (PC)?

Personal Computer or PC refers to the digital computing system that is built to be used by one person only at a time. It typically runs on commercial software applications and operating systems or open source and freeway software.

Technically, this is a device that is much smaller in size but has everything to make it a multi-purpose computing machine that can be operated directly by the end user, whether a computer expert or a beginner.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Personal Computer is a multipurpose system that can be used by any individual solely to perform day to day and other computing tasks.
  • The first true PC is the Altair 8800 from MITS introduced in 1974 followed by Apple I in 1976 and Apple II a year later and IBM computers in 1981. Today, more advanced mini-computers are available.
  • Personal computers have revolutionized the lives of people allowing them to do repetitive tasks quickly and more precisely. Simple or complex, these tireless machines can handle any data and perform several tasks per second reducing human effort and time to do the same task or tasks.
  • PCs mostly have the same components as the larger and supercomputers but of comparatively low power and magnitude that makes them cheaper and affordable for any individual to buy and use.
  • These machines help in learning, gathering information, staying current with the events in the world, doing business and official tasks, staying in touch with others, communicating, researching and doing a lot more to improve skills and quality of life.

Understanding Personal Computer (PC)

What is Personal Computer

Personal computers are the machines that allow doing a lot of simple as well as complicated tasks by a single user repeatedly and accurately.

Calculation, communication, doing tasks related to home or business – you name it and the PC will help you to do them all.

With the use of the internet, the potential of these machines are extended even further and you can communicate with anyone staying in any part of the globe.

Most importantly, everything that you do or every file that you create can be stored safely in the computer for a long time for future reference.

It is due to the multiple benefits offered, personal computers are used extensively in all possible fields and by people from all walks of life including and not limited to:

  • Homes
  • Business
  • Medical field
  • Government offices
  • Educational institutions and training centers
  • Research organizations
  • Entertainment industry
  • Manufacturing industry
  • Banking and finance industry
  • Data centers and
  • Science, Engineering and Arts.

A Personal Computer is made of a few specific parts which are:

In addition to these basic components, the PCs also come with a network or internet connection, and several different ports to connect the different peripheral devices.

This is all about the hardware of the computer that is required to set it up or build it. However, in order to make it work, you will also need suitable software and drives such as the operating system.

It can do anything, well almost, that a large computer can do. And, the working process is also quite similar which involves:

  • Taking in data or information from one end as input
  • Processing it or store it according to the need and finally
  • Delivering the output after carrying out the processing.

The personal computer will allow you to do a lot of things on it quickly, easily, and correctly. These are:

  • Creating documents or spreadsheets
  • Writing papers
  • Playing games
  • Running different databases
  • Keeping track of your finance and accounts
  • Making video calls
  • Watching movies, videos or listening to music
  • Checking your email
  • Surfing the internet just for fun or to gather relevant information and
  • Downloading files or data.
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You can even use several personal computers to create a network in your organization for better and faster communication and productivity.

There are several benefits of using a PC which include and are not limited to the following:

  • The system can be used for work, at home, and for education purposes in school or college by students for learning, by teachers for teaching and the staff for management and administrative purposes
  • It will allow you to manage your daily schedule accordingly even if you watch movies, TV or play games so that these do not take control of you
  • You can use your computer as a telephone to stay connected with others, be it your friends, family, or colleague staying far away by making video calls using the internet
  • Computers may also allow you to control gadgets in your home remotely and even make security and surveillance better and
  • You can gather all sorts of information over the internet and the related websites as well as from different user-specific books, communities, forums, and encyclopedias.

However, there are a few downsides of it but those are all related to you and your usage mainly and not to the computer system itself. Too much use of computers can cause some physical side effects such as:

  • Headaches and backaches
  • Wrist soreness
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Strained eyes and
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Furthermore, using the internet too much may also result in its addiction which may also affect your health, performance at work or school and you may even get involved in cyber crimes or be duped.

In short, this is a beneficial technology that is most favored by the users and is virtually indispensable today that has made their lives easy.

The most significant benefit offered by a PC to the users is that it lets them save time and effort as well as money while performing any task in more than one way, no matter whether it is used by a beginner, an expert, a school going kid or a housewife.

Personal Computer History

Though the initial effort was made by Microsoft to tread the uncharted terrain of the PC industry, history says it did not start with IBM or Microsoft.

Historically, this is the timeline of the personal computers:

  • The Altair clone IMSAI 8080 followed by MITS Altair 8800 are considered to be the first personal computers introduced in 1975.
  • Using the 6502 processor of MOS Technology Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple created the Apple I in 1976.
  • A year later in 1977, Apple introduced a color computer Apple II with expansion slots and floppy drive support.
  • After VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet, and database were produced Texas Instrument created the first 16-bit computer in the industry in 1979.
  • In 1980 Commodore opened the floodgates for home computers with their $299 VIC-20 with Sinclair trying to beat them with their $199 ZX 80.
  • Early 1981 saw the first portable computer introduced by Adam Osborne and the first laptop computer Epson HX-20 also arrived.
  • Then on 12th August 1981 IBM stepped into the personal computing industry.

Since then several companies made improvements in their existing products and a few even came up with newer models till 1994 when the personal computers became more than just a computing machine – a gaming PC.

Once again different companies took part in the race and came up with newer and more powerful models such as:

  • Palm Pilot in March 1996 and
  • NeXT by Apple in the same year and the Power Mac G3 in 1997.

Further, with the launch of the low cost Celeron CPU by Intel in 1998, new generation PCs were created by Apple such as Lombard, a light PowerBook with USB, in May that year.

In August the same year, Apple launched the Power Mac G4, one of the most powerful and strong computers of the world that fell under export restrictions.

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In 2002, Apple introduced the flat-panel iMac G4 along with two other new PowerBook models of PowerBook G4 in January 2003 that were further fortified with a 5” aluminum model in September that year.

Apple also introduced Power Mac 970 in July 2003 using the newest PowerPC of IBM along with further upgrades done on it later on.

Finally, you have the popular personal computers of today, a field that is typically categorized between Apple Macintoshes and PCs.

Types of Personal Computer

A personal computer can come in different forms and shapes but the most commonly known forms are desktop computers and laptop computers. However, there can be several subcategories of it such as a tablet, a microcomputer, a handheld system and more.

Here are the different types of PCs along with a brief description of each.

Desktop computers

This type of personal computer is most extensively and commonly used in different settings such as homes, offices, schools and others.

These systems are designed to be set up and stay in one particular place because they are usually large in size and heavy to carry from one place to another easily.

Since these computers sit on a desk or a table, it is called a desktop computer. It has more powerful components than other personal computers and can perform multiple tasks quite easily and efficiently.

The main part of this particular form of personal computer is the System Unit or the case that holds all the critical parts of the system that makes it work and typically comes in two specific models such as:

  • An Originally Oriented System Unit and
  • A Vertically Oriented System Unit which is commonly referred to as the tower model.

Laptop computers

This is the second-most popular type of personal computer that is extremely portable due to its light weight build and small size.

It can be used on the user’s lap and does not need to be connected to a power outlet continuously because it is powered by a battery.

Depending on the components inside the system, a laptop computer may perform at par with a desktop computer but will usually become hot much more quickly than the larger desktop variant.

Users can also plug in a laptop computer into a docking station, if the design permits, and include a full-size keyboard, mouse or other peripheral devices.

The docking station will offer additional ports that will allow the user to use the system just like a desktop computer connecting to different devices or a network.

Workstation computers

This is also a special type of a desktop computer but is built with more powerful components than it.

Apart from a powerful processor, the workstations are also equipped with additional memory, high-end graphics card and can perform at a much greater speed overall in comparison to a regular desktop computer.

These specific computers are usually used by and are best suited for professionals such as scientists, researchers, engineers, animators, and others who need to work on CPU and GPU intensive applications and programs such as game development, research work and 3D graphics designing.

Notebook computers

These systems are very much the same as the laptop computers but are much lighter and smaller in size.

Tablet computers

Referred to as tablets simply, these PCs come with almost the same features and functionalities of a notebook computer but are even further lighter and smaller in size.

Input can be given directly on the screen that recognizes touches of a special digital pen commonly known as a stylus.

Depending on the model and design, there may be additional features included in a tablet such as a built-in microphone and special software to receive voice commands of the user.

A tablet may even be connected to a network or converted into a full-fledged monitor, a keyboard, and even a notebook computer with the help of a book cover keyboard.

Handheld computers

These systems are so small in size that they can be used on your hand and can be carried in your pocket.

These are therefore often called a palmtop computer. A good example of these small computers is the PDA or Personal Digital Assistant which is not bigger than a small appointment book.

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These smaller systems are good enough to take notes, maintain your telephone contact list, addresses, important dates and events.

A few systems, based on their design, may allow writing on the screen directly with a stylus or even sync it with a desktop computer for exchanging data. These systems may also come with other features such as:

  • Access to the internet by using GPS or Global Positioning Systems
  • A wireless connectivity
  • Music player
  • Digital cameras
  • A cell phone and even
  • A voice input.

Smartphone computers

It may sound strange but a smartphone is actually a computer but is less powerful. These systems are usually a combination of a cell phone and a PDA.

However, these specific devices come with more advanced features that are usually not found in regular cell phones and are therefore named smart phones.

A smartphone will allow you to do a lot of thing that you would do with a computer such as:

  • Access the web
  • Check your email
  • Use a high resolution digital camera
  • Listen music on music players and even
  • Install different apps and software specially designed for a mobile phone.

Features of Personal Computer

It is the features of the personal computers that make them so useful which include speed, reliability, accuracy, versatility, storage, automation and more.

Here is a brief explanation of each:

  • Speed – A PC can process data and perform mathematical calculations at very high speed of about 1,000,000 instructions per second and therefore takes microseconds and nanoseconds to perform a task compared to a human user.
  • Accuracy – In spite of its high speed operation, a PC will deliver results with absolute accuracy. Errors can only occur if there are any system issues, data inconsistency or incorrect data input. It is its machine memory that makes it superior to humans.
  • Diligence – There is no dearth of diligence or tiredness by a PC even while doing the same task over and over again and there will be no inconsistency or inaccuracy since there will be no lack of concentration. Its memory also makes it superior to that of human beings.
  • Versatility – A personal computer is very versatile and can perform different types of computational tasks and even multitask most easily and efficiently.
  • Reliability – Since the PC will deliver quick and accurate results always and every time no matter for how long you use it and how complex the set of data is, it is very reliable.
  • Automation – There is no manual intervention required to make the computer work apart from the data input aspect because the components inside it will do the rest most efficiently and automatically.
  • Memory – The built-in primary memory in the computer system will allow you to store all files and folders for easier and quicker access anytime. You can even use secondary and removable storage devices such as pen drives, Compact Discs and others to carry the file to any place you need without needing to carry the entire computer system along with you.

Examples of Personal Computer

A few examples of a personal computer, as mentioned earlier, are microcomputer, desktop computer, laptop computer, smartphones, tablets, palmtop computers, workstations and others.

Conclusion

This article surely has made you more knowledgeable about the basics and more about the personal computers. Though it is designed to be used by a single person and for personal use, a network can be created with it. In short, a personal computer is a device that has some benefits to offer to any type of user.