Personal Computer

What Does Personal Computer Mean?

A personal computer is a general-purpose, cost-effective computer that is designed to be used by a single end-user. Every PC is dependent on microprocessor technology, which allows PC makers to set the entire central processing unit (CPU) on a single chip.


Businesses make use of PCs to perform tasks like accounting, desktop publishing and word processing as well as to run database and spreadsheets. At home, PCs are mainly used for multimedia entertainment, playing PC games, accessing the Internet, etc. Even though PCs are intended to use as single-user systems, it is normal to connect them together to create a network, such as a local area network (LAN).

A PC can be a microcomputer, desktop computer, a laptop computer, a tablet PC or a handheld PC.

Techopedia Explains Personal Computer

In the mid 1960s and into the 1970s, computers occupied entire rooms and were only affordable by large universities and enterprises. These early computers were accessed by multiple users via attached terminals. Resources were shared among all users. The term PC became popular in the early 1980s, building on Time Magazine’s choice of PC as the Man of the Year for 1982. By the late 1980s, technology had advanced far enough that a small computer could be used and owned by a single individual.

In 1981, IBM came into the arena by introducing its first personal computer, termed as the IBM PC. The IBM PC rapidly became popular in the market. Only a few companies could survive the popularity of IBM PCs, including Apple, which remained a leading provider in the PC market.

Later, other manufacturers adapted to the PC trend advanced by IBM by developing IBM clones. Clones were PCs with almost the same configurations as IBM PCs, but at a lower price. Gradually, IBM lost their dominance in the PC arena. Presently (as of 2011), the realm of PCs is mainly divided between Apple Macintoshes and PCs from other manufacturers.

PCs usually consist the following parts:

  • Computer case
  • Power supply
  • Motherboard
  • Random access memory (RAM)
  • Hard disk(s)
  • CD/DVD drives/writers
  • Various external devices, such as a visual display, keyboard, printer and pointing device

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…