A personal computer (PC), also known as a microcomputer or home computer, is a computer that uses a central processing unit (CPU) microprocessor and is designed for use by one person at a time. This is in contrast to bulky mainframe computers which are designed for use by many users at a time. There are two types of personal computers, desktops and laptops.
Technically, most video game consoles and arcade game machines are also computers. However, a personal computer differs from a console in that it offers a full keyboard/mouse setup, in addition to a few other customization aspects that most consoles do not offer. And it differs from arcade games in that arcade system boards are dedicated game machines, whereas personal computers are general-purpose machines that can be used for practical as well as entertainment purposes.
History[edit | edit source]
In the 1960s, the development of electronic calculators and wristwatches helped make integrated circuit chips economical and practical. In the late 1960s, calculator and wristwatch chips began to show that small computers (compared to large mainframes) might be possible with large-scale integration (LSI). This culminated in the invention of the microprocessor.
The concept of the single-chip microprocessor originated from Sharp engineer Tadashi Sasaki, who in 1968 proposed the idea to Japanese calculator manufacturer Busicom and American manufacturer Intel, which both soon collaborated to produce the first microprocessor. By 1970, Intel engineer Federico Faggin and Busicom engineer Masatoshi Shima had completed their design of the world's first microprocessor, the 4-bit Intel 4004. Faggin and Shima later went on to design the Intel 8080, the first truly general-purpose microprocessor, released in 1974.
The invention of the microprocessor helped in creating a more powerful central processing unit than the ones used in computers at the time and shrunk it so computers could be smaller. The microprocessor was the major invention that gave birth to the microcomputer, or the personal computer as it is known today.
Desktops[edit | edit source]
In April 1972, Sord Computer Corporation (now Toshiba Personal Computer System Corporation) developed the SMP80/08, the world's first microcomputer. It used the Intel 8008 microprocessor, which it was developed in tandem with. Soon after the Intel 8080 was introduced in April 1974, Sord introduced the SMP80/x series, the first microcomputers to use the 8080, in April 1974. The SMP80/x series were the first microcomputers with an operating system, and marked a major leap toward the popularization of microcomputers.
1975 saw the release of the Altair 8800, which also used the Intel 8080 as the CPU. Since the 8800 computer's main language was binary code and only had an output of flashing lights, the computer was unusable by the common person. A similar microcomputer was released by NEC in 1976, the TK-80, which used the Intel 8080A, a variant of the Intel 8080.
The PC as we know it today came into being in a garage by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple Computer. At the time, commercial computer manufacturers thought that the notion of a computer for the average person was absurd. The Steves turned the computer industry on its head with the idea of a usable, friendly computer, which home users could not only afford, but actually get utility from in a timely and intuitive manner. The Apple II, released in 1977, was the first home personal computer that came equipped with a monitor.
In 1977, Sord released the M200 Smart Home Computer, one of the first home personal computers. It was a desktop computer that combined a Zilog Z80 CPU, keyboard, CRT display, floppy disk drive and MF-DOS operating system into an integrated unit.
In 1977, Panafacom (a conglomerate of Fujitsu, Fuji Electric and Matsushita) released the Lkit-16, the first 16-bit microcomputer. Its CPU was the Panafacom MN1610, the first 16-bit microprocessor, introduced in 1975.
Most personal computers in the pre-Windows era used the BASIC programming language as its chief operating system, although games written for the computers also used assembly language. The IBM PC and its early line of compatibles were known to use MS-DOS as its operating system.
Some of the earliest 16-bit personal computers include the 1981 releases, Mitsubishi MULTI16 and IBM PC. The latter established the IBM compatible PC standard, which eventually became the dominant PC standard in the 1990s. Other leading manufacturers in the 1980s included Commodore and Atari in Western markets, and NEC, Sharp and Fujitsu in Eastern markets. Due to the Video Game Crash of 1983, many computer manufacturers focused on the business aspects of these machines, leaving gaming as an afterthought.
There were a number of computers that were known for their gaming libraries. The leading 8-bit gaming computer platforms in the 1980s included the Apple II in North America, the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-Bit in the West, the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro in the UK, the MSX and MSX2 in Japan and Europe, the high-resolution NEC PC-88 in Japan, and the high-colour FM-7 and Sharp X1 in Japan. The leading 16/32-bit gaming computers in the late 1980s to early 1990s were the NEC PC-98 in Japan, the Amiga and Atari ST in the West, the MS-DOS Compatible computers worldwide, and the more powerful (near arcade quality) Sharp X68000 and FM Towns computers in Japan. The best-selling computer models of the 20th century were the Commodore 64 (17 million units sold worldwide) and NEC PC-98 (over 18 million units sold in Japan).
Laptops[edit | edit source]
Yukio Yokozawa, an employee for Suwa Seikosha, a branch of Japanese company Seiko (now Seiko Epson), invented the first laptop/notebook computer in July 1980, receiving a patent for the invention. Seiko's notebook computer, known as the HC-20 in Japan, was announced in 1981. In North America, Epson introduced it as the Epson HX-20 in 1981.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Operating system, which limits which games a PC will support
- Microsoft Windows, a popular PC operating system
- Hard drive, storage media used in PCs
- Floppy disk, storage media used in older PCs
References[edit | edit source]
- Masatoshi Shima
- Michael Katz, Robert Levering, Milton Moskowitz (1985), Computer Entrepreneur, page 469, Penguin Group
- Michael Katz, Robert Levering, Milton Moskowitz (1985), Computer Entrepreneur, page 463, Penguin Group
- FR2487094A1 patent: Notebook computer system small
- 【Shinshu Seiki / Suwa Seikosha】 HC-20, Information Processing Society of Japan
- Epson HX-20, Old Computers