Personal computer  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A personal computer (PC) is any computer whose original sales price, size, and capabilities make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user, with no intervening computer operator.

The capabilities of a personal computer have changed greatly since the introduction of electronic computers. By the early 1970s, people in academic or research institutions had the opportunity for single-person use of a computer system in interactive mode for extended durations, although these systems would still have been too expensive to be owned by a single person. The introduction of the microprocessor, a single chip with all the circuitry that formerly occupied large cabinets, lead to the proliferation of personal computers after about 1975. Early personal computers generally called microcomputers, sold often in kit form and in limited volumes, and were of interest mostly to hobbyists and technicians. By the late 1970s, mass-market pre-assembled computers allowed a wider range of people to use computers, focusing more on software applications and less on development of the processor hardware. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, home computers were developed for household use, offering personal productivity, programming and games. Somewhat larger and more expensive systems (although still low-cost compared with minicomputers and mainframes) were aimed for office and small business use. Workstations are characterized by high-performance processors and graphics displays, with large local disk storage, networking capability, and running under a multitasking operating system. Workstations are still used for tasks such as computer-aided design, drafting and modelling, computation-intensive scientific and engineering calculations, image processing, architectural modelling, and computer graphics for animation and motion picture visual effects.

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