In the history of computing, early experimental machines could be operated by a single attendant. For example, ENIAC which became operational in 1946 could be run by a single, albeit highly trained, person. This mode pre-dated the batch programming, or time-sharing modes with multiple users connected through terminals to mainframe computers. Computers intended for laboratory, instrumentation, or engineering purposes were built, and could be operated by one person in an interactive fashion. Examples include such systems as the Bendix G15 and LGP-30 of 1956, and the Soviet MIR series of computers developed from 1965 to 1969. 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.getintopc
The personal computer was made possible by major advances in semiconductor technology. In 1959, the silicon integrated circuit (IC) chip was developed by Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor, and the metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) transistor was developed by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs. The MOS integrated circuit was commercialized by RCA in 1964, and then the silicon-gate MOS integrated circuit was developed by Federico Faggin at Fairchild in 1968. Faggin later used silicon-gate MOS technology to develop the first single-chip microprocessor, the Intel 4004, in 1971. The first microcomputers, based on microprocessors, were developed during the early 1970s. Widespread commercial availability of microprocessors, from the mid-1970s onwards, made computers cheap enough for small businesses and individuals to own.
In what was later to be called the Mother of All Demos, SRI researcher Douglas Engelbart in 1968 gave a preview of features that would later become staples of personal computers: e-mail, hypertext, word processing, video conferencing, and the mouse. The demonstration required technical support staff and a mainframe time-sharing computer that were far too costly for individual business use at the time.
Early personal computers—generally called microcomputers—were often sold in a kit form and in limited volumes, and were of interest mostly to hobbyists and technicians. Minimal programming was done with toggle switches to enter instructions, and output was provided by front panel lamps. Practical use required adding peripherals such as keyboards, computer displays, disk drives, and printers.
Micral N was the earliest commercial, non-kit microcomputer based on a microprocessor, the Intel 8008. It was built starting in 1972, and a few hundred units were sold. This had been preceded by the Datapoint 2200 in 1970, for which the Intel 8008 had been commissioned, though not accepted for use. The CPU design implemented in the Datapoint 2200 became the basis for x86 architecture used in the original IBM PC and its descendants.
What kind of graphics card do you need?
Not a gamer, video/photo editing or 3D rendering pro? Then ignore this section as pretty much any graphics card built into today’s PCs handle basic web browsing, basic browser games, high-resolution video and office applications.
If you need a bit more oomph for your graphics, then there are a few things you should know:
- Avoid any “integrated” graphics such as Intel Iris or AMDs integrated Radeon graphics. These are relatively slow graphics chips that are enough for your daily workload but not enough for real gaming or other more elaborate multimedia tasks.
- Always go with a “dedicated” graphics card, such as NVIDIAs GeForce 10 series or AMDs Vega 56/64 or their mid-range Radeon RX 500 or 400 series. We’ll show you what to pick below…
How big a PC screen do you need?
You’ll be looking at the screen all of the time so make sure it’s got at least a decent resolution of 1080p (1920 by 1080 pixels), but if you’re on a budget even 1280×720 should be fine for a 12”/13” laptop or a 15-19” screen.
If you’re looking at more screen real estate, go for a 15” laptop screen of at least 2560×1440 resolution or a 22”-27” desktop screen at the same res. 4K? That’s a tough one! If you’re gaming, then you need an extremely (!!) fast computer to be able to make use of it. If you’re working, also make sure you’ve got a dedicated graphics card to drive so many pixels.
Should you buy a laptop or a desktop?
All of the above options are available for both desktop and laptop computers, although the desktop parts are faster than what you’d see on mobile.
No need to carry your PC around? Always go with a desktop — equivalent components are faster and cheaper. For example: A Core i7 gaming laptop with a GeForce 1080 costs you upwards of $2000. An equivalent PC will run you 30-40% less and it’s likely to run faster as mobile components are cramped in a much tighter space and thus get hotter and thus run slower overall.
Components of personal computers
Personal computer systems generally consist of the following hardware components:
- Computer cases are the boxes that hold the main components of the PC. They come in different colors and sizes, and might have fans already installed.
- Power supplies deliver electricity to PCs. They come in different wattages.
- Motherboards are circuit boards that connect many parts of the PC’s inner workings. They hold the central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU).
- CPUs are the brains of the computer. They determine the PC’s performance capability.
- GPUs are specialized processors that accelerate graphics processing. Sometimes these come integrated with CPUs, and sometimes they are discrete parts.
- Fans are the cooling units that keep PCs from overheating.
- Random access memory, also called short-term memory, holds data while it is actively being used by the CPU. RAM is volatile memory, which means it does not hold information after the PC is powered off.
- Storage provides the PC’s long-term memory. It stores information when the PC does not have power. PCs can have hard disk drives, solid-state drives or non-volatile memory express SSDs.
- Optical drives and/or writers. These allow the PC to read and write CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray discs. These can also be external.
- Input ports are where external devices such as USB storage devices and external hard drives are plugged in.
- Operating systems provide a graphical user interface (GUI) and a platform to run other software on.
- Monitors display information to the end user.
- Keyboards are peripheral devices that let users type commands and other information.
- Mice and trackpads let users control the cursor.