Personal computers are supposed to appear in the late 1970s. One of the first and most popular personal computers was the Apple II, introduced in 1977 by Apple Computer. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, new models and competitive operating systems seemed to appear daily. Then, in 1981, IBM entered the fray with its first personal computer, known as the IBM PC. The IBM PC quickly became the personal computer of choice, and most other personal computer manufacturers fell by the wayside. One of the few companies to survive IBM's onslaught was Apple Computer, which is sure to remain a major player in the personal computer marketplace. In less than a decade the microcomputer has been transformed from a calculator and hobbyist's toy into a personal computer for almost everyone.

What is a personal computer? How can this device be characterized?

- First, a personal computer being microprocessor-based, its central processing unit, called a microprocessor unit, or MPU, is concentrated on a single silicon chip.

- Second, a personal computer uses smaller, less expensive, and less powerful input, output and storage components than do large computer systems. Most often, input is by means of a keyboard, soft-copy output being displayed on a cathode-ray tube (CRT) screen or liquid crystal display (LCD). Hard-copy output is produced on a low-speed character printer.

- A PC employs disks (or flash memory drives) as the principal online and offline storage devices and also as input and output media.

- Finally, a PC is a general-purpose, stand-alone system that can begin to work when plugged in and be moved from place to place.

Probably the most distinguishing feature of a personal computer is that it is used by an individual, usually in an interactive mode. Regardless of the purpose for which it is used, either for leisure activities in the home or for business applications in the office, we can consider it to be a personal computer.

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