Talk:Personal computer

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 Definition A computer whose price, size, and features make it suitable for personal use. [d] [e]


I've been thinking about a definition. I don't think the current one is quite right. But it is obviously a difficult thing to pin down. There are workstations, servers, PDAs, routers, network appliances-- how is a PC different from all these?

But heres what I've got so far.


  • Price
    • (Within the current accepted RETAIL norms. IF the price is too high you start to get into workstation territory. For example, the current $3500 Mac Pro Quad Intel systems would make great PCs-- but the average middle class person wouldn't buy them unless he/she had special reason too.)
  • Completeness
    • The computer system is complete and able to run applications by itself. (Not a terminal, PDA cell phone etc) It has a UI and graphics ability consistent with the expected norm. (So right now the norm is a mouse keyboard and nice GUI)
  • Configuration

The hardware is chosen to target the profile of a basic complete computer with a little but of user preference.

    • So for example if you have a $2000 PC that has a RAID array with accounts for $1000 or the cost... thats not really a PC since a PC with RAID is so out of the norm (low cost workstation)
  • Role
    • designed as a general purpose computer that is targets to one user use.
    • It's OK if server features are thrown in because the OS supports them.
    • An appliance is not a PC no matter how nice it interface is. Your Tivo isn't a PC, A play station with a mouse plugged in isn't a PC etc..

Glen Pepicelli 05:35, 8 February 2007 (CST)

As I see it, a major question you're not addressing is processor type. What are we going to do about non-IBM-compatibles? Declare them to be something else? Should we say "a Personal computer is capable of running a consumer OS", and so include Macs and PCs? -- ZachPruckowski (Talk) 09:00, 8 February 2007 (CST)

Yeah thats a good point that should be part of the definition too:

  • Can be operated by a layman-- This would also exclude some hobbyist computers

I don't think it has to be IBM compatible to be a personal computer. Macs, Amigas, Commodore 64, those are all personal computers and could all have their own articles. Obviously when people say PC sometimes they mean windows and sometimes the mean any personal computer. What do you think? Glen Pepicelli 16:45, 8 February 2007 (CST)

  • I think that PPC Macs (I'm typing on one now, actually) are personal computers and Amiga/Commodore are older PCs, but I don't know how much the article needs to focus on current computers using SPARC or ARM processors, if at all. -- ZachPruckowski (Talk) 17:25, 8 February 2007 (CST)

Sure, I don't see any reason for this article to talk about every thing out there that resembles a PC. Unix desktops (besides mac) and Linux are definitely a gray area. I think they would be considered low end workstations-- not a lot of non-technical people use them as PCs. Glen Pepicelli 20:53, 8 February 2007 (CST)


I reorganized the article because I feel as though the primary interest here will be in the computer itself (uses, configuration, etc.), as opposed to the history. As such, coverage of the history can be moved a bit further back. Of course, that's open to discussion --ZachPruckowski 14:28, 16 January 2007 (CST)

Why not split the history into a separate (future) article? If you think about it the history is going to be HUGE since there are tons of different personal computers. For example the Soviet Union had it own PCs, Amigas and Ataris were popular in Europe, Latin American has some unique ones too.


Not a bad idea. I may do just that. Or you can, if you want to. I'd also like to split the "early personal computers" out too. Also, please sign with ~~~~, because that links to your userpage for you. -- ZachPruckowski (Talk) 21:42, 6 February 2007 (CST)

Plans for article? Anyone?

The History section needs a good bit of clean-up. I'm not really qualified to do that. Also, we need to work out the deal with the non-IBM-compatible PCs. I think we want to say something, obviously, but I'm not sold on a huge list like that. --ZachPruckowski 15:01, 18 January 2007 (CST)

Zack, I agree with you. I've worked on the history part but it needs dates and references. If we move the IBM-specific parts to IBM compatible PC as suggested below, we can then edit the rest to include more vendors. I'm willing to work on it when I get time but I'll have to do some research first.Pat Palmer 03:25, 6 May 2007 (CDT)
I think the history here should be relatively brief. A more detailed history should appear under history of computing, which hopefully will break things out by decade and type. The point here is to give an overview of what makes a computer a "desktop" or "personal" computer, as opposed to (say) a "server". I also like the contrast with game consoles and set-top boxes. Workstation now tends to mean, I think, a desktop personal computer used on the desktop or a large organization, so it will be networked together with all users in the organization. But that term (workstation) arose from so-called smart terminals back in Bell Laboratories--these hung off a huge UNIX heart machine; each workstation had graphics capability and its own processor and tiny memory, but if the big UNIX in the background died, the workstations were useless because they had to get all their software off of the UNIX disk. Then the term 'workstation' got bastardized into meaning any corporate or university desktop PC. I'm not sure whether a discussion of that belongs here or in history of computing, or if it's worth addressing at all. These are malleable terms that get a lot of varied use or misuse.Pat Palmer 03:35, 6 May 2007 (CDT)

IBM Compatible PC

I have been working on IBM_compatible_PC and just found this article, which seems duplicative. If this article is about PC's that are Windows/x86 based, then this article should just point over to IBM_compatible_PC, I think. This kind of inadvertent duplication of effort is happening because so many of these articles have been brought in from Wikipedia before they were really needed. I'm finding it quite discouraging.Pat Palmer 00:16, 15 April 2007 (CDT)

I think some of this article's contents need to move to IBM compatible PC, namely the hardware components and configuration part. If no one objects violently, I may do so in the near future.Pat Palmer 03:23, 6 May 2007 (CDT)
there always is the issue: what is a personal computer. Some will answer a wintel machine, some a linux box, others a mac and again others a beos or some other OS. Some even consider SGI machines to be a pc. Thus remains the question what do we want to split out into wintel machines (IBM compatible and BIOS based - though that might also be the new EFI standard) amd pther platforms. What is subpage to what? I would prefer the general personal computer page to define a general purpose personal computer and from that a split into the different types of todays standards of PCs. Else you might want to include C64 and other machines as well including all the ancient machines that now are museum pieces. As an example I could consider my HP49g+ calculator a PC as it computes my personal things the way I want it to do. So lets start generic than split out specific. Robert Tito |  Talk  16:23, 6 May 2007 (CDT)

Standards for PC hardware

We need to talk about standards somewhere in this article. What has made the computer industry thrive (including PC's) is standards, starting from physical design standards for card slots, electrical standands such as PCI, graphics bus standards, sound cards, etc. Some OS vendors like Apple provide their own hardware. However, many of the hardware components inside PC's "made by" Apple are in fact standards compliant. The pressure to do this has ended up with the move of Mac OS X to the Wintel architecture. Even before that, the innards of most computers were becoming more complaint with the various hardware standards, so the piece-parts could be manufactured by multiple vendors. I've never (on the web) seen a good discussion of how these standards have affected the computer industry. We could try to write that here. It would take some research, but it would be a novel and useful contribution to the common understanding of what a PC is.Pat Palmer 03:45, 6 May 2007 (CDT)

Likewise, software has fallen under pressure from "de facto" standards. As soon as virtual memory got into use by some computers, it was so helpful that other computer vendors had to get it also. Apple was really slow to respond in this respect and lost a lot of market share; it took them practically forever to get VM right (users had to know how to tinker with it). Intel took a different approach; you got VM by default but if you knew enough low-level stuff, you could turn it off. Another example is multi-threading. Even on PC's it eventually became too annoying when sending a document to a printer caused the software to stop and wait, so Windows had to move to a threading model that allowed background printing.