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A Crash Course in Personal Computer History

While personal computers are common, and almost a necessity nowadays, its rich history dates back as far as 1946, going through many changes and development stages throughout the decades. Computers that are today defined as ‘personal computers’ took a long time to develop, the first one that barely met the definition being ENIAC in 1946. Next came The Bendix G15, which was released in 1956, but both these options were way too expensive to be personally owned.

1956 also marked the release of LGP-30, a computer which was used for engineering and science, and it came at a price of $46,000, which is the equivalent of $423,000 in today’s money. Figuring heavily in the history of PCs are Single board computers, such as BBC Micro or Acorn Electron. Programma 101 was the first to be described as a “desktop computer” in advertisements and was introduced in 1965.

By the 1970s, computer usage was expanding, and people in research institutions had the chance to work with computer systems. However, they were still too expensive to be owned by individuals. The IBM PC, launched in 1981, is considered the first true personal computer, coming with PC DOS as its operating system.

Fast forward to 2011 and PC sales worldwide had hit an all-time high, selling 365.4 million. Ever since the early 90s, hardware provided by Intel and Microsoft’s operating systems have dominated the personal computer market. In June 2008 it was reported that there are one billion personal computers in use.

With the expansion of the market, personal computers have been divided into sub-categories, such as desktop computer, gaming computer, portable computers, etc. Before PCs became popular, computers that could fit on a desk were considered small and as a result earned the name ‘desktop computers’. Nowadays, desktop computers are designed for business and home computing applications.

Gaming computers are generally standard desktop computers but with stronger hardware. They usually have a more powerful processor and video card, and more memory, in order to run video games, which are more demanding and have higher system requirements. If in 1993, having 16mb of RAM was considered ideal, in 2018, a minimum of 8GB (512 times more than in 1993) is required to run popular games.

Portable computers have become popular as well, the first one being released in 1975. Nowadays, laptops (also called notebooks) act the same as a desktop computer and can be just as powerful. However, upgrades possibilities are limited, which makes notebooks less ideal for gaming purposes.

As the production costs for computers lowered throughout the years so have selling prices. In 1975 a computer could cost as much as $2,000 and by 1981 the Osborne 1 was launched with the retail price of $1,795. By 1998 the average price of owning a computer was below $1,000 and a decade later in October of 2008, the price was at approximately $650. The price would continue to drop, going as low as $519 in October 2009, exactly one year later.

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