A Brief History of Personal Computers

1304 Words May 2nd, 2005 6 Pages
A Brief History of Personal Computers

The electronic computer is a relatively modern invention; the first fully operable computer was developed about 50 years ago, at the end of World War II, by a team at the University of Pennsylvania 's Moore School of Engineering. This team was headed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, who named the new machine ENIAC, for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator. ENIAC was hardly a personal computer, occupying a large room and weighing about 33 tons. By today 's standards, ENIAC was extremely slow, unreliable, and expensive to operate. In 1945, on the other hand, it was considered a marvel.

Over the next 30 years, computers became smaller, faster, and less expensive. However, most of
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In 1977, they brought the now legendary Apple II personal computer to market. The Apple II was an instant hit and for the next few years, Apple was the fastest growing company in the United States.


By 1980, there were dozens of companies manufacturing personal computers, but the major producers of the larger minicomputers and mainframes had not yet entered the fray. This changed dramatically in 1981, when IBM brought out its first personal computer (not so imaginatively named the IBM Personal Computer). Although it wasn 't much more powerful than most other personal computers of the time, the IBM PC was a milestone in the history of personal computers for two basic reasons:

1. For many businesses, especially the larger ones, it "legitimized" personal computers. If IBM was selling them, the reasoning went, then maybe PCs really could be a useful business tool. As a result, the IBM PC became wildly popular; IBM could not produce them fast enough to keep up with the demand.

2. It was built with generic parts and used an operating system (PC-DOS) developed by Microsoft and virtually identical to MS-DOS, which was sold by Microsoft. The IBM PC also used open architecture - IBM published detailed specifications so that anyone could build circuit boards for it to expand its capabilities. These features enabled enterprising companies to
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