History of the Personal Computer

The personal computer (PC) has made fast and furious advancements over the years. Evolving through distinct stages in its lifetime, certain individuals have contributed creative innovations that have become the building blocks for the modern PC.

Computers first, debatably, emerged in 1938 with the construction of the Z1 computer by German computer pioneer, Konrad Zuse. His computer, while not the first machine allowing for computations, was the first freely programmable computer which used Boolean logic and binary floating point numbers. This resulted in the birth of the modern computer and set up the scenario allowing for the creation of the personal computer.

An important step towards the PC came with the development of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). While preserving the mathematical computational skills of previous computers, it distinguished itself with general-purpose programmability. This development gave computers the capability of being reprogrammed to decipher all sorts of problems. Even though ENIAC was an amazing innovation, large issues plagued the project. The mass of vacuum tubes built into ENIAC, 17,468 to be exact, were constantly burning out which resulted in the machine being unresponsive about half the time. Created in 1946, ENIAC largely dominated the computing world until 1951.

The Xerox Alto pushed the technological boundaries next with its development of the minicomputer. Created by researchers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, the Alto began the sequence of PCs looking similar to what is commonplace today. Offering the first built-in mouse and desktop menu system, its processes were focused on the individual rather than requiring many to handle the machine. This designation procured the Alto as one of the first personal computers.

Grasping onto the idea of the individual computer, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak formed Apple Computer, Inc. to sell Apple I. Initially lacking some of the major components considered to exist in a personal computer today, their successive launch of Apple II ingrained the PC with specific functions and features previously unheard of. For example, the addition of color, sound, and available room for expansion made this new computer stand out from its competitors. Consequently, with the growing popularity of the PC, an outstanding five to six million Apple II computers were produced by 1993.

As computers continued to grow more advanced, an influx of processors were invented. A processor is a device that takes data collected from a computer, reads it through instructions programmed into its memory, and creates results as output. Used for a variety of manners such as, mathematical calculations, editing texts, and multimedia display, they basically offer the user an easier control over the computer. A breakthrough processor from Intel was the 80286. Offering the ability to run software for previous processors of Intel, the 80286 was very popular and sold roughly fifteen million in nearly six years.

Shortly thereafter personal computers began to become even more user friendly with the incorporation of an interface and memory manager. This operating environment introduced by Microsoft Windows in 1983, made it so users no longer had to type in each command to run their computer. Through navigating a screen of the computer with a relatively new mouse, icons and menus were available to open. A few of the opening programs were: Calculator, Notepad, Paint, and Write.

Competition continued to grow over the years to release better and more accessible computers for the public. Microsoft gained popularity in this time when it split from IBM and backed Windows entirely. Resulting in Windows 3, users appreciated better multitasking capabilities among other improvements. Birthing out of Windows 3, multimedia kits were sold separately as an add-on to the computer in which CD-ROM drives and sound cards were installed. These progressions made the transformation of the PC into a more compatible machine for the general public.

The personal computer took several years to get to the point where we would recognize it today. With the constant expansion and creation of beneficial ideas to the computer, complexities were resolved in order to market the innovations. Through the development of individual processes, computers transitioned from an interesting concept, to something that every person could use and enjoy.

This post was written by Coupons.org’s Ella Davidson. Davidson regularly contributes to a consumer-savings site that provides authoritative couponing tips and tricks.


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