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Personal computers (PCs) are small, relatively inexpensive computers that are designed for a single user. Although they vary in speed and performance, PCs use microprocessors and have self-contained data storage devices.[1]}}

Historical background[]

In their early years the term "personal computer" was used interchangeably with "microcomputer" and "home computer."

Often, the term "personal computer" is used to refer to computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, but this is erroneous. For example, an Apple Macintosh running Mac OS and an IBM PC compatible running Linux are both personal computers. This confusion stems from the fact that the term "PC" is often used as a shorthand form for "IBM PC compatible" and historically Mac OS has run on non-IBM compatible hardware like the PowerPC architecture.

Current and future usage[]

Today’s PCs typically have up to 1 GB of RAM or more and over 40 GB of storage capacity on disk drives. Today, about 80% of U.S. households have some sort of personal computer.[2] Although desktops initially dominated the market, 74% of all new personal computers sold today are laptops.[3] Many predict that, over the next 5 years, growth in the netbook and tablet markets will far outpace growth in the traditional PC market.[4]

Three phases of personal computing[]

"It is useful to divide the evolution of personal computing in three distinct phases. In the first phase, computers were standalone devices in which software and data were stored in the machine; typical applications were word processing and spread sheets. Phase two was marked by the emergence of the World Wide Web, which made it possible to access a wealth of data on the Internet, even though most users still relied on software that ran on individual machines; the quintessential application was the Web browser. In phase three most software as well as data will be accessed over the Internet; a wide variety of applications will proliferate because users will no longer have to install applications software on their machines."[5]


  1. Technology Assessment: Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Protection, at 141.
  2. See Consumer Electronics Association, U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales & Forecasts 2005–2010, at 33 (2010) (CEA, Electronic Sales & Forecasts) (87%); Niki Scevak, Forrester Research, Inc., Forrester Research Online Population Access and Demographic Model (2010) (81%); Horrigan, Broadband Adoption and Use in America 13 (79%).
  3. Consumer Electronics Association, Electronic Sales & Forecasts, at 33.
  4. Id. ("Netbooks will overtake all other notebooks by 2011"); Goldman Sachs, Adobe Systems, Inc., (ADBE) PC Refresh Beneficiary 15 (2009) (citing forecast of about 50 million units by 2013).
  5. Briefing Paper for the ICCP Technology Foresight Forum: Cloud Computing and Public Policy, at 3.

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