by Charlie Beals
In today’s world of technology we can’t help but hear the word PC, and we hear it often. Most people don’t even think about it; to them, it just means a computer running the Windows operating system, as opposed to OSx (Mac). However, in the 1970s, this was most certainly not the case.
The first computers were large. It took teams of several people to run them, and they couldn’t even handle the smallest of today’s programs. If you wanted to use one, you would have to pay a fee, give your information to an operator, and stand by while he punched in your code and waited for the computer to respond. Not only was this impractical, but it was expensive.
This all change in ’72, when two guys in a garage built the first consumer-friendly computer and after some positive feedback began to produce it in large scale. So the first personal computer, or PC, was built. Not only was it not a Windows machine, it was actually made by the very rivals of what most people today think of as the PC. They named it the Apple.
I propose a new definition for “personal computer”: A personal computer is…
(a) controlled by one person at a time
(b) controlled directly by the user
(c) capable of running by itself with no other computers required.
So what does this mean? Well, first off, point (a) says that the computer is controlled by one person at a time. This tells us that network computers, such as those with multiple keyboards and other inputs that allow them to interact with several people at once, are not personal computers. On the other hand, a computer with one keyboard, one mouse, one monitor, designed to be controlled by one person at a time, fits the first criteria of a PC. So far, both Windows computers and Macs alike seem to be PCs.
The next criteria is that it must be directly controlled by the user. You may be thinking “how else do you control a computer?” Well, it turns out that there are thousands of computers that you actually have some control over. These are called servers. A server is usually housed in a large building with several hundred others like it. These are used to host files, usually in the form of web pages. So every time you go to facebook.com, your computer is going to one of these servers and telling it to send you a page. Therefore, you are not controlling the server directly, but rather through your own computer. As it turns out, servers are also controlled by many people at once, so they don’t meet any of the criteria so far.
The last part of the definition says that a PC must be capable of running by itself, with no other computers required. Now, while most computers fall into this category, there is one widely used type of computer that doesn’t fit. This is called the workstation. A workstation is a computer used at a large business or corporation. A workstation looks and works like a regular desktop but with one main difference: it uses a server to get most of its info. So while it is controlled by one person at a time, and is controlled directly by the user, it cannot run by itself, so it is not a PC.
This new definition of PC helps us categorize computers better. By separating computers that are used by one person, controlled directly, and self-reliant, from those that are not, we can see what a real personal computer is. So the final question — is a Mac a PC? A Mac fits all of the above criteria, so the answer is yes, both Windows and OSx machines fall under the title “PC.”
Sorry, Windows, but your computers are going to need a new name.