Personal computers or PCs for short are the type of computer that most users are familiar with. Because they are usually found on users desks, they are also sometimes called desktop computers. Operating systems such as Linux and Windows were designed specifically for personal computers. The same applies to the thousands of application packages that are available including OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office. A typical PC consists of a main unit housing the CPU and disk drives, a VDU (Video Display Unit), a keyboard and a mouse. PCs are self contained computing systems that can be used for thousands of different tasks from creating a simple document to controlling a large industrial machine.
Capacity and speed: Because of the rapid advances in technology, the PC of today is more powerful than many mainframes of a few years ago. There is little sign that the rate of development is slowing down. Typically, a modem PC can store the equivalent of a few million pages of printed text and carry out millions of instructions in a second. What complicates the issue of speed in talking about PCs is the use of graphics. Most applications make intensive use of graphics. This demands enormous computing power. Computers, which would otherwise appear to be very fast, can appear to be quite slow because of the demands placed on them by the graphics used in an application. Other components, such as the graphics card, also play a role in the speed of a PC.
Cost: There has been a steady decline in the cost of computing power. Although the cost of PCs has been fairly steady, the computing power that has been supplied has increased drastically. The cost of a personal computer is greater than that of a network computer or PDA but less than that of a laptop and a very small fraction of the price of a mainframe.
Typical users: Everyone is a potential user of a personal computer since there is virtually no sphere of human activity that does not make use of information technology. The list could include scientists, researchers, mathematicians, statisticians, technologists, engineers, students, teachers, accountants, actuaries, managers, doctors, librarians, receptionists, book-keepers, writers, and journalists. These are just a very few.