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A personal computer is a general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sale price make it useful for individuals, and is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer time-sharing models that allowed larger, more expensive minicomputer and mainframe systems to be used by many people, usually at the same time.
Software applications for most personal computers include, but are not limited to, word processing, spreadsheets, databases, web browsers and e-mail clients, digital media playback, games and many personal productivity and special-purpose software applications.
Modern personal computers often have connections to the Internet, allowing access to the World Wide Web and a wide range of other resources.
Personal computers may be connected to a local area network (LAN), either by a cable or a wireless connection.
A personal computer may be a laptop computer or a desktop computer running an operating system such as Windows, Linux (and the various operating systems based on it), or Macintosh OS.
Early computer owners usually had to write their own programs to do anything useful with the machines, which even did not include an operating system.
The very earliest microcomputers, equipped with a front panel, required hand-loading of a bootstrap program to load programs from external storage (paper tape, cassettes, or eventually diskettes).
Before very long, automatic booting from permanent read-only memory became universal.
Today's users have access to a wide range of commercial software, freeware and free and open-source software, which are provided in ready-to-run or ready-to-compile form.
Software for personal computers, such as applications and video games, are typically developed and distributed independently from the hardware or OS manufacturers, whereas software for many mobile phones and other portable systems is approved and distributed through a centralized online store.
Since the early 1990s, Microsoft operating systems and Intel hardware dominated much of the personal computer market, first with MS-DOS and then with Windows.
Popular alternatives to Microsoft's Windows operating systems include Apple's OS X and free open-source Unix-like operating systems such as Linux and BSD.
AMD provides the major alternative to Intel's processors.
ARM architecture processors now outnumber Intel's (and compatibles) in smartphones and tablets, that are also personal computers, outnumbering the traditional kind.
A desktop computer is a personal computer designed for regular use at a single location on or near a desk or table due to its size and power requirements.
The most common configuration has a case that houses the power supply, motherboard (a printed circuit board with a microprocessor as the central processing unit, memory, bus, and other electronic component's), disk storage (usually one or more hard disk drives, optical disc drives, and in early models floppy disk drives); a keyboard and mouse for input; and computer monitor and printer for output.
The case may be oriented horizontally and placed atop a desk or vertically and placed underneath or beside a desk.
An all-in-one desktop computer typically combines the case and monitor in one unit.
A hard disk drive (HDD), hard disk, hard drive or fixed disk is a data storage device used for storing and retrieving digital information using one or more rigid ("hard") rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material.
The platters are paired with magnetic heads arranged on a moving actuator arm, which read and write data to the platter surfaces.
Data is accessed in a random-access manner, meaning that individual blocks of data can be stored or retrieved in any order and not only sequentially.
HDDs are a type of non-volatile memory, retaining stored data even when powered off.
Introduced by IBM in 1956, HDDs became the dominant secondary storage device for general-purpose computers by the early 1960s.
Continuously improved, HDDs have maintained this position into the modern era of servers and personal computers.
More than 200 companies have produced HDD units, though most current units are manufactured by Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital.
As of 2015, HDD production (exabytes per year) and areal density are growing, although unit shipments are declining.
The primary characteristics of an HDD are its capacity and performance.
Capacity is specified in unit prefixes corresponding to powers of 1000: a 1-terabyte (TB) drive has a capacity of 1,000 gigabytes (GB; where 1 gigabyte = 1 billion bytes).
Typically, some of an HDD's capacity is unavailable to the user because it is used by the file system and the computer operating system, and possibly inbuilt redundancy for error correction and recovery.
Performance is specified by the time required to move the heads to a track or cylinder (average access time) plus the time it takes for the desired sector to move under the head (average latency, which is a function of the physical rotational speed in revolutions per minute), and finally the speed at which the data is transmitted (data rate).
The two most common form factors for modern HDDs are 3.5-inch, for desktop computers, and 2.5-inch, primarily for laptops.
HDDs are connected to systems by standard interface cables such as PATA (Parallel ATA), SATA (Serial ATA), USB or SAS (Serial attached SCSI) cables.
As of 2016, the primary competing technology for secondary storage is flash memory in the form of solid-state drives (SSDs), which have higher data transfer rates, better reliability, and significantly lower latency and access times, but HDDs remain the dominant medium for secondary storage due to advantages in price per bit and per-device recording capacity.
However, SSDs are replacing HDDs where speed, power consumption and durability are more important considerations.
In computing, a computer keyboard is a typewriter-style device which uses an arrangement of buttons or keys to act as a mechanical lever or electronic switch.
Following the decline of punch cards and paper tape, interaction via teleprinter-style keyboards became the main input device for computers.
A keyboard typically has characters engraved or printed on the keys and each press of a key typically corresponds to a single written symbol.
However, to produce some symbols requires pressing and holding several keys simultaneously or in sequence.
While most keyboard keys produce letters, numbers or signs (characters), other keys or simultaneous key presses can produce actions or execute computer commands.
Despite the development of alternative input devices, such as the mouse, touchscreen, pen devices, character recognition and voice recognition, the keyboard remains the most commonly used device for direct (human) input of alphanumeric data into computers.
In normal usage, the keyboard is used as a text entry interface to type text and numbers into a word processor, text editor or other programs.
In a modern computer, the interpretation of key presses is generally left to the software.
A computer keyboard distinguishes each physical key from every other and reports all key presses to the controlling software.
Keyboards are also used for computer gaming, either with regular keyboards or by using keyboards with special gaming features, which can expedite frequently used keystroke combinations.
A keyboard is also used to give commands to the operating system of a computer, such as Windows' Control-Alt-Delete combination, which brings up a task window or shuts down the machine.
A command-line interface is a type of user interface operated entirely through a keyboard, or another device doing the job of one.
A laptop, often called a notebook, is a portable personal computer with a clamshell form factor, suitable for mobile use.
Although originally there was a distinction between laptops and notebooks, the former being bigger and heavier than the latter, as of 2014, there is often no longer any difference.
Laptops are commonly used in a variety of settings, such as at work, in education, and for personal multimedia.
A laptop combines the components, inputs, outputs and capabilities of a desktop computer, including the display screen, speakers, a keyboard, and pointing devices (such as a touchpad or trackpad) into a single unit.
Most 2016-era laptops also have integrated webcams and built-in microphones.
The device can be powered either from a rechargeable battery or by mains electricity from an AC adapter.
Laptops are diverse devices and specialised kinds, such as rugged notebooks for use in construction or convertible computers, have been optimized for specific uses.
The hardware specifications, such as the processor speed and memory capacity significantly vary between different types, makes, and models.
Portable computers, which later developed into modern laptops, were originally considered to be a small niche market, mostly for specialized field applications, such as in the military, for accountancy, or for sales representatives.
As portable computers became closer to the modern laptop, they became widely used for a variety of purposes.
A mobile phone is a telephone that can make and receive calls over a radio frequency carrier while the user is moving within a telephone service area.
The radio frequency link establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
Most modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture, and therefore mobile telephones are often also called cellular telephones or cell phones.
In addition to telephony, modern mobile phones support a variety of other services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications (infrared, Bluetooth), business applications, gaming, and photography.
Mobile phones which offer these and more general computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.
The first handheld mobile phone was demonstrated by John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1973, using a handset weighing c. 4.4 lbs (2 kg).
In 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x was the first commercially available handheld mobile phone.
From 1983 to 2014, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions grew to over seven billion, penetrating 100% of the global population and reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid.
In 2014, the top mobile phone manufacturers were Samsung, Nokia, Apple, and LG.
computer monitor or a computer display is an electronic visual display for computers.
A monitor usually comprises the display device, circuitry, casing, and power supply.
The display device in modern monitors is typically a thin film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) or a flat panel LED display, while older monitors used a cathode ray tubes (CRT).
It can be connected to the computer via VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, LVDS (Low-voltage differential signaling) or other proprietary connectors and signals.
Originally, computer monitors were used for data processing while television receivers were used for entertainment.
From the 1980s onwards, computers (and their monitors) have been used for both data processing and entertainment, while televisions have implemented some computer functionality.
The common aspect ratio of televisions, and computer monitors, has changed from 4:3 to 16:10, to 16:9.
A computer mouse is a pointing device (hand control) that detects two-dimensional motion relative to a surface.
This motion is typically translated into the motion of a pointer on a display, which allows for a fine control of the graphical user interface.
Physically, a mouse consists of an object held in one's hand, with one or more buttons. Mice often also feature other elements, such as touch surfaces and "wheels", which enable additional control and dimensional input.
Different ways of operating the mouse cause specific things to happen in the GUI:
The Raspberry Pi is a series of credit card–sized single-board computers developed in England, United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries.
The original Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi 2 are manufactured in several board configurations through licensed manufacturing agreements with Newark element14 (Premier Farnell), RS Components and Egoman.
The hardware is the same across all manufacturers. All Raspberry Pis include the same VideoCore IV GPU, and either a single-core ARMv6-compatible CPU or a newer ARMv7-compatible quad-core one (in Pi 2); and 1 GB of RAM (in Pi 2), 512 MB (in Pi 1 models B and B+), or 256 MB (in models A and A+, and in the older model B).
They have a Secure Digital (SDHC) slot (models A and B) or a MicroSDHC one (models A+, B+, and Pi 2) for boot media and persistent storage.
In 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched the Compute Module, for use as a part of embedded systems for the same compute power as the original Pi.
In early February 2015, the next-generation Raspberry Pi, Raspberry Pi 2, was released.
That new computer board is initially available only in one configuration (model B) and has a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU and 1 GB of RAM with remaining specifications being similar to those of the previous generation model B+.
The Raspberry Pi 2 retains the same US$35 price point of the model B, with the US$20 model A+ remaining on sale.
In November 2015, the Foundation launched the Raspberry Pi Zero, a smaller product priced at US$5.
The Foundation provides Debian and Arch Linux ARM distributions for download, and promotes Python as the main programming language, with support for BBC BASIC (via the RISC OS image or the Brandy Basic clone for Linux), C, C++, Java, Perl, Ruby, Squeak Smalltalk and more also available.
As of 8 June 2015, about five to six million Raspberry Pis have been sold.
While already the fastest selling British personal computer, it has also shipped the second largest number of units behind the Amstrad PCW, the "Personal Computer Word-processor", which sold eight million.
A router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. Routers perform the "traffic directing" functions on the Internet.
A data packet is typically forwarded from one router to another through the networks that constitute the internetwork until it reaches its destination node.
A router is connected to two or more data lines from different networks (as opposed to a network switch, which connects data lines from one single network).
When a data packet comes in on one of the lines, the router reads the address information in the packet to determine its ultimate destination.
Then, using information in its routing table or routing policy, it directs the packet to the next network on its journey.
This creates an overlay internetwork.
The most familiar type of routers are home and small office routers that simply pass data, such as web pages, email, IM, and videos between the home computers and the Internet.
An example of a router would be the owner's cable or DSL router, which connects to the Internet through an ISP.
More sophisticated routers, such as enterprise routers, connect large business or ISP networks up to the powerful core routers that forward data at high speed along the optical fiber lines of the Internet backbone.
Though routers are typically dedicated hardware devices, use of software-based routers has grown increasingly common.
A tablet computer, commonly shortened to tablet, is a mobile computer with a touchscreen display, circuitry, and battery in a single device.
Tablets come equipped with sensors, including cameras, a microphone, and an accelerometer, and the touchscreen display uses the recognition of finger or stylus gestures replacing the usage of the mouse and keyboard.
They usually feature on-screen, pop-up virtual keyboards for typing.
Tablets may have physical buttons for basic features such as speaker volume and power, and ports for network communications and battery charging.
Tablets are typically larger than smartphones or personal digital assistants with screens 7 inches (18 cm) or larger, measured diagonally.
Tablets can be classified according to the presence and physical appearance of keyboards.
Slates and booklets do not have a physical keyboard and typically feature text input performed through the use of a virtual keyboard projected on a touchscreen-enabled display.
Hybrids, convertibles and 2-in-1s do have physical keyboards (although concealable or detachable), yet they typically also make use of virtual keyboards.
The format was conceptualized in the mid-20th century and prototyped and developed in the last two decades of that century.
In April 2010, the iPad was released, which was the first mass-market tablet with finger-friendly multi-touch and a dedicated operating system.
Tablets experienced a rapid rise in popularity and ubiquity and became a large product category.
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