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How personal computers evolved and took over the world

February 16, 2017 No Comments

Featured Article by Jelena, Independent Technology Writer

Standing as an acronym for “personal computer”, PCs have come a long way since their early days when owning one was considered to be little more than a curiosity. In fact, the Simon digital computer, widely considered to be the first precursor to the modern PC era is barely 67 years old as of today, less than the duration of an average human’s lifespan. This makes it all the more spectacular that computers have evolved so much in such a short window of time, so let’s take a step back and see just how much everything has changed:

Processing power

Everyone remembers the huge, bulky computers that were common in the ’50s and ’60s, back when computers would often take up entire rooms and few personal users actually owned one. However, since 1970 the famed Moore’s Law has been in effect, which states that the overall processing speed for computers will roughly double every two years. While this law hasn’t always been confirmed by reality, the fact is that today’s computers dwarf the PCs of yesteryear in terms of raw processing power. Whereas an average processor in the 1970s would reach speeds of up to 8MHz, today’s quad core processors often boast 2.8 GHz each.

Storage capacity

Aside from using them to fulfill various roles, we also expect our computers to have the capacity to store a large number of files. Usually, this is done with the help of hard disks. Like all computer components, hard disks too used to be big and cumbersome to work with. The IBM 350 Disk File, for instance, was large and expensive enough that only big companies could afford it. Its storage capacity? A mere 3,75 megabytes. Compare that to today’s giants, which regularly have 1 terabytes or more to their name. In recent years, solid-state drives have also begun attracting their fair share of customers by boasting faster access and lower latency times.


Probably the most visually dramatic shift with regards to computers has happened in the portability department. Whereas once upon a time it was customary to have a special room just for the purpose of fitting a computer inside, now the vast majority of people walk around with mini-computers masquerading as phones in their pockets. Laptops have also come a long way from being the domain of globetrotting entrepreneurs to helping every aspiring writer finish his or her novel during coffee breaks at Starbucks. What’s more, today’s gaming laptops are even capable of running demanding games and apps, thus enabling gamers to stay on-the-go without having to relinquish their hobbies in the process.


Personal computers have historically relied on a host of accessories in order to be truly user-friendly. From keyboards to headsets, today’s computers are filled with all sorts of easily-connectable gadgets that aim to make life easier. But perhaps no accessory is more closely associated with personal computers than the fabled mouse. First invented in 1964, the mice of yesteryear often had chunky designs that are a far cry from today’s smooth models. Apple’s mice in particular, have maintained a single-button design that embodies sleekness, while Logitech and other producers have traditionally favored multi-purpose models that are perfectly suited for gaming.

A wider range of possibilities

While personal computers are the natural descendants of calculators, expressly built with the purpose of aiding humans in performing faster and more complex mathematical calculations, contemporary models have gone above and beyond their initial duties. Early computers were as limited in scope as they were seemingly limitless in size, but as their processing power progressed and their interfaces became more user-friendly, the role of a computer started to change. In just a few short decades, PCs went from things of limited use to devices that could help us do things like watch movies, listen to music and create art. Today, computers are present in almost every household in the Western world and have an essential role to play in many of our day-to-day activities.

As you can see, computers have evolved rather quickly throughout their relatively short span of existence. This continuous development shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, which is why we can expect to see the personal computer reach even greater heights in the following decades.

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