Year of Invention: 1977
What Is It? A programmable, interactive computer designed to be operated
and owned by an individual.
Who Invented It? Steve Wozniak (in Palo Alto, California)
The personal computer (PC) redefined how we work, play, and communicate. PCs opened the power of computers to individuals, schools, homes—to the whole population. PCs made the growth and explosion of the World Wide Web and the Internet possible.
PCs have not only replaced all other word processing machines, business management machines, and accounting machines, but have also become a prime method of personal and business communication. PCs have also become a principal source of entertainment (games, music, and movies).
Amazingly, PCs have accomplished all this in less than 25 years! Business, work, study, personal connections, entertainment—all facets of life now seem to revolve around the PC. Personal computers are as much a part of many people’s day as is a wristwatch, electric lights, or a car.
The first computers were built in the early 1940s. Room-sized monsters that spewed heat from tubes and mechanical relays, they required teams of specially trained operators. These massive central computers were housed in guarded, air-conditioned, and dehumidified rooms on university campuses and in governmental complexes.
The transistor, invented in 1947 by Bardeen and Shockley, eliminated the need for bulky, heat-producing vacuum tubes and shrank the size of central computers to less than one-tenth of their former size. The microchip, a complete electronic circuit built into one tiny slab of silica, invented by Jack Kilby in 1958, sliced the size of the central processors again by 90 percent.
Finally, Ted Hoff’s invention of the microprocessor (complete logic central processing computer) in 1969 shrank the central processor cabinet of a central computer to the size of a two-drawer file cabinet.