Desktop computer

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A desktop computer is a personal computer (PC) in a form intended for regular use at a single location, as opposed to a mobile laptop or portable computer. Prior to the widespread use of microprocessors, a computer that could fit on a desk was considered remarkably small. Desktop computers come in a variety of types ranging from large vertical tower cases to small form factor models that can be tucked behind an LCD monitor. "Desktop" can also indicate a horizontally-oriented computer case usually intended to have the display screen placed on top to save space on the desktop. Most modern desktop computers have separate screens and keyboards. Tower cases are desktop cases in the earlier sense, though not in the latter. Cases intended for home theater PC systems are usually considered to be desktop cases in both senses, regardless of orientation and placement.



Early computers took the space of a room. Minicomputers generally fit into one or a few refrigerator sized racks. It was not until the 1970s when computers such as the HP 9800 series desktop computers were fully programmable computers that fit entirely on top of a desk. The first large calculators were introduced in 1971, leading to a model programmable in BASIC in 1972. They used a smaller version of a minicomputer design based on ROM memory and had small one-line LED alphanumeric displays. They could draw computer graphics with a plotter. The Wang 2200 of 1973 had a full-size cathode ray tube (CRT) and cassette tape storage. The IBM 5100 in 1975 had a small CRT display and could be programmed in BASIC and APL. These were generally expensive specialized computers sold for business or scientific uses. By the late 1970s and 1980s personal computers, such as the Apple II series and the IBM Personal Computer used standard processors to reduce cost to put a complete computer on top of a desk with a separate monitor. These would find uses in the home as well as in business and industry, and later incorporate graphic user interfaces and powerful networked operating systems such as Mac (Macintosh) and Windows.


All-in-One computers are desktop computers that combine the monitor into the same case as the CPU. Apple has manufactured several popular examples of all-in-one computers, such as the original Macintosh of the mid-1980s and the iMac of the late 1990s and 2000s. Some older 8-bit computers, such as the Commodore PET 2001 or Kaypro II, also fit into this category. All-in-One PCs are typically more portable than other desktop PCs and many have been built with carrying handles integrated into the case. They can simply be unplugged and transported to a new location.

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