Home computer

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Home computers were a class of personal computers entering the market in 1977, and becoming increasingly common during the 1980s.[1] They were marketed to consumers as affordable, accessible personal computers and more capable than video game consoles. These computers typically cost much less than business, scientific or engineering-oriented desktop personal computers of the time, and were generally less powerful in terms of memory and expandability. However, a home computer often had better graphics and sound than contemporary business personal computers. Usually they were bought for education, game play, and personal productivity use such as word processing.

Advertisements for early home computers were rife with possibilities for their use in the home, from cataloging recipes to personal finance to home automation,[2][3][4] but these were seldom realized in practice. For example, using a typical 1980s home computer as a home automation appliance would require the computer to be kept powered on at all times and dedicated to this task. Personal finance and database use required tedious data entry. If no packaged software was available for a particular application, the home computer user was required to learn computer programming; a significant time commitment many weren't willing to make. Still, for many the home computer offered the first opportunity to learn to program.[5]

Today the line between 'business' and 'home' computer market segments has blurred or vanished completely, since both categories of computers now typically use the same processor architectures, peripherals, operating systems, and applications. Often the only difference may be the sales outlet through which they are purchased. Another change from the home computer era is that the once-common endeavour of writing one's own software programs has almost vanished from home computer use.[6]

Contents

Background

Computers became affordable for the general public due to the mass production of the microprocessor. Early microcomputers had front-mounted switches and blinkenlights to control and indicate internal system status, and were often sold in kit form. These kits would contain an empty printed circuit board which the buyer would fill with the integrated circuits, other individual electronic components, wires and connectors, and then hand-solder all the connections.[7] In contrast, home computers were designed to be used by the average consumer, not necessarily an electronics hobbyist.

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