Also stands for "player character", a character in an RPG controlled by a player as opposed to a game master or computer.

PC is also an abbreviation for "Police Constable" in England.

A Police Constable is your average officer who walks/drives the streets looking for crime, much like everywhere else in the world - Except that ours in England don't carry firearms.

The generic term for an x86 box with a BIOS roughly compatible with the original 1981 Personal Computer from IBM. These days they have been modernized but still use practically the same technology from the 1970s as they pay the price for backward compatibility. They typically run Windows. Mac users like to think that PC == Windows box. They are wrong.

PCs really suck, but the alternatives are either too expensive or held in tight proprietary hardware monopoly (example: pa-risc, ppc, alpha, sparc, mips)

in photography, PC stands for Prontor-Compur (two brands of shutters), and it identifies that little coaxial connector that you will find on most old cameras and on all professional cameras and studio flashes.
It is usually found on a PC cable, and its function is to synchronize the flash with the shutter, that's to say, to fire the flash when the shutter is fully open.

It is very old technology. Basically, you connect the flash and the camera with PC cable, and when the shutter opens the camera short-circuits the two wires, and the flash goes off.

In some old flash systems you will find quite a robust voltage on the PC connector, so don't put it in your mouth.

PC predominately stands for "Personal Computer" to the crowd reading this node. It started out innocently enough as an abbreviation for computers that IBM started making for personal use.

IBM was a mainframe and business computing company. They really were going out on a limb when they decided to start selling computers to the public. Much like the internet, they saw a trend in the hobby computer market, and that many businesses were becoming well known and successful by selling computers to individual users rather than large corporations.

They marketted the IBM personal computer, or IBM PC, and were fairly succesful. Luckily (as I don't think it was thought out in the long run) they didn't aggresively pursue companies duplicating their efforts, after all, they were IBM (insert ominous music here, huge dark building with a backdrop of dark, lightning lit skies), really, who could compete with their reputation?

Apple chose not to refer to their computers as PCs since the abbreviation was so ingrained in people's minds as "IBM", and even now there is a sharp differentiation. Technically correct(TC) people will refer to x86 based systems as "IBM compatibles" (the programs that ran on the first IBM PC still run on today's systems), or, even better, x86 based systems. x86 is depreciated now since Intel could not trademark a number (80486, 80586, 80686) and instead named their next series of processor as the "pentium". (refusing to go to sextium - the propor name forthe next generation, they've added a number after the name pentium. If you were to number the current processors, it would probably be 80486, 80586, 80586 pro, 805286, 805386, 805486, with various xoen (DX) and celeron (SX) extras thrown in for good measure).

At any rate. Many lay people do not connote PC with IBM or x86 compatibles, as apple and other companies are still calling their computers "Personal Computer", though stressing other tradmarked names such as iMac, etc.

If IBM had trademarked "PC" and "Personal Computer", or taken patents out on the design of their computer (there are portions which could have been patented, though the basic x86 design was pretty much taken straight from Intel's design guides) then the computing landscape would be so different today as to be nearly incomprehendable to us.

Birth Of The P.C.

In the mid-seventies, the first personal computer was a mini computer called the Altair, made by a company called MITS in Albuquerque. It was based on the Intel 8080 processor, and had only 256 bytes of RAM, and what it lacked in power and peripherals it made up for in cost. At only $400, it was snapped up by hobbyists who had grown bored of tinkering with radios and televisions. A young geek named Gates wrote a version of BASIC for the Altair, which became quite popular, so he started a company to sell it.

Within a few years, there were quite a number of companies selling machines based on the 8080 processor, and most of them ran an OS named CP/M written by a company called Digital Research.

Around 1980, the powers that be at IBM decided that they wanted to be in the personal computer market. So they sent one of their senior managers, Philip Estridge, off to Florida, with a big bag of cash and told him to build them a personal computer. Estridge decided that the cheapest and easiest way of doing this was to throw together a bunch of off the shelf components and cross his fingers.

At this time, Intel had just released their latest-and-greatest, the 8086 and 8088. They were basically the same chip, only the 8088 had an 8-bit bus, half that of the 8086. Estridge chose the 8088, which was substantially cheaper.

Once IBM had the machine put together, they called it the PC, and made its inner workings open. All the electronic schematics, ROM settings, everything about it was published, which made it very easy for third-parties to create new hardware and software for the machine. But before launching their PC, IBM needed some software for it.

As luck would have it, one of the IBM execs knew one Mary Gates (they were both involved in the same charity, as far as I remember), who suggested that her son's company could provide some software. Knowing its' popularity, IBM licensed a copy of Microsoft's BASIC interpreter to ship with the PC, but they still needed an operating system. Bill suggested CP/M, but the latest version, CP/M-86, was way behind schedule. So IBM asked Microsoft to write them an operating system.

Bill Gates knew of a CP/M-like OS called 86-DOS that was used by Seattle Computer Products to run hardware tests, so he bought the rights to it, and hired its author, Tim Paterson, to tidy it up. Tim delivered what he called Q-DOS (Quick 'n' Dirty Operating System), which Microsoft renamed MS-DOS and then in turn delivered it to IBM, who shipped it on every one of their PCs. MS-DOS's main (and probably only) virtue was that it could run most CP/M software, which was written for the 8080, with only minor changes.


But IBM never suspected the horror their partner would unleash upon the world...


Information adapted from Modern Operating Systems by Andrew Tanenbaum.

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