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I'm a PC, and I'm a PC too

Apple logoTime was when the term ‘PC’ meant a personal computer of any persuasion. It later became synonymous with beige boxes running Microsoft Windows.

Apple is much to blame. In the mid-90s, its main line was the Macintosh personal computer. The Mac had almost no consumer following, and the Mac or PC distinction became cast.

Apple took this dichotomy and drove it home hard a few years ago with its long-running ‘I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC’ TV campaign. Building on user stereotypes, we had the two computers personified by John Hodgman as an endearing but neurotic Microsoft apologist and Justin Long as the laid-back can-do Apple guy. Mitchell and Webb stepped in for the UK version of the advertisement.

Apple picked up on the ‘PC’ convention and escalated it to parody, to differentiate its thoughtful but limited PC product range from the monumental mass of home computers preinstalled with Windows.

Now the Mac is well and truly back, helped by an association with first the iPod, and now the iPhone. People who’d previously never even heard of a computer that didn’t have a Start button in the screen corner are now very aware of Apple as a technology company.

The span of devices that now deserve the name personal computer has expanded greatly, too. Many such gadgets now take processors that would dwarf a PC’s of 25 years ago.

Cars and toasters, NAS drives and digital cameras – they all have microprocessors inside to control their operation. But a processor inside does not a personal computer make.

I’d contend that a multipurpose device, maybe with a graphical user interface, makes one distinction between a smart PC and a dumb bread-browning/ejection centre. So a mobile phone is a personal computer. As are recent satnav units. A digital stills or video camera? It’s more a single-function device, so I’d err toward ‘not a PC’.

What about a motion-sensing mobile phone with GPS that can take HD video? Well that sounds like a very smart phone. Read all about the world’s most talked-about PC in our Apple iPhone 4 bumper review.

If you disagree and think a PC should be limited to something driven by a real keyboard or mouse, we've also recently reviewed PCs from the same maker - see Apple MacBook (Mid-2010) and Apple Mac mini (Mid-2010). For unreconstructed followers of the ‘PC’, we've also got new reviews of traditional Windows PCs, such as the Dell Latitude E6410.

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