The rise of the personal computer

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The rise of the personal computer

The first personal computer, the Altair, was announced in Popular Electronics in its January 1975 issue. The Altair was also the first example of new computer hardware. It caused a sensation in the computer industry: those who wanted could have their own computers to play with at home, and a mighty computer industry soon began to grow.

A young computer hacker from Seattle by the name of William Gates, then a freshman at Harvard, sold the Altair developers a computer language that would run on their machine and that made it possible to program many advanced functions.

Emboldened by their success with Altair, Gates and his friend founded Microsoft Corporation, which has become the world's largest personal computer software company.

In 1976 Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak began assembling their own microcomputer - the Apple. The second iteration of their design, the Apple II, included such amenities as a keyboard, a built-in power supply, and a color monitor (all lacking in the first version) and was an immediate success following its introduction in 1977.

With the inclusion of a floppy disk drive that stored computer-readable data on a flexible plastic disc, the Apple II added a convenient way to read computer programs. This development truly gave birth to the phenomenon of personal computing.

In 1979 a remarkable program called VisiCalc appeared and made it possible for the personal computer to manipulate complex arrays of data. VisiCalc not only racked up impressive sales as a computer software package but also spurred adoption of the Apple II itself.

IBM made its entry in l981 with its Personal Computer (PC) which was tremendously successful, soon outstripping sales of Apple and other early personal computers. However, revenues from IBM's traditional computer business soon began a long-term decline. IBM was unable to dominate personal computers as it had the mainframe market, since IBM had exclusive rights neither to the central processing chip that was the "brains" of the personal computer nor to the disk operating system (DOS) software that made the hardware perform its basic functions.

The Intel Corporation, which made the chips, and Microsoft, which made the software, were free to sell their products to all comers. Microsoft developed a full line of software, such as word-processing and spreadsheet packages, that rivaled IBM's own. Thus, it took only a matter of months to create "clones" of the IBM PC with technical specifications that matched the IBM machines and that would run all of the same software, at a much lower cost.

Meanwhile, Apple Computer began the transition to a multibillion-dollar corporation by maintaining control of its own destiny with a proprietary operating system and with a wealth of attractive and "user friendly" software applications, allowing it to charge premium places for its computers. Continuing the apple motif, it called its next successful computer the Mackintosh.

Apple also specialized in the development of multimedia computers with advanced sound and moving image display capabilities. Because Apple produced only personal computers, it could focus its attention on that market, while IBM had to worry about protecting its mainframe business.

Microsoft emerged as a major force in the personal computer industry as the profits shifted from the hardware to the software end of the industry. Under the continuing guidance of William Gates, Microsoft had become a multibillion-dollar corporation by the early 1990s. Its Windows operating system outclassed IBM's own efforts to update DOS and had an easy-to-use interface not unlike Apple's own.

Microsoft produced a full range of software packages that were among the leaders in virtually all of the most popular produced categories.


Answer the questions.

1. Which computer-market trend was entirely lost for IBM? Why did IBM fail its entry into the PC market?

2. What features made IBM a pioneer in computer industry development?

3. What became the basis of the Microsoft production?

4. What did you learn about Apple Corporation?

5. How was the computer market divided between IBM, Microsoft and Apple Corporation finally?


Look at the two similar sentences. Which one is true? What makes the second sentence false?

It was desktop-sized personal computers that replaced the minicomputer trend. It was room-sized mainframe computers that replaced the minicomputer trend.
One of these computers was called Apple and it was announced in 1975. One of these computers was called Altair and it was announced in 1975.
Those who wanted could have now their own computer for business purposes at home. Those who wanted could have now their own computer to play at home.  
A computer industry so mighty before began to fail. A computer industry began to grow.  
The Altair developers bought from William Gates a computer language that could run on their machine. The Altair developers bought from Microsoft Corporation a computer language that could run on their

Arrange the sentences in their logical sequence.

1. But its current name the company took only in 1924.

2. It used a punch-card technology and electrical circuit to advance the mechanical counter.

3. These successful investments brought enormous profits for IBM.

4. The next machine to be introduced into the market was Model 650 initializing punch-card technology.

5. This invention became the foundation on which IBM was built.

6. The digital electromechanical computer Mark I was one of the first to be financed by IBM in 1943.

7. A new tabulating machine invented by Herman Hollerith was used for the US Census of 1890.

8. Later on, IBM made heavy investments in producing peripheral equipment, printers, terminals, key-punch machines and card sorters.

Say what you have learnt about the development of the computer industry. Begin your story with the phrases listed below.

After that…;

Now it is widely known that…;

The new computer caused the sensation because…;

In order to perform the new computer…


5. Fill in the gaps with prepositionsto, with, into, on, from, off, over, at, of, for if necessary.

1. The developers conceived … a new model … machine.

2. The investors insisted … development … a new trend … computers.

3. The customers bought … the company new computers.

4. The company left their minicomputers … sale.

5. The computer helped perform a set … operations.

6. Software and peripherals are compatible … almost all modern computers.

7. Several applicants argue … the right to head the company.

8. The IBM Corporation capitalized … producing peripheral equipment.

9. We didn't forget the names … the scientists who have contributed … R&D.

10.Several devices aim … increasing the calculating speed.

11.We bought our computer … one of the shops of our city.

12.The firm used the money to buy … the cable television company.

Text 3

A computer system


1. Fill in the gaps with the words from the text:

1. The purpose of a … is to make it as easy as possible for you to use computer to ….

2. The … are the mechanical devices, the system, the machinery and the electronics.

3. The … are the programs written for the system.

4. These three devices are the required … of any computer system.

5. … include: database software, spreadsheets calculations, word-processing on a word processor.


2. Answer the questions:

1. What is the purpose of a computer system?

2. What is the hardware?

3. What is the software?

4. What does the Computer system include?

5. What are the applications?

6. What does applications include?

3. Read the text:

A computer system

A computer system is a collection of components that work together to process data. The purpose of a computer system is to make it as easy as possible for you to use computer to solve problems. A functioning computer system combines hardware elements with software elements. The hardware elements are the mechanical devices, the system, the machinery and the electronics. The software elements are the programs written for the system. Collectively these components provide a complete computer system.

Usually, a computer system requires three basic hardware items: the central processor unit, which performs all data processing, a terminal device, which helps users to communicate with their computer system and a memory storing programs and data. These three devices are the required hardware components of any computer system. Computer system includes many other devices: a printer, a scanner and a modem. These computer devices are called hardware.

A set of instructions telling a computer what to do is a program. Programs are usually written in a Programming languages like Pascal, C++, etc. Applications are programs for specific tasks. Applications include: data base software, spreadsheets calculations, word-processing on a word processor. To function hardware and software, a computer needs an operation system program. Some operation systems require users to type in commands to tell the computer what to do. Many computers use a graphical interface or point-and-click interface such as Windows.

Some interfaces allow plug-and-play, the possibility of connecting new hardware of the computer without having to adjust or configure the system to take the new hardware into account: the interface program recognizes the hardware automatically.



1. Arrange the sentences from the text " New Agent, New Help" in their logical order.

1. It's no secret that the amount of computer users has been expanding rapidly.

2. This flow of information has led to an interest in intelligent agents, software assistants that perform retrieving and developing information.

3. Currently, there are plenty of companies developing agent software.

4. These intelligent agents will be used in a range of applications including user interfaces, desktop applications, messaging commerce and network management.

5. Combined with the ability to look and listen, intelligent agents will make personal computers closer to behave in a human-like way.

6. It's not accidental that users often treat their personal computers as if they were humans.

7. By making computers more "social" engineers hope to make them more user-friendly.


Match the synonyms.


1. component a) operation
2. purpose b) aim
3. device c) preference
4. advantage d) data
5. capacity e) part
6. aid f) help
  g) power
  h) apparatus


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