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From the original meaning of the initialism, PC (Personal Computer), it would make perfect sense to call a Mac a PC, as it is just that, a personal computer.

However, the vast majority of people distinguish a PC from a Mac - due to clever marketing. This distinction is so embedded in people now, that both PC users, and Mac users do not consider a Mac to be a PC.

So would I be right to start referring to Macs under the blanket term "PC", or would the fact that most people no longer consider the term to refer to Macs make me wrong?

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You're absolutely right. – Hamid Aug 16 '10 at 11:01
Here we go... [gets popcorn] – MGOwen Sep 20 '10 at 4:25
The height of confusion for me was when some Macs carried the "PowerPC" logo, but weren't Apples... – e100 Jan 17 '11 at 15:03
@e100 That was when Motorola (and others) legally made a Mac clone that used the PowerPC chip (made by Motorola and IBM). PowerPC was short for Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC – Performance Computing, sometimes abbreviated as PPC). There was an alliance among Motorola, IBM, and Apple so Apple (and later Motorola) used as names on their computers. My guess is that while the PC in the name didn't mean Personal Computer, that it was used on purpose to throw a little confusion into the term PC for marketing. – AnWulf Jan 31 '12 at 13:39
Yes, I know.... – e100 Feb 7 '12 at 15:21
up vote 24 down vote accepted

I wouldn't consider you to be wrong (a Mac is a personal computer), but it is definitely the case that some people might be confused by using the terms in that way and it would then require further explanation. Because of that, I'm not sure there's really a definite answer to this as it will depend on the context and the knowledge of the reader. If in doubt, go for whatever phrasing is least likely to cause confusion.

I believe the term "PC" became the generally used expression as it stemmed from "IBM-compatible PC", which gradually became more and more mainstream. However you could also argue (correctly) that a modern Mac is also an IBM-compatible PC, since they use the same CPU architecture and so on now - just to add another level of confusion ;)

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It came from "IBM PC" (without the compatible). IBM had to distinguish the "personal computer" from their other computer products (mainframes, dumb terminals, asf). Then other manufacturers would tout their products (cards, mice, software, asf) as being compatible with the IBM PC. Gradually the IBM fell out as clone makers also referred a computer made by them as a "PC". As far as I can recall, Apple didn't refer to their computers as a PC (the PowerPC referred to the chip) and thus the sunder names came about. – AnWulf Jan 31 '12 at 13:24

It wouldn't make you wrong.

However, it would mean that many people may be confused about your statement, or they'd think you were making a point through your choice of language. At least that has been my experience. If that is your intention, then call your "Mac" a "PC".

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In my experience, confusing people is wrong. Unless I was making a point, or trying to confuse someone, I'd stick with calling a Mac a "Mac", and calling other PCs "PCs". – Vincent McNabb Aug 17 '10 at 0:19

Words like "personal computer", "mini computer", "micro computer" etc. had a meaning in the 1970s and 1980s which is almost forgotten now. At first the whole notion of "personal computer" was a novelty. Nowadays almost all computers are "personal computers" in the sense that the word originally meant, and most people don't even know what a "mini computer" or "micro computer" might refer to. In the 1980s a Mac would have been referred to as a "personal computer" but I'm not sure why you would want to, any more than you would want to refer to it as a "micro computer". If you have to call it something, then calling it a "computer" is good enough.

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Today's personal computers have more capability of most mini computers and more than a few mainframe computers from the 1960s and 1970s. I agree with Ex-user that the preferred inclusive term should be just 'computer'. – oosterwal Feb 2 '11 at 23:24

You wouldn't be wrong, but you would confuse others. I would use the term "Desktop Computer".

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ultimately, if you are looking to a) not be wrong, and b) be accurate and concise, "desktop" is the best choice. – mfg Aug 16 '10 at 13:47
Doesn't work. What about Mac laptops? – Mechanical snail May 30 '12 at 9:52

protected by tchrist Jul 21 '14 at 3:49

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