I'm looking for a word that you'd use to refer to all computers that distinguishes them from gaming consoles. The word "computer" is too general - that would include servers and other industrial machines - and technically consoles as well. I could go with "home computer" or "personal computer", but I'd like to find a single word that works. My gut tells me that "PC" fits the bill, but most people who see "PC" associate it with one running some version of Windows - Mac and Linux machines are not included (even though they do meet the original definition of "personal computer"). I thought "desktop" would be a good word, but it excludes laptops and tablets. It's specifically needed relating to games. For the opposite, there's one word: "console" is generally considered to include all versions of XBox, Playstation, and Nintendo (and Sega, Atari, etc. if you go back far enough). What I'm looking for is the opposite. The sentence is:

More and more, game consoles are starting to resemble ___s, with internal hard drives, network connections, etc.

  • 5
    In the example you give, computers works fine. You wouldn't really need to exclude servers and industrial machines, because those kinds of computers also have hard drives, network connections, etc.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 18, 2013 at 19:29
  • 1
    "Home computer" or "personal computer" would work. Jul 18, 2013 at 19:31
  • 1
    I would say PC is okay. After all, typical PCs have all the listed attributes. The fact that other computers have those same attributes doesn't detract from the comparison that you are trying to make. If I told someone that my thermostat had all the attributes of a PC, they would understand me. (They may not believe the totality of that statement, but they would understand.) Jul 18, 2013 at 21:14
  • 2
    You are twelve years behind the times anyway. "Starting to resemble computers"? The original Xbox was a computer. Complete with a hard drive and all. People used it as their home media center, people used it to emulate NeoGeo and SNES, people ran Linux on it. And that's when countless people were literally saying just that, "game consoles are just computers now". Without wondering if they should use "computer" or "PC" or "desktop". They just said it, and everyone got it. Again, that was over a decade ago. Looks like you've missed the boat.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 18, 2013 at 21:48
  • 2
    @AthomSfere True enough - technically most of them are tower configuration rather than desktop these days, and most people I know keep the CPU under the desk, not on top of it, but in general usage, "desktop" still seems to refer to any computer which is used at a desk and not generally moved very often. (Of course, by that definition my laptop is a desktop, since I generally leave it in one place - and I've almost never actually used it on my lap, but that's a technicality.) Jul 19, 2013 at 3:45

3 Answers 3


I think the lay (non-technical) person still thinks of "computer" as being a laptop or desktop. Of course, anything with a processor in it is technically a computer, which these days means your phone, gaming console, tablet, but also quite possibly your television, media device, and even devices like washing machines, microwave ovens and so on.

However, since you posted this question in the English stack exchange, I'm going to focus on how the general public understands the terminology, rather than technical definitions. I don't actually know of a single word which defines the concept of general-purpose computer, but that's what most people understand by "computer".

It is unfortunate that "PC" has come to mean a personal computer running Windows as its operating system, but that's the connotation in the public consciousness.

There's also "microcomputer" which once conveyed the same meaning, but it's become archaic since technically most servers now are also microcomputers.

  • 1
    Yeah, I think this is probably the way to go. It's more general than I'd like, but that's just because I'm a techy and I know the real definition. The "PC" thing is odd, especially since for a while, there was a generation of Macs called "PowerPC", which made things extra-confusing. I think it's because otherwise there isn't one single word to refer to a Windows computer. You have a Mac or a ___? (Never mind Linux, etc.) Mac seems to be the only OS with a dedicated noun for its systems. Jul 19, 2013 at 14:56
  • +1 - in the context of gaming, I don't think anyone would think "computer" means a server. It means PC/Mac/Linux device, but not xbox/ps?/pocket gadget, notwithstanding that they're all "computers" technically.
    – Jaydles
    Jan 30, 2014 at 15:57
  • Also just to add to this answer and agree that the general public doesn't really know what a microcomputer is but computer is generally understood to mean a desktop computer or workstation (regardless of it being used at work or under the desk. I was teaching a course called "Information Processing with Microcomputer Systems" but they should have changed the name of it 15 years ago. May 19, 2016 at 15:21

You could use the word "Workstation", to imply a computer which is personal, but used for work. They are typically more high end than a standard desktop or laptop, however there are workstation desktops and laptops. Also, giving the increasing computer power of game consoles they might just be approaching the power of a workstation anyway.

  • Yeah, somebody else suggested Workstation, but since I'm specifically talking about games, a workstation implies a computer that is used for work. Maybe games also, but mainly work. (The other poster removed their answer after I pointed this out, which is why you don't see it anymore.) Jul 19, 2013 at 14:51

You’re talking about general-purpose computers.

  • Yeah, but that's three words now; I was kind of looking for just one... Jul 18, 2013 at 20:05
  • 1
    @DarrelHoffman If you only get one word, choose the noun.
    – tchrist
    Jul 18, 2013 at 20:06
  • 3
    Increasingly, the "bit of tin" we have in our own homes these days actually spends most of its time operating as what we used to call a terminal/console decades ago. The text/audio/video content it delivers, and much of the processing power itself, actually resides somewhere on the other end of an Internet connection. So perhaps we really ought to be calling them portals (doorway, entrance, gateway). Jul 18, 2013 at 20:33
  • I disagree pretty strongly here, not only is it now 3 words long, but it adds ambiguity. general-purpose compared to what? You and I have technical backgrounds, but I think the average consumer would find this much more bewildering than just calling them computers.
    – AthomSfere
    Jul 19, 2013 at 3:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.