I am aware of the history of the term PC after the IBM PC, and I'm aware that the term Personal Computer has existed long before the IBM PC. However, what I don't know is if the abbreviation "PC" for "personal computer" was in common use before then.

Can anyone give me any evidence that it was or was not in common use, at least among computer enthusiasts, before this time?

I've Googled around but it's a difficult thing to search for. The Wikipedia page seems to imply that it was, but it's not sourced and is slightly ambiguous as to whether it's actually talking about the abbreviation, compared to the term.

  • 1
    Speaking from personal knowledge/experience, "PC" and "personal computer" were not in wide use prior to the IBM PC. No doubt someone had used the term somewhere, but the industry was still thrashing about for a term to use (after "minicomputer" and "microcomputer" became poor descriptions). – Hot Licks Oct 8 '15 at 1:46
  • A quick check to google ngrams shows that PC has been used quite a bit before IBM PC but as it says, PC could stand for many things and may not relate to personal computer. – CipherBot Oct 8 '15 at 1:48
  • I do see, incidental to Ngram, that Commodore was using the term "personal computer" in 1979. And the industry rag Computerworld was using the term in 1978. – Hot Licks Oct 8 '15 at 1:50
  • @HotLicks Right, but the OP is asking whether PC was in use for the concept, not personal computer or personal computing. The BYTE reviews I've seen use the term microcomputer until 1981, for example. NGrams searches for things like "Apple PC" or "Tandy PC" turn up zilch. – choster Oct 8 '15 at 3:50
  • 1
    Wikipedia suggests that 'Personal Computer' was in use from the early 70s at the latest, but that "PC" came into widespread use to mean 'IBM (PC) compatible'. PC World magazine was launched in late 1982, more than a year after the IBM product appeared. The (British) magazine Personal Computer World began in 1978. – JHCL Oct 8 '15 at 8:36

In September 1977 (September 19-21, 1977 to be precise) the International Conference on Cybernetics and Society included discussion of the *Personal Computer (PC)". The proceedings of this meeting are not available openly on the internet, but the "Snippet View" from Google Books shows it clearly here:

...personal computer (PC) can then be easily tailored to individual user's needs in his office, at his place of business, or at his home. Our ultimate objective is to make the PC into its user's "intelligent assistant" for real-life situations.

This clearly predates the 1981 release of the IBM PC, although it's not concrete evidence of "widespread" use, as requested by the OP. This document can be found in many University libraries around the world, and if someone has access to a copy, I'd love to know who was promoting the PC in 1977 :-)

  • That document seems incredibly hard to find. The closest to me is in France, as far as I could tell from a look online. I could check physically in a few days in my university's library but I'm not expecting to find it, since I couldn't see it in the web catalogue. But thanks a lot for linking that! – Muzer Oct 9 '15 at 0:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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