personal computer (pc), computer in the form of a desktop or laptop device designed for use by a single person. pcs function using a display monitor and a keyboard. since their introduction in the 1980s, pcs have become powerful and extremely versatile tools that have revolutionized how people work, learn, communicate, and find entertainment. many households in the united states now have pcs, thanks to affordable prices and software that has made pcs easy to use without special computer expertise. personal computers are also a crucial component of information technology (it) and play a key role in modern economies worldwide. the usefulness and capabilities of personal computers can be greatly enhanced by connection to the internet and world wide web, as well as to smaller networks that link to local computers or databases. personal computers can also be used to access content stored on compact discs (cds) or digital versatile discs (dvds), and to transfer files to personal media devices and video players. personal computers are sometimes called microcomputers or micros. powerful pcs designed for professional or technical use are known as work stations. other names that reflect different roles for pcs include home computers and small-business computers. laptops are compact and portable personal computers that have many of the same capabilities as desktop computers but with reduced data storage capacity. netbooks are small, very lightweight laptop computers that rely on an internet connection to perform most applications rather than on stored software. the pc is generally larger and more powerful than handheld computers, including personal digital assistants (pdas) and gaming devices.