Document 12 - C OMPUTING ADVANTAGE Before the early 1980s...

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COMPUTING ADVANTAGE Before the early 1980s, computers were unknown to the average person. Many people had never even seen a computer, let alone used one. The few computers that existed were relatively large, bulky devices confined to secure computer centers in corporate or government facilities. Referred to as mainframes, these computers were maintenance intensive, requiring special climate-controlled conditions and several full-time operators for each machine. Because early mainframes were expensive and difficult to operate, usage was restricted to computer programmers and scientists, who used them to perform complex operations, such as processing payrolls and designing sophisticated military weaponry. Beginning in the early 1980s, the computer world changed dramatically with the introduction of microcomputers, also called personal computers (PCs). These relatively small computers were considerably more affordable and much easier to use than their mainframe ancestors. Within a few years, ownership of personal computers became widespread in the workplace, and today the personal computer is a standard appliance in homes and schools. Today’s computers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and differ significantly in computing capability, price, and speed. Whatever their size, cost, or power, all computers offer advantages over manual technologies in the areas of
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