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Most s-era computers only require users to plug in the power supply, monitor, and other cables. A typical desktop computer consists of a computer case or "tower" , a metal chassis that holds the power supply , motherboard , hard disk drive , and often an optical disc drive.
Most towers have empty space where users can add additional components. External devices such as a computer monitor or visual display unit , keyboard , and a pointing device mouse are usually found in a personal computer. The motherboard connects all processor, memory and peripheral devices together. The RAM , graphics card and processor are in most cases mounted directly onto the motherboard.
The central processing unit microprocessor chip plugs into a CPU socket , while the memory modules plug into corresponding memory sockets. The graphics card or sound card may employ a break out box to keep the analog parts away from the electromagnetic radiation inside the computer case. Disk drives, which provide mass storage, are connected to the motherboard with one cable, and to the power supply through another cable. Usually, disk drives are mounted in the same case as the motherboard; expansion chassis are also made for additional disk storage.
For large amounts of data, a tape drive can be used or extra hard disks can be put together in an external case. Capabilities of the personal computers hardware can sometimes be extended by the addition of expansion cards connected via an expansion bus.
A computer case is an enclosure that contains the main components of a computer. They are usually constructed from steel or aluminum combined with plastic , although other materials such as wood and tempered glass have been used for specialized units.
Cases are available in different sizes and shapes; the size and shape of a computer case are usually determined by the configuration of the motherboard that it is designed to accommodate since this is the largest and most central component of most computers.
The most popular style for desktop computers is ATX , although microATX and similar layouts became very popular for a variety of uses. Companies like Shuttle Inc. In the s, desktop computer cases were larger and taller than era computer cases. This protects against overloading the supply, and guards against performance degradation. Power supply capacities range from to watts for desktop computers.
The central processing unit CPU is a part of a computer that executes instructions of a software program. In newer PCs, the CPU contains over a million transistors in one integrated circuit chip called the microprocessor. In most cases, the processor plugs directly into the motherboard. The processor chip may have a heat sink and a fan attached for cooling. The motherboard, also referred to as system board or main board, is the primary circuit board within a personal computer, and other major system components plug directly into it or via a cable.
In many portable and embedded personal computers, the motherboard houses nearly all of the PC's core components. Often a motherboard will also contain one or more peripheral buses and physical connectors for expansion purposes. Sometimes a secondary daughter board is connected to the motherboard to provide further expandability or to satisfy space constraints. A PC's main memory is a fast primary storage device that is directly accessible by the CPU, and is used to store the currently executing program and immediately needed data.
Main memory is much faster than mass storage devices like hard disk drives or optical discs , but is usually volatile , meaning that it does not retain its contents instructions or data in the absence of power, and is much more expensive for a given capacity than is most mass storage.
As a result, main memory is generally not suitable for long-term or archival data storage. Mass storage devices store programs and data even when the power is off; they do require power to perform read and write functions during usage.
Although flash memory has dropped in cost, the prevailing form of mass storage in personal computers is still the hard disk drive. If the mass storage controller provides additional ports for expandability, a PC may also be upgraded by the addition of extra hard disk or optical disc drives. Solid state drives SSDs are a much faster replacement for traditional mechanical hard disk drives but are also more expensive in terms of cost per gigabyte.
A visual display unit, computer monitor or just display, is a piece of electrical equipment , usually separate from the computer case, which displays visual images without producing a permanent computer record. Multi-monitor setups are quite common in the s, as they enable a user to display multiple programs at the same time e. The display unit houses an electronic circuitry that generates its picture from signals received from the computer.
Within the computer, either integral to the motherboard or plugged into it as an expansion card , there is pre-processing circuitry to convert the microprocessor's output data to a format compatible with the display unit's circuitry. The images from computer monitors originally contained only text, but as graphical user interfaces emerged and became common, they began to display more images and multimedia content.
The term "monitor" is also used, particularly by technicians in broadcasting television, where a picture of the broadcast data is displayed to a highly standardized reference monitor for confidence checking purposes.
The video card —otherwise called a graphics card, graphics adapter or video adapter—processes the graphics output from the motherboard and transmits it to the display.
It is an essential part of modern multimedia-enriched computing. When the IBM PC was introduced, most existing business-oriented personal computers used text-only display adapters and had no graphics capability. Home computers at that time had graphics compatible with television signals, but with low resolution owing to the limited memory available to the eight-bit processors available at the time.
A keyboard is an arrangement of buttons that each correspond to a function, letter, or number. They are the primary devices used for inputting text. In most cases, they contain an array of keys specifically organized with the corresponding letters, numbers, and functions printed or engraved on the button. They are generally designed around an operators language, and many different versions for different languages exist. They have evolved over time, and have been modified for use in computers with the addition of function keys, number keys, arrow keys, and keys specific to an operating system.
Often, specific functions can be achieved by pressing multiple keys at once or in succession, such as inputting characters with accents or opening a task manager. Programs use keyboard shortcuts very differently and all use different keyboard shortcuts for different program specific operations, such as refreshing a web page in a web browser or selecting all text in a word processor. Many keyboards include LED lights under the keys that increase the visibility of the letters or symbols in dark environments.
A computer mouse is a small handheld device that users hold and slide across a flat surface, pointing at various elements of a graphical user interface with an on-screen cursor , and selecting and moving objects using the mouse buttons. Mice may be plugged into a dedicated mouse socket, or a USB port, or, may be connected wirelessly. Mice include one or more buttons to allow a user to signal the computer to carry out some operation, such as selecting an item from a menu of choices on the screen.
A mouse may have a scroll wheel, to allow users to move the displayed image. The scroll wheel can also be pressed down, and used as a third button. Some mouse wheels may be tilted from side to side to allow sideways scrolling. Different programs make use of these functions differently, and may scroll horizontally by default with the scroll wheel, open different menus with different buttons, etc. These functions may be also user-defined through software utilities. Mechanical mice used a ball, which drove pulse generators to detect movement along "north-south" or "east-west" axies.
Optical mice use a special mouse pad with a printed grid to allow detection of motion, or else use an imaging chip that allows detection of motion on almost any opaque surface. All computers require either fixed or removable storage for their operating system, programs and user-generated material. Early home computers used compact audio cassettes for file storage; these were at the time a very low cost storage solution, but were displaced by floppy disk drives when manufacturing costs dropped, by the mids.
As memory sizes increased, the capacity of the floppy did not keep pace; the Zip drive and other higher-capacity removable media were introduced but never became as prevalent as the floppy drive.
By the late s, the optical drive , in CD and later DVD and Blu-ray Disc forms, became the main method for software distribution, and writeable media provided means for data backup and file interchange. As a result, floppy drives became uncommon in desktop personal computers since about , and were dropped from many laptop systems even earlier. A second generation of tape recorders was provided when videocassette recorders were pressed into service as backup media for larger disk drives.
All these systems were less reliable and slower than purpose-built magnetic tape drives. Such tape drives were uncommon in consumer-type personal computers but were a necessity in business or industrial use. Interchange of data such as photographs from digital cameras is greatly expedited by installation of a card reader , which is often compatible with several forms of flash memory devices. It is usually faster and more convenient to move large amounts of data by removing the card from the mobile device , instead of communicating with the mobile device through a USB interface.
A USB flash drive performs much of the data transfer and backup functions formerly done with floppy drives, Zip disks and other devices. Mainstream operating systems for personal computers provide built-in support for USB flash drives, allowing interchange even between computers with different processors and operating systems. The compact size and lack of moving parts or dirt-sensitive media, combined with low cost and high capacity, have made USB flash drives a popular and useful accessory for any personal computer user.
The operating system can be located on any storage, but is typically installed on a hard disk or solid-state drive. While this is slow compared to storing the operating system on a hard disk drive, it is typically used for installation of operating systems, demonstrations, system recovery, or other special purposes. Large flash memory is currently more expensive than hard disk drives of similar size as of mid but are starting to appear in laptop computers because of their low weight, small size and low power requirements.
Computer communications involve internal modem cards , modems , network adapter cards , and routers. Common peripherals and adapter cards include headsets , joysticks , microphones , printers , scanners , sound adapter cards as a separate card rather than located on the motherboard , speakers and webcams.
Computer software is any kind of computer program , procedure , or documentation that performs some task on a computer system. Software applications are common for word processing , Internet browsing, Internet faxing , e-mail and other digital messaging, multimedia playback, playing of computer game , and computer programming.
The user may have significant knowledge of the operating environment and application programs, but is not necessarily interested in programming nor even able to write programs for the computer. Therefore, most software written primarily for personal computers tends to be designed with simplicity of use, or " user-friendliness " in mind. However, the software industry continuously provide a wide range of new products for use in personal computers, targeted at both the expert and the non-expert user.
An operating system OS manages computer resources and provides programmers with an interface used to access those resources. An operating system processes system data and user input, and responds by allocating and managing tasks and internal system resources as a service to users and programs of the system.
An operating system performs basic tasks such as controlling and allocating memory , prioritizing system requests, controlling input and output devices, facilitating computer networking , and managing files. Windows, macOS, and Linux all have server and personal variants. With the exception of Microsoft Windows, the designs of each of them were inspired by or directly inherited from the Unix operating system, which was developed at Bell Labs beginning in the late s and spawned the development of numerous free and proprietary operating systems.
Microsoft Windows is the collective brand name of several operating systems made by Microsoft which, as of , are installed on PCs built by HP , Dell and Lenovo , the three remaining high volume manufacturers. Linux is a family of Unix-like computer operating systems. Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free software and open source development: The system's utilities and libraries usually come from the GNU operating system, announced in by Richard Stallman.
Generally, a computer user uses application software to carry out a specific task . System software supports applications  and provides common services such as memory management, network connectivity and device drivers, all of which may be used by applications but are not directly of interest to the end user.
A simplified analogy in the world of hardware would be the relationship of an electric light bulb an application to an electric power generation plant a system : Typical examples of software applications are word processors , spreadsheets , and media players. Multiple applications bundled together as a package are sometimes referred to as an application suite. Microsoft Office and LibreOffice  , which bundle together a word processor, a spreadsheet, and several other discrete applications, are typical examples .
The separate applications in a suite usually have a user interface that has some commonality making it easier for the user to learn and use each application. Often, they may have some capability to interact with each other in ways beneficial to the user; for example, a spreadsheet might be able to be embedded in a word processor document even though it had been created in the separate spreadsheet application.
End-user development tailors systems to meet the user's specific needs. User-written software include spreadsheet templates, word processor macros, scientific simulations, graphics and animation scripts; even email filters are a kind of user software. Users create this software themselves and often overlook how important it is. PC gaming is popular among the high-end PC market. In , million personal computers were shipped in comparison to 48, in The United States had received The second billion was expected to be sold by The global personal computer shipments were As of June , the number of personal computers in use worldwide hit one billion,  while another billion is expected to be reached by This trend reflects the rising of emerging markets as well as the relative stagnation of mature regions.
In the developed world , there has been a vendor tradition to keep adding functions to maintain high prices of personal computers. However, since the introduction of the One Laptop per Child foundation and its low-cost XO-1 laptop, the computing industry started to pursue the price too.
Although introduced only one year earlier, there were 14 million netbooks sold in In , Deloitte consulting firm predicted that, smartphones and tablet computers as computing devices would surpass the PCs sales  as has happened since As of , worldwide sales of PCs had begun to fall as many consumers moved to tablets and smartphones for gifts and personal use.
We have definitely reached the tipping point. In the second quarter of , PC sales grew for the first time since the first quarter of According to research firm Gartner, the growth mainly came from the business market while the consumer market experienced decline. Selling prices of personal computers steadily declined due to lower costs of production and manufacture, while the capabilities of computers increased.
External costs of environmental impact are not fully included in the selling price of personal computers. This impact differs between desktop computers and laptops.
Personal computers have become a large contributor to the 50 million tons of discarded electronic waste that is being generated annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. To address the electronic waste issue affecting developing countries and the environment, extended producer responsibility EPR acts have been implemented in various countries and states.
In the absence of comprehensive national legislation or regulation on the export and import of electronic waste, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and BAN Basel Action Network teamed up with 32 electronic recyclers in the US and Canada to create an e-steward program for the orderly disposal of manufacturers' and customers' electronic waste.
The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition founded the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a coalition that advocates for the production of environmentally friendly products. The TakeBack Coalition works with policy makers, recyclers, and smart businesses to get manufacturers to take full responsibility of their products.
They see flaws in two principal tenets of EPR: First EPR relies on the idea that if the manufacturers have to pay for environmental harm, they will adapt their practices.
Second EPR assumes the current design practices are environmentally inefficient. The Reason Foundation claims that manufacturers naturally move toward reduced material and energy use. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. December Learn how and when to remove this template message. History of personal computers.
Power supply unit computer. Usage share of operating systems. This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. Market share of personal computer vendors.
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Retrieved 5 October How does it all add up? Ten reasons why Macs are better than PCs". Allan, A Bibliography of the Personal Computer [electronic resource]: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, Retrieved 9 January Between Scientific Research and Computer Business". Retrieved 3 January The Wall Street Journal. The first personal computers]. Glushkov Foundation in Russian. Institute of Applied Informatics. Archived from the original on November 24, Retrieved November 19, The true origins of the personal computer".
Archived from the original on 22 August Archived from the original on 10 February Retrieved November 13, A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind Article has several paragraphs on the design of the Altair There is little question that the current enthusiasm in personal computing was catalyzed by the introduction of the MITS Altair computer kit in January A History of Modern Computing.
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Sales Colleague Dixons Carphone reviews. Our vision for the future involves simplifying the mobile, technology Support Colleague Dixons Carphone reviews. We work with over countries across the world in the Excellent keyboard and PC skills, including navigation of system applications with data input.
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