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Home Computer is a consumer-friendly word for the first generation of
microcomputers (the technical term that was previously used). The home
computer became affordable for the general public due to the development of
the silicon chip based microprocessor.
In a manner resembling the expansion of new animal forms in the Cambrian
period, large numbers of new machines of all types, including such exotica
as the Forth-based Jupiter ACE appeared on the market, and disappeared
again. A few types remained for much longer, some, such as the BBC Micro and
Commodore 64 still having a devoted following. However by the end of the
decade most were squeezed out between the IBM compatible Personal Computer
and the newer generations of video game consoles because they each used
their own incompatible formats. The IBM revolution was caused by the 1981
release of the IBM PC (5150).
Many of these computers were superficially similar, having a usually very
cheap-to-manufacture keyboard integrated into the processor unit and
displaying output on a home television. Many used compact audio cassettes as
a (notoriously unreliable) storage mechanism since floppy disk drives were
very expensive at the time. Cheapness was the order of the day for most of
Almost all computers employ an operating system (OS) which acts as an
interface between the operator and the computer's internal hardware (memory,
CPU, etc). Home computers most often had their OS, of which one part was
usually a BASIC interpreter, stored in one or more ROM chips. The term
software commonly denoted application programs sitting 'above' the OS to
perform a specific task, e.g. wordprocessors or games.
As many older computers have become obsolete it has become popular amongst
enthusiasts to enable one type of computer to emulate another via the use of
emulation software. Thus, many of the operating environments for the
computers listed below can be recreated on a modern PC.
The home computer was commonly based on 8-bit microprocessor technology,
typically the MOS Technologies 6502 or the Zilog Z80. During the early to
mid-1980s a large variety of 8-bit home computers were designed and
marketed. These were then gradually supplanted by the PC and its competing
16-bit (Motorola 68000-based) home/personal computers appearing from 1985 onwards.