The arguments over whether a tablet counts as a computer this rather lovely Ars Technica article on why they think a tablet is a PC as well as a chat conversation over this question got me thinking over what a PC is. This is a semi rant, but eh, considering that nearly everything is some flavor of computer-ish device, its quite relevant to me.
Ars claims that PCs have 4 elements
- Real PCs require real keyboards.
- Real PCs have preemptive multitasking.
- Real PCs can be directly programmed at their own consoles.
- Real PCs require an open architecture and open operating environments.
- Real PCs are General Purpose Computing Devices.
- Real PCs run arbitrary software.
There's no doubt to me that say, a x86/x86-64 based laptop running one's OS of choice (and the ability to trivially install one's own OS is a defining feature of a 'general purpose computing device'. The Raspberry Pi counts on this - you can run whatever you want, on top of whatever OS.
Now, there's edge cases for the first feature. One rather obvious one that cropped up was a question where a console was being used to run ps3mediaserver. So, in this case the PS3 is being used as a general purpose computing device. In addition, this might be solvable by other means, maybe using a different encoder on the PC end.
I also think general purpose computing devices have a range of options for input and output (which phones don't have, but consoles do) and perform a range of tasks based on said IO devices - i can plug in a monitor to my laptop, but not a phone, and i can use a keyboard and mouse/trackball/mind reading device on my desktop.
The second tends to simply mean, i can download and run what i want - but nearly everything, and the toaster does it, but not an iPhone.
Opinions, and hopefully non rotten, non excessively hard flung fruit welcome.