At the turn of the 21st century, the personal computer dominated the common technological arena. Most who could afford one operated a desktop computer in the home or office, a machine usually consisting of two parts: the screen or monitor and the server. Desktop computers housed a mother board that acted like a brain. Consisting of a flat sheet, it held the central processing unit, memory, and various components.
The processing unit transfers data and signals various functions for the machine. Memory on the motherboard Random Access Memory or RAM, the basic place for storing data. Desktop computers also accepted external forms of memory such as hard discs or miniature hard drives. Different models of computers offered differing levels of processing speed and memory space, distinguishing the quality and purpose of the machine.
In addition to hardware, desktop computers needed software to run, that is, its non-physical components. The operating system constituted the interface that users interacted with when operating the computer. Different companies developed unique operating systems that featured strengths such as creative design versus technical programming. The user could customize the interface but was limited to a 2-D screen for visual functions and built-in or external speakers for audio, primarily communicated to the computer through a hand-operated keyboard of symbolic commands.
Desktop computer came in various sizes and shapes, and at the turn of the 21st century began a drastic decline in size. The first machines required a room of space but soon the computer fit, as indicated by the title, on the top of a desk. The user needed a local power supply, usually an outlet within a nearby wall, and attached a cord from the computer to the power source. Computers also generated a substantial amount of heat, necessitating a fan to cool the server not the monitor. This often determined the size of the server.