Personal computers have come a long way since the first household PCs were developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, technology is more mobile than anyone could have ever imagined 30 years ago. We can 'compute' wherever we want, whenever we want and without cables of any kind. (To help you surf the Internet for free, see 7 Places To Find Free WiFi.)

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Laptop computers have become the convenient option. We can upload pictures from the park, check our emails on the train and carry our computer with us wherever we go. So does anyone still need a desktop computer? We will look at the history of personal computers and ask if desktops are going out of fashion.

A Little History
Personal computers began with the desktop computer. Despite many technological advances, in its current form the desktop computer remains very similar to the original tower design. Laptops were released in the mid 1980s, but did not hit the mainstream until the early 1990s. With laptops, designers wanted to fuse a computer system with a device that could be carried around by its owner. While the first ones were far larger and more awkward than the current style, they quickly became a useful addition to the computing world.

Why Have Laptops Taken Off?
For many years, laptops were far more expensive than desktops, and were often overlooked for budgetary reasons. In recent years the prices have come down substantially, battery life has improved and the speed is faster. All of these factors have resulted in a boom in the sales of laptops to the mass market.

Laptops are the most convenient computers to use. Today, you can use any software on a laptop as easily as on a desktop. The added advantage is that all of this functionality comes in a package that looks and feels like a textbook and easily fits into a briefcase or bag. (For more on what convenience is costing you, see Lunch Money: The Cost Of Convenience.)

Are Desktops Redundant?
Laptops are now excellent performers and can have plenty of storage and memory. There will always be a limitation with size and heat which means that desktop computers are still more powerful than their portable cousins.

There is a reason why desktops have been the cornerstone of the personal computer market since the very beginning. Quite simply, desktop computers are faster. You can surf the web faster and install both updates and software faster.

Desktops have always been at the forefront of technological developments. If something brand new is developed, you can buy a top of the range desktop that will have it. A desktop allows you to stay current with technology due to the fact it is easy and affordable to improve its performance by adding additional RAM.

Laptop Vs. Desktop
Even as laptop prices decrease, there is a case to be made for the desktop computer. Perhaps for most people, the decision between desktop and laptop is a question of performance vs. portability. Do you want the latest software and developments, or is the ability to take your computer 'on the road' with you the top of your priority list? Desktops still remain the best option at the bottom end of the computer budget, and even the cheapest have a lot of power.

The Bottom Line
At the top end, desktops have the cutting edge technology, are still much faster and give you the freedom to expand and improve them. If you want power and expandability from your computer, then a desktop will win hands down. (For more ways you can save money using your computer, check out The Best Budgeting Software For 2011.)

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