Japanese people call computers PC in Japanese-made katakana expression. English speakers usually use laptops for that. Is PC used to mean a computer in English-speaking countries?
"PC", standing for "Personal Computer" (pluralized "PCs" when abbreviated), is a valid English phrase, and does refer to both desktop and laptop computers. Indeed, the term originated in English, though if you want specifics as to how the term originated, perhaps you should ask the Retro Computing SE site.
For historical reasons, computers made by Apple are typically not referred to as PCs. They're Macs.
Yes, PC is commonly used in English to mean a computer (one PC, two PCs), but different speakers use it to mean slightly different categories of computer.
The term originally stood for "Personal Computer", but became specifically associated with a computer called "PC" released by IBM in 1981.
- The IBM PC was followed by a number of official successors and unofficial "clones" designed to be compatible. These came to be referred to as "PCs", in contrast to other makes of computer, particularly the Apple Macintosh.
- MS-DOS, and then Microsoft Windows, was the dominant operating system on these "IBM-compatible PCs". Some people would consider "PC" to imply a computer running Microsoft Windows, as opposed to the same hardware running Linux.
- The original PC was for a single user, and mostly for office/business use. A multi-user server is not called a "PC", and a games console is not called a "PC", even if the hardware is basically identical. The term "gaming PC" is used, and is distinct from something specifically designed as a "games console".
- Similarly, the early "PCs" were all desktop computers, so some people will use "PC" to mean a desktop rather than a laptop.
In my experience, PC is usually used when trying to make one of these distinctions, e.g. "should I buy a PC or a Mac?", "the software is available for PC and Linux", "the game is better suited to a PC than a console", "are you using a PC or a laptop?"
The word "computer" can refer to the broader category of all desktop and laptop computers, e.g. "log onto our website on your phone, tablet, or computer".
The Personal Computer (IBM 5150), or PC, was a computer model from IBM first sold in 1981. It was followed in 1984 by the Portable Personal Computer (IBM 5155). The North American company IBM Corp. had been the leading actor in enterprise and administration computing hardware and software for decades up to the '80s, precisely and ironically until the PC revolution whose advent they largely accelerated.
IBM PC label. Source
Large, expensive and delicate computers of this time were generally rented, not sold, and put in the hands of highly qualified technicians, still in 1980. This had been a very profitable business for decades, the golden times. So the release of affordable computers for small businesses and wealthy individuals was quite a big event. It created the whole new era we know. You can read about the story here.
The first Portable Personal Computer for less than $1,600, 1982. Source
It was made possible by the mass production of highly integrated circuits, collectively known as microprocessors, and specifically CPUs, for central processing units, microprocessor flavors optimized to execute programmed operations.
Around the world small computers are called by different names, referring to some of their aspects which directly derive from this story:
Individual computer is probably the most correct name, as a personal computer is a computer designed to be used by a single person at once (it is not a time-sharing computer used by enterprises, now split into two separate categories: Mainframes and servers).
Ad for individual computer tables. Source
PC and PC clone (not used anymore) have been a kind of super-family for all individual computers designed from IBM specifications used to build PC, PC-XT and PC-AT models. PC specifications were later updated by PS/2 specifications, the ones by which the latest IBM personal computer was designed, but PC-compatible was kept for marketing continuity.
For years, 80 or 90% of the units sold were PC-compatible units. The remaining 10 or 20% were mostly Osborne, Apple and a myriad of other proprietary systems. The small companies disappeared, and Apple was close to the same fate. So PC have been the dominant design for years and the phrase lost its initial meaning, it now tends to be synonymous for individual computer.
Apple systems, IIe, Macintosh, vibrant iMacs, PowerBook or MacBook for the main ones, have their own names (e.g. a Mac) even though Apple has progressively adopted many of the PC specifications, including x86 CPUs, the largest design difference until then. For this reason, it's not unusual now to refer to personal computers of any sort as PCs with different OSes. This is the same as for smartphones, which are managed either by iOS or by Android: there is no big differences between all these devices.
Ad for a game which works on all PCs, regardless of the OS. Source
(Contrary to a widespread legend, MacOS isn't in any way original. Steve Jobs, fired by its board in 1985, in need of an OS for his new company (NeXT) reused Unix, a product created by telephone companies AT&T and Bell, under the name of OSX. In 1997 Apple, close to bankruptcy, recall Jobs and OSX becomes MacOS with the success we know.)
In the country I live in, the first individual computers were sold early: Micral, like micro- sold in 1973, Portal, like portable, first laptop in 1980. Because the names were kind of set prior to IBM PC and Apple products' existence, we largely use the neutral word microcomputer (microordinateur), often shortened into micro. This refers to the microprocessing unit the device is based on, and this truly distinguishes them from mainframes, the industry computers. Less often one can say PC or Mac.
With the arrival of laptops, the naming conventions have been even more blurred. While laptop is the Anglo-Saxon name invented by Compaq, the leading manufacturer of laptops when they were introduced, most people in France call them portable computers ("ordinateurs portables") or just *portables" or still microcomputers. "PCs" is most often used in the office context, just like many other words from Anglo-Saxon business language (manager, B2B, subcontractor, telco, open space, ...).
Yes. It's a genericisation of a particular class of computer, based on the IBM PC which initially defined it.
I've never seen any suggestion that it was defined by running any particular operating system, but I think that it would be unusual to apply it to a desktop computer which predated the IBM PC's launch and as such didn't use the PC architecture.
Yes, it is an English word, and it is still used, but it is rather rare to use this word generically to simply refer to computers.
As pointed out, it is often used to distinguish from Macs, thanks to a popular ad campaign from back in the day.
If you go around in the US referring to any computer you see as a PC, unless there is some additional context, you will sound weird.