Since its introduction, the home personal computer has grown from a curiosity item and toy for the proverbial man who has everything, into a key part of our lives. For many homes, the PC is no longer a luxury item. It’s a necessity. Buying a new PC is no different than buying a big screen TV, a dishwasher or a microwave oven. It’s just something we accept as being part of our 21st century homes. PC design has evolved as well, from the bulky gray box and CRT combinations so common in offices, to new stylish all-in-one models now available from a select few innovative PC manufacturers.

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The role of the PC in the home has changed dramatically. When PCs first appeared in homes in the late 1980s they were mainly used for financial recording – with applications like Lotus 1-2-3 – or for games. A decade later the Internet entered the scene and PCs became the portal to a world of information. With easy to configure and widely available Internet access, everyone could email, surf the Web and shop online. And with more and more homes adopting broadband Internet connectivity, everyone is becoming a connected member of this global community.

Now a new change is on the horizon. The PC is increasingly becoming the centerpiece of the home network, controlling everything from entertainment to home security systems. And we’re not far away from the day when your refrigerator reminds you that it’s time to buy milk, or even sends your shopping list to on a regular basis. This futuristic, “sci-fi” vision of computerized homes is starting to become a reality now, and at very affordable prices too.

Technologies are now available that can automate and integrate everything in your home like never before. And its not just the fact that they can be linked together that is exciting – it’s the fact that you can get the most of out them to improve your quality of life without having a degree in technology. From automatically recording your favorite TV shows and organizing your favorite music downloads, to making sure the outside lights are on at dusk and off at dawn and the house is at just the right temperature for you, no matter what the weather brings.

The personal computer is now the control center for todays networked home. We may have grown up with CDs (or LPs) and VHS cassettes, but our children will be listening to digital music and watching digital movies stored on a computer and streamed throughout our homes. Computers can now store music in MP3 format and serve up play lists to a stereo with a regular phono cable or through a network. Movies can be watched on a DVD drive on the computer monitor or similarly served up to the big screen TV. Digital Video Recording software with a simple menu driven interface ensures that we never miss our favorite shows, and can be easily programmed to deliver programming to any room in the house to be watched at your convenience.

Home security systems are another natural extension of the networked home. Most systems are linked through the phone lines to a monitoring center. Newer systems can link through a home’s broadband connection and be accessed by the homeowner directly through a computer from anywhere in the world. They can even give you a call on your cell phone or send you an email if there is an alarm. Add a camera to your system, and you can peek in on your house from the office PC or your hotel room to make sure you really did turn off the coffee machine – and turn it off from the Internet too, in case you did forget!

Home networking is a booming market – you can get pretty much everything you need at the local electronics retailer and setting it up – connecting your home entertainment and security system and computers together into a network that can share an Internet connection – is simple with existing interfaces and wizards already standard on Windows and Mac OS. Today, with inexpensive and readily available wireless networking devices, your home does not even need to be “wired” to implement all these advantages.

All of this has pushed the PC out of the upstairs spare bedroom / office and into the family room, the kitchen or the den. Which means that the PC you choose not only needs the power and flexibility to support all of these new functions, but the style to compliment your home and lifestyle. PC manufacturers are rising to the challenge with stylish and powerful PCs that work hard and look great.

Scale is always an important consideration in home design. The appliances in your kitchen can’t be any larger than the physical space into which they will be set. But in an aesthetic sense, they can’t overpower the rest of the space. A sense of balance is needed to make the people who spend time in any room feel comfortable and at home. This design aesthetic applies throughout your home. You chose furnishings that can physically fit into the spaces allotted to them and provide your home with a sense of balance and warmth. This is as true in a million dollar home as it is in a studio apartment.

These days, which PC you choose depends as much on your design aesthetics as it does on your computing needs. It really all comes down as much as what sort of space you have as it does with what you are going to actually use the PC for. If you are looking for something with a little more flair than the gray box and CRT combination you have at work, you are in luck.

The introduction of Apple Computer’s iMac sparked a revolution in how PCs are designed and marketed. No more boring tower and ugly CRT. Out with gray and in with bright new colors and sleek designs. Suddenly you could own a computer you would be proud to put in the family room. Suddenly, PCs could be as stylish as their owners.

Our company, Pelham Sloane, has entered the fray with our PS1500 all-in-one PC. Introduced last year, the PS1500 utilizes a patented design that allows the entire computer to be integrated into the back of a flat-panel LCD monitor. This creates an elegant, space saving design that looks great and takes up virtually no room on the desk or tabletop. It can also be easily mounted to the kitchen wall and controlled through a touch screen and an optional wireless mouse and keyboard.

Like the other all-in-ones that have been introduced from Sony, Gateway and others, the PS1500 offers the same features as tower PCs in a slimmer package. But unlike the tower PCs, you’d actually want one of these in your family room or den. If you are in a small space, like a studio or one bedroom apartment, the new all-in-ones fit nicely into tight spaces without hogging up valuable floor and desk space.

So if you are in a small space, or want a sleek and elegant PC, an all-in-one may be just what you are looking for to anchor your home network. All-in-one PCs have all the power, storage space and speed you need to integrate your entertainment system into a home network. And they look great doing it.