Home Computers were the common type of Microcomputer produced before the IBM PC designed for home use. They were General Purpose Machines which often had early arcade game style video chips, and a BASIC interpreter. They did not typically have Operating Systems. When turned on, BASIC would immediately display the word READY. It was ready to be told what to do. BASIC means Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, and as such, it is simple enough for a pre-teen (of that era) to write an arcade game in. Since BASIC is an All-Purpose tool for telling a computer what to do, BASIC applications are unpatentable, such as the idea of using a hammer to fasten nanotube composite nails. A tool implies a license to use it for its intended purpose.
A typical classic Home Computer is built entirely inside its keyboard, and consists of a Microprocessor, Dynamic RAM, Permanent ROM containing usually only a BASIC interpreter, some connections for a TV or a Video Monitor, a tape recorder, a floppy disk drive, a printer, a modem, and game controllers.
Although invented at Dartmouth College, BASIC was Microsoft's primary software product in the 1970's. Microsoft did not write nearly all versions though, and I have a few versions that were released to Public Domain, including one that is intended for industrial automation. Due to the All-Purpose scope of BASIC, it is hard to sell industrial automation to Corporations because they cannot claim any IP rights on it. In my opinion, I would first have to program it to be slow, take a long time to boot, pretend it catches viruses, turn blue and claim to have to shut down for doing something illegal, and require frequent maintenance whenever the boss was near it, and play Solitaire at all other times. On the only two opportunities to sell a BASIC machine, my bid was rejected in favor of a Windows application whose cost and R&D time was mine squared. (They gave Microsoft a Million for what I would do for a Thousand.) But half my computers are from 1980 and have been running BASIC since I got them.
The advantages of BASIC are optional compiling, usually because BASIC compilers generate binary code in machine language which is the fastest and most powerful language because it is truly the only language a Processor understands. However, once a program has been compiled, it is no longer understandable by humans, since compilers don't comment their binary object code. Classic BASICs also include POKE and PEEK instructions which allow direct access to bits and bytes of memory and provide the minimum useful capability for combining machine language with BASIC when maximum possible speed is required of a computer. POKE and PEEK can also be used to access hardware ports and that is how BASIC can operate machinery. And industrial machines running BASIC do not need to be updated ever unless a new feature is wanted, in which case the machine is interrupted, the new feature typed in, type RUN, and it's done in an hour or a day.
This is a list of some Classic BASIC home computers:
Apple II series
VIC-20 and Commodore 64
TRS-80 Model 100,102,200 early laptops running one of Microsoft's first BASICs, with text editor and 300 baud modem for dialup services
TANDY Color Computer, and UK Dragon
ZX81 or Timex-Sinclair 1000
Sinclair line: 2068, Spectrum, etc.
Texas Instruments 99/4A
IBM PC with DOS and unusually optional graphics and sound.
Today, BASIC can run on a single chip smaller than a postage stamp for educational or hobby or small business machine control or all (other) purposes. The most popular BASIC chips are the Microchip Technology PIC chips (in [BASIC Stamp configurations) and the Parallax Propeller, which has 32K, and eight 32bit RISC processor cores and can emulate many of the classic home computers that use BASIC.
Today, the difference between home computers and personal computers is that you control your home computer with BASIC, and (according to Microsoft's EULA), Microsoft controls your personal computer with Windows Operating System.
If you disagree, tell me how to run this in VISTA:
10 FOR C=1 to 15
20 COLOR C
30 PRINT"HELLO WORLD"
40 NEXT C
50 GOTO 10
The words HELLO WORLD are now flashing on my screen in bright colors.
The probable first "CUBE" Volumetric Projector (a kind of 3DTV like a Hologram) was controlled by 2 DOS PC's running GWBASIC about 100 miles apart in 2000 and 2001 using a dialup phone modem.