What do sheep, droids, and computers all have in common? They can all be cloned! Of the three, computer clones are by far the most common.

The term "clone" arose in the mid-1980s to describe DOS or Windows-based computers made by companies other than IBM. The machines were often referred to as "IBM clones," or "IBM compatible" computers. They were called clones because the computers functioned exactly the same way as the ones made by IBM. They used similar hardware and ran the same software.

PC clones are still around today. In fact there are dozens more manufacturers of Windows-based computers now than there were in the 1980s. Companies like Dell, Gateway, HP, Compaq, and Sony all make Windows-based computers, as well as many other manufacturers. Today, the term "PC," which technically stands for "Personal Computer," is often used to refer to IBM clones. Macintosh clones were made for a few years in the late 1990s, but Apple forced the end of their production by making the Macintosh operating system only run on the Apple-branded machines.

"Clone" can also be used to refer to software that serves the same purpose as another more mainstream software program. It can also refer to electronic devices other than computers that are similar to other electronics.

Updated in 2006 by Per C.

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