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4 Examples of Different Computer Types

Patrick, a computer technician, is a dedicated writer who wishes to make the world better by informing individuals who seek more knowledge.

An Example of a Portable Computer

An Acer Chromebook

An Acer Chromebook

There Are Four Different Computer Types

We have four different computer types classified according to their performance, power, and size. A computer is an electronic device that accepts data, processes it, stores data, and then produces an output.

In this article, we are going to have a look at the differences between super, mainframe, mini, and microcomputers.

A Supercomputer

Amalka Supercomputing Facility

Amalka Supercomputing Facility

1. Supercomputers

Supercomputers are very expensive and very fast. They are the most powerful computers we have in the world.

Supercomputers are optimized to execute only a small number of programs. This makes it possible for them to execute these few programs at a very high speed. Due to their inhibiting cost, they are used in high-end places like in scientific research centers. The supercomputer consists of thousands of processors, allowing it to clock in at very high speeds measured by petaflops.

These computer types are also very large in size due to the numerous parts and components involved in their design.

A good example of a supercomputer is Tianhe-2, which is located in the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China. It features 3.12 million cores, allowing it to run at speeds of 33.86 petaflops.

2. Mainframe Computers

These are large and expensive computers that are capable of supporting thousands of users simultaneously. They are mostly used by governments and large organizations for bulk data processing, critical applications, and transaction processing. They are ranked below supercomputers.

3. Minicomputers

Minicomputers are mid-sized computers. In terms of size and power, they are ranked below mainframes. A minicomputer is a multiprocessing system capable of supporting from 4 to about 200 users simultaneously.

The use of the term minicomputer has diminished since the introduction of microprocessors. These machines are now more commonly called midrange computers.

4. Microcomputers

A microcomputer, also known as a personal computer, is designed to be used by one user at a time. The term microcomputer relates to the microprocessor that is used for the purpose of processing data and instruction codes. These are the most common computer types since they are not very expensive.

A Note About How Users Connect to Mainframe or Minicomputers

Users connect to a mainframe or minicomputer by using a dumb terminal, which is typically a keyboard and monitor. A dumb terminal is simply an output device that accepts data from the CPU. In contrast, a smart terminal is a monitor that has its own processor for special features. Dumb terminals are not as fast as smart terminals, and they do not support as many display features, but they are adequate for most applications.

A Closer Look at Microcomputers

The most common type of microcomputers are desktop and portable machines. Here are some more details on these devices.

Desktop Computers

Desktop computers are not built to be mobile. They are designed to be stationary as they are plugged into their power supply.

Desktop computers are large and heavy in comparison to portable devices. They can be carried in specially manufactured cases. However, this is only to assist a support engineer while moving; it's not a frequent procedure. The monitor, keyboard, and mouse are all separate items on a desktop.

Desktop computer components and devices, although quite resilient to movement while active, are not made to be constantly moved, even less so when they are operational. The main power supply is mandatory as desktop computers cannot work without a constant supply of electrical power.

Desktops can further be subdivided depending on the casing type.

Tower Casing

For tower casing, the motherboard is placed inside of the system unit. Other major components, like the power supply and mass storage devices, are stacked on top of each other in a cabinet. One main advantage with computers using a tower casing is that there is ample space for future upgrades, like if you wish to add more storage devices.

A Mid Tower Case

A Mid Tower Case

A Mid Tower Case

Desktop Casing

For desktop casings, the motherboard lies on the bottom and is parallel to the desk or table. The system unit is usually smaller and more compact. It is not a very good choice if you are going to install other drives like another hard disk or a DVD writer. One main advantage is that they are small and will occupy less space. The placement is also ideal since it will lie on top of a desk. This can allow you to place your monitor on top.

Tower or Desktop Casing?

Desktop cases are designed to lay flat on a desk while tower cases are designed to stand up. The size of your desk will typically determine which setup you will use. If you have a small desk with limited space, you might consider the smaller mini-tower case.

There are two things that may make you consider going for a full-sized tower case:

  1. You have more than enough ample space for your setup.
  2. You plan to add a lot of devices to your system, like more drives.

In terms of cost, tower casing prices are a little bit higher compared to desktop casings.

Keep in mind that you can flip over a tower casing and end up with a desktop setup and vice versa. The problem will be that your drives will be facing sideways. So you will always have a problem inserting or removing your CDs because they will keep on falling. Other drives might fail to access your CD or DVD contents due to the awkward position.

Portable or Mobile Computers

Portable or mobile computers are designed for mobility. This means a user can comfortably transport the device or even use it on the go. These devices are small, compact, and lightweight. They have their own power source in the form of a built-in battery.

These portable devices are produced in a variety of sizes and they possess very high processing capabilities. Good examples of mobile computers include;

  • Laptops
  • Palmtop PCs
  • PDAs
  • Smartphones
  • Wearable computer
  • E-reader
  • Tablet computer

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is a computer system?

Answer: A computer system is a complete and functional computer which includes all the hardware and software required to make it functional for a user. The computer should have the ability to receive user data, process it, and with the processed data, create information for storage and/or output.

Question: What is a computer?

Answer: We have various definitions of a computer but they all mean the same. It is just a matter of how the answer is phrased electronically and grammatically. Well, a computer is an electronic device that accepts data, processes it using set instructions or simply programs, stores the data that has been processed and finally gives us an output on what we have been working on. Thus, it is a device designed to work with information. The term computer is derived from the Latin word ‘computare’, which means to calculate.

Question: What are 5 examples of a Mainframe Computer?

Answer: Mainframe computers are large and expensive computer types that have larger and more processing power than some other classes of computers such as minicomputers, servers, workstations, and personal computers. We do not have different types of Mainframe computers. What we have is different models developed by a specific company. For instance, you can mention the following models from IBM; IBM zSeries, System z9, and System z10 servers.

© 2010 Patrick Kamau


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