June 22, 2024

Types of Computer



Dominant form of computer before microcomputers.

  • Powerful
  • Expensive. Can cost £100,000s to millions.
  • Large. Used by banks, universities, public authorities and large companies.
  • Environment. Kept in air-conditioned rooms.
  • Special staff needed to operate them.
  • Accessed by "dumb terminals".
  • Limited to software written specifically for them.

Data handling tasks:

  • File maintenance. Records of sales, payrolls, credit cards, social security etc. Data stored centrally and accessed by remote users. Currently being replaced by minicomputers in med. sized companies.
  • Simulations. Weather forcasting, engineering etc where powerful mathematical modelling is required. Again minicomps being used now.
  • General Purpose. E.g. in unis where different departments would be apportioned space. PCs replacing this.


Powerful, special purpose, originally seen as small mainframes. Cost in the £100,000s. Used for "heavy duty" computing and networks. Uses include:

  • Plant Control. Collection of data from sensors in industrial/engineering facilities.
  • Network Control. Central computer storage and control of networks. Act as servers hosting e-mail and www facilities.
  • Databases


Powerful PCs using RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) chip. Engineering work fast, powerful. Cost- £10,000s to £100,000s. Dominated by Sun Microsystems. Uses include:

  • CAD
  • Animation
  • Simulations e.g. industrial plant behaviour.
  • Multitask programming


Individual use but increasingly connected to networks. As there power increases they are replacing mainframes and minicomputers. Uses include:

  • Word processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • DTP
  • Games
  • Servers

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