Unit 6. Basic computer terminologies

Topic B: Types of computers

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Classification of Computers by Size

  • Supercomputers
  • Mainframe computers
  • Minicomputers
  • Personal computers (PCs) or microcomputers


A supercomputer.

Supercomputer – a powerful computer that can process large amounts of data and do a great amount of computation very quickly.

Supercomputers are used for areas related to:

  • Science
  • Engineering
  • Education
  • Defence
  • Aerospace

Supercomputers are useful for applications involving very large databases or that require a great amount of computation.

Supercomputers are used for complex tasks, such as:

  • Weather forecasting
  • Climate research
  • Scientific simulation
  • Oil and gas exploration
  • Quantum mechanics
  • Cryptanalysis

Mainframe computers

A mainframe computer.

Mainframe computer – a high-performance computer used for large information processing jobs.

Mainframe computers are primarily used in :

  • Institutions
  • Research
  • Academics
  • Health care
  • Libraries
  • Large businesses
  • Financial institutions
  • Stock brokerage firms
  • Insurance agencies

Mainframe computers are useful for tasks related to:

  • Census taking
  • Industry and consumer statistics
  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Transaction processing
  • e-business and e-commerce


A minicomputer.

Minicomputer – a mid-range computer that is intermediate in size, power, speed, storage capacity, etc., between a mainframe and a microcomputer.

Minicomputers are used by small organizations.

“Minicomputer” is a term that is no longer used much. In recent years, minicomputers are often referred to as small or midsize servers (a server is a central computer that provides information to other computers).

Personal computers

A personal computer.

Personal computer (PC) – a small computer designed for use by a single user at a time.

A PC or microcomputer uses a single chip (microprocessor) for its central processing unit (CPU).

“Microcomputer” is now primarily used to mean a PC, but it can refer to any kind of small computer, such as a desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet, smartphone, or wearable.

Types of personal computers

Desktop computer – a personal computer that is designed to stay at one location and fits on or under a desk. It typically has a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and a tower (system unit).

A desktop computer.

Laptop computer (or notebook) – A portable personal computer that is small enough to rest on the user’s lap and can be powered by a battery. It includes a flip down screen and a keyboard with a touchpad.

A laptop computer.

Tablet – A wireless touchscreen PC that is slightly smaller and weighs less than the average laptop.

A tablet computer.

Smartphone – A mobile phone that performs many of the functions of a personal computer.

A smartphone.



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Key Concepts of Computer Studies Copyright © 2020 by Meizhong Wang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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