An Overview of the Types of Computer

Top
Download PDF

Computer Types

You must be aware that a computer is a machine that is used to store, manipulate, transmit, and receive information or data. There are different types of computers. Do you know how many types of computers have been invented till now? If you don't know the answer to this question, there is no need to worry. In this article, readers will be able to learn about the different types of computers.


The first thing that you need to know is that computers can be categorized in two ways. Computers can either be differentiated based on their data handling capabilities or based on their sizes. If we take data handling capabilities into account, then there are three types of computers. These three types of computers are:

  • Analog computers.

  • Digital computers.

  • Hybrid computers.

Computers can also be classified based on their computing power and speed, and the categories of this type of classification are mentioned in the table below.


S.No.

Type of Computer

Description

1

Personal Computer (PC)

It is a type of single-user computer system that has a moderately powerful microprocessor.

2

Workstation

It is also a single user computer system, but it has a more powerful microprocessor.

3

Minicomputer

It is a multi-user computer system. It is capable of supporting hundreds of users all at the same time.

4

Main Frame

It is a computer system that can be used for multiple users. It can support hundreds of users at the same time. It is different from minicomputers in terms of its software technology.

5

Supercomputer

It is an incredibly fast computer system that is capable of executing hundreds of millions of instructions every second.


Now, you must have a brief idea about computer systems and their types. In this section, we will discuss the different types of computers in more detail.


Analog Computer

Let us begin with analog computers. These computers were specifically designed to process analog data. For readers who are not familiar with the term, analog data is a type of continuous data that continually changes and does not have discrete values.


It can also be said that analog computers are used when the users are not familiar with the exact values like temperature, speed, current, and pressure. An intriguing feature of analog computers is accepting the measuring device's data without converting it into relevant codes and numbers.


This feature allows analog computers to measure continuous changes in physical quantity. In most cases, the output of these computers is read on a dial or scale. Some examples of analog computers are the mercury thermometer and speedometer.


There are many advantages of using analog computers. Some of those advantages are as follows.

  • These computers allow real-time computation and operations at the same time. Further, it continuously represents all data within the range of the analog computer system.

  • In some applications, analog computers help perform calculations without using transducers to convert both the inputs and outputs to a digital electronic form and vice versa.

  • Programmers can also scale the problem for the dynamic range of analog computers. This provides excellent insight into the actual situation. It also helps in learning about any errors and their effects.

There are different types of analog computers. The various types of analog computers are discussed below.

  • Slide Rules

The slide rule is one of the simplest types of mechanical analog computer systems. It was developed initially to perform necessary mathematical calculations. These computer systems consist of two rods. When the computer performs any calculation, the hashed rod slides to line up with the specific markings placed on another rod.

  • Differential Analysers

Differential analyzers are used to perform differential calculations. These computer systems perform integration by using a wheel-and-disc mechanism. This helps in solving differential calculations.

  • Castle Clock

According to various sources, the first castle clock was invented by Al-Jara. This computer system was made to save all programming instructions. The original machine's height was around 11 feet, and it came with the display of zodiac, time, and the lunar and solar orbits. These devices can also allow users to set the length of the day according to the current season.

  • Electronic Analog Computer

An electronic analog computer is a type of analog computer in which electrical signals flow through resistors and capacitors. This simulates different physical phenomena. In these devices, mechanical interactions of computers do not take place. Also, the voltage of the electrical signal is used to generate the correct displays in these devices.


Digital Computer

Digital computers were invented to perform different calculations and logical operations at a very high speed. These computers accept the raw data as input, done in binary numbers (0 and 1) or digitals.


After that, the device processes the information with programs that are already stored in the device's memory. This process is followed to generate the output. Some examples of digital computers include laptops, desktops, and other electronic devices like smartphones.


There are many advantages of digital computers. Some of those advantages are mentioned below.

  • Digital computers allow users to store a large amount of information. The stored information can be retrieved whenever it is required.

  • New features can easily be added to the digital systems.

  • Ability to change the program without making any changes in the hardware of the system.

  • The cost of the hardware of digital computers is often less because of the advancement in the Integrated Circuit (IC) technology.

  • These systems process data digitally at a very high speed.

  • Digital computers use error correction codes because of which these systems are very reliable.

  • The output is not affected by humidity, noise, temperature, or other natural properties, leading to the results' high reproducibility.

Hybrid Computers

Hybrid computers are devices that have features of both digital and analog computers. These devices are similar in speed to analog computers and are identical to digital computers in their memory and accuracy.


Hybrid computers can process both discrete and continuous data. These devices work by accepting analog signals and converting those signals into a digital form before processing. This is why these devices are popularly used in specialized applications where both analog and digital data has to be processed.


For example, the processors used in petrol pumps convert fuel flow into values for both quantity and price. Similar devices are used in hospitals, airplanes, and many scientific applications.


There are many benefits of using hybrid computers. A few of those benefits are mentioned below.

  • The computing speed of hybrid computers is very high. This is due to the all-parallel configuration of the analog subsystem.

  • These computers help in online data processing.

  • Hybrid computers can manage and solve large equations in real-time.

  • The results are produced quickly and in a more efficient manner. The final results are both accurate and useful.

Personal Computers (PC)

A Personal computer or PC can be described as a small and somewhat inexpensive computer that has been specifically designed for individual use. These devices are based on microprocessor technology, enabling manufacturers to put an entire CPU on a single chip.


These days many organizations use personal computers for completing tasks related to desktop publishing, accounting, word processing, database management, and running spreadsheets. People also use personal computers at home for surfing the internet and playing games.


It is important to note that even though personal computers were developed to work as a single-user system, they are still linked together to form a network. If we talk about power, then Macintosh and PC's high-end models offer about the same computing power and graphic capabilities as low-end workstations by Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Sun Microsystems.


Workstation

A workstation is a computer that is used explicitly for engineering applications like CAD/CAM. Workstations can also be used for software development, desktop publishing, and developing other types of applications. All of these tasks require a moderate amount of computing power and relatively high-quality graphics capabilities.


In most cases, workstations come equipped with large amounts of RAM, inbuilt network support, a graphic user interface, and a high-resolution graphics screen. Many workstations also have mass storage devices like disk drives. However, it should be noted here that diskless workstations are a type of workstation that comes without any disk drive.


Operating systems that are usually used in workstations are Windows NT and UNIX. Just like personal computers, workstations are also designed for individual use. These systems are also linked together to form a local-area network. These systems can be used for standalone purposes.


Workstations are equipped with faster microprocessors and more powerful CPUs than personal computers. These devices can handle data analysis, CAD, animation, video editing, and video creation.


Also, do you know that five integral features are standard for all workstations? Here’s a list of those features.

  • Multiple Processor Cores

Workstations have more processor cores than simple computers and laptops.

  • ECC RAM

Workstations have an error-correcting code memory. This memory can fix any errors before they even get a chance to affect the performance of the system.

  • RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks)

RAID or Redundant Array of Independent Disks refers to various internal hard drives used to store and process data. There can also be different types of RAIDs. For example, multiple drives could work together to process data, or mirrored drives could be present where if one drive stops functioning, the other will start acting.

  • SSD

SSDs are better than conventional hard-disk drives as they do not have any moving parts. This means that there are fewer chances of physical failure.

  • Optimized and Higher End GPU

Optimized and higher-end GPU reduces the load that is exerted on CPUs. For example, a CPU would have to do less work while processing the output on the screen.


Minicomputer

A minicomputer is a midsize, multi-processing system. Minicomputers are capable of supporting up to 250 users at the same time. Usually, these devices have two or more processors.


It is common for minicomputers to be employed in institutes and departments related to accounting, inventory management, and billing. Some experts also believe that minicomputers lie somewhere between a microcomputer and a mainframe because minicomputers are smaller than a mainframe but more extensive than a microcomputer.


Minicomputers are lighter in weight. These devices can easily fit anywhere and are portable. These devices are less expensive and very fast compared to their size. Minicomputers tend to remain charged for long intervals and can function in an environment without controlled operations.


You might also want to learn that minicomputers are primarily used to perform three functions. These three functions are mentioned below.

  • Processing Control

Minicomputers are mainly used to possess control in manufacturing. These devices performed the functions of collecting data and feedback. In case of any abnormalities during the process, the minicomputer detects the abnormality and makes the necessary adjustment to fix the situation.

  • Managing Data

Small organizations use minicomputers to collect, store, and share data. For example, local hotels and hospitals use minicomputers to record their customers and patients, respectively.

  • Communications Portal

Minicomputers also can play the role of a communication device in larger organizations. A minicomputer achieves this aim by serving as a portal between the central processor or computer and the human operator.


Mainframe

A mainframe can be described as a costly and extensive computer system. A mainframe is usually capable of supporting hundreds and thousands of users at the same time. These devices concurrently execute various programs and support multiple simultaneous executions of programs.


Due to these above-mentioned features, mainframe computers are usually used in large organizations that need to process and manage high volumes of data - For example, telecom and banking sector industries.


Mainframe computers usually have a very long life. A mainframe device can run smoothly for up to 50 years after its installation. It can also provide excellent performance with large scale memory management.


Mainframe computers also can distribute or share their workload among other processors or input and output terminals. When it comes to errors, then there are fewer chances of errors in these devices.


However, if any error occurs, then it is quickly fixed by the system. These devices protect the stored data and any ongoing exchange of data or information. From this extensive description, it must be quite evident that mainframe computers have a lot of applications. We have created a list of some of those applications, and that list is given below.

  • In the field of defense, mainframe computers allow defense departments to share a large amount of sensitive information with other branches of defense.

  • In the retail sector, large retail organizations often have a vast customer base. This is why departments use mainframe computers to execute and handle information related to their customer management, inventory management, and huge transactions within a short period.

  • In health care, mainframe computers help hospitals by maintaining an extensive record of millions of patients. This feature goes a long way in assisting hospitals in contacting their patients for treatment or any other appointment related to medicine or disease updates.

  • In the field of education, mainframe devices allow large educational institutes to store, manage, and retrieve data related to admissions, courses, teachers, students, affiliated schools, affiliated colleges, and employees.

Supercomputer

Supercomputers are one of the fastest computers in the world. These computers are costly and are only employed for specialized applications that require a large number of mathematical calculations or number crunching.


For example, supercomputers' tasks are animated graphics, scientific simulations, weather forecasting, geological data analysis in industries like petrochemical prospecting, fluid dynamic calculations, nuclear energy research, and electronic design.


It is exciting to note that supercomputers can process trillions of instructions in a single second! This is mainly because these devices have thousands of interconnected processors. Also, the first supercomputer was developed in 1976 by Roger Cray.


Did you know that supercomputers can decrypt your password? This task can be done to improve protection for security reasons. It also produces excellent animations and is valuable in the virtual testing of nuclear weapons and critical medical tests.


A Supercomputer is also employed in NOAA's system (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). That supercomputer can execute any logical or straightforward data.


Supercomputers are also used for extracting useful information from data storage centers or cloud systems. An excellent example of this is the insurance companies. Supercomputers also play an essential role in managing the online world of currencies like the stock market and Bitcoin.


Microcomputer

A microcomputer is also known as a personal computer. These devices can be described as general-purpose computers that are ideal for individual use. Microcomputers have a microprocessor as a central processing unit, an input unit, storage area, memory, and an output unit.


Some examples of microcomputers are desktop computers and laptops. These devices are usually used to make assignments, watch movies, or tackle business tasks for office work.


Microcomputers are the smallest in size of all the other types of computers. Only one user can use a microcomputer at a time. These computers are less expensive and easier to use.


Users do not require any special training or skills to use these computers. These devices are also often equipped with a single semiconductor chip. These devices can scan, browse, print, watch videos, and perform many other tasks.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question 1. What are the Three Main Types of Computers Differentiated Based on their Data Handling Capabilities?

Answer: The three main types of computers that are differentiated based on their data handling capabilities are:

  • Analog computers

  • Digital computers

  • Hybrid computers

Question 2. What is a Workstation?

Answer: A workstation is a type of computer that can be used for desktop publishing, developing engineering applications, and software development. A workstation has a moderate amount of computing power but relatively high-quality graphics capabilities.

Question 3. What do you Understand by the Term Mainframe?

Answer: A mainframe is a type of computer that is very large and often very expensive. These computers are capable of supporting hundreds and thousands of users simultaneously. In a mainframe computer, programs are executed concurrently, and execution is supported simultaneously.

Share this with your friends
SHARE
TWEET
SHARE
SUBSCRIBE