Classification of Computer Systems Based on Size

A computer system, made up of hardware and software components, have become a huge part of our modern lifestyle. Computer systems have been used in so many ways that has significantly improved our way of living from writing papers to doing research, managing employees, networking and business dealings. Constantly they are developed for increased performance, efficiency and use.

With so many computers made through the years, they can be classified in so many ways. The current size classification of computer systems places them into four categories. These include microcomputers, minicomputers, mainframes and supercomputers.

The term microcomputer, also known as personal computer (PC), is a computer that depends on a single chip microprocessor. A microcomputer is made up of a central processing unit (CPU) on a microprocessor and a memory system of either a random-access memory (RAM) or a read-only memory (ROM) that is placed on a motherboard. Microcomputers were first developed in 1980s. They are designed for single use and are the most prevalent type of computer systems today. They can be found mostly in homes, workplaces and schools. Examples of these computers include desktop computers and in-car computers. Laptops, notebook computers, tablet PCs and handheld devices like Smartphones, PDAs and game consoles also belong under this category.

The minicomputers are commonly referred to mid-range servers nowadays. These are multi-user computers that fall in between microcomputers and mainframe computers. This type of computers is smaller than the mainframes yet they can perform several jobs at once and can be taken advantaged by many users at time also, hence, they are preferably used by smaller companies. Examples of minicomputers are Sun Microsystems’ SPARC, IBM’s POWER and Hewlett-Packard’s Itanium-based systems.

Mainframe computers are powerful computers used by large companies and institutions such as government, banks and huge corporations. In the early days of computers, mainframes were used to refer to the large cabinets of computers that could fill an entire room or floor. This type of computers is powerful and fast and they cost a lot of money. Their main difference from supercomputers is that they can execute many programs simultaneously while supercomputers can execute a few programs at faster rates.

Supercomputers are the fastest type of computers today. They held dominance in terms of processing capacity and speed of calculation. These computers are very expensive and are only used for specialized applications like weather forecasting, nuclear simulations and theoretical astrophysics. Other uses include animated graphics, petroleum exploration, satellites and military use. They can be used by thousands of people at the same time and often owned by progressive governments and large corporations only.