Computers perform a vast range of functions. Some computers are so powerful that hundreds or even thousands of users can use them at a single instant. Computers have different types of capabilities and sizes. Classification of computers is based on the usage, speed, and size of computers. There are four main types of computers such as:
Microcomputer, also known as a personal computer, is a digital computer that works on a microprocessor. Microcomputers are small machines designed for individual users. Average people who have a basic knowledge of computers can use microcomputers. Individuals at home and office are the major users of the microcomputer. It is an inexpensive computer that performs tasks such as word processing, desktop publishing, and accounting. It is also useful for running spreadsheets and database management applications. Microcomputers are widely used for entertainment purposes such as for playing games, listening music, and watching movies. The microcomputer is also widely used to access the Internet.
The microcomputer has several advantages such as small size, low cost, and portability. Its main disadvantage is that the speed of processing is low as compared to other types of computers.
Minicomputer is a medium sized multiprocessing and multi-user computer. Multiprocessing is the process of running multiple programs or processes at a given instant. The minicomputer is a medium range computer. It is also known as the mid-range server. Minicomputers fall in the category between the microcomputers and the mainframes. The advantage of using a minicomputer is that it can cater to multiple users at a lower cost than mainframes. Minicomputers are ideal for small-sized companies. The disadvantage of the minicomputers is that they are large and bulky.
Mainframes were huge computers occupying entire rooms or floors. Mainframes were used to serve as the centre of large systems in companies. They were designed to serve the purpose of centralized computing instead of the distributed computing. With the development in the field of computing, the size of mainframes has reduced and the power has increased. They now serve distributed users and small servers in a computing network. They are also known as enterprise servers. Mainframes are very large and expensive computers. Thousands of people can use a mainframe at a time. It can process millions of transactions every day. The advantage of mainframes is that it can support so many users and instructions because of its incomparable memory. The disadvantage of mainframe is its huge size and enormous cost. As a result, mainframes are widely used in large companies worldwide. Mainframes specialize in processing bulks of data. This is the reason why the mainframe is widely used for government purposes.
Supercomputer is the fastest and most expensive type of computer. Supercomputers specialize in high-speed processing of data. Applications that require large amounts of calculations use supercomputers. Some of these applications are molecular chemistry, nuclear research, weather reports, and advanced physics. Supercomputer can be a single or multiple computer system. In multiple computer system, a supercomputer consists of several computers that work in parallel as a single system. The advantage of supercomputers is their speed, which is unmatched by any other type of computer. A major disadvantage of supercomputers is that they generate a large amount of heat during their operation. Hence, it is important to use effective cooling solutions. Also, a supercomputer tends to specialize in numerical applications and does not perform as well on other applications