Definition

minicomputer

Contributor(s): David Higgins

A minicomputer, a term no longer much used, is a computer of a size intermediate between a microcomputer and a mainframe. Typically, minicomputers have been stand-alone computers (computer systems with attached terminals and other devices) sold to small and mid-size businesses for general business applications and to large enterprises for department-level operations. In recent years, the minicomputer has evolved into the "mid-range server" and is part of a network. IBM's AS/400e is a good example.

In an ascending hierarchy of general computer sizes, we find:

  • The embedded systems programming computer, which is embedded in something and doesn't support direct human interaction but nevertheless meets all the other criteria of a microcomputer
  • The microcomputer
  • The workstation, as used to mean a more powerful personal computer for special applications
  • The minicomputer
  • The cluster, which is often several microcomputers or larger computers that share a workload and back each other up
  • The mainframe or mainframe computer, which is now usually referred to by its manufacturers as a "large server"
  • The supercomputer, formerly almost a synonym for "Cray supercomputer" but now meaning a very large server and sometimes including a system of computers using parallel processing
  • The parallel processing system, which is a system of interconnected computers that work on the same application together, sharing tasks that can be performed concurrently
This was last updated in April 2005

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