How to Differentiate Among Four Types of Computers

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Computers come in various forms to meet user demand.
Computers come in various forms to meet user demand. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Computers are electronic tools of efficiency that enable people and organizations to perform their personal and professional tasks. According to Fabien Gandon, renowned analyst and author at Carnegie Mellon University, a computer is a machine that responds to a specific set of instructions in a well-defined manner; executes a prerecorded list of instructions (programs); and quickly and efficiently stores, computes and retrieves volumes of data. Computers have many different variables, including speed, size, power, portability and cost. They are traditionally classified into four different types: mainframes, minicomputers, workstations and personal computers.

Identify mainframe (supercomputers) as fast and powerful. This first type of computer can perform millions of instructions per second and handle voluminous amounts of data. Stock market systems run on mainframes.

Recognize minicomputers as elements of breadth. This second type of computer is designed to host large numbers of users simultaneously with relative ease. Consider a doctor's office or small branch library for this arrangement.

Understand that workstations were primarily intended for engineers. This third type of computer is designed to provide high-resolution graphics with moderate to high levels of computing power for computer-aided design functions.

Explore the evolving world of personal computers. These computers, which make up the fourth type, specialize in customized processing needs for a variety of users and include options such as towers, desktops, notebooks, laptops, notepads and palm devices.

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