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5 Categories of Computer Types and Components

A supercomputer is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Its a term used to describe computers
that have the most capable processing power of its time. Early supercomputers in the 60s and 70s
used just a couple processors, while the 90s saw supercomputers with thousands of processors at a
time. Today, modern supercomputers run hundreds of thousands of processors, capable of
computing quadrillions of calculations in just a few nanoseconds. You probably wont be needing
that kind of power to access Facebook Actually, supercomputers are used in computational
science to calculate and carry out a plethora of complex tasks. Modeling molecular structures,
weather forecasting, and the field of quantum mechanics, among others, rely on supercomputers
and their intense processing power to solve their equations.
Mainframe Computers
Like supercomputers, mainframe computers are huge, towering machines with lots of processing
power. Mainframe computers are mostly used by corporations, government agencies, and banks
organizations that need a way to store large quantities of information. They are not the same as
supercomputers. The processing capabilities of mainframe computers are measured in MIPS, or
millions of instructions per second. Supercomputers, on the other hand, are measured in FLOPS, or
floating point operations per seconds.
A minicomputer is a multiprocessing machine that can support up to about 200 users at the same
time. Its like a less powerful mainframe computer, and is about the size of a refrigerator. A server
can be an example of a minicomputer, but not all servers are minicomputers. Despite their name, a
minicomputer is not a personal computer like the desktop machine you might have at home or
work. They are much larger than that. Because of the ways microcomputers which well cover next
have excelled in processing power even beyond minicomputers, and at a much smaller size,
minicomputers have become pretty much obsolete.

Microcomputers are the ones people are most familiar with on a daily, non-professional basis, but
of course that doesnt mean theyre exclusive to the home. Microcomputers are smaller computers
that run on microprocessors in their central processing units. They are much, much cheaper than
supercomputers, mainframe computers and even minicomputers, because theyre meant for
everyday uses that are more practical than professional. The range of capabilities for
microcomputers are still vast, though. A film editor might use a microcomputer to run many
intensive editing programs at once, while a student might use a microcomputer for Facebook and
word processing. Need help with the basic functionality of microcomputers? Check out this basic
computer skills guide for some tips.
The term microcomputer itself is pretty outdated, in this sense. Most people use what they would
call personal computers, and even within this definition there are several variations. These include:

Desktop computers: Desktop computers are not as dated as the non-computer savvy
might think. They are still popular for the users ability to customize them, replace parts and
fix them with much more ease than they would a laptop. Its also more convenient to be able
to connect peripherals like screens and keyboard and computer mice that fit your needs. In
this sense, desktop computers could be used at the office for professional tasks, or at the
home. Desktop computers can be specialized for things like gaming as well, equipped with
high-end graphics cards and more RAM. Learn how to build your own gaming
computer with this guide .

Video game consoles: Some people dont think of video game consoles as computers, but
they are. They have many of the same hardware components as computers, but are usually
less advanced, which is why theyre able to cost much less than a top-notch gaming

Miscellaneous: Other examples of microcomputers include video game arcade cabinets

and smart TVs.

Mobile Computers
These are exactly what they sound like computers that are super small and mobile. You could
argue that a desktop computer is mobile if you need it to be, but mobile computers usually describe
computers that are meant to be carried around and taken from place to place. If a desktop computer
is a microcomputer, then a laptop is a mobile computer. There are so many different types of mobile
computers though, even beyond laptop-like devices. Below is a list of devices that could be
categorized as mobile computers.

Laptops: Portable computers designed to be carried from place to place. All of its
components are contained inside a panel that functions also as the keyboard, with an
attached screen that can be folded over. Because of their size and convenience, these are
some of the most popular computers for everyday use. However, despite the convenience
and ease of use, they arent without problems, as outlined in this guide to laptop
problems and possible solutions .

Netbooks: Much smaller laptops.

Tablet: A flat, keyboard-less screen (though some of them come with keyboard
attachments) that utilizes touch-screen functionality for navigation and use. Learn more
about the history and function of tablet computers in this course .

Handheld game console: Devices like the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy
Advance, Sega Nomad, PlayStation Portable (PSP), and PlayStation Vita are handheld game
consoles. Just like regular consoles, these are tiny computers that let people play games on
the go.

Calculators: Calculators are computers that carry out computers most basic tasks
calculations! There are many different types of calculators. Basic calculators, graphic
calculators, scientific calculators, programmable calculators, and calculators used for
accounting and other financial purposes.

Portable media players: Also known as MP3 players. Thats right your iPod is a mobile
computer too.

Cellphones and smartphones: The iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy are examples of
powerful smartphones that are also mobile computers. Thinking of getting a
smartphone? Find the best smartphone for you with this detailed guide .

Categories of Computer Parts

We know the different types of computers now, but what categories of computer components exist?
In simple terms, we could divide this into four categories: input, output, processing, and storage
devices. Most computers need all of these components to function. For more info, learn how to
build your own computer from scratch with this course .
For an even more specific breakdown of the various types of computer components, check out this
extensive guide on essential computer knowledge .

Input Devices

Input devices allow us to interact with computers in a variety of ways. If we couldnt interact with
the machines, what use would they be to us? Most input devices come in the form of peripherals,
and can be divided into subcategories of their own: visual, audio, etc. Some examples of input
devices include computer mice, keyboards, scanners, copy machines, webcams, microphones, MIDI
keyboards, synths, game pads and controllers, and so on. Basically, anything you can plug into your
computer that lets you input information or carry out tasks is an input device.

Output Devices

Output devices are the opposite of input devices. These are peripherals that essentially allow the
computer to interact with us they display information that we need to make decisions about how
we interface with them. In more technical terms, output devices convey results from processes run
by the computer. The most obvious example of an output device is a computer monitor, or screen,
because this lets us see the various processes our computers are running in a substantial, visual
manner. Other output devices include headphones and speakers, which convey sound, printers, and
even CDs, which we can tell the computer to output information onto.

Processing Devices

Processing devices are exactly what they sound like. They are the devices that enable the computer
to process information in the first place. All computers have some form of a processor. The
computer youre on right now likely has a CPU, or central processing unit, embedded onto its
motherboard. This is where the computer carries out its complex calculations, processes info, and
sends it out to its output devices to be conveyed to you in a manner that makes sense. You can
read this guide for a deeper explanation of the way motherboards work .

Storage Devices

Most computers have some form of storage device that lets the machine record data on a temporary
or permanent basis. Your standard personal computer will come with a primary storage device,
which is a storage device that is a part of the hardware itself. This includes RAM and processor
registers or caches. Your computers central processing unit is continuously retrieving and scanning
data from these storage devices, and computing as required. On the other hand, secondary storage
devices are a more permanent means of storage, that do not require the central processing unit to
be running in order to save its information. Devices like a hard drive, a solid state drive, and other
external storage devices like USB flash drives, DVDs, CDs, and floppy disks, are all secondary
storage devices.
Need to learn how to get your lost data back? Check out this guide on recovering formatted
hard drives.

Now that youre familiar with the computer basics, from types of computers to categories of
computer components, why not learn how to build your own computer with this course ?
You can also check out this introduction to computer repair . If youre looking to get into
computer programming, Java is a good place to start. Begin your coding journey with
this introduction to Java programming course .

Q: What are the five major categories of the


Supercomputers are the most powerful computers in terms of performance and data
processing. They are mostly found in big organizations, where they perform
specialized and specific tasks, such as research. These computers have been used
in space exploration, earthquake studies, weather forecasting and nuclear weapon
testing. Supercomputers are relatively expensive and extremely large.
Mainframes are also large and powerful, but not as supercomputers. They are
mostly used in banks, insurance companies and educational institutions because of
their capacity to store large amount of data.
Another category of computer is the minicomputer, also known as midrange
computers. They are mostly used by small organizations. They can also be used in
large companies to accomplish certain tasks in individual departments. For instance,
they can be used within the production department to monitor the production
Microcomputers, which include desktop computers, personal digital assistants,
laptops, tablets and smartphones, are the most commonly used and the fastestgrowing types of computers.
The final category of computers is the professional workstation. These computers
are mostly used to perform specific tasks and can be used by scientists, graphic
designers, architects or financial analysts.


A supercomputer is the fastest, most powerful, and most expensive

computer used for applications that require complex and sophisticated
mathematical calculations. Typical tasks carried out by supercomputers
include weather forecasting, space exploratory projects, and weapons
A mainframe is a large, expensive, but powerful computer that can handle
thousands of connected users at the same time. Users typically access a
mainframe via a personal computer or a terminal.Typical users of mainframes
include banks, insurance companies, and airlines with sophisticated
reservation systems.
A microcomputer is a computer that can perform all of its input, process,
output, and storage activities by itself. Microcomputers are often known as
personal computers (PC). Microcomputers include desktop computers,
tower model computers, notebook computers, handheld computers, and
Internet appliances.

An embedded system is any appliances that contains

a microprocessor, which is pre-programmed to perform a dedicated
task. Examples of embedded systems are washing machines, ricecookers, microwave ovens, video recorders, laser printers, and
A minicomputer is often used in situations where a microcomputer is not
powerful enough but a mainframe is too expensive. Minicomputers are also
known as mid-range servers, which can normally support up to several
thousands users at the same time. Users typically access a minicomputer via
a personal computer or a terminal.

A stand-alone computer is a computer that is not connected to a network, and is

capable of performing the operations in the information processing cycle.

A server is the host or central computer that manages the resources on

a network. A server provides a centralized storage area for programs, data,
and information. A dedicated server is a server that performs a specific

A file server stores and manages files.

A print server manages printers and print jobs.
A database server stores and provides access to a database.

A network server (e.g., a DNS) manages network traffic.

A client computer is a computer that can access the resources on a network.

A network computer (NC) is a computer designed specifically to connect to
a network, especially the Internet.

A workstation is a more expensive and powerful desktop computer. The term

workstation can also refer to any client computer on a network. Typical users
of workstations include architects, engineers, and graphics designers.
A terminal is a device with a monitor and a keyboard. The term terminal can
also refer to any device that sends and receives computer data. Different
kinds of terminals include:

A dumb terminal has no processing power, cannot act as a standalone computer, and must be connected to a server to operate.
An intelligent terminal has memory and a processor so that it can
perform some functions independent of the host computer.
An EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) terminal is used to record
purchases at the point where the consumer purchases the product
or services.
EFTPOS (Electronic Fund Transfer Point of Sale) terminals are able
to transfer funds from a customer's bank account directly to a retail
outlet's account after reading the customer's debit card.
An automatic teller machine (ATM) is a self-service banking
machine attached to a host computer through a telephone network.

The Different Types of Computers

A computer is one of the greatest inventions of man and it has seen many changes
in functions, memory space, size and portability. What makes the computer an
extraordinary apparatus is its ability to store and process a massive amount of
information, which is used to perform various technical tasks or even help create
other gadgets.
As technology continues to progress by leaps and bounds, it is not surprising that the
computer has been modified into different shapes, with varied features and a wide
range of purposes.
Let us take a look at the different types of computers which will help us understand
their functions and what they are used for.
Personal Computer or PC A PC is a computer that is used by someone for his
personal use. It is a complete system in itself and its convenient size, price and
simple functions make it easy for the end-user to work on it without any intervention
from computer operators.
Desktop Any PC that is designed to be placed on a desk and not for portability is
called a desktop. Such computers are kept in a somewhat permanent location and
can be a little bulky. They usually have more power and storage compared to their
movable counterparts.
Laptop or Notebook A PC that can be moved around is called a laptop. It gets its
name from the fact that you can keep it on your lap and use it. It is also called a
notebook because you can carry the battery-operated device to classes or meetings
conveniently and store any notes or information in it. It integrates the monitor,
keyboard, pointing device, CPU, memory and hard drive in one system.

Netbook This is similar to a laptop, the only difference being that it is smaller in
size, which makes it even more portable. It is also less expensive and performs the
basic functions, but its internal parts are not as powerful as a desktop or laptop.
Workstation This computer is a desktop which is larger, consists of a more
powerful processor, greater memory space and extra ability to do specific kind of
work. Such a computer is used by programmers, game developers, video or sound
editors and graphic designers.
PDA A Personal Digital Assistant is a small, highly integrated computer usually
using flash memory for storage instead of a hard drive. It uses touchscreen
technology and doesnt have a keyboard. Those which use a digital pen for input are
called handheld computers. It is light, portable, has good battery life and fits within
your palm, because of which it is also called a palmtop.
Server The servers main purpose is to provide certain services to other computers
or a whole network of computers. It is much larger than any average computer and
generally a whole room is necessary to fit the whole server. It has powerful
processors, additional amount of memory and bigger hard drives.
Mainframe Mainframe computers are used by large companies and organisations
to perform critical tasks that involve bulk data processing like transaction processing,
census information, statistical data and so on. They consist of extensive input and
output facilities, are very stable and dependable and handle millions of transactions
every day.
Supercomputer This type of computer processes data much faster than a regular
system. It is the leader in processing capacity and costs millions of dollars. A
supercomputer is used for sensitive and calculation-intensive work such as scientific
research, physical simulation, climate studies, oil and natural gas exploration,
weather forecasting, quantum physics, to name a few.
Wearable Computer This device is worn on the body like a watch or visor and is
often used by military professionals or doctors to track human actions if their hands
are engaged in other activities. Smart watches and fabric PCs are examples of
wearable computers.
All these types of computers serve a different purpose but there are a few things
common in all of them, that is, they help us save time and aid in achieving accuracy
in our work. From occupying a whole room to fitting in our pocket, the computer has
indeed come a long way. And the best part is that in spite of so many developments
and differences in features, its journey has just begun, as the possibilities of what
they can do are limitless.