There are two different ways to classify computers: according to how they handle data and according to their size and capabilities.
As far as handling data goes, computers are either analog, digital, or a hybrid of the two.
When classifying computers according to size, there are five types of computers: microcomputer, workstation, minicomputer, mainframe, and supercomputer.
In this article, we’ll categorise the different types of computers in detail.
Microcomputers are general-purpose computers that are designed for general use. They use a microprocessor as a central processing unit, as well as a variety of peripheral components, that facilitate a variety of different applications.
Laptops and desktops – the types of computers that most people are familiar with – are in this category. So are single-board computers such as the OKdo ROCK 5B, which are typically used as the basis of engineering projects.
Workstations are computers designed for a specific technical application. Unlike microcomputers that are designed to be versatile, workstations need to facilitate a single application exceptionally well.
To help them to this, workstations are equipped with faster microprocessors and larger RAM capabilities compared to microcomputers. Because of this, they’re also more expensive – yet this is balanced against the fact that they’re usually used in a business or scientific context rather than domestic settings.
Sometimes also called a mini frame, this type of computer is a multiprocessing computer. This means that it used multiple processes – but more importantly, it’s able to support between tens and hundreds of users at the same time.
Because of this, you’ll usually find minicomputers in businesses or institutes. They’re used by specific departments such as accounting or inventory management, in which many personnel need to make calculations at the same time.
Mainframes build on the multiprocessing capabilities of mini-frames. Where minicomputers can support between tens and hundreds of users, mainframes support between hundreds and thousands.
Sporting high storage capacities, this type of computer is able to execute billions of calculations at once, as well as execute multiple different processes simultaneously. This makes them ideal for organisations in sectors such as banking, telecommunications, and data processing.
Supercomputers are the biggest and fastest type of computers currently in widespread use. They use thousands of interconnected processors to process trillions of instructions within the space of a single second.
These extreme capabilities make supercomputers useful for scientific, engineering, and research applications. That being said, outside of fields such as weather forecasting or nuclear fusion research, you’re unlikely to ever see one.
Types of computers in the future…
The five types of computers listed above are the main types of computers that are currently in widespread use, differentiated by their different sizes and capabilities. However, in the near future we may see quantum computers leap into the mainstream.
Using a different data handling mechanism to both digital and analogue computers, as well as having the potential to make computing thousands of times faster and more powerful than it is today, this next generation technology may change the way we think about and categorise computers forever.