Welcome to a beginner’s guide on the categories and types of computers and their functions. Today, we live in an exciting age of information technology where every almost average person who lives in a city will carry at least one computer device – The smartphone.
But apart from that, there are tablets, laptops, desktops, servers, and whatever else… The digital universe of computer devices just seems to be expanding infinitely with more offers, and it can be rather confusing. So in this guide, we will walk through the various types of computers, and what they are commonly used for – Read on!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Microcomputers||Mobile Computers||Wearable Computers|
|Nano Computers||Useful Links||The End|
COMPUTER SIZE CATEGORIES
Before we touch on the types of computers, let us quickly run through the categories of computers – But please take note that this is not an exhaustive list. While computers can be generally classified by size and processing power, there is considerable overlap between the definitions these days.
|Supercomputers and mainframes||Crazy large-sized computers that are used to compute extremely complex algorithms and run simulations. Only the richest companies, governments, agencies can afford to buy these… and have some actual good uses for it.|
|Minicomputers||Not crazy as the supercomputers, but these are still powerful computers that are used to serve hundreds and thousands of people at the same time.|
|Microcomputers||The “regular Joe” computer workstations that you see everywhere.|
|Mobile and handheld computers||The newer addition to the computers family, the current mainstream and popular handheld smart devices.|
|Wearable computers||Yet another newer addition to the computers family. As the name implies, these are computers that you can actually wear.|
|Nanocomputers||The magic of technology. These computers are made so small, they can literally fit into your pocket.|
Now that we are over with the categorization of the computers, let us start with the exciting crazy large computers.
What it is: “Supercomputer” is a term that we use to describe the fastest and most expensive computers on the planet Earth. Not to mention that these are CRAZY large, as in, they can even occupy up to an entire building.
Usage & Functions: No sane human being will ever spend an insane amount of money to buy a computer the size of a building… Nor have a good use for it. Supercomputers are generally used for extremely complex science and engineering projects – NASA probably has one of these in their backyard to calculate and simulate stuff like rockets and experiments.
2) MAINFRAME COMPUTERS
What it is: Mainframe computers are not as crazy as supercomputers, but they are still insanely expensive machines that are capable of crunching some seriously large amounts of data.
Usage & Functions: Mainframes are actually pretty common among the larger organizations. These reliable workhorses are generally used to process high volumes of data for mission-critical applications. For example, the search engines – Google, Bing, and Yahoo probably have a few of these worldwide, crunching data for search requests 24/7.
The term “minicomputers” will surely raise some eyebrows and laughs these days. Simply because there is nothing “mini” about these large and powerful computers. But when you compare these to building-sized supercomputers, these are indeed “mini”…
What it is: I am sure that you have heard of the term “server” from somewhere before, and these are powerful computers that are capable of processing many things and serving many people at once.
Usage & Functions: Servers are pretty common these days actually – You can even set one up in your own home if you want. They can be used in organizations to serve as a centralized data storage, to crunch some sales data for analysis, serve websites in a data center, or maybe even host a massive online game.
Yep, the line between servers and home-based computers are actually starting to blur. With “normal” computers becoming more powerful and affordable, they can pretty much run at a “server” capacity as well – Ever heard of the term “smart home”? Where you set up a server at home, and remote control almost anything possible from your smartphone?
4) BLADE SERVERS
What it is: This is an “alternative” type of server, with a different design. When it comes to the old designs, a server is pretty much a “single machine” – Not with blade servers. Blade servers usually come with an “empty shell” called an enclosure, and all the components are “plug-and-play”. Not enough memory? Buy more memory components and slot it in. Need an upgrade? Pull out an old component, and slot in a better one.
Usage & Functions: Blade servers have actually been pretty popular around the globe. Although there is an initial cost for buying the empty shell, the ability to scale as the company grows is a huge money saver in the long run. So yep – Blade servers can pretty much do whatever a simple server does and even expand up to become a mini-mainframe.
Yet again, the term “microcomputer” is not what some people may think… They are small, but not really at the “micro” level. These are the generic consumer-range computers that you see everywhere in the market.
5) DESKTOP COMPUTERS
What it is: The common Joe computer that you see everywhere in homes and offices. Desktop computers used to be a lot bulkier, but as technology improves, they have become a lot smaller and streamlined.
Usage & Functions: Desktop computers are used for almost everything under the sun – Home entertainment, office work, and as previously mentioned, some desktops are getting so powerful that they can easily run as home-based servers.
6) ALL-IN-ONE COMPUTERS (AIO)
What it is: As the name suggests, this is a full-fledged desktop computer, all packed into “one piece”. For those of you who are still confused, desktop computers usually come in “separate pieces” – The display monitor, CPU, you might even need to buy your own wireless card and install it yourself. An AIO computer is one single device with everything built-in.
Usage & Functions: Pretty much the same as desktop computers. Although as convenient as it might seem to be, the design of AIO computers makes it less friendly towards customizations and hardware upgrades.
What it is: A computer that sits on top of your lap, and thus, rightfully called the laptop. These used to be “heavy square bricks” that are often mistaken as gym equipment… Not really. But as the magic of technology goes again – Laptops have slimmed down a lot and became more portable.
Usage & Functions: Laptops are originally intended to be computers that you can carry around, but the early generations are somewhat of a failure… Looking more like training weights than actually portable computers. But with the boom in mobile technology, laptops have improved a lot and is only somewhat behind the performance of desktop computers despite the small size.
What it is: As you already know, laptops have become increasingly slim over the years. This particular “breed” of a razor-thin laptop is what we call the “ultraportable notebook”, or just ultrabook for short.
Usage & Functions: Although thin and lightweight, ultrabooks do somewhat suffer in terms of performance – Given that it has a smaller form factor, there are limitations to what we can cramp inside this metal pancake. These are good for your “usual” entertainment of listening to music, watching videos, and doing some office work. But when it comes to stuff like video editing, it really pushes the ultrabook to the limits.
When the technology matures enough to become so powerful and fits in the pockets. These are the modern day gadget that you see everywhere – Smartphones and tablets.
What it is: I don’t think this gadget needs a lot of introduction. Who has not seen a smartphone before in this time and age? These are pocket-sized mobile phones that also have some good computing power.
Usage & Functions: Traditional mobile phones are only capable of making phone calls. Add a computer to that equation, you get a smartphone. You now have a device that is also capable of doing some office work, sending emails, watching videos, listening to music, and even some light gaming.
What it is: This is the device that kind of creates a blurred line. A tablet usually has the processing power similar to an ultrabook, but is missing an attached keyboard. So can a tablet be considered as an ultrabook without a keyboard? A large smartphone? Or both?
Usage & Functions: Although uncommon, it is possible to connect to a keyboard and mouse to a tablet. They can still be used for office work, but in most cases, tablets are a cross in-between being used for some light office work and as an entertainment device.
What it is: A cross between a smartphone and tablet. Thus called the phablet (phone-tablet).
Usage & Functions: Well, the usual smartphone may be a little too small for some people and the tablet too big… So why not get the best of both worlds? An oversized smartphone. The phablet.
12) PALMTOP & PDA
What it is: PDA stands for “personal digital assistant” (and not public display of affection). PDAs used to be kind of popular in the 1990s until smartphones took over the market by storm. Guess you can kind of call these the grandfather of smartphones.
Usage & Functions: Although rare, PDAs actually still exist today. They are kind of like “smartphones without phone functions”… Good for places like warehouses and doing tasks like stock-taking, where you do not need the phone functions.
The next generation of computers – So small and flexible that you can actually wear them.
What it is: Following the trend of smartphones, the tsunami of “smart everything” moved on to “infect” the watches. The result – Smartwatches that are able to connect with smartphones and the Internet.
Usage & Functions: Smartwatches are kind of limited in functions due to the very small screen size and a mediocre processor. But they are still pretty useful for reading emails, messages, weather forecasts without having to pull out the actual smartphone.
14) SMART GLASSES
What it is: If watches can be smart, so can the glasses.
Usage & Functions: Smartglasses are a reality, and they offer something called “augmented reality” (AR). While you are looking at the real world through these glasses, they can also offer information such as date, time, weather, GPS location, messages, and much more.
From the crazy super large to mini and micro, we now have nano-sized computers. These are computers that are palm-size and even smaller.
15) SINGLE BOARD COMPUTERS
What it is: As the name suggests, single-board computers are one single circuit board. Although these are usually low-cost no-frills computers, the bad part about it is that these “one-piece” computers cannot be upgraded; Once damaged, you can only replace them.
Usage & Functions: Single-board computers do not have the processing power of a full-fledged desktop. Although it is still possible to do some word processing and programming with the slightly higher-end ones. Otherwise, these boards are commonly used for all kinds of funny projects, maybe a self-watering garden or a funky light show.
16) MINI COMPUTER & TV BOX
What it is: Remember desktop computers? Shrink that down into palm-sized and you get a mini-computer.
Usage & Functions: Although these tiny ones don’t have a lot of processing power, they are still mighty capable of common office work and entertainment – Reading emails, word processing, surfing the Internet, playing music, and watching movies. Yep, some people actually mount these behind the television, and turn it into a “smart TV”.
17) STICK COMPUTERS
What it is: Take the minicomputer, and scale it even more… In the size of a thumb drive. That is as the name implies – computer in a stick.
Usage & Functions: A pretty cool gadget and a lot more convenient than the minicomputers – Just plug these directly into the television, and you get a fully functioning computer. But as you can expect from the size of these stick computers, they really don’t have a lot of processing power. Sticking with minicomputers might make more sense (pun intended).
That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.
LINKS & REFERENCES
- Classes of computers – Wikipedia
- 10 Types of Computers – How Stuff Work
- 5 Categories of Computer Types – Udemy
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand the world of computers, and if you have anything to share, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and may the cyber force be with you.