What are the different types of computers? When people hear the word ‘computer,’ most of them create an image of a personal computer such as a laptop or a desktop in their minds.
In hurry! See the quick picks:
- Analog Computer
- Digital Computer
- Hybrid Computer
- Desktop Computers
- Laptop Computers
- Tablet Computers
- Mainframe Computers
Computers come in different sizes and shapes. Ideally, when you are using a calculator to do some mathematical calculations or withdrawing cash from an ATM, you are actually using a type of computer.
There are different types of computers available in the market today.
In This Article
- There are analog computers that deal with analog data and digital computers that deal with digital data. There are also hybrid computers that deal with both analog and digital data.
- You will get desktop computers that sit on the desk, laptop computers that are easy to carry and work on the go, and those handheld tablets that do not come with a keyboard or mouse but a touchscreen for navigation.
- Then there are the servers, workstation computers, supercomputers and mainframe computers that are very powerful and handle loads of data, programs, users, and applications.
- Finally, there are the mini and micro computers along with smartphones, smart TVs, gaming consoles and wearables that are also super small computers.
The 13 Different Types of Computers
However, irrespective of the differences in their forms, the computers typically come with two common things namely, hardware and software.
It is better to know about them before going into the different types of computers.
The main idea behind such seemingly irrelevant aspects is that the different types of computers will largely depend on the differences in the hardware and software.
Ideally, every task that you do on your computer is facilitated and controlled by the hardware and software both.
Hardware is that part of a computer that has a physical form and you can touch it.
Software, on the other hand, does not have any physical form and is typically a set of instructions, called programs, that tells the hardware about its job. It tells what to do and how to do that particular job. These are word processors, web browsers, and games.
Ideally, depending on the capabilities in handling data, the computers can be divided into three specific groups as follows.
1. Analog Computer:
Just as the name signifies, these computers are specifically designed to work with analog data or data that is continuous and changes constantly and does not have any discrete values.
This means that the analog computers can only be used in those situations where you do not need any exact values such as speed, pressure, temperature, and others.
Analog computers accept data directly from the measuring device and do not need to convert those into codes or numbers.
It simply measures and analyzes the constant changes in the physical quantity and produces the result as a reading on a scale or on a dial.
Speedometers, mercury thermometers and others are some common examples of an analog computer.
The most significant advantage of using an analog computer is that it allows real-time computations and operations at the same time.
It uses the uninterrupted representation of the data within its range and in some cases it may not even need the help of a transducer to perform calculations by changing the inputs or outputs into digital form and vice versa.
The dynamic range of the computer is scaled by the programmer to provide real-time insights of any issues and help in understanding the faults and their effects.
There are different types of analog computers available in the market such as:
Slide Rules, which are the simplest of all mechanical forms of analog computers that come with two rods.
These perform fundamental mathematical calculations by sliding the hashed rod to align with the markings on the other rod.
Differential Analyzers, which carry out differential calculations by utilizing its wheel and disc mechanism for integration.
Castle Clock, developed by Al-Jazari, which saves programming instructions and is provided with solar and lunar orbits that allow users to adjust the length of the day according to the current season.
Electronic Analogue Computer in which the capacitors and resistors allow the flow of electrical signals and imitate physical phenomena without any mechanical interaction of the components.
The correct display is generated by the voltage of the electrical signals.
2. Digital Computer:
The digital computers, on the other hand, are particularly designed to perform complex calculations very easily, quickly, efficiently, and accurately.
These computers also have the capability to carry out logical operations at a high speed.
These digital computers need raw data as input and then it processes the data with the use of the software or programs stored in the memory.
The computer then produces the final result according to the instructions given to it by the specific software program.
The unique thing about the digital computer is that it can understand only binary inputs which comprise 0s and 1s.
This means that every time a raw data is input, the computer converts it into 0s and 1s and then processes them according to the instructions provided by the software and produces the final output.
All modern desktop computers, laptop computers, and even smart phones are common examples of digital computers.
The notable advantages of using digital computers include large storage space for data and information and to retrieve and process it easily whenever required.
New features can be added easily to these systems and it also allows using different applications without needing to change the hardware but by changing the program.
The hardware does not cost much because of the more sophisticated IC technology used in these systems.
These systems are also very reliable due to the use of Error Correction Codes.
They process the data at a high speed and produce the results in quick time digitally since their reproducibility is not affected by temperature, humidity, noise, or the other properties of the internal components.
3. Hybrid Computer:
Just as the term hybrid indicates, these computers are a combination of both analog and digital computers.
These computers are typically very fast in operation just like the analog computers and come with their own internal memory.
In terms of accuracy, these hybrid computers match the performance of the digital computers.
Therefore, the hybrid computers come with the power to process both discrete as well as continuous data.
During operation, these computers accept inputs as analog signals and then convert them into digital form. It then processes the digital data input.
The hybrid computers are extensively used for specialized applications in areas where both analog and digital data processing is needed such as in the petrol pumps.
These computers convert the measurements of fuel flowing through the pipes and display the final output in quantity and price.
The most significant advantages of using these hybrid computers include its accuracy in producing results at a high speed by making the best use of the all-parallel arrangement of the analog subsystem.
These computers can handle and solve big and complex equations in real-time and also facilitates on-line data processing.
4. Desktop Computers:
Just as the term signifies, these are those computers that sit on the desk or a table. These types of computers are used by different people in different places such as:
- At homes
- In offices and
- In school.
Desktop computers are typically made up of a few specific components such as the computer or CPU case, keyboard, monitor, and mouse.
There are several advantages of using a desktop computer such as the keyboard is large which allows easier and faster typing, the disk space is large and therefore allows storing a lot of data and information in it, and these are quite reliable.
You can also use different types of software programs and they have a very low maintenance cost.
The screen is quite large and you can even add larger screens to a desktop computer. Chances of theft and loss are reduced since you cannot carry these computers.
There are more slots in these computers to add multiple devices externally and you can use a desktop computer for a long time which also comes with a much longer life.
5. Laptop Computers:
Ideally, a laptop computer is much smaller in size and lighter than a desktop computer so that you can use it on your ‘lap.’
This is one of the most familiar types of computer today that are typically powered by rechargeable battery making them more portable than desktops and allowing anyone to use it anyplace and anytime for performing their computing tasks.
The different advantages of using a laptop computer include its high portability due to its lightweight and compact design and there are no cables and wires to deal with.
6. Tablet Computers:
Tablet computers are also simply known as tablets. These typically refer to those handheld devices that are even lighter, smaller, and more portable than a laptop computer.
Normally, the tablets do not come with an additional keyboard or a mouse. Rather, there is a touch-sensitive screen that allows typing and navigation.
The advantages of using a tablet computer are once again its portability and you do not have to type on a keyboard with your fingers. This makes it easy to use them with one hand.
Just as the term indicates, servers are those specific computers that serve up information or data to other computers on the network.
For example, when you use the internet, all data and information that you see are typically stored on the server computers.
Several businesses have their own local servers to store files and share them internally.
These servers can run 24/7 and store a lot of data in the shape of web pages that you can access easily via the internet.
Ideally, a client computer and the server can be linked through a network or can be on the same computer.
As for the data serving systems, these can be over LAN or Local Area Network or WAN or Wide Area Network which will offer higher scalability and coverage.
Depending on the characteristics of the servers and their density there can be different types of servers such as:
- Physical servers
- Virtual servers
- Web server
- Application server
- Database server
- File server
- Print server
- Mail server
- Proxy server
- Standalone server
- Dedicated server
- Blade server and
- Cloud server.
The common features of these servers are higher scalability and sharing of power supply. However, all of these have their significant pros and cons.
Workstation is a special type of computer that is designed to handle scientific and technical applications.
These special computers come with a special microprocessor that is pretty fast and has a huge amount of RAM.
There is also a graphic adapter that works at a high speed.
A workstation is typically a single-user computer and is efficient enough to handle any specific type of computing tasks with extreme accuracy.
The workstations usually come with specific characteristics such as:
These are extremely efficient and exclusively designed to use for complex purposes such as Computer Aided Designs, data analysis, animation audio and video creating and editing and more.
These computers are pretty expensive and come with a huge storage capacity and powerful CPU and GPU as compared to standard personal computers.
Apart from high performing ability, the characteristic features of a workstation computer include multiple processor cores, Error Correction Code RAM, Redundant Array of Independent Disks or RAID, and better SSD.
A supercomputer is that which is very powerful and can do a huge amount of computing tasks in a very short time.
It can process any type of data and information irrespective of the volume and are used in different fields related to:
- Defense and
Supercomputers can be used to do different types of complicated tasks such as:
- Climate research
- Weather forecasting
- Scientific simulation
- Nuclear energy research
- Stock markets
- Quantum mechanics
- Online currency management by large organizations
- Oil and gas exploration and
Supercomputers signify speed and are quite capable of processing up to ten trillion of data and instructions in just a second.
This is facilitated by the thousands of processors that are interconnected in these supercomputers.
Developed first by Roger Cray in 1976 the supercomputers can be identified by their unique characteristics.
These are the fastest computers and are also pretty expensive machines.
The significant advantages of using a supercomputer include it allows decrypting password to boost security, producing exceptional outputs in animations and testing nuclear weapons virtually.
Add to that, it also helps in conducting vital medical tests and running in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA systems to execute any type of logical and simple data.
Doctors also get a lot of help from these computers while critical diagnosis and produce best results in complex ailments due to brain injuries and strokes.
These computers can also design flight simulators to help the novice pilots during their training. Insurance companies can extract vital information from the cloud system and other data storage centers as well.
Supercomputers also help in analyzing data obtained from satellites, solar systems and movement of the Earth more correctly just as it helps in controlling the smog control system by accurately predicting the level of pollutants and fog in the air.
10. Mainframe Computers:
A mainframe computer means a high-performance device that can be used for processing large data sets and information for different tasks that are related to:
- Census taking
- Enterprise resource planning
- Industry and consumer statistics
- e-business and e-commerce and
- Transaction processing.
Mainframe computers are used in different places including and not limited to:
- Financial institutions
- Research centers
- Academic institutions
- Healthcare facilities
- Telecom industry
- Large businesses
- Insurance sectors and
- Stock brokerage firms.
The specific design of the mainframe computers allows them to support hundreds and thousands of users using several programs at the same time.
Apart from the high cost of these machines, there are a few notable characteristics of the mainframe computers such as their great performance, high storage capacity, high speed while handling huge amounts of data, relatively smoother performance for a long time, and a pretty long life.
A few other notable characteristics of the mainframe computers include better memory management, ability to distribute workload among other I/O terminals and processors, lower chances of bugs affecting its performance.
The mainframe computers are used in different areas which include and are not limited to the healthcare industry to maintain accurate records of all patients including disease and medicine updates and the defense sector.
These computers are also useful in the field of education to store, retrieve and manage data related to the courses, student admissions, teachers, staff, affiliated schools and lots more.
And, in the retail sector, the mainframe computers help in handling huge customer databases, inventory, transactions, and more.
A minicomputer is actually a mid-range computer. This means that it is intermediate in power, size, storage capacity, and speed of processing when it is compared to a microcomputer or a mainframe computer.
A minicomputer is typically used by smaller organizations, institutes, and several departments such as accounting, billing, inventory management and others.
However, the term ‘Minicomputer’ is not used much these days. Today, the term minicomputer is used normally to refer to a server which is small or a midsize multiprocessing computer.
These computers are light in weight and therefore can be carried anywhere easily.
Typically, the minicomputers come with two or more processors and have the ability to support anywhere from 4 to 200 users at the same time. These computers are pretty fast and are not as costly as a mainframe computer.
The minicomputers, also called the mini-frame computers, are very fast irrespective of their size. The best part is that these computers do not need a controlled environment to operate.
Different types of applications of these specific computers include process control in the manufacturing sector, data management in small organizations, maintenance of records in local hotels and hospitals, and as a communications portal between the central processor of the computer and the human operator.
The microcomputers can be considered to be special types of personal computers apart from the desktop and laptop computers.
These computers are actually classified on the basis of their size and electrical components supported. These computers are extremely portable and come in the following types.
Tower model – This refers to a tall cabinet inside which the motherboard, the power supply, and the mass storage devices are loaded on top of each other.
This is in contrast to desktop computer models wherein the internal components come in a more compact cabinet.
The most significant advantage of the tower models is that there are little or no space constraints. This makes it very easy to install additional storage devices.
Notebook computer – This refers to those personal computers that are extremely light in weight and small in size.
These computers use a wide range of technologies to design the screen such as the flat panel technology which makes the screens extremely light in weight and of variable quality.
In terms of computing power, the modern notebook computers come with similar CPUs, disk drives and memory capacity as personal computers.
However, the notebook computers are expensive and the batteries are required to be recharged after every couple of hours.
Subnotebook computer – This is a specific type of portable computer which is a bit smaller in size and lighter in weight in comparison to a standard notebook computer.
Typically, these specific types of computers come with a much smaller screen and keyboard but in all other aspects these are pretty much similar to the standard notebook computers.
Hand-held computer – This is another type of portable microcomputer that is so small that you can hold it in your hand.
These computers are very handy to carry but could not replace the notebook computers due to their extremely small screens and keyboards.
Usually, the hand-held computers are designed specifically to help in PIM or Personal Information Manager Functions such as an address book or a calendar.
Some manufacturers of these devices have resolved the small keyboard issue by replacing it with an electronic pen but these depend on handwriting recognition technologies that are still in their developing stage.
Palmtop – This is a specific type of hand-held computer that literally fits on the palm of the users. These computers are severely limited in their functionalities in comparison to any full-size computer.
However, these are good to use for performing specific types of functions such as calendars, and phone books. These computers do not come with any disk drive because these are extremely small in size.
Still, a few of these small computers contain PCMCIA slots. You can connect modems, memory, disk drives, and other devices through these slots.
Personal Digital Assistants – These are specific types of hand-held devices that may even include palmtops that specifically use a pen instead of a keyboard and pocket computers.
These specific types of hand-held computers combine computing, networking, and even telephone or fax features. A typical PDA can be used for different purposes and functions such as a cellular phone, a personal organizer, a fax sender, and more.
Since most of the PDAs use a stylus to write, these include handwriting recognition features as well though there are a few specific types of PDAs that can also come with voice recognition technology to react to voice inputs.
PDAs were pioneered by Apple Computer in 1993 with the launch of Newton MessagePad but several manufacturers started producing similar products shortly after.
However, till date, the PDAs have had only humble success in the market due to their limited applications and a huge price tag.
Apart from the small size of the microcomputers, the other characteristics of them are that they are designed especially for one user and are not very extensive.
Though you can use limited software, these systems are very easy to use since you will not need any special skill to operate these machines.
These machines come with only one semiconductor chip but can be used for printing, browsing, scanning, watching videos, and more.
13. Other Types of Computers:
There are also a few other types of computers that you may not think really are. Ideally, most of the electronics devices available today are in essence specialized computers. Some of the most common examples of these computers are:
Smartphones – The mobile phones that you get today are not designed to make and receive calls only. You can do a lot of other different things on it that you can do on a computer such as browse the internet, send emails, play games, listen to music, watch videos, type a document and more. Quite naturally, these are called smart phones.
Wearables – This term actually refers to a general collection of devices that includes and is not limited to smart watches and fitness trackers. These devices are supposed to be worn usually on the wrist throughout the day.
Game consoles – These are also special types of computers that are specifically designed to play video games mainly on TV.
Smart TVs – Similar to mobile phones, the TVs that you get today are not meant for watching whatever is broadcasted. The modern TVs come with several applications that rightfully make them smart TVs. These apps allow the users to access several types of online content. For easy operation, some smart TVs come with a touch-sensitive screen.
As this article points out, apart from the standard desktop and laptop computers, smart phones, smart TVs, Macintosh, palmtops, notebooks, and even Personal Digital Assistants are also considered as computers.
So, now you know how wrong you were to think only desktops or laptops are computers.