Definition

microcomputer

Contributor(s): David Higgins

A microcomputer is a complete computer on a smaller scale and is generally a synonym for the more common term, personal computer or PC , a computer designed for an individual. A microcomputer contains a microprocessor (a central processing unit on a microchip ), memory in the form of read-only memory and random access memory , I/O ports and a bus or system of interconnecting wires, housed in a unit that is usually called a motherboard .

In an ascending hierarchy of general computer sizes, we find:

  • An embedded systems programming computer, which is embedded in something and doesn't support direct human interaction but nevertheless meets all the other criteria of a microcomputer
  • Microcomputer
  • workstation , as used to mean a more powerful personal computer for special applications
  • minicomputer , now restyled a "mid-range server"
  • mainframe or mainframe computer, which is now usually referred to by its manufacturers as a "large server"
  • Supercomputer, formerly almost a synonym for "Cray supercomputer" but now meaning a very large server and sometimes including a system of computers using parallel processing
  • A parallel processing system is a system of interconnected computers that work on the same application together, sharing tasks that can be performed concurrently
This was first published in September 2005

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