Mainframe and Personal Computers

Essay by ataste4thegoodstuffCollege, UndergraduateA+, September 2004

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Mainframe and Personal Computers

There are millions of computers in existence - so many that nobody has been able to keep track of exactly how many there are! Of those millions, there are many difference kinds. Two of the computers we can specifically discuss are; Mainframe computers and Personal computers. How can we make sense of the two different kinds of computers?

Here are some ways we can look at it:

What is it for?

Is it independent, or part of something else?

§ How "big" or "powerful" is it?

§ How "fast" is it?

Many computers are made to handle a wide variety of tasks like personal computers (PCs), but others are aimed at a special job or situation like mainframes. Minicomputers or Personal computers are generally designed for handling a wide variety of tasks, such as:

Word processing, accounting, database

Payroll, inventory, order processing

Industrial control, engineering, drafting

Scientific research and data analysis

Mainframe computers are generally dedicated for handling one job only:

Word processing

Controlling a machine (robot)

Running a telephone switching station

Environmental control

Medical imaging system

Is it Independent?

When we think of "a computer," most of us probably think of a machine that is independent of other machines (although it could be part of a network).

But many devices that qualify as computers are actually a part of something else. These are so-called embedded computers, and most of them are actually microprocessors. So what is the difference between a microprocessor and a microcomputer?

A computer is an independent machine containing:

CPU + ALU + Memory + Input + Output + Storage

They come in many sizes - tiny, small, medium, or large, but they are designed to work on their own.

An embedded processor or computer is:

CPU + Memory + wires...