What Are the Different Types of Microcomputers?

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There are numerous types of microcomputers, including laptops, desktop computers, and smartphones. The one thing all microcomputers have in common is that the central processing unit (CPU) is contained within a single processing chip.

Basically considered small enough to fit easily on a desk, microcomputers were the first type of computer to be practical and affordable enough to be used in small offices and in people’s homes. Their predecessors included mainframe computers and minicomputers.

Microcomputers are also known as personal computers and these include desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, mini tower microcomputers, and full tower microcomputers. As alternatives to the original classifications of microcomputers, smart devices are now also known as microcomputers because of the technology embedded within them, such as tablets and smartphones, as well as servers found in data centers.

The features of microcomputers vary according to the CPU size and the technology included in the device.

Desktop Computer

Desktop computers handle complex operations and, as the name suggests, fit easily on your desk. As well as the main unit, a desktop computer has components that include a separate screen, mouse, keyboard, and speakers, all of which are connected to the main unit via wires. Due to their large size, desktop computers are designed to remain stationary, either in a home study or on a desk in an office. They can usually connect to the internet via Wi-Fi or a cable, and generally have built-in microphones and webcams.

Laptop

While still being able to perform the same complex operations as a desktop computer, a laptop is much smaller and is, therefore, a portable microcomputer. You can use a laptop on your desk or your lap. Laptops come in one unit, with the screen and keyboard connected in a briefcase design, and the mouse or trackpad and speakers incorporated into the unit. A notebook is smaller than a laptop. Its lightweight design makes it ideal to use when commuting.

Mini Tower Microcomputer

The main unit of a mini tower microcomputer is arranged as a small tower. It stands up on any surface and its compact design means you can place it on your desk with it taking up less space than a desktop computer. Just like a desktop computer, it connects to peripheral components via wires. 

Full Tower Microcomputer

A full tower is a larger version of a mini tower microcomputer, being wider and higher. This has the motherboard, storage device, graphics card, and power supply integrated into a cabinet design, which includes room for adding additional tech, such as drive bays. As this is larger in size, it usually stands on the floor, either next to or underneath your desk.

Microcomputer Components

As well as a CPU, which is used to process the data, a microcomputer has input devices, output devices, and memory, which stores the data. The CPU is a microprocessor, which is divided into a control unit and an arithmetic logical unit. The control unit receives, converts, and executes instructions. The arithmetic logical unit deals with calculations.

The memory unit utilizes management techniques to control the data flow. The two memory types are volatile and non-volatile. Volatile means the data is stored on a short-term basis. Non-volatile means it is permanently stored. Random Access Memory (RAM) is an example of volatile memory with data being loaded from the hard disk then accessed by the CPU. Read Only Memory (ROM) is non-volatile as the data is permanently stored.

Microcomputers also include an input/output (I/O) component—essentially how the computer communicates with the world beyond itself, the information sent and received via data and signals. The ports outside your computer are often called I/O ports because they can connect to external devices. I/O devices include keyboards, printers, monitors, modems, network cards, and other hardware that facilitates communication.