What Is a Minicomputer Used For?

Minicomputers are used for complex computations in the fields of science and engineering. Their use extends to database management, business transactions and various file handling. A minicomputer is between a personal computer and a supercomputer in terms of processing power and functionality, although sometimes servers fit this profile. As of 2014, traditional minicomputers are increasingly rare, and the term itself has transitioned to “midrange computer.”

Developed by IBM during the 1960s, the minicomputer was defined in the ’70s as a computer costing less than $25,000, compatible with an input-output device and capable of storing at least 4,000 words in memory. The ability to process high-level languages was also a consideration. In the 1980s and ’90s, minicomputers declined in popularity. This is attributed to the development of microprocessors and the decreasing costs associated with them. The convenience offered by the installation of local area networks played a factor, as multiple computers could do what a single powerful one could for less money. Work stations and file servers also contributed to the fall in usage of the minicomputer. In addition, operating systems such as Windows and Linux were designed to be compatible with specific CPU architecture that was not present in minicomputers at the time. The IBM System/38 is an example of a surviving minicomputer architecture.