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a small comparatively cheap digital computer


(computer science)
A relatively small general-purpose digital computer, intermediate in size between a microcomputer and a main frame.


A computer built between about 1963 and 1987, smaller and less powerful than a mainframe, typically about the size and shape of a wardrobe, mounted in a single tall rack.

Minicomputers were characterised by short word lengths of 8 to 32 bits, limited hardware and software facilities and small physical size. Their low cost made them suitable for a wide variety of applications such as industrial control, where a small, dedicated computer which is permanently assigned to one application, is needed. In recent years, improvements in device technology have resulted in minicomputers which are comparable in performance to large second generation computers and greatly exceed the performance of first generation computers.

The processor was typically built using low integration logic integrated circuits - TTL or maybe ECL, thus distinguishing it from a microcomputer which is built around a microprocessor - a processor on a single (or maybe a few) ICs.

DEC's PDP-1 was the first minicomputer and their PDP-11 was the most successful, closely followed (in both time and success) by the VAX (which DEC called a "super minicomputer").

Another early minicomputer was the LINC developed at MIT in 1963.

Other minicomputers were the AS/400, the PRIME series, the AP-3, Olivetti's Audit 7 and the Interdata 8/32.


(1) A computer with a small form factor. See mini PC.

(2) An earlier medium-scale, centralized computer that functioned as a multiuser system for up to several hundred users. The minicomputer industry was launched in 1959 after Digital Equipment Corporation introduced its PDP-1 for USD $120,000, an unheard-of low price for a computer in those days. Subsequently, a variety of minicomputer systems became available from HP, Data General, Wang, Tandem, Datapoint, Prime Computer, Varian Data and Scientific Data Systems. The single user mini evolved into a centralized system with dumb terminals for departmental use.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, most centralized minicomputers migrated from their dumb terminal architecture into servers for PC networks. The terms "midrange computer" and "server" replaced the venerable minicomputer designation.

High-end, single-user workstations, typically used for computer-aided design (CAD), were also called minicomputers. See midrange computer and mini PC.

Minicomputer System
The minicomputer was a centralized computer that served from a handful to several hundred "dumb" terminals.
References in periodicals archive ?
Over the years, traditional applications for minicomputers and LANs have developed.
became much more powerful, much richer, much more readily available, at better prices, than the tools that were offered by proprietary minicomputer vendors.
At the same time, it is a fact that most minicomputer programs are old; they were written many years ago and have been mostly retrofitted and patched.
With a minicomputer, and also UNIX, you have one computer (pie).
To continue operations on a minicomputer, Aines's department would have had to convert to an updated software package, which along with extra hardware would have cost at least $150,000, plus $15,000 annually for software maintenance.
A second difficulty was the limited flexibility of the minicomputers.
For unit load automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), the numbers were: 36% PlCs, 19% microcomputers, 33% minicomputers, and 12% with no computer control.
This information formed the basis for identifying producers of minicomputers versus producers of mainframes or microcomputers.
In each store, the network consists of the minicomputer (a Unisys 5000/50 Unix) that powers "dumb terminals"-video display screens with keyboards, but no software-printers and electronic time clocks.
He said that his research group had a string of potent product ideas beyond minicomputers - among them some early systems that allowed users to scan images into documents - but the infrastructure of the company was so geared to the previous product line that switching was impossible.
McDonnell Dougls recently introduced its Model 14/100 peripheral card which plugs into any available 8-bit slot on either an 80286 or 80386 based machine, and makes it possible to interchange object code as well as magnetic tape between its minicomputers and any microcomputer, without the need to re-complie the program source code.
Gould Incorporated, a Fortune 300 electronics company, develops and manufactures minicomputers, computer-integrated manufacturing systems, instrument systems, defense systems, semiconductors, and other electronics components.

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