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Related to Microcomputers: Minicomputers, Desktop computers, Microcontrollers


a small computer in which the central processing unit is contained in one or more silicon chips


(computer science)
A digital computer whose central processing unit resides on a single semiconductor integrated circuit chip, a microprocessor.
An electronic device, typically consisting of a microprocessor central processing unit, semiconductor memory (RAM), graphics display, and keyboard. Typical configurations also include a hard disk for persistent memory, a compact disk drive, a disk drive which allows removable disks to be used to move data in and out of the machine, and a pointing device.


A digital computer whose central processing unit consists of a microprocessor, a single semiconductor integrated circuit chip. Once less powerful than larger computers, microcomputers are now as powerful as the minicomputers and superminicomputers of just several years ago. This is due in part to the growing processing power of each successive generation of microprocessor, plus the addition of mainframe computer features to the chip, such as floating-point mathematics, computation hardware, memory management, and multiprocessing support. See Integrated circuits, Multiprocessing

Microcomputers are the driving technology behind the growth of personal computers and workstations. The capabilities of today's microprocessors in combination with reduced power consumption have created a new category of microcomputers: hand-held devices. Some of these devices are actually general-purpose microcomputers: They have a liquid-crystal-display (LCD) screen and use an operating system that runs several general-purpose applications. Many others serve a fixed purpose, such as telephones that provide a display for receiving text-based pager messages and automobile navigation systems that use satellite-positioning signals to plot the vehicle's position. See Mobile radio

The microprocessor acts as the microcomputer's central processing unit (CPU), performing all the operations necessary to execute a program (see illustration).

A memory subsystem uses semiconductor random-access memory (RAM) for the temporary storage of data or programs. The memory subsystem may also have a small secondary memory cache that improves the system's performance by storing frequently used data objects or sections of program code in special high-speed RAM.

The graphics subsystem consists of hardware that displays information on a color monitor or LCD screen: a graphics memory buffer stores the images shown on the screen, digital-to-analog convertors (DACs) generate the signals to create an image on an analog monitor, and possibly special hardware accelerates the drawing of two- or three-dimensional graphics. (Since LCD screens are digital devices, the graphics subsystem sends data to the screen directly rather than through the DACs.)

The storage subsystem uses an internal hard drive or removable media for the persistent storage of data.

The communications subsystem consists of a high-speed modem or the electronics necessary to connect the computer to a network.

Microcomputer software is the logic that makes microcomputers useful. Software consists of programs, which are sets of instructions that direct the microcomputer through a sequence of tasks. A startup program in the microcomputer's ROM initializes all of the devices, loads the operating system software, and starts it. All microcomputers use an operating system that provides basic services such as input, simple file operations, and the starting or termination of programs. While the operating system used to be one of the major distinctions between personal computers and workstations, today's personal computer operating systems also offer advanced services such as multitasking, networking, and virtual memory. All microcomputers exploit the use of bit-mapped graphics displays to support windowing operating systems. See Operating system, Software


A computer based on a microprocessor.

Contrast with minicomputer, mainframe.


Generally refers to a Windows PC or Mac, but it can refer to any kind of small computer. When the term was first introduced in the late 1970s, it meant a computer with a single microprocessor chip as its CPU, namely, the personal computer. Today, the CPU in every computer is a microprocessor, and the terms "desktop computer," "laptop computer" and "PC" have mostly replaced the word microcomputer.

The Revolution Begins!
In 1977, the same year RadioShack introduced its first microcomputer, the handwriting was on the wall... a "revolution" was beginning.
References in periodicals archive ?
As discussed above, frequently microcomputers and often minicomputers do not utilize effective controls.
Introduction of the microcomputer in the 1980s brought about a technological revolution that has eliminated many of the time-consuming and tedious tasks often associated with materials testing.
Literature searching has evolved from mediated online searching to a diversity of end-user search approaches; library automation has advanced from home-grown mainframe catalog and circulation systems to complex vendor-supplied integrated library systems; the microcomputer and its applications programs have allowed individuals to have extensive power over the management of personal information.
Ergonomic furnishings: Generally, a microcomputer should not be placed on an accountant's desk because the desk top is too high for the keyboard and too low for the monitor.
Software that will allow a person to access these BBSs is available for Apple, IBM, Zenith, Compaq, Kaypro, and other microcomputers.
That's a startling difference from where things were 10 years ago, when we first formed our perceptions about the differences between mainframe and microcomputer technology.
During the past five years, microcomputers have become an essential tool for the tax professional.
Some companies have chosen to avoid the issue by forbidding the connection of microcomputers to their mainframe systems and limiting the kinds of information that may be stored on the few desktop systems they have.
Although a supercomputer could have done the job more quickly the use of microcomputers shows that large numbers can be factored reasonably quickly using inexpensive equipment.
A star, or point-to-point, network topology connects as many as 16 Televideo microcomputers to a more powerful central microcomputer--a file server--which gives them multi-tasking capabilities and shared access to peripherals (Figure II).
Call-accounting software for microcomputers genrally costs from 50 to 80 percent less than mainframe software, but is usually intended for processing records for one location.

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