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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 ?
All other minicomputer vendors have committed to UNIX.
Online service providers currently offer Internet access as a kind of "stepbrother" that sits on top of their proprietary offerings, said Burnham, in the same way that minicomputer vendors were forced to offer UNIX.
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.
I believe that the mid-80s marked the beginning of the end for minicomputers.
Typically, a minicomputer processes all information from a single, central computer rather than independent PCs.
Second, you need to protect the communications medium, whether it is a dial-up line, LAN, 3270 board, or minicomputer acting as a front-end processor or communication control unit.
Ten percent and eleven percent were fully and partially integrated, respectively, with the corporate mainframe or minicomputer.
For example, when Digital Equipment Corporation introduced the first minicomputer in 1960, scientific and engineering laboratories had already recognized their need for such a computer.
Dumb terminals can be purchased for considerably less than personal computers, and they can be linked to the minicomputer by telephone wire, which is cheaper than cable, McCalmont noted.
It tags the results while they're held in the interface microprocessor, or buffer, until they're sent to the minicomputer for storage or reporting.
The swing continued, with 23% saying that their offices were planning to switch from minicomputers to PCs.
Recently, however, ForComment has made a quiet comeback, this time under the ownership of Access Technologies, a $35 million minicomputer software developer whose flagship product is a multi-platform spreadsheet called 20/20.

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