Computer types

There are different types of computers depending on their size: supercomputers, macrocomputers, minicomputers and microcomputers. And depending on the type of technology they use, they can be analog, digital, hybrid or quantum.

Remember that a computer is a device capable of receiving, processing and storing data through the execution of mathematical and logical operations. The result of this process is useful information for the user: graphics, texts, audio, video, games, etc.

Below we will see a more detailed description of each of the types of computers.

According to its size


Also called high-performance computers, they are a group of computers organized in a network that work simultaneously, so they work as if they were a single computer.

This union of several computers increases the speed of the calculations and the operating power, which is measured in petaflops. A petaflop is a performance measure that equates to 1000 trillion operations per second.

The most powerful high-performance computer in the world is Fugaku, a computer made in Japan that reaches 415 petaflops, which is equivalent to the power of 230,800 PS4 consoles running at the same time.

Supercomputers are used to do complex industrial or scientific calculations. They are used in research centers, military organizations, governments or large companies.

Another example of supercomputers would be Summit, a team created by IBM for the US Department of Energy that achieves a throughput of 148.6 petaflops.

Macrocomputers or Mainframes

Macrocomputers, central computers or mainframes are a type of large computer that is capable of processing a large amount of data, but on a smaller scale than a supercomputer.

Although mainframes are often confused with supercomputers, they differ not only because of their computing power, but because they require a limited number of processors to function, whereas a supercomputer requires thousands of them.

Also, mainframes are designed for simple calculations, while supercomputers are made for complex calculations.

The capacity and processing speed of mainframes varies, since currently it is possible to purchase this type of equipment on demand, that is, the user can ask the manufacturer to design the equipment according to their needs. This means that from a small business to an international bank they can use a mainframe for their day-to-day operations.

Today, mainframes are the most viable option for companies and organizations that need to process large amounts of data. While today’s personal computers can perform the same tasks as a macrocomputer, the latter have greater storage capacity, processing speed, security, and the ability to be used by multiple users.

An example of one of the most powerful mainframes of recent years is the z13, developed by IBM, capable of processing 2.5 billion transactions per day. This is equivalent to processing the sales of 100 CyberMondays in the United States on a daily basis .

Minicomputers or workstation

Minicomputers or workstations ( workstations ) are specialized high-performance equipment, less powerful than a supercomputer but with more work capacity than a personal computer.

This memory, data processing and graphics capacity superior to a home computer makes them optimal for jobs related to engineering, graphic design, programming or science.

The workstation is also used as servers, especially in small businesses that can not afford a mainframe. This means that the team can run a variety of data-intensive services, such as an online store that generates multiple daily transactions.

In terms of physical or hardware structure, a workstation looks similar to a desktop computer. However, the workstation is much faster and can multitask without slowing down its performance. Also, this type of computer can work uninterrupted and has a longer lifespan than a traditional desktop computer.

However, the current trend in the computing market is that workstations are going to disappear in the medium term, as personal computers become more powerful.

An example of minicomputers is the high-performance Apexx workstations , which are used especially in the world of graphic design, 3D animation and video game creation for their powerful graphics capabilities.


Microcomputers are made up of a central unit (CPU) in which both the memory and the input and output circuits of the equipment are located, integrated into the microprocessor. This makes them much smaller and cheaper than workstations, macrocomputers, and supercomputers, which require more than one CPU.

Microcomputers, in turn, have several categories:

Desktop Computers (PC)

They are equipment for home or professional use that requires a fixed location. Until recently, they were characterized by having the CPU in a kind of box or tower that was installed near the monitor.

Traditional desktop computers are being replaced by all-in-one computers , which integrate all the system components behind the screen. This means that the computer is made up of only two devices: the monitor and the keyboard, therefore, they take up less space.

This type of computer can be used for home or business. In the latter case, they are efficient for the execution of basic administrative tasks, not for massive data processing.

Like other computers of greater size and capacity, the trend is that PCs will disappear from the market as laptops become cheaper and more powerful.


They are computers that integrate the microprocessor, the screen, the input and output ports, the keyboard and the trackball or mouse in the same device that works with a portable battery.

Laptops are a much more comfortable option than a desktop computer. However, its memory capacity is usually limited, unlike a traditional PC where its memory or performance can be increased.

Some examples of laptops are laptops or notebooks, netbooks (much lighter and less functionality than a notebook), tablets, portable game consoles and readers of ebooks as the Kindle.

Wearable computers (wearables)

Also called body computers, these are devices designed to be used over clothing. The objective is that the user can interact with the microcomputer and obtain internet connectivity without relying on a laptop or desktop computer.

Although the term may be novel, since 1970 began the first attempts to combine analog and digital computing to create small computers. Those prototypes allowed everything from playing simple games on a wristwatch to the development of the first wrist cell phones.

Wearable computers today range from digital prostheses to wearable newborn devices, which collect information about a baby’s movement, breathing, and body temperature.

Other examples of wearable computers are Google Glass, virtual reality devices and smart wristbands, which detect the user’s movement and can determine the number of calories lost.

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According to its technology

Analog Computers

They are those that are based on electronic or mechanical circuits and measure a physical magnitude expressed in numbers, such as weight, temperature, pressure, speed or voltage.

Unlike today’s digital computers, analog computers do not require storage memory, as they process data in a single operation and are not saved on the device.

Many analog computers have been replaced by digital technology, although there are industries that continue to use them. An example is the oil companies, where constant monitoring and comparison of data such as temperature is required.

Some examples of analog computers are submarine computers, tidal forecasters, thermostat, or slide rule.

Digital computers

They are a type of computer composed of several units with differentiated tasks to receive, process and deliver the data that have been previously entered by the user. This data is stored in fundamental units of information, called bits, made up of a binary digit (zero or one).

Digital computers need to be programmed before being used and they need to have software installed according to the problem that needs to be solved. For example, if it is a device for processing bank transactions, it requires a specific program or set of programs for that type of operations.

This type of equipment also has a storage capacity to save all the processed data and allow Internet connection.

Some examples of digital computers are workstations, laptops, or macro computers.

Hybrid Computers

As the name implies, these are computers that combine analog and digital technology. This type of device takes the analog values ​​and “translates” them into digitized values.

The advantage of this type of equipment is that they combine the best characteristics of each type of technology. Analog computers may be fast, but they are not accurate. In contrast, digital technology provides greater accuracy in calculations.

An example of a hybrid computer is gasoline pumps, which, in addition to measuring the amount of fuel, convert that measurement into a sales price.

Quantum computers

Like digital computers, they use binary code for data processing. In this case, the fundamental unit of information is not a bit (which only allows zeros or ones), but a qubit, a unit that can have both binary states at the same time.

This represents a new paradigm in the field of computing, since it is possible to create new algorithms that a digital computer cannot generate. This translates into new solutions and applications ranging from medical research to understanding the universe on scales that until now had not been possible to study.

An example of this type of technology is the IBM Q System One, the first commercial quantum computer designed for business applications and scientific research.

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