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PC - The personal computer (PC) defines a computer designed for general use by a single person.

While a Mac is a PC, most people relate the term with systems that run the Windows operating system. PCs were first known as microcomputers because they were a complete computer but built on a smaller scale than the huge systems in use by most businesses. Desktop - A PC that is not designed for portability. The expectation with desktop systems are that you will set the computer up in a permanent location. Most desktops offer more power, storage and versatility for less cost than their portable brethren. Laptop - Also called notebooks, laptops are portable computers that integrate the display, keyboard, a pointing device or trackball, processor, memory and hard drive all in a battery-operated package slightly larger than an average hardcover book. Palmtop - More commonly known as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), palmtops are tightly integrated computers that often use flash memory instead of a hard drive for storage. These computers usually do not have keyboards but rely on touchscreen technology for user input. Palmtops are typically smaller than a paperback novel, very lightweight with a reasonable battery life. A slightly larger and heavier version of the palmtop is the handheld computer. Workstation - A desktop computer that has a more powerful processor, additional memory and enhanced capabilities for performing a special group of task, such as 3D Graphics or game development. Server - A computer that has been optimized to provide services to other computers over a network. Servers usually have powerful processors, lots of memory and large hard drives. Mainframe - In the early days of computing, mainframes were huge computers that could fill an entire room or even a whole floor! As the size of computers has diminished while the power has increased, the term mainhttp://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/laptop-7-gpu.jpgframe has fallen out of use in favor of enterprise server. You'll still hear the term used, particularly in large companies to describe the huge machines processing millions of transactions every day. Minicomputer - Another term rarely used anymore, minicomputers fall in between microcomputers (PCs) and mainframes (enterprise servers). Minicomputers are normally referred to as mid-range servers now. Supercomputer - This type of computer usually costs hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Although some supercomputers are single computer systems, most are comprised of multiple high performance computers working in parallel as a single system. The best known supercomputers are built by Cray Supercomputers. Wearable - The latest trend in computing is wearable computers. Essentially, common computer applications (e-mail, database, multimedia, calendar/scheduler) are integrated into watches, cell phones, visors and even clothing!

Personal or micro
Computers for personal use come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny PDAs (personal digital assistant) to hefty PC (personal computer) towers. More specialized models are announced each week - trip planners, expense account pads, language translators...

Hand-held (HPC)

PDA

Tablet PC

Laptop

Desktop

Tower

Workstation

When talking about PC computers, most people probably think of the desktop type, which are designed to sit on your desk. (Bet you figured that one out!) The tower and the smaller mini-tower style cases have become popular as people started needing more room for extra drives inside. Repairmen certainly appreciate the roominess inside for all the cables and circuit boards ... and their knuckles. A workstation is part of a computer network and generally would be expected to have more than a regular desktop PC of most everything, like memory, storage space, and speed. The market for the smallest PCs is expanding rapidly. Software is becoming available for the small types of PC like the palmtop (PPC) and handheld (HPC). This new software is based on new operating systems like Windows CE (for Consumer Electronics). You may find simplified versions of the major applications you use. One big advantage for the newer programs is the ability to link the small computers to your home or work computer and coordinate the data. So you can carry a tiny computer like a PalmPilot around to enter new phone numbers and appointments and those great ideas you just had. Then later you can move this information to your main computer.

With a Tablet PC you use an electronic stylus to write on the screen, just like with a pen and paper, only your words are in digital ink. The Tablet PC saves your work just like your wrote it (as a picture), or you can let the Hand Recognition (HR) software turn your chicken-scratches into regular text.

Main frame
The main frame is the workhorse of the business world. A main frame is the heart of a network of computers or terminals which allows hundreds of people to work at the same time on the same data. It requires a special environment - cold and dry.

Supercomputers
The supercomputer is the top of the heap in power and expense. These are used for jobs that take massive amounts of calculating, like weather forecasting, engineering design and testing, serious decryption, economic forecasting, etc. A Gallery of images of Cray supercomputers - from the current model back to the earliest. The first Cray supercomputer was introduced in 1976 - the Cray-1.

Server
The term server actually refers to a computer's function rather than to a specific kind of computer. A server runs a network of computers. It handles the sharing of equipment like printers and the communication between computers on the network. For such tasks a computer would need to be somewhat more capable than a desktop computer. It would need:

more power larger memory larger storage capacity high speed communications

Minicomputer
The minicomputer has become less important since the PC has gotten so powerful on its own. In fact, the ordinary new PC is much more powerful than minicomputers used to be. Originally this size was developed to handle specific tasks, like engineering and CAD calculations, that tended to tie up the main frame.

Workstation It is a type of computer used for engineering applications (CAD/CAM), desktop publishing, software development, and other types of applications that require a moderate amount of computing power and relatively high quality graphics capabilities. Notebook computer An extremely lightweight personal computer. Notebook computers typically weigh less than 6 pounds and are small enough to fit easily in a briefcase. Aside from size, the principal difference between a notebook computer and a personal computer is the display screen. Notebook computers use a variety of techniques, known as flat-panel technologies, to produce a lightweight and non-bulky display screen. The quality of notebook display screens varies considerably. In terms of computing power, modern notebook computers are nearly equivalent to personal computers. They have the same CPUs, memory capacity, and disk drives. However, all this power in a small package is expensive. Notebook computers cost about twice as much as equivalent regular-sized computers. Notebook computers come with battery packs that enable you to run them without plugging them in. However, the batteries need to be recharged every few hours. Laptop computer

A small, portable computer -- small enough that it can sit on your lap. Nowadays, laptop computers are more frequently called notebook computers. Subnotebook computer A portable computer that is slightly lighter and smaller than a full-sized notebook computer. Typically, subnotebook computers have a smaller keyboard and screen, but are otherwise equivalent to notebook computers. Hand-held computer A portable computer that is small enough to be held in ones hand. Although extremely convenient to carry, handheld computers have not replaced notebook computers because of their small keyboards and screens. The most popular hand-held computers are those that are specifically designed to provide PIM (personal information manager) functions, such as a calendar and address book. Some manufacturers are trying to solve the small keyboard problem by replacing the keyboard with an electronic pen. However, these penbased devices rely on handwriting recognition technologies, which are still in their infancy. Hand-held computers are also called PDAs, palmtops and pocket computers. Palmtop A small computer that literally fits in your palm. Compared to full-size computers, palmtops are severely limited, but they are practical for certain functions such as phone books and calendars. Palmtops that use a pen rather than a keyboard for input are often called hand-held computers or PDAs. Because of their small size, most palmtop computers do not include disk drives. However, many contain PCMCIA slots in which you can insert disk drives, modems, memory, and other devices. Palmtops are also called PDAs, hand-held computers and pocket computers.