Types of Computer | Classification, Example

We can classify computers into various types based on the purpose, technology, used, size, and storage capacity. We have already discussed the six types of computer based on the historical development.

Now we will understand different types of computer based on the other criteria.

Types of Computer based on Purpose

According to the utilization of computer for different uses, there are two types of computer. They are:

  • General-purpose computers
  • Specific purpose computers

General-purpose computers

A general-purpose computer, as the name suggests, is a type of computer that can perform a wide range of general tasks, such as analysis, invoicing, management information, financial accounting, inventory, etc.

These computers have the capability to store numerous programs and instructions. Almost all the computers used in your homes, schools, offices for commercial, educational, entertainment, communication, and other applications are the examples of general purpose of computers. Such computers are versatile, but they generally have lack speed and efficiency.

In 1830, a British mathematician, Charles Babbage (also known as the father of a modern computer) developed a theoretical mechanical computer called Analytical Engine. This engine was considered as the first general purpose computer in the world.

In 1946, Professors John Eckert and John Mauchly of the Moore School of Engineering at the university of Pennsylvania USA, invented the general-purpose electronic digital computers named ENIAC. The full form of ENIAC is Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.

Specific purpose computers

A specific purpose computer is a type of computer designed to handle a specific problem, to perform a special task or a set of tasks.

This type of computer generally used in the scientific applications and research, weather forecasting, space applications, medical diagnostic, satellite tracking, air traffic control, etc.

A set of instructions and programs are built in this types of computer machine to perform a specific task. Hence, we cannot use specific purpose computers for other applications unless their circuits redesigned. However, these computers provide the result very quickly and efficiently for the specific tasks.

In 1960, IBM invented the first specific purpose computer named IBM System/360. It was a family of mainframe computers that were designed to be compatible with each other and could be configured for specific applications.

Classification of Computer based on Data-handling Techniques

Different types of computer process the data in a different technique. According to the basic data handling technique, we can classify the computers into three categories: analog, digital, and hybrid.

Analog Computers

An analog computer is a kind of special purpose computer that store data in continuously varying physical quantities, such as current, voltage, or frequency. This type of computer usually works on the principle of measuring, in which measurements acquired are interpreted into desired data.

Modern analog computers usually utilize some electrical parameters, such as current, voltage, and resistance to represent the measures being used.

Analog computers are programmed for measuring physical quantities like temperature, pressure, voltage, speed, and to perform calculations on these measurements. Such computers do not work directly with numbers. They directly get data from the measuring device without first converting it into codes and numbers.

For example, the petrol pump indicator is an analog computer that converts the flow of pumped petrol into two measurements: the quantity of petrol and the price of that quantity.

We usually use analog computers for scientific and engineering purposes. Analog computers process the analog data that is continuous data and changes continuously. It does not have discrete values.

One of the main characteristics of these computers is that they give the approximate results because they deal with physical quantities that vary continuously.

The major advantage of using analog computers is that they are very fast in operation, since they perform all the calculations in parallel mode. We can easily get the graphical results directly using an analog computer. However, the accuracy of analog computers is something less.

Some familiar examples of analog computers are as:

  • Mercury thermometer, where the mercury moves up or down as the temperature varies.
  • Speedometer, where the position of a needle on dial represents the car’s speed.
  • Petrol pump indicator
  • Multimeter

Digital Computers:

A digital computer is a type of general purpose computer that store data in discrete quantities or numbers. Such computers process the data, including text, audio, graphics, and videos, into a digital value or binary digits 0s and 1s.

When a user enters data in decimal or character form, it is converted into binary digits (0s and 1s). In digital computers, an analog quantity converts into digital quantity before processing and gives the output in digital form.

If we desire analog output, the digital output has to be converted into analog quantity. The components that perform these conversions, are the important parts of the digital computers.

The main advantage of using digital computers is that they give the results with more accuracy at a faster rate. These computers allow us to store a large amount of data or information and to retrieve it easily whenever we need it.

We can easily add a new feature to digital computers when we need. Digital computers process the data digitally at a high speed. They are highly reliable, as they use error correction codes.

The classic example of a digital computer is the desktop PC at your home. However, almost all the computers used presently are the examples of digital computers.

Hybrid Computers:

A hybrid computer is a specific type of computer that incorporates the features of both analog and digital computers. It stores and processes the analog signals that convert into discrete numbers with the help of analog-to-digital converters.

It can also convert digital numbers into analog signals using digital-to-analog computers. We usually use such computers in artificial intelligence (robotics), airplanes, hospitals, scientific applications, various fields of engineering and industrial control processes.

The major advantage of using hybrid computers is that its computing speed is very high because of all-parallel configuration of the analogue sub-computer systems.

These computers give precise and quick results with great accuracy. They have the ability to solve and manage big equation in real-time. They also help in the on-line data processing.

Types of Computer based on Size and Storage

According to the physical size, memory or storage capacity, performance, and application areas, we can divide computers generally into four major categories. They are as:

  • Micro computer
  • Mini computer
  • Mainframe computer
  • Super computer

Micro computers:

A micro computer is a general-purpose computer that is designed for personal use. It is a small in size, and inexpensive digital computer system. We also know it as a personal computer (PC).

It usually consists of a microprocessor as a central processing unit, memory, storage area, input and output units. Nowadays, microcomputers are becoming very popular because of high processing power and memory. Therefore, they are used in various fields, such as homes, schools, shops, banks, offices, etc.

Characteristics of a microcomputer:

There are the following characteristics of a microcomputer. They are:

  • The microcomputer is the smallest among all types of computers.
  • We can install a limited number of software on the microcomputer.
  • A micro computer is designed especially for personal work and applications. A single user only can work at a time.
  • It is available at less cost and is easy to use.
  • User does not need to have special skills or training to use a microcomputer.
  • A micro computer is capable of multitasking, such as browsing, playing games, listening to music, watching moves and videos, sprinting, scanning, etc.

Types of Personal or Microcomputers

There are mainly three types of microcomputers. They are:

  • Desktop computer
  • Laptop
  • Handheld computer

A desktop computer is a personal computer (PC) or microcomputer that is fixed on a desk or table. We cannot move it from one place to another place very easily. It is the most common microcomputer.

It usually consists of a system unit, a display monitor, a keyboard, mouse, RAM, internal hard disk storage, and other peripheral devices. A desktop computer is generally cheaper than a laptop. It is easy to use and is more affordable.

Application of desktop computer:

We can use the desktop computer in various fields, such as teaching, entertainment, accounting, statistical analysis, graphic designing, project management, etc.

A laptop (also known as a notebook) is a portable computer that a user can easily carry it anywhere with from one place to another. It possesses all the basic features of a normal desktop computer.

A laptop integrates most of the typical components of a desktop computer, including a display monitor, touchpad, keyboard, and speaker into a single unit.

The biggest advantage of a laptop is that it is a thin, and very lightweight, so a user can easily carry it anywhere and at anytime, specially when we travel. A laptop computer is more expensive than a desktop computer with the same configuration because it is difficult to design and manufacture it.

A handheld computer, also called personal digital assistant (PDA) is a type of microcomputer that is small enough to be held in one’s hand and can conveniently be stored in a pocket.

It is a small computing device that has a display screen and touch input or miniature keyboard. Some familiar examples of handheld computers are smart phone, tablet, and game console.


A minicomputer is a midsize multiprocessing computer that lies in between mainframe and microcomputers. It has high storage capacity and a higher processing speed than a microcomputer but is lower than a mainframe.

It usually consists of two or more processors and around 4 to 200 users can work simultaneously using multi terminals, time-sharing systems.

Minicomputers are generally used in mi-sized businesses, government departments, institutes, universities and R&D departments. Some examples of minicomputers are PDP-11, DEC, IBM SERIES/1, etc.

Characteristics of miniframe or minicomputer:

There are the following characteristics or features of miniframe or minicomputer that are as:

  • A minicomputer is lightweight that makes it easy to carry and fit anywhere.
  • It has larger disks and larger memory space than a microcomputer.
  • Its processing speed is usually faster than a microcomputer.
  • It is available at a higher cost than a microcomputer. Its cost is several lakh rupees.
  • It can support thousands of users with separate terminals. Therefore, it is multi-user systems.
  • A minicomputer does not need a controlled operational environment.

Applications of minicomputers:

Some of the applications of minicomputers are as:

  • We use a minicomputer when the volume of processing data is large for a medium-sized organization.
  • We can use it to process and monitor the production process.
  • We can use it to analyze the results of experiments in laboratories.
  • A miniframe computer can be used as servers in LANs (Local Area Networks).

Mainframe computer:

A mainframe computer is a multi-user, multi-programming, and ultra high performance computer that operates at a very high speed. It has a very large storage capacity and can handle the workload of hundreds or thousands of users simultaneously. It is the second largest computer in capability and size of the computer family.

The mainframe computer comprises a high end powerful processor with related peripheral devices like hard disk, magnetic tape, VDU, telecommunication terminals, large main memory and a large secondary storage memory.

Mainframe computers are large and powerful system used mainly by large organization governments, banks, hospitals, etc. They are generally used in the centralized databases that can be accessed through one or more terminals.


A supercomputer is a special-purpose machine that is very powerful, expensive, very big in size, and the fastest computers till today. It consists of thousand of connected microprocessors that can work in parallel to perform extremely complex mathematical calculations.

Supercomputers are generally used in the various fields, such as defense, weather forecasting, nuclear energy research, aircraft design, and other fields of science and technology.

The speed of a supercomputer is generally measured in billions/trillions of instructions per seconds or FLOPS (floating point operations per second).

Therefore, the fastest supercomputers can do trillions of calculations per seconds. Some familiar examples of supercomputers are Param 8000, 9000, and 10000, developed by C-DAC (Center for Development of Advanced Computing) in Pune, India.

Comparison between types of Computer

(1) Microcomputer:

  • Physical size: fits in hand on lap or on desktop
  • Processing speed: slow up to 400 MIPS
  • Cost: thousands
  • Number of users: usually one or more if networked.
  • Applications: home, office, schools, colleges, small business, etc.

(2) Minicomputer:

  • Physical size: small cabinet
  • Processing speed: medium up to 1000 MIPS
  • Cost: thousands to lakhs
  • Number of users: Up to several hundreds
  • Applications: large multi-user systems, manufacturing processes, hospital admin, teaching systems in college.

(3) Mainframe computer:

  • Physical size: computer needs a partial room
  • Processing speed: fast, up to several thousand MIPS
  • Cost: lakhs to crores
  • Number of users: hundreds to thousands
  • Applications: scientific calculations, data processing for large business, teaching systems in universities, etc.

(4) Supercomputer:

  • Physical size: entire room for equipment
  • Processing speed: superfast, up to 10,000 MIPS
  • Cost: crores and more
  • Number of users: hundreds to thousands
  • Applications: weather forecasting, weapon design, aircraft design, biomedical applications.

In this tutorial, we have discussed different types of computer with examples. Hope that you will have understood the basic points of classification of computers based on the purpose, technology used, size and storage capacity.
Thanks for reading!!!

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