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Mini Computers

Lying in the mid-range of the computer spectrum, mini computers are a range of multi-user computers that lie in between the largest multi-user systems and the smallest single-user systems.

At one point this class was part of a distinct group with its own hardware and operating systems, however this is currently known as the midrange computer.

Mini computers are not popularly used in modern times, however the majority of computer systems in use today have evolved from mini computers.

History of Mini Computers

The mini computer term was created in the 1960s as a way to describe small third generation computers that were released with the use of an integrated circuit and core memory technology. These mini computers actually took up one to a few cabinets that are the size of a big refrigerator, in comparison to the mainframes that filled an entire room.

The first of the mini computers that were introduced and was successful was the Digital Equipment Corporation's 12-bit PDP-8. Mini computers had a high processing power and a capacity that could mostly fit the requirements of mid-range organisations. Their original use was for manufacturing processes or for handling e-mail send and received by a company.

As the popularity of mini computers increased throughout the 70s they were used as the hardware to launch the Computer Aided Design (CAD) industry and other similar industries. During the 1980s the mini computers industry began to decline as a result of the lower cost microprocessor based hardware, as well as the introduction of cheaper, easily-deployed local area network (LAN) systems.

This combined with the desire of end-users to be less reliant on rigid mini computer manufacturers meant that the mini computers and the dumb terminals were replaced with network workstations, servers and PCs. The introduction of Intel systems and other advancements in the inexpensive PCs meant that mini computers were becoming increasingly less popular throughout the 1990s.

The Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was known to be the leading manufacturer in mini computers and at one time was the one of the largest of the computer companies, second to IBM. As the mini computer declined the DEC and many other manufacturers of mini computers collapsed, with DEC being taken over by the Compaq company in 1998.

There were several pioneers in the computer industry that first built mini computers, including the DEC, Data General and Hewlett-Packard (HP). Physically the contemporary PCs of today are actually mini computers, however architecturally their CPUs and operating systems are much higher evolved, incorporating features from mini computers.

In terms of software, the simple OSes for the early models of micro computers were generally inspired by mini computer OSes, and multiuser OSes in today's society are inspired by or directly descended from mini computer OSs . In context many of the huge computer features such as the Windows software have been based on mini computers and their components. They were pioneers in the computing industry and the majority of computer processing today lends ideas and design from mini computers.