Unit 10: Recognizing Different Types of Computers

Listen to the recording as you read the text. Then complete the activities.

In this unit you will learn about different types of computers and what makes them unique.

Computers were not always things you could carry around with you, or even have in your bedroom. Sixty years ago, computers ( such as ENIAC ) were as big as entire apartments. They were difficult to use and not very powerful by today's standards. They also cost a lot of money to build and operate. So computers were only used by large organizations such as governments, international corporations, and universities.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, computers captured the public's imagination in literature, films, and TV. More and more companies wanted computers, even if they didn't always have a good reason to own one. As a result, computers gradually became smaller, cheaper, and more practical to own. This was thanks in part to companies like IBM, which mass-produced computers for the first time and promoted them to medium and large businesses to do things like payroll, accounting, and other number-crunching tasks.

In the 1970s and 1980s a new type of computer started to gain in popularity. It was called the PC or personal computer. For the first time in history, computers were now for everyone. The PC started a revolution which affects nearly everything we do today. The ways we work, play, communicate, and access information have all been radically reshaped due to the invention and evolution of the PC.

PCs are everywhere you look today. At home, at the office, and everywhere in between. Many people still mistakenly believe the term PC is synonymous with a desktop computer running Windows. This is not really true. Really, any computer you use by yourself for general purposes could be called a PC. You probably already own at least one of these types of PCs:

- laptop
- desktop computer
- PDA or personal digital assistant
- workstation

Besides PCs, there are other types of computers you probably see at work or school. These include:

- file servers
- print servers
- web servers

But not all types of computers are so obvious as the ones above. There are still other kinds of computers that fit inside of other devices and control them. These computers are known as embedded systems.

Embedded systems can be found in traffic lights, TV sets, refrigerators, coffee machines and many more devices. Embedded systems are typically controlled by inexpensive, specialized processors which can only handle very specific tasks.

Types of computers go in and out of fashion as times changes. Older kinds of computers which were very popular in the 20th century ( 1900's ) are now referred to as legacy systems. These include:

- mainframes
- minicomputers
- IBM clones

New types of computers are always coming out and replacing or augmenting existing computer types. Examples of new types of computers emerging would be netbooks, tablet PCs, and even wearable computers.

As you complete this unit, you will learn to differentiate between different computer types. Keep in mind that the lines between computer types are constantly being blurred. This phenomenon is known as convergence.

Now continue to the Activities