minicomputer - Computer Definition
Synonymous with midrange computer. A medium-size computer that is less capable than a mainframe, but more so than a microcomputer.A minicomputer is designed to handle intensive and complex computational tasks, support a large number of users, and make use of large volumes of secondary storage. Minicomputers commonly are networked and share computational tasks in a distributed processing architecture. A minicomputer often is used as a front-end processor (FEP), managing the interface between a wide area network and a mainframe, and serving to manage user access privileges, deal with security issues, and otherwise relieve the mainframe of routine tasks. See also Internet, LAN, mainframe computer, and personal computer.
(1) An earlier medium-scale, centralized computer that functioned as a multiuser system for up to several hundred users. The minicomputer industry was launched in 1959 after Digital Equipment Corporation introduced its PDP-1 for USD $120,000, an unheard-of low price for a computer in those days. Subsequently, a variety of minicomputer systems became available from HP, Data General, Wang, Tandem, Datapoint, Prime Computer, Varian Data and Scientific Data Systems. The single user mini evolved into a centralized system with dumb terminals for departmental use. During the 1980s and early 1990s, most centralized minicomputers migrated from their dumb terminal architecture into servers for PC networks. The terms "midrange computer" and "server" replaced the venerable minicomputer designation. See midrange computer.
(2) An earlier term for a high-end, single-user workstation, typically for CAD use.