Few can go about their daily routine without depending on some type of computer to help them along. While there are many kinds of computers, all computers share a common set of components including a central processing unit, memory, a storage device, an input device (keyboard/mouse), and an output device (monitor).
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Desktop computers are the most common type of personal computer, or PC, designed to be used by one user. These models get their name for their ability to fit nicely on most desks, and include a monitor, keyboard, mouse and plastic case that houses all of the internal components. Desktops are designed to be used for everyday applications, including surfing the Internet, playing video games and word processing.
Complete with flat-panel displays and under six pounds, laptop computers are optimized for mobile users. Capable of the same functions as desktops, but more expensive because of their compact size, laptops are ideal for anyone who needs the power of a desktop combined with portability.
Netbooks are much smaller, lighter and portable versions of laptop computers that are primarily designed for wireless Web browsing. Due to their size, netbooks often have very small displays that average 10.1 inches, and include the minimal amount of memory and storage space that are necessary to run applications.
Current hand-held computers, such as smart phones like the popular iPhone, provide a combination of many functions in one device, including organizers, calendar features, word processing, email, audio player, and Web browsing. Personal digital computers or PDAs are another common type of hand-held computer.
Computer devices that can be worn on a person's body, such as a digital watch, are called wearable computers. This type of computer is also used by physicians to monitor a person's health characteristics as in the case of a heart monitor.
Workstations typically have large monitors that are capable of displaying high-resolution graphics, large amounts of internal memory to process complex data, and big hard drives for data storage. These qualities make workstations ideal for use by engineers, architects, animators and software developers who require a substantial amount of computing muscle and high-quality graphics.
Communications between computers connected to the Internet or another kind of network are processed by servers. Server computers make email, Web surfing and downloading possible.
Often taking up the size of a large room or entire floor, mainframes are giant, expensive computers that are mainly designed to be able to process multiple tasks performed by hundreds or thousands of users at once. Corporations employ mainframes for applications that are vital to their business, including statistical analysis and financial transactions.
Minicomputers, sometimes called mid-range servers, are less powerful than mainframes and often more powerful than personal computers. This type of computer has strong multiprocessing capabilities and can support up to 200 users at one time.
Primarily used to perform vast amounts of numerical calculations at great speeds, supercomputers contain the latest and most expensive technologies available. Supercomputers are used in a variety of specialized applications including forecasting weather, nuclear energy research, and analyzing geological data.