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A minicomputer (colloquially, mini) is a class of multi-user computers that lies in the middle range of the computing spectrum, in between the largest multi-user systems (mainframe computers) and the smallest single-user systems (microcomputers or personal computers). The class at one time formed a distinct group with its own hardware and operating systems, but the contemporary term for this class of system is midrange computer, such as the higher-end SPARC, POWER and Itanium -based systems from Sun Microsystems, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.



1960s: Origin; 1970s: Market entrenchment

The term evolved in the 1960s to describe the "small" third generation computers that became possible with the use of integrated circuit and core memory technologies. They usually took up one or a few cabinets the size of a large refrigerator or two, compared with mainframes that would usually fill a room. The first successful minicomputer was Digital Equipment Corporation’s 12-bit PDP-8, which cost from US$16,000 upwards when launched in 1964. The important precursors of the PDP-8 include the PDP-5, LINC, the TX-0, the TX-2, and the PDP-1. Digital Equipment gave rise to a number of minicomputer companies along Massachusetts Route 128, including Data General, Wang Laboratories, Apollo Computer, and Prime Computer.

Mini computers were also known as midrange computers. They had relatively high processing power and capacity that mostly fit the needs of mid range organizations. They were used in manufacturing processes or handling email that was sent and received by a company. In the 70's they were the hardware that was used to launch the computer aided design, CAD, industry and other similar industries where a smaller dedicated system was needed.

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