Use this information below to answer the questions on your Microcomputers handout!


It is difficult to overstate the impact of the microcomputer on the computer industry. In 1975, the microcomputer did not exist; today microcomputers generate more than $75 billion in sales each year. The microcomputer segment of the industry is complex; there are different types of microcomputer platforms with varying capabilities.

The most common type of microcomputer is a desktop computer, a non-portable personal computer that fits on top of a desk. The desktop microcomputer market is divided among three types of computers: Apple, IBM, and IBM-compatible. At this point, Apple has about 30 percent of the market, IBM about 25 percent, and IBM-compatibles most of the remainder. Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola joined to develop the PowerPC chip, which will enable Apple computers to run IBM applications and vice versa. Implications of this chip on the desktop market are enormous.

The boundary between workstations and personal computers is becoming less distinct. Today’s best personal computers are more powerful and offer more precise displays than the workstations of the recent past. This distinction may become all but meaningless in the future. At the same time, the most powerful workstations are blurring the distinction between workstations and minicomputers. These workstations can be equipped so that more than one person can use the workstation at once, in effect making the workstation a minicomputer.

People sometimes refer to a personal computer as a microcomputer, a computer that uses a microprocessor for its processing circuitry. The term microcomputer originated in the late 1970s, when the only computers that used microprocessors were PCs. But today all kinds of computers use microprocessors. By this definition, most of today’s computers, including some mainframes, are microcomputers. But people usually mean PC when they use the term microcomputer.

For many people, the abbreviation PC refers only to an IBM of IBM-compatible personal computer. When IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981, the firm chose the name IBM Personal Computer-IBM PC, for short-for the product. You may still hear people say something like "Oh, she’s not using a PC, she’s using a Macintosh." As the people at Apple Computer are fond of pointing out, though, both the IBM PC and the Macintosh are personal computers.



The first portable computers were dubbed "luggables," and for good reason. They weighed as much as 28 pounds. Soon, reduction in size created the laptop computer, a more compact unit weighing roughly 10 to 12 pounds. As many people discovered to their dismay, however, 10 pounds can seem like 20 if you must carry a laptop through a large airport or for any long distance.

Portable computing came of age with the creation of notebook computers, portable computers that are small enough to fit into an average sized briefcase. At first, these computers were underpowered and didn’t offer adequate storage. Today, new models offer as much processing power and storage as many desktop personal computers. Weighing six to eight pounds, notebooks have become very popular. Some people use notebooks instead of desktop computer.

A docking station gives you the best of both worlds; you can use the notebook as a portable then plug it into the docking station to access peripherals, such as printers and monitors. Subnotebooks sacrifice some storage and processing capability to bring the total weight down to three or four pounds.

Palmtop computers, sometimes called picocomputers, offer reduced size with reduced capabilities. Although some palmtops are general-purpose, many are special-purpose personal information managers. Special-purpose palmtops that keep phone directories and calendars and provide calculator capabilities are known as personal digital assistants (PDAs). A PDA is a special-purpose computer that you can use to schedule appointments, retrieve frequently used phone numbers, and jot down notes. Most PDAs are designed to accept written input by a pen; the PDA decodes what you write.

Smart cards look like ordinary credit cards but incorporate a microprocessor and memory chips. Smart cards were developed and pioneered in France about twenty years ago and are being used extensively throughout Europe. Smart cards are used to pay highway tolls, pay bills, and purchase merchandise. In France, the telecarte has virtually replaced pay telephone booths. The telecarte, which costs $7.50, is inserted into the phone, and the charge for the call is automatically deducted from the value stored on the card. Smart cards that hold personal medical history for use in an emergency are currently being tested in the United States.


Did you know that you may have as many as a dozen computers in your home? These computers are embedded computers. They are built into special-purpose devices, such as video game players, microwave ovens, "smart" toasters, videocassette recorders, wristwatches, programmable furnace thermostats, and "smart" alarm clocks. In these devices, the computer is given just one task, such as getting you out of bed at the right time on Thursday morning.

If you are looking for more computers in your home, check your garage. Many people don’t realize that today’s cars use tiny computers to control the engine. The use of these computers has helped designers create engines that use less fuel and produce less pollution that yesterday’s gas guzzlers.



Last updated  2008/09/28 02:26:40 CDTHits  2724