Difference Between Minicomputer and Supercomputer (With Table)

In a world where everything is getting digitalized day today, the computer plays a very important role in the contemporary era. The term “computer” simply stands for a machine that is programmed to carry out tasks to fulfill data sent by a user.

The computer has evolved for a long time and still evolving. Therefore, the computer can be classified in many ways. The microcomputer and supercomputer come in the category of differentiation based on size.

Minicomputer vs Supercomputer  

The difference between minicomputers and supercomputer is that minicomputers can cover up to a few 19-inch rack cabinets whereas supercomputers could fill a room. When it comes to power minicomputers are less powerful than mainframe or supercomputers.        

The word mini in minicomputer doesn’t stand for its power or size which is of low quality. It is used in labs for instrumentation systems and not for general-purpose. It was introduced to the world in the mid-1960s. After its great success in the mid-1960s, it started declining as a result mini vendors began to rapidly disappear at that period.                                                                             

Supercomputers come under the class of extremely powerful computers. It simply stands for the fastest high-performance systems available at any given time. It was launched in the 1960s. Although early supercomputers were built by various companies, one individual namely Seymour Cray, really defined the product almost from the start. He designed the CDC 6600 in 1964 which became the fastest computer in the world. 

Comparison Table Between Minicomputer and Supercomputer

Parameters of comparison Minicomputer  Supercomputer 
IntroducedIn mid-1960s.In 1960s.
Word Size8-18 bits.64 bits.
Speed Minicomputer speed range is of 10-30 MIPS.  Supercomputer speed range is of 100-900 MIPS. 
Memory Size32,000- 64,000 16bit words or 16,000- 32,000 32-bit words. 200 to 300 gigabytes. 
FulfillComputing needs of several people in small to medium- sized business.   Engineering problems and scientific calculating.

What is Minicomputer? 

A minicomputer is also called a mid-range computer because it is more powerful than a personal computer but less powerful than a mainframe or supercomputer.  In 1964, Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) launched 12-bit PDP-8 which was termed as a minicomputer. Highlighting features of PDP-8 are its small size, low price and fits for general purpose. 

Due to its success, the whole industry of minicomputer companies was set up in the mid-1960s. When 7400 series integrated circuits were launched led to integrated circuit design improvement. As a result, minicomputers benefited a lot in terms of size, manufacturing process, and expense. 

Mainly, they were used in order to control the manufacturing process and laboratory equipment. Later, several minis entered the market such as 24 and 32-bit. They referred to DEC’s 1977 VAX as a super minicomputer.  

With time, high-end computers offered performance just like low-end and mid-range minis. As a result, Motorola 68020, National semiconductor, and many more started hitting the market. Minis retained a force for those using existing software products or those who required high-performance multitasking. 

But the introduction of newer operating systems based on Unix began to become highly practical replacements for these roles as well. At last, led to rapidly disappearing through this period. In the contemporary world, only a few architectures of minicomputers survive.

What is Supercomputer?  

The supercomputer is also called a Mainframe computer. Its performance is measured in FLOPS which stands for floating operations per second. 

This is the first such machine that ran faster than more a general-purpose computer. With the passage of time, one to four processors and parallelism were added. 

One of the very first supercomputers, one of them is Livemore Atomic Research Computer (LARC) which was built by UNIVAC in 1960 for the US Naval Research Center. Also, IBM  7030 stretch is included in the first supercomputers, which is 100 times faster than as existing computer at that time. In 1955, IBM was launched for the Almos National Laboratory and completed in 1961.  

Atlas which was built by Tom and his team at the University of Manchester in the early 1960s considered the third supercomputer which was designed in order to operate at a processing speed of up to one million instructions per.  

Seymour Cray, after designing the fastest computer in the world namely CDC 6600 in 1964, left CDC to form his own company Cray Research in 1972. Cray delivered Cray-1 in 1976, which is considered one of the most successful supercomputers in history. Later, in 1985, Seymour Cray released Cray-2 which is the first supercomputer to break the gigflob barrier.  

Main Differences Between Minicomputer and Supercomputer 

  1. Minicomputer can cover up to a few 19-inch rack cabinets whereas a supercomputer could fill a room. 
  2. Minicomputers fulfill computing tasks such as scientific and engineering, database management, and business transaction processing. On the other hand, Supercomputer is used in applications related to engineering or scientific research, weather forecasting, aerospace, petroleum, and automotive industries. 
  3. The minicomputer speed range is 10-30 MIPS. In contrast, the Supercomputer speed range is 100-900 MIPS. 
  4. Minicomputer is very less expensive than Supercomputer as Supercomputer is quite expensive. 
  5. In terms of feet, Supercomputer can cover up to 5,600 sq. feet whereas a Mini-computer covers less than 0.6-meters (two feet) 

Conclusion 

The Minicomputer and the Supercomputer are two different computers based on their size and features. They both are excellent on their terms.

Minicomputers can support multi-users at a time where more than one user can work simultaneously or you can say that it consists of two or more processors. It can be a fast machine if you’re the only one using a minicomputer otherwise it slows down, once many users are “on” the system. 

In the contrast, supercomputers have a very large storage capacity, as well as fast input/output capability. They have more than the CPU (central processing unit), as it helps to achieve high computational rates is necessitated by the physical limits of circuit technology. It also uses vector arithmetic- i.e., they can operate on pairs of lists of numbers rather than on mere pairs of numbers. 

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3482085
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24966503
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