While a minicomputer sounds like a small computer, the name can be a bit misleading. In fact, minicomputers are several times the size of desktop PCs and are only one step below mainframes in the hierarchy of computer classes.

The term "minicomputer" was introduced in the 1960s to describe powerful computers that were not as large as mainframes, which sometimes could fill an entire room. Instead, most minicomputers were a few feet wide and several feet tall. They were primarily used by large businesses during the 1960s and 1970s to process large amounts of data. Some minicomputers also functioned as servers, allowing multiple users to access them from connected terminals.

As computer processors became smaller and more powerful, microcomputers began to rival minicomputers in processing power. Therefore, in the 1980s, minicomputers started becoming less relevant and eventually became obsolete. Today, rack-based servers perform similar functions to minicomputers.

Updated April 11, 2013 by Per C.

quizTest Your Knowledge

Monitor settings that are displayed on the screen are also called what?

Correct! Incorrect!     View the OSD definition.
More Quizzes →

The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

The definition of Minicomputer on this page is an original definition written by the team. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, please use the green citation links above.

The goal of is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about this definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.