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