Talk:Minicomputer

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Photo request[edit]

(Request made by "Deglr6328" on article page, moved to correct position by Fourohfour).

Minicomputer == personal computer? I'd disagree[edit]

I started editing this article and quickly realized that I disagree with its central premise, which is that the minicomputer range has been (completely?) replaced by the personal computer and PC-derived servers.

Although the low end server space is robust and growing and is indeed based on systems that are essentially racked PCs, there is still a class of systems that are not PCs, and are not mainframes: the high-end SPARC, POWER, and Itanium systems from Sun, IBM and HP. Although these systems are pushing way up into the mainframe space, and are often promoted as "mainframe class," they're still not mainframes. They're also still a significantly different architecture from PC-based servers, although there's a growing similarity. I'd argue that these are the heirs to the minicomputer niche in the server ecosystem.

Before overhauling the article, I thought I'd see if anyone wanted to kick this around for a bit, but if no one else cares, I'll probably come back and make some significant changes in a few days.

In the end, I think the article should focus on the historical mainframes of the '70s and '80s, but there does need to be an explanation of how the industry has evolved since then.--NapoliRoma 20:27, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Terminology/Timeline[edit]

Agree also with the previous post, there should be little difficulty differentiating between minicomputer systems and personal computers, at least throughout the 1980's and 1990's. It was mostly an architectural distinction: at first minicomputers were 16 and 32 bit while the PC was 8 or 16 bit. The minicomputer was designed for multi-user, multi-tasking use with a very fast backplane and intelligent driver cards which would support large amount of peripherals, including disk and other types of storage. For the most part, it was the latter 1990's when microcomputer-based servers began to approach this type of power, and even into this decade for the typical desktop computer. Think of the minicomputer as the rack mounted PC server with multiple CPUs and you get an idea of the relative power and capability. It's also worth noting that many large companies are still quite happily running their minicomputers, for example look at how many very large OpenVMS or IBM System1 (AS/400) systems are in use.

Also, the section titled "Mid-1980s, 1990s: The minis give way to the micros" correctly speaks of the decline of the minicomputer but as I worked in this industry from the early 1980's onward I would disagree with the timeline. My perspective will be skewed to large corporate environments, small offices were more likely to move quickly to a PC-based solution because they didn't have a mainframe or even a minicomputer.

I cannot think of a lot of cases where minicomputers were replaced with networked workstations/servers/PCs in the 80's. Throughout the 1980's the PC was really not a business class machine but it did start appearing in corporate environments as a custom 'one-of' solution where a local application or database might needed that had no connection to a corporate network, to control specific technical systems (instrumentation, manufacturing systems, etc). By mid-1980's our ratio of PCs to mainframe/minicomputer terminals was about 5 PCs in 1000 desktops or less than 1%.

Even at the start of the 90's the wide use of terminal emulation (which was finally mature enough to be useful) allowed more dumb terminals to be removed but serious computing was still relegated to the minicomputer - often as a departmental- or site-based resource that still connected to a mainframe with corporate data. By that point a local workgroup might in fact have their own server, for example a group doing computer assisted design (CAD) might have a CAD application server and 'power' desktop systems, but in most corporate environments the data was very often served from a minicomputer (or even through a version control system on a mainframe).

So, the issue of desktop versus server (similar to mainframe) is one that could use some explanation and I would also agree that the newer content could be moved elsewhere, a chart or table showing the progression might be good.

Suggestions about how much of this should be added to balance the PC-centric side of this topic are also welcome.

CRM384 (talk) 22:46, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Commented-out paragraph[edit]

I moved this paragraph from the article to here for consideration (edit comments don't belong in the article itself). I moved it from the bottom of the "The minicomputer’s industrial impact and heritage" section:

<!-- the following pgph is redundant wrt the above; could perhaps be 'merged'(?) --wernher -->
<!-- --<
Today at the turn of the millennium few minicomputers are still in use, having been overtaken by Fourth Generation computers built using a more robust version of the microprocessor technology that is used in personal computers. These are referred to as “servers,” taking the name from the server software that they run (typically file server and back-end database software, including email and web server software).

Do with it what you may... — Frecklefσσt | Talk 14:51, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Millicomputer?[edit]

Would I be correct in assuming minicomputers (1950s-1960s-early 1970s) were misnomers for machines that executed a singular instruction in a matter of milliseconds?

Would I be correct in assuming that microcomputers (late 1970s-1980s-1990s) are misnomers for personal computers that executed a singular instruction in a matter of microseconds?Anwar (talk) 20:39, 7 May 2008 (UTC)

No on both counts :) Lynbarn (talk) 13:44, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

New meaning of "minicomputer"[edit]

Recently, it seems that at least some of the IT press has reinvented the term "minicomputer", this time meaning a small microcomputer. Whereas the typical modern desktop (not laptop) microcomputer is about half a metre tall and weighs several kilogram, I figure a new "mini-microcomputer", what the press is already calling a "mini", would be only a few decimetres tall and weigh less than a kilogram. JIP | Talk 11:46, 10 May 2008 (UTC)

My quick Google search suggests that the press is using the terms "mini-computer" or "mini computer", not "minicomputer". I do not think that "minicomputer" is being redefined, just that the new terms are similair. Rilak (talk) 12:44, 10 May 2008 (UTC)
If it's just a matter of punctuation, I think the difference is fairly trivial, and so the terms could be confused. JIP | Talk 12:48, 10 May 2008 (UTC)
Yes, it could be confused. However, "minicomputer" has a "formal" definition, whereas "mini computer" and variants of do not, AFAIK. I suppose you were thinking of adding something for clarification? I say go for it if the potential for confusion is that great. Rilak (talk) 06:23, 8 November 2008 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

I find recent edits to be of concern. The source provided does not explicitly describe the IBM 1130 as a "minicomputer", so why the claim that it was the first successful one? Rilak (talk) 08:49, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

A few fixups[edit]

Fixed up a formatting error (no idea why it happened, looked completely wrong on my screen), broke up that part into a bit more readable chunk and fixed a simple typo... - Aereus Pestifer (talk) 02:46, 15 September 2009 (UTC)

PDP-8 introduction date appears wrong.[edit]

The article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDP-8 says the PDP-8 was introduced on 22 March 1965. Since the article does not give an exact date then I think the 1964 should be changed to 22 March 1965.

Eddyq (talk) 17:40, 27 August 2010 (UTC)eddyq

Multiuser?[edit]

I don't think the term "multiuser" belongs in the definition of minicomputer. The early minicomputers did not have this capability when introduced and it is primarily a matter of software, not hardware. Standard sources (OED, Britannica) do not mention multiuser. Also the term minicomputer as defined here is obsolete. A Google search shows no current usage. If anything the term "mini" is coming to mean a smaller PC or laptop.--agr (talk) 15:34, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

Mainframe-Mini-Micro[edit]

Having been there in the late 60s, 70s and early 80s, and programing on all three platforms. The minis like the main frames had propriety operating system. And when CP/M and MS-DOS came on the scene, this gave the hardware the opportunity of sharing software written for the operating system to be shared.

The shared operating systems of the microcomputer at the end of the 70s and early 80s, gave the "Software" companies the rise above the "Hardware" companies, i.e. Microsoft Corporation, Lotus Corporation, Ashton-Tate to name a few in this era.

I also do not see there is any mention of the minicomputers created for many of the corporations for their own use, then put on the market for other businesses. i.e. General Electric, Lockheed, and Singer to name a few.

Zarcom (talk) 09:32, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

In my humble opinion, the description of "mini-computer" missed the boat entirely. In the technological progression of the time (late 1950s - early 60s) transistors were in general use. By the beginning of the 60s logic design had entered the "discrete component" phase. Vacuum tubes had been replaced by transistors, but there were much greater advantages to be gained than simple substitution of transistors for tubes. Besides the tremendous difference in reliability over tubes there was an enormous savings in production costs; a transistor had 3 solder able leads, a vacuum tube base many more - 5 to 9 were pretty common. But it was quickly recognized that the circuit design goal was not to deal with components, but functions. So a whole new industry developed to supply "logic/function cards" populated with logical "gates, invertors, and amplifiers" to the manufacturers of computers and control devices (who generally held patents on the foundation designs). Companies like TI, DEC, SDS became leaders in producing a wide range of standardized logic cards. A lot (most?) digital design of the era was done writing Boolean equations representing the input and output signals, then searching the suppliers handbooks for the best solution translated into the appropriate collection of logic cards. After a few development iterations of the logic cards someone recognized that a computer could be designed around the existing logic card offerings. The architecture was different than mainframes (which were mostly based on the Erkert/Mauchly patents) and focused on a bus system of control and data flow within the computer. This distinction apparently opened the doors for marketing them without conflict with the patents that restricted "mainframe" competition. Eventually the function of the 'logic cards" was swept into the design of integrated circuits and the rest is history: enter the PC. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.191.131.193 (talk) 15:54, 30 January 2013 (UTC)

We need a basic definition[edit]

Someone above mentioned there is a formal definition of a minicomputer. This definition should probably be listed. I disagree with this bit: "the contemporary term for this class of system is "midrange computer", such as the higher-end SPARC, Power Architecture and Itanium-based systems from Oracle, IBM and Hewlett-Packard." Midrange, for me, is the IBM word for a minicomputer. It is still in use for POWER systems running i or AIX. You could almost argue that the contemporary word for minicomputer is server, but not quite as not all minicomputers were used like servers. Any modern use, like small form factor microcomputers is not relevant for this article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2A02:908:180:F6C0:35F3:BEFE:542D:DF60 (talk) 07:03, 15 July 2017 (UTC)