Uses of a Microcomputer
By Shea Laverty
The term "microcomputer" is a somewhat antiquated descriptor for what we primarily know today as the "personal computer" – a small computer system that utilizes one or more microprocessors. These systems first gained this moniker due to their size; before smaller "microcomputers," computer equipment sometimes took up a whole room. While the term has fallen into disuse with the more common "personal computer," the term still applies to these computers.
As personal computers have become more affordable and accessible to the general public, the microcomputer has become a center for productivity, education and entertainment in the home. In addition to "standard" microcomputers that occupy desktops, microcomputing has become more widespread throughout the home with laptop computers, video game consoles and computerized electronics such as the "smart" TV. As computer technology continues to miniaturize, microcomputers are being built into increasingly novel locations, such as refrigerators, laundry machines and more.
Microcomputers now play a substantial role in the world of business. Almost every large company tasked with large amounts of data processing has a bank of microcomputers for their employees. The microcomputer has replaced most basic paperwork, and has become a fixture for design and architecture firms, film studios and many other businesses. The microcomputer is also a key element of business finance, with many small businesses using retail software on their microcomputers to calculate tax returns, manage invoices and sort out payroll.
Microcomputers also play a critical role in the medical field. From small private clinics to large hospitals, microcomputers are employed to manage patient histories. Care plans, procedure scheduling and more can all be processed on microcomputers – they can even serve as the interface for technicians using sophisticated equipment such as X-ray machines and magnetic resonance imaging devices.
Today, the term "microcomputer" is becoming more appropriate as a way to describe mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers. These often small devices are often as sophisticated as their desktop and laptop counterparts, while being compact enough to carry in a pocket. Most use specialized operating systems built on platforms originally designed for use in desktop computers. For example, the Android operating system designed by Google is built on a Linux platform, while Microsoft's Windows Phone is based on the Windows operating system.
In some cases, the term microcomputer is used to refer to a microcontroller. A microcontroller is essentially a small, functional computer system on a single integrated circuit. Microcontrollers contain a CPU processor core, program memory and programmable input/output connectors. These units are designed with embedded applications in mind – devices where a large system would be impractical or impossible. Microcontrollers are typically used in implantable medical devices, power tools, office appliances, toys and automobile engine control systems.