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A minicomputer is an intermediate computer, in terms of size and power between the mainframes and the microcomputers The term ‘minicomputer’ is now obsolete and the computers that fall in this category are now referred to as midrange servers.

Sun Microsystems has a set of computers that also fall into this category but they have decided to call them midframe servers, to signify the fact that their architecture is based on the mainframe technology.


Minicomputers are cheaper than mainframes and support less users simultaneously (between 4 and 200).

The first commercial minicomputer, the PDP-8 was made in 1965 by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). They soon followed this with the commercially successful PDP-11 and VAX. Other minicomputers manufacturers such as Digital General, Hewlett Packard, Prime and Wang also found success with their own products in the 1970s.

The availability of cheap minicomputers in the 1970s enabled healthcare organisations to introduce departmental information systems (radiology information systems, lab information systems, etc). However at the time of their introduction, many of these systems were interoperable. It was not until the introduction of information exchange standards such as DICOM, that they would stop being isolated islands of information.

Today’s minicomputers are far more sophisticated and cheaper than their earlier counterparts and their uses are no longer restricted to be being departmental information systems as small to medium sized organisations can now afford to have them form the backbone of organisation-wide computer systems and double up as Internet and e-mail servers.



International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

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Last Updated: 10 August 2006.

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