Origin of the term minicomputer (was Re: PDP-1 as minicomputer

Tony Duell ard at p850ug1.demon.co.uk
Thu Aug 19 15:35:05 CDT 2010


> I stumbled upon an old photograph showing a model wearing a miniskirt 
> with a BMC Mini.  Egad, that was a homely car!

To go totally off-topic. there was a version of the Mini (car) with an 
automatic transmission. The transmisison was built in the engine oil 
sump, and used the engine oil as the hydraulic fluid. Apparently it 
didn't work all that well, but I think it's amazing they got it to work 
at all...

[FWIW, the full, official Mini workshop manual is on my bookshelf...]

> 
> So, were there any micro-minicomputers?  Midicomputers?  And more to 

Ias a 'MIDIcomputer' a computer with a certain current-loop serial 
interface? You know, like the Atari ST ? (Sorry, could NOT resist)

> the point, which was more exciting?  The miniskirt or the 
> minicomputer? 

You'rs asking _that_ on classiccmp? Well, cosnidiering I own between 10 
and 20 minicomoputers and not one miniskirt I would think the answer for 
me is obvious. Now, if you want to ask about what you find inside a 
minicomputer .vs. what you find inside a miniskirt, well, that's a 
different question. But I think I'd still go for the former...

I was thinking about the commonly used definitions of 'minicomputer' and 
'microcomputer. As with all such divisions, there are grey areas.... For 
example  :

What do you consider the DPP11/23 and PDP11/73 to be? (Remember the CPU 
is a small number of custom LSI chips).

And what about the Pro 350 and Pro 380 machines. Point being, they're 
desktop boxes abotu the size of a PC, but have the same CPU chips as the 
11/23 and 11/73 (F11 and J11 chipsets)

And what about my favourite, the HP9830? It's a desktop all-in-one 
machine. But the CPU is lots of small chips. There are 4 boards which are 
often considered to be the CPU boards, conitaing about 20 chips each, 
mostlu TTL, but with 9 256*4 PROMs. And there are some bits of the CPU 
(such as the memroy address and data registers) on other PCBs in the 
machine/ So perhaps 100 chips for the CPU in total, the most complex 
being things like dual 8-bit SISO shift registers, or the PROMs. By most 
defintions. that's a minicomputer, but it sure feels strange calling it 
one...

-tony



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