Microcomputers in Business: Definition & Uses

Microcomputers in Business: Definition & Uses
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  • 0:03 Background on Computers
  • 2:05 Modern Computers
  • 2:57 Uses for Personal Computers
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

Microcomputer is a term you rarely hear anymore, sort of like video cassette recorder. What used to be referred to as a microcomputer is now called a personal computer. In this lesson, we'll discuss the use of personal computers in business.

Background on Computers

Once upon a time, not that long ago (say 50 years), computers were big - really big. They took up whole rooms and were built into large racks or frames to hold all of the components. That's where the term mainframe came from, which we still use today to refer to a large, multi-user and multi-purpose computer system.

As people got smarter about technology, they were able to build smaller components. Only large companies could afford mainframes anyway, so computer companies started working on smaller, more affordable systems. They still had some things in common with a mainframe:

  • Central Processing Unit (CPU) - Think of the CPU as the computer's brain, where the thinking and calculations occur. Sometimes computers have more than one processor.

  • Memory - Think of a computer using memory in the same way you use a scratchpad while you solve a math problem. A computer loads programs (instructions) into memory so they're close at hand when the CPU needs them. You usually hear this expressed as RAM (random access memory).

  • Operating System (OS) - The basic software pre-loaded on the device so you can communicate with it. Think Apple iOS today.

  • Input/Output (I/O) - You need a way to get information into a computer and to communicate with it (input, maybe a keyboard). The computer's work product (result) is the output. A printer is an example of an output device.

  • Storage - Storage is where you put your work results so that you have them later when you need them. Think of a disk drive, or hard drive (or HDD as it's better known).

These smaller, less expensive computer systems were known as minicomputers. Technology kept improving over time, and by the late 1970s, it became possible to build even smaller computers that would be useful and affordable for just one person. These were the first microcomputers, so called because of their size relative to mainframes and minicomputers.

Modern Computers

For comparison's sake, the smartphone in your pocket is many times more powerful than the computers NASA used to guide astronauts to the moon in 1969. Because of that, businesses utilize many more types of personal computing devices now - tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and smartphones are all part of the business toolkit.

What benefits do businesses get from employees using personal computing devices? Computers can make people more productive. For example, it's easier to track your time and expenses on your smartphone than to manually fill out forms or reports. You can communicate with your customers via email and send them special offers. You can use personal computing devices to interact with other companies; small businesses can appear larger by using document software to create professional-looking documentation.

Uses for Personal Computers

How do people use personal computers in a business? Let's look at some common ways:

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