Basic Computing

Microcomputers: Definition, History, and More

Microcomputers are a marvel of technology, as they make the automatic processing of information possible in a comfortable and simple way. In this article you will learn about everything related to them, from their beginnings to current microcomputers. what is microcomputer

Microcomputers what is microcomputer

Microcomputers, also called microcomputers or microcomputers, are computers that have a microprocessor as the central processing unit, and that are configured to fulfill specific functions. Aspects such as the complexity of the system, power, operating system, standardization, versatility and price of the equipment, among others, depend on the microprocessor.

Basically, microcomputers constitute a complete system for personal use, which contains, in addition to the microprocessor, a memory and a series of information input and output components.

Finally, it is important to clarify that although microcomputers are often confused with personal computers, they are not the same. It could rather be said that the latter are part of the general classification of the former.

Source what is microcomputer

what is microcomputer
what is microcomputer

Microcomputers owe their origin to the need to bring small computers to homes and businesses. Which could be consolidated after the creation of microprocessors in 1971.

The first known prototype of a microcomputer, although it did not contain a microprocessor, but a set of microcircuits, became available in 1973. It was designed and built by the Xerox Research Center and was called Alto. The project was unsuccessful due to the level of technology that was required, but was not available at the time.

After this model, other initiatives emerged from the hand of other companies, including Apple. However, it was in 1975 that the first commercial personal microcomputer was sold. It was the Altair 8800, belonging to the MITS company. Although it lacked a keyboard, monitor, permanent memory, and programs, it quickly became a hit. It had switches and lights.

what is microcomputer
what is microcomputer

Later, in 1981, IBM released the first personal computer, called the IBM-PC, which was based on Intel’s 8080 microprocessor. This fact marked the beginning of a new era of computing, since from there more powerful models of microcomputers began to emerge, promoted by companies such as Compaq, Olivetti, Hewlett – Packard, among others.


Since the appearance of Alto, which contained an 875-line scanning screen, a 2.5 MB disk and an interface with a 3 Mbits / s Ethernet network, the technology has evolved, always taking into account the best aspects of each of the preceding models.

From this point of view, it can be said that the rise of microcomputers is mainly due to the fact that their technology is more advanced, compared to that of minicomputers and supercomputers. Its design and construction, including more powerful microprocessors, faster and more capable memory and storage chips, is achieved in shorter cycle times. In this way, they buy time for generations of other types of computers.

Finally, it should be clarified that as a consequence of technological advances, the term microcomputer is in disuse, since today most manufacturing companies include microprocessors in almost any type of computer.

features what is microcomputer

Microcomputers are a type of computer that has the following characteristics:

  • Its central component is the microprocessor, which is nothing more than an integrated circuit.
  • Its architecture is classical, built on a flow of control of operations and a language of procedures.
  • It presents built-in technology, which allows the intercommunication of its components.
  • Due to its compact design, it is easy to pack and move.

How do microcomputers work?

Microcomputers are capable of executing input, output, calculation and logic operations, through the following basic procedure:

  • Receipt of the data to be processed.
  • Execution of programmed commands for information processing.
  • Information storage, before and after its transformation.
  • Presentation of the results of data processing.

In other words, microcomputers use a format of instructions that allow them, by decoding them, to perform the necessary micro-operations to respond to user requests.

Thus, the instruction format includes an operation code, through which it indicates the addressing of each operand, that is, it defines a bit of an instruction, of the different elements that make it up.

For their part, micro-operations are the functional operations of the microprocessor, responsible for the reordering of instructions and the sequential execution of a program.

While through timing, the microcomputer manages to coordinate the events of the network of communication lines that connect the elements of the system.

Lastly, it is important to clarify what decoding means. Decoding is the process by which instructions are interpreted, in order to identify the operation to be carried out and the way to obtain the operands on which these orders must be executed.

Microcomputer hardware what is microcomputer

Hardware represents the physical components of microcomputers, that is, it is the tangible part of them. It is composed of the electrical and electromechanical devices, circuits, cables, and other peripheral elements that make the integral operation of the equipment possible.

In the case of microcomputers, it can refer to a single unit or to several separate devices.

In general terms, for the hardware to fulfill its functions, it requires the existence of the following components:

Input devices what is microcomputer

They are the units through which the user enters the data into the microcomputer, be it texts, sound, graphics or videos. Among them are: keyboard, mouse, microphone, video camera, voice recognition software, optical reader, etc.

Here are some details about the main input devices of a microcomputer:

  • Keyboard: It is the information input device par excellence. It allows communication between the user and the microcomputer, through the entry of data that will be transformed into recognizable models.
  • Mouse: Shares function with the keyboard, but can only perform related functions with one or two clicks. Transform physical movement into on-screen movements.
  • Microphone: Generally, it is a device integrated in most microcomputers, whose only function is to allow voice input.
  • Video camera: Useful for entering information in the form of photos and videos, but not useful for most programs run by microcomputers.
  • Voice recognition software: It is responsible for transforming the spoken word into digital signals that can be translated and interpreted by microcomputers.
  • Optical pen: It constitutes an electronic pointer by means of which the user modifies the information on the screen. It is used manually and works by means of sensors that send signals to the microcomputer each time light is registered.
  • Optical reader: It is similar to a stylus, but its main function is to read barcodes to identify products.
  • CD-ROM: It is a standard input device, which stores read-only computer files. It is not present in all microcomputers, but it is present in desktop computers.
  • Scanner: It is a device that can connect to desktop computers mainly. Digitize printed material to be stored on the microcomputer.

Output devices what is microcomputer

These are the units through which the microcomputers communicate the results obtained, after processing and transforming the data. In microcomputers the most common are screens and speakers.

  • Monitor: It is the most common information output unit. It consists of a screen where the data and instructions that are entered into the microcomputer are displayed. Through it it is also possible to observe the characters and graphics that are obtained after the transformation of the data.
  • Printer: It cannot be connected to all kinds of microcomputers, but it is one of the most widely used information output devices. It mainly reproduces, in the form of a copy, any type of information that is stored in the microcomputer.
  • Modem: Used to connect two computers, in such a way that they can exchange data between them. Similarly, it allows data to be transmitted through a telephone line.
  • Sound system: Generally, it represents integrated sound cards that amplify the audio contained in the multimedia material.
  • Speaker: Allows you to respond through the emission of sound.

In this regard, it is important to highlight that in the case of touch screens present in most current microcomputers, it works as an input and output device at the same time. Similarly, communication devices, which connect one microcomputer to another, have a dual function.

Central processing unit

It refers to the microprocessor or brain of the microcomputer, through which logical operations and arithmetic calculations are carried out, products of the interpretation and execution of the instructions received.

The microprocessor is made up of the mathematical coprocessor, the cache memory and the package, and is located inside the motherboard of the microcomputers. To know more details about its location, you can check the article on the elements of a computer motherboard .

The coprocessor is the logical part of the microprocessor. It is responsible for the mathematical calculations, the creation of graphics, the generation of letter fonts and the combination of texts and images, together with the registers, the control unit, the memory and the data bus.

Cache memory is fast memory that shortens response time, related to finding frequently used information, without having to use RAM.

The encapsulation is the external part that protects the microprocessor, at the same time that it allows the connection with the external connectors.

Microprocessors are related to registers, which are temporary storage areas that contain data. They are also in charge of following the instructions and the result of the execution of those instructions.

Finally, microcomputers include an internal bus or a network of communication lines, capable of connecting the elements of the system both internally and externally.

Memory and storage devices

The memory unit is responsible for temporarily storing both the instructions and the data received so that, later, they are taken from there by the processor. The data must be in binary code. Memory is classified into random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM).

RAM represents internal memory, divided into operating memory and storage memory. In it, it is possible to find a word or byte quickly and directly, without considering the set of bits stored before or after said character.

For its part, ROM contains the basic or operating system of a microcomputer. In it, the microprograms that contain the complex instructions are stored, as well as the bitmap corresponding to each of the characters involved.

In this regard, it is necessary to note that, from a practical point of view, memory and storage are two completely different concepts. When the microcomputer is turned off, the programs and data stored in the memory are lost, while the contents present in the storage are preserved.

Storage drives include hard drives, CD-ROMs, DVDs, optical drives, and removable hard drives, among others.

  • Hard disk: It is a non-removable rigid magnetic disk, that is, it is contained within a unit. It is present in most microcomputers and has a great capacity to store information.
  • Optical drive: Simply called CD, it is a storage and distribution device for audio, software and any other type of data. The information is stored by means of perforations made with a laser on a master disc, which is reproduced from the elaboration of multiple copies. It is made in factories.
  • CD-ROM: It is a read-only compact disc, which means that the information stored on it cannot be modified or erased once it has been stored. Unlike CDs, the data is recorded ex-factory.
  • DVD: They maintain the same philosophy as CDs, but the information can be recorded on both sides of the DVD. Generally, a special player is needed to read it. However, the latest player models on the market read CDs and DVDs alike.


In general terms and as an important point in technology, we can talk about two types of microcomputers: desktop computers and laptops. Both of common use, in equal magnitude, between people and companies.

  • Desktop computers: Due to their size, they can be placed on a desk table, but that same characteristic prevents them from being portable. They are made up of processing and storage units, output units, and even a keyboard.
  • Laptops: Due to their light and compact design, they can be easily moved from one place to another. These include laptops, notebooks, personal digital assistants (PDAs), digital telephones and others. Its main characteristic is the speed in data processing.

Current microcomputers

As we have already mentioned, there are several types of microcomputers, each with well-defined characteristics depending on its usefulness. To continue; the details:

  • Desktop computers: They are the most widely used type of microcomputer. They are capable of executing the most common tasks in computing, such as Internet browsing, document transcription and editing tasks, among many other very useful functions. They support accessory type elements, such as horns and webcams.
  • Laptops: Since its inception in 1981, they constitute the revolution of personal computers. Among its elements, the screen, keyboard, processor, hard disk, processor, etc. are still present. They are capable of performing the same functions as desktop computers, but their smaller size and cost mean they have advantages over them.
  • Laptops: They have a flat screen and are powered by battery. Its size defines its portability.
  • Notebooks: Its main utility is the realization of simple productivity functions. They lack CD or DVD players. They are lower in cost than personal computers, which causes them to have higher levels of sales. They are lighter than laptops.
  • Tablets: They replace laptops and notebooks in functionality. Its touch screen allows the user to interact with the contents. They do not have keyboards or mice.
  • Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs): They basically function as pocket organizers. They have calendar functions, notebook, spreadsheets, among others. They allow data input through special input devices. In addition, they have relecommunication tools.
  • Smartphones: They are microcomputers that have the ability to send and receive calls and messages, in addition to connecting to the internet via WiFi or mobile connections. They share many of the functions present in personal computers, such as managing emails and handling multimedia content.

Microcomputers of the future

Despite the rapid advancement of computing and technology, the basics of hardware and software tend to remain constant over time. However, microcomputers promise to stay at the forefront, facilitating the management of finances, agendas, contacts, calendars, and other activities of daily life. In the same way, they will continue to be present in innovative technological fields, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and everything related to multimedia content.

The microcomputers that are expected to have a favorable impact on our future lives will undoubtedly have greater capacity and power, as well as offer more and better functionalities. Among them the following can be mentioned:

  • Hybrid laptops: Also called hybrid tablets, they work like tablets and computers at the same time, because they have a keyboard and a touch screen. As an added bonus, the screen is larger and includes a digital pen.
  • Telephones with connection to televisions: Since the appearance of smartphones, their functionalities have been increasing. With this proposal it is hoped to convert a television screen into a computer, all through a simple cable connection. Despite the efforts that have been made in this regard, the proposal has not finished taking shape. However, it is expected that in the future the market for high-end phones will grow and adopt this new way of doing technology, by creating universal applications.
  • Pocket computers: Although the concept already exists, these computers are expected to reduce their design to become similar to a pendrive. The main idea of ​​this proposal is that by connecting the small device to a screen, it can work just like a computer.
  • Holographic Computers: It is certainly an ambitious project. However, at present some companies and universities are developing projects that will allow to modify the already existing augmented reality helmets to turn them into holographic devices, literally placing the technology in the hands of the users.
  • Quantum computers: The future project involves the massification of this technology, which allows the processing of large amounts of data in a minimum time. Today, part of this thinking is applied in artificial intelligence, where data is processed through very complex calculations.
  • Multi-core computers: Over the years, the barriers that separate all types of existing computers will be broken, to the point of being surrounded by intelligent objects that function as computers, oriented towards increasing productivity and capable of meeting the needs of the moment.

Data formats

The main data formats used by microcomputers are bits, bytes, and characters.

A bit is the smallest unit of information that a microcomputer has, from which larger amounts of information are created. The grouping of several bits allows the representation of information.

While bytes are the practical unit, by which the random memory and permanent storage capacity of microcomputers is measured. A byte contains 8 bits, and is used to represent all kinds of information, including the digits 0 to 9 and the letters of the alphabet.

In general, the design of microcomputers allows them to understand the language of bytes. In this way, you can measure larger amounts of information from kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes.

For its part, a character is a letter, number, punctuation mark, symbol or control code, not always visible on screen or on paper, through which information is stored and transmitted electronically.

Finally, in order to better understand the concept of bits and bytes, it is important to mention that a bit is the fundamental unit of a binary system, which contains only two values ​​(0 and 1). While the decimal system contains ten digits (from 0 to 9) and the hexadecimal, 16 characters that go from 0 to 9 and from the letter A to F.


Considering each of the details regarding the definition, origin, evolution, characteristics, and other aspects of microcomputers, the following conclusions are reached:

  • The central processing unit of any microcomputer is the microprocessor.
  • Microcomputers are made up of the microprocessor, a memory and a series of information input and output components.
  • They owe their origin to the need to create smaller computers.
  • The evolution of microcomputers is a direct consequence of advances in technology.
  • Its architecture is classic and its design is compact.
  • Microcomputers are capable of performing mathematical calculations and logical operations, through the follow-up and execution of instructions.
  • The instruction format indicates the addressing of each operand present in the instruction.
  • Microoperations are responsible for the reordering of instructions and the sequential execution of a program.
  • Through timing, the microcomputer manages to coordinate the events of the internal bus.
  • Decoding is the process by which instructions are interpreted.
  • The hardware is made up of the input and output devices, the central procedure unit, the memory and the storage devices.
  • The main information input devices are: the keyboard, the mouse, the video camera, the optical reader, the microphone, among others.
  • Among the main output units are: the printer, the sound system, the modem.
  • The central processing unit is responsible for carrying out the logical and mathematical operations, as a consequence of the interpretation and execution of the instructions.
  • The coprocessor is the logical part of the microprocessor.
  • Cache memory is fast memory that shortens the response time of the microcomputer.
  • Registers are temporary storage areas that contain data.
  • The internal bus connects the elements of the system both internally and externally.
  • Memory stores data and programs temporarily, before they are executed by the microprocessor.
  • RAM is the internal memory of microcomputers. It consists of the operational memory and the storage memory.
  • The ROM memory contains the operating system of the microcomputers, where the microprograms that contain the complex instructions are stored.
  • The main storage devices are: the hard disk, the optical drive, the CD-ROM, the DVD, and others.
  • Microcomputers are divided into desktop computers and laptop computers.
  • Today’s microcomputers include desktop computers, laptops, tablets, laptops, personal digital assistants, and smartphones, among others.
  • The microcomputers of the future are: hybrid tablets, telephones with connection to televisions, pocket computers, quantum computers, holographic computers, etc.
  • Microcomputers use bits, bytes, and characters to store information.

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