A mainframe is a very large, powerful, dedicated, multi-tasking computer where enormous amounts of data are processed, sometimes millions of records a day. The mainframe is set up for specific applications and those applications only; which is totally different from a Personal Computer (PC). A mainframe runs a custom operating system specifically written for particular applications while a PC has a generic operating system such as Windows and is built to handle many different programs. PC's are multi-tasking but not dedicated with control of the resources usually handled by the computer rather than the user having control over the amount of resources used by any given application. For example, if you were to run 3D Studio Max, it would use 100% of your processor and about 75% of your Random Access Memory (RAM) to render a scene but if you were working with a similar mainframe program you would be able to use the assigned "chunk" of the processing power for rendering and that would still leave the dedicated amount for other applications or users to use (L. Mitzner, personal communication, January 12, 2002).
PC's and Mainframes Defined
In comparing and contrasting PC's and Mainframes it is necessary to first understand what a PC and a Mainframe are. Because IBM produced the first personal computer, the term PC came to mean IBM or IBM-compatible personal computers, which excluded other types of personal computers such as Macintoshes, though I rarely hear the term IBM-compatible used anymore when referring to the term PC. Put quite simply a mainframe is a very large computer that is totally different from a PC. Some of the differences between mainframes and PC's are size, power, ability to dedicate resources, and the amount of data that can be processed. The mainframe is set up for specific applications and those applications only; that is totally different from a PC. For example, you couldn't load Word or Internet Explorer onto a...
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