There are two types of computers according to their purpose.
Most computers in use today are General-Purpose computers — those built for a great variety of processing jobs. Simply by using a general purpose computer and different software, various tasks can be accomplished, including writing and editing (word processing), manipulating facts in a data base, tracking manufacturing inventory, making scientific calculations, or even controlling organization’s security system, electricity consumption, and building temperature. General purpose computers are designed to perform a wide variety of functions and operations. You will probably use this type of computer reading this article and I am using a general purpose computer typing this article in some software (MS Word). A general purpose computer is able to perform a wide variety of operations because it can store and execute different programs in its internal storage. Unfortunately, having this ability is often achieved at the expense of speed and efficiency. In most situations, however, you will find that having this flexibility makes this compromise a most acceptable one.
See Also: Analog, Digital & Hybrid Computers
Photo credits: www.nasa.gov
As the name states, a Special-Purpose Computer are designed to be task specific and most of the times their job is to solve one particular problem. They are also known as dedicated computers, because they are dedicated to perfom a single task over and over again. Such a computer system would be useful in playing graphic intensive Video Games, traffic lights control system, navigational system in an aircraft, weather forecasting, satellite launch / tracking, oil exploration, and in automotive industries, keeping time in a digital watch, or Robot helicopter. While a special purpose computer may have many of the same features found in a general purpose computer, its applicability to a particular problem is a function of its design rather than to a stored program. The instructions that control it are built directly into the computer, which makes for a more efficient and effective operation. They perform only one function and therefore cut down on the amount of memory needed and also the amount of information which can be input into them. As these computers have to perform only one task, therefore, they are fast in processing. A drawback of this specialization, however, is the computer’s lack of versatility. It cannot be used to perform other operations.