When most people hear the word "computer," they think of a personal computer such as a desktop or laptop computer. However, computers come in many shapes and sizes, and they perform many different functions in our daily lives. When you withdraw cash from an ATM, scan groceries at the store, or use a calculator, you're using a type of computer.

Desktop computers

A desktop computer
Many people use desktop computers at work, home, school, or the library. They can be small, medium, or large in style, and they usually sit on a desk. Once you add a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, you have what is typically known as a desktop computer.

Most desktop computers are easy to upgrade and expand or add new parts. Another benefit of desktop computers is the cost. If you compare a desktop and a laptop with the same features, you will most likely find that the desktop computer is priced lower.
Some desktop computers have a built-in monitor to save space. These are often called all-in-one desktop computers.

Laptop computers

A laptop computer
The second type of computer you may be familiar with is a laptop computer, or a laptop. Laptops are battery- or AC-powered personal computers that are more portable than desktop computers, allowing you to use them almost anywhere.
Because a laptop is smaller than a desktop, it's more difficult to access its internal components. This means you may not be able to upgrade them as easily as a desktop. However, it's usually possible to add more RAM or a larger hard drive.

A laptop computer is sometimes called a notebook computer because of its size.


A server room
A server is a computer that "serves up" information to other computers on a network. Many businesses have file servers that employees can use to store and share files. A server can look like a regular desktop computer, or it can be much larger.
Servers also play an important role in making the Internet work: They are where webpages are stored. When you use your browser to click a link, a web server delivers the page you requested.

Other types of computers

Today, there are many everyday devices that are basically specialized computers, even though we don't always think of them as computers. Here are a few common examples:
The iPad, a type of tablet computer
  • Tablet computers: These use a touch-sensitive screen for typing and navigation. Because they don't require a keyboard or mouse, tablet computers are even more portable than laptops. The iPad is an example of a tablet computer.
  • Mobile phones: Many mobile phones can do a lot of things computers can do, such as browsing the Internet and playing games. These phones are often called smartphones.
  • Game consoles: A game console is a specialized kind of computer that is used for playing video games. Although they are not as fully featured as desktop computers, many newer consoles, such as the Nintendo Wii, allow you to perform nongaming tasks like browsing the Web.
  • TVs: Many TVs now include applications (or apps) that let you access various types of online content. For example, you can view your Facebook news feed or watch streaming movies on Netflix.