The GAO reviewed the different uses of the minicomputer in the Federal Government. For purposes of this review, a minicomputer was considered a small-scale computer for which the manufacturer may furnish only limited products and services. This practice contrasts with the full-service marketing practices of manufacturers of large computer equipment.
Minicomputer acquisition in the Federal Government is increasing faster than any other type of computer. Several cases of minicomputers enhancing productivity demonstrate the potential use of minicomputers for: (1) initially automating a process previously done manually; (2) augmenting work previously done on large central computers; and (3) replacing existing equipment or services. GAO found that there were problems in and limitations on using minicomputers and that software costs of minicomputer systems generally were higher than hardware costs.
Many agencies were using computer programs in a language that could be used on only one manufacturer's hardware. Some agencies reported that procurement regulations governing the minicomputer acquisition were too complicated and caused agencies to incur excessive administrative costs and time delays. In some instances, agencies indicated that they obtained a more expensive, alternative system instead of a minicomputer because the procurement process was simpler and faster.