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This article traces the evolution of minicomputers from 1955 to 1973 and forecasts their near-future characteristics and uses. Advances significant in the growth of minicomputers are tutorially described as they occurred in nineteen different machines. Only computers having attained the status "commercially available" are included. The entire discussion is based on two descriptors: the first, depicting the content and use of minicomputer systems (hardware, software, applications, and tradeoffs); and the second, outlining the size and type of systems (simple, complex, general-purpose, and special-purpose). Future minicomputers will continue to diversify in the four general directions indicated by the size-type descriptor. By superimposing the user desires for easier programming, better performance, and lower cost onto the size-type descriptor, the article concludes with a description of future systems.