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What Exactly Is A Workstation?

In an era not too long ago, the term workstation could be applicable to any number of situations. As such, the definition of workstation could have also meant different things to a wide array of different people, in a variety of different settings. It could have been the easel that a civil engineer sat at, or perhaps the switchboard section that an operator worked in. In the most basic sense of the word, a workstation was just that… a station set up to perform work.

Eventually the term became synonymous with computing, and was used to reference systems that were designed for powerful applications. Some perform large numbers of calculations or require high-speed graphics. Some utilize an exponential amount more. The system requirements of older business solutions are what prompted the workstation’s creation.

In today’s society, the workstation has gravitated toward more of a common definition, however there is an important piece missing that most people inadvertently bypass. They are still a station that is set up for working; however they now come with some standardized equipment and functionalities. This equipment is now so socially defined as a workstation that manufacturing companies such as Dell and Hewlett Packard have actually adapted the term “workstation” to describe their bundled business products. A basic workstation usually includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  • A viewing device, such as a monitor or laptop screen
  • A few Human Interface Devices (HID). These are devices that allow the end user to interact with the computer and usually include a mouse (pointing device), and a keyboard.
  • A processing unit, such as a desktop or tower computer. Industry standards depict that this unit should be stronger and more compact than micro processing or standard personal computers.
  • A storage unit, such as the Personal computer’s hard drive, or other additional external data storage devices.
  • Most usually a workstation will be a part of a work group, which is a series of personal computers that hook to a mainframe computer.
  • An operating system and basic software.
  • Specialized software and other, job specific needs.

Nabielsky & Skelton (n. d.) defined the workstation environment more generally as “hardware and software dedicated to serve a single user, and that it provides for the use of additional shared resources.” This definition would entice the reader to find anything the user has at their disposal to perform their job to likely be considered a part of the workstation. Some could find this to be a testament to the advancement of technology. It is not that the term workstation has gravitated toward the personal computer; it’s the personal computer that has become as efficient as a workstation.

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