COMPUTER GENERATIONS

The Five Generations of Computers

The history of computer development is often referred to in reference to the different generations of computing devices. Each generation of computer is characterized by a major technological development that fundamentally changed the way computers operate, resulting in increasingly smaller, cheaper, more powerful, more efficient and reliable devices.

First Generation (1940-1956) Vacuum Tubes

The first computers used vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory, and were often enormous, taking up entire rooms. They were very expensive to operate and in addition to using a great deal of electricity, generated a lot of heat, which was often the cause of malfunctions.

First generation computers relied on machine language, the lowest-level programming language understood by computers, to perform operations, and they could only solve one problem at a time. Input was based on punched cards and paper tape, and output was displayed on printouts.

The UNIVAC and ENIAC computers are examples of first-generation computing devices. The UNIVAC was the first commercial computer delivered to a business client, the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951.

vacuum tube

Advantages:

  • Vacuum tubes were the only electronic component available during those days.
  • Vacuum tube technology made possible to make electronic digital computers.
  • These computers could calculate data in millisecond.

Disadvantages

  • The computers were very large in size.
  • They consumed a large amount of energy.
  • They heated very soon due to thousands of vacuum tubes.
  • They were not very reliable.
  • Air conditioning was required.

Constant maintenance was required

  • Non-portable.
  • Costly commercial production.
  • Limited commercial use.
  • Very slow speed.
  • Limited programming capabilities.
  • Used machine language only.
  • Used magnetic drums which provide very less data storage.
  • Used punch cards for input.
  • Not versatile and very faulty.

Second Generation (1956-1963) Transistors
Transistors replaced vacuum tubes and ushered in the second generation of computers. The transistor was invented in 1947 but did not see widespread use in computers until the late 1950s. The transistor was far superior to the vacuum tube, allowing computers to become smaller, faster, cheaper, more energy-

efficient and more reliable than their first-generation predecessors. Though the transistor still generated a great deal of heat that subjected the computer to damage, it was a vast improvement over the vacuum tube. Second-generation computers still relied on punched cards for input and printouts for output.

Advantages

  • Smaller in size as compared to the first generation computers.
  • The 2nd generation Computers were more reliable
  • Used less energy and were not heated.
  • Wider commercial use
  • Better portability as compared to the first generation computers.
  • Better speed and could calculate data in microseconds
  • Used faster peripherals like tape drives, magnetic disks, printer etc.
  • Used Assembly language instead of Machine language.
  • Accuracy improved.

Disadvantages

  • Cooling system was required
  • Constant maintenance was required
  • Commercial production was difficult
  • Only used for specific purposes
  • Costly and not versatile
  • Puch cards were used for input.
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Third Generation (1964-1971) Integrated Circuits
The development of the integrated circuit was the hallmark of the third generation of computers. Transistors were miniaturized and placed on silicon chips, called semiconductors, which drastically increased the speed and efficiency of computers.

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Advantages

  • Smaller in size as compared to previous generations.
  • More reliable.
  • Used less energy
  • Produced less heat as compared to the previous two generations of computers.
  • Better speed and could calculate data in nanoseconds.
  • Used fan for heat discharge to prevent damage.
  • Maintenance cost was low because hardware failure is reared.
  • Totally general purpose
  • Could be used for high-level languages.
  • Good storage
  • Versatile to an extent
  • Less expensive
  • Better accuracy
  • Commercial production increased.
  • Used mouse and keyboard for input.

Disadvantages

  • Air conditioning was required.

Highly sophisticated technology required for the manufacturing of IC chips.
Fourth Generation (1971-Present) Microprocessors

the microprocessor brought the fourth generation of computers, as thousands of integrated circuits were built onto a single silicon chip. What in the first generation filled an entire room could now fit in the palm of the hand. The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971, located all the components of the computer—from the central processing unit and memory to input/output controls—on a single chip.

In 1981 IBM introduced its first computer for the home user, and in 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh. Microprocessors also moved out of the realm of desktop computers and into many areas of life as more and more everyday products began to use microprocessors.

As these small computers became more powerful, they could be linked together to form networks, which eventually led to the development of the Internet. Fourth generation computers also saw the development of GUIs, the mouse and handheld devices.

genration4th

Advantages

  • More powerful and reliable than previous generations.
  • Small in size
  • Fast processing power with less power consumption
  • Fan for heat discharging and thus to keep cold.
  • No air conditioning required.
  • Totally general purpose
  • Commercial production
  • Less need of repair.
  • Cheapest among all generations
  • All types of High level languages can be used in this type of computers

Disadvantages

  • The latest technology is required for manufacturing of Microprocessors.

    Fifth Generation (Present and Beyond) Artificial Intelligence

    Fifth generation computing devices, based on artificial intelligence, are still in development.

Though there are some applications, such as voice recognition, that are being used today. The use of parallel processing and superconductors is helping to make artificial intelligence a reality. Quantum computation and molecular and nanotechnology will radically change the face of computers in years to come. The goal of fifth-generation computing is to develop devices that respond to natural language input and are capable of learning and self-organization.

Scientists are working hard on the 5th generation computers with quite a few breakthroughs. It is based on the technique of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Computers can understand spoken words & imitate human reasoning. Can respond to its surround dings using different types of sensors. Scientists are constantly working to increase the processing power of computers. They are trying to create a computer with real IQ with the help of advanced programming and technologies. IBM Watson  computers one example that outsmarts Harvard University Students. The advancement in modern technologies will revolutionize the computer in future.

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