Generation of Computers – Explained
The time period and characteristics of each generation of computer 1st to 5th will be explained in detail in this article.
In computer terminology, generation is a technical transition used/utilized by a computer. Until now, five generations of computers are identified.
The generations of computers are focused on significant technological developments, such as the use of vacuum tubes, transistors, and microprocessors, in computers.
In this write-up, each of the five computing generations and significant technical advances that have given us today’s electronic devices have been explained in detail along with examples, advantages, and disadvantages.
Basically, a computer is an electronic device that can process information. The method can be anything, though.
The addition or some more arithmetic operation may be, for example. It could otherwise only be an instruction to a group or ungroup a specified set of data.
Computers today can carry out billions of calculations that are very accurate and that could return consistent results. Where did all this begin?
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Who invented the first computer?
It was the British mathematician Charles Babbage who began drawing plans for what he called the ‘analytical engine’ in 1834 and was credited as the one who found the building of this versatile device.
He dreamed to construct a system that could coordinate – programmed – the gears, rods, and wheels to do countless things, from resolving equations to creating music.
Sadly, only a fragment had been completed of this victorian engineering wonder.
It took another 100 years to relive the concept of a “universal machine” and to research its theoretical powers by Alan Turing, a British mathematician.
Some of these forces were used by his code-breaking colleagues in Bletchley Park during WWII.
Their electronic system was called Colossus and cracked the most secret ciphers of Hitler.
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Generation of computer 1st to 5th
First Generation – Vacuum Tubes (1940 – 1956)
Vacuum tubes were used as the main technology in the first generation of computers. Vacuum tubes were commonly used from 1940 to 1956.
Vacuum tubes were bigger, and computers of first-generation were very large and occupied a great deal of space in a room.
Some computers of the first generation took up a whole house.
Computers in first-generation used machine language, the lowest computer-understood programming language, to carry out operations, and were only able to solve one problem at a time.
It would take days or weeks for operators to develop a new problem. The entry was based on punched cards and paper tape.
Some of the examples of First Generation of Computers are:
Advantages of First Generation of Computers:
- It used vacuum tubes which during those days were the only electronic component.
Disadvantages of First Generation of Computers:
- These were really expensive computers.
- Since magnetic drums were present, they could only store a small amount of information.
- As vacuum tubes are part of the first generation of computers, vacuum tubes require a large cooling system. This is another drawback of these computers.
- The efficiency of work was very low.
- Big consumption of electricity.
- Constant and inconsistent maintenance is not required.
Second Generation – Transistors (1956 – 1963)
Transistors were used in the second generation of the machine rather than vacuum tubes.
For computers from 1956 to 1963 transistors were used extensively.
Transistors were smaller than vacuum tubes and made it possible for computers to be smaller, quicker, and cheaper to build.
The second-generation computers switched to symbolic or assembled languages from cryptic binary machine language which allowed programmers to specify words for instructions.
High-level languages such as the early versions of COBOL and FORTRAN were also being developed at this period.
Some of the examples of Second Generation of Computers are:
- Honeywell 400
- IBM 7094
- CDC 1604
- CDC 3600
- UNIVAC 1108
Advantages of Second Generation of Computers:
- The electron component size had reduced due to the use of transistors rather than vacuum tubes. This led to a smaller device size than the computers of the first generation.
- Low cost compared to computers of first-generation.
- Better than first-generation speed.
- Portable compared to the first generation.
Disadvantages of Second Generation of Computers:
- A system for cooling was required.
- It needed continuous maintenance.
- Used only for specific purposes.
Third Generation – Integrated Circuits (1964 – 1971)
The invention of the integrated circuit was the characteristic feature of the third generation.
The transistors were miniaturized to silicon chips, known as semi-conductors, that significantly improve computer speed and efficiency.
Instead of punched cards and printouts, users interacted on keyboards and displays with third-generation computers and interfaced with an operating system that permitted the device to run multiple applications in a central program that controls the memory at one time.
Computers had been open to the general public for the first time because they were smaller and less costly.
Some of the examples of third generation of computers are:
- ICL 2900
- IBM 360
- IBM 370
Advantages of Third Generation of Computers:
- Relative to second-generation machines, these machines were cheaper.
- They were quick and reliable.
- IC usage on the computer gives the computer a smaller size.
- In addition to reducing the computer’s size, IC also increases the computer’s performance compared with previous computers.
- This computer generation is highly capable of storing.
- The mouse and keyboard are used for input rather than punch cards.
- They used an operating system to help control their resources and used time-sharing and multiple programming.
- This reduces the device time to nanoseconds from microseconds.
Disadvantages of Third Generation of Computers:
- It’s hard to maintain IC chips.
- Advanced technology was needed for the development of IC chips.
- Air conditioning was required.
Fourth Generation – Microprocessors (1972 – 2010)
With thousands of integrated circuits built into a single silicon chip, the microprocessor brought the fourth generation of computers.
In 1971, the Intel 4004 chip included all of the components of the computer — from the main processing unit, from the memory to the controls for input and output.
In combination with built-in circuits, microprocessors have made it possible for computers to switch to a desk and to introduce a laptop.
Some of the examples of Fourth Generation of Computer are:
- IBM 4341
- DEC 10
- STAR 1000
- PUP 11
Advantages of Fourth Generation of Computers:
- It had the fastest calculation capacity and the dimension is smaller than the previous computer generation.
- Heat generation was negligible.
- The size was smaller compared to previous computers.
- There was a need for less maintenance.
- In this type of machine, all types of high-level language may be used.
Disadvantages of Fourth Generation of Computers:
- The design and manufacture of microprocessors are very complex.
- In certain cases due to the prevalence of ICs, air conditioning was required.
- For the production of ICs, advanced technology was needed.
Fifth Generation – Artificial Intelligence (2011 – Present)
Fifth-generation artificial intelligence-based computing devices are still emerging, although a range of technologies is still being used today, such as voice recognition.
The use of parallel computing and superconductor systems helps to understand artificial intelligence.
The nature of computers will dramatically alter in future years with quantitative computing, molecular and nanotechnology.
The goal of computing of the fifth generation is to create devices that respond to natural language input and can learn and organize themselves.
One of the most well-known examples includes iPhone Siri from Apple and Windows 8 and Windows 10 from Cortana from Microsoft. The Google Search Engine also uses AI to search.
Some of the examples of Fifth Generation of Computers are:
Advantages of Fifth Generation of Computers:
- It operates quicker and more efficiently.
- This is available in various sizes and features.
- This offers more user-friendly graphical interfaces on the device.
Disadvantages of Fifth Generation of Computers:
- They need all high-level languages that need to be mastered.
- Are more sophisticated.
- They may replace humans causing unemployment in the future.