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Generations of computers

First Generation (1940-1956) Vacuum Tubes

The computers of first generations used vacuum tubes and magnetic drums, and were large enough to fill an entire room. 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.

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

Generations of computers
fig.: A vacuum tube

Second generation (1956 - 1963 ) Transistors

The invention of transistor by William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain in 1947 led to an entire new generation of computers.
Although invented in 1947, the transistor was used in computers only in the late 1950s. The transistor allowed the computers to become smaller, faster, cheaper, more energy-efficient and more reliable than the first-generation. The transistor was a superior improvement over the vacuum tubes but still, it generated a lot of heat. Second generation computers still relied on punched cards for input and printouts for output. 
Second-generation computers used assembly language instead of the machine level language, which allowed to specify the instructions in words having specific meanings, called mnemonics.
High level programming languages like COBOL( COmmon Business Oriented Language ) and FORTRAN ( FORmula TRANslation ) were also under development at this time.

Generations of computers
fig.: Early transistors

Third Generation (1964-1971) Integrated Circuits

The invention of integrated circuit (IC) began the era of third generation of computers. A large number of transistors were miniaturized and placed on silicon chips, called semiconductors, which drastically increased the speed and efficiency of computers. 
The third generation computers used keyboards and monitors for input and output respectively. They used operating systems to interface with the users, which allowed them to run many different applications at a time.

Generations of computers
Generations of computers

fig.: Integrated Circuits

Fourth Generation (1971-Present) Microprocessors

A microprocessor is a device that consists of thousands of integrated circuits built onto a single silicon chip. The microprocessor brought a whole new era of the generations of computers. The first generation computers filled an entire room, and now there were fourth generation computers that could fit in the palm of the hand. The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971, fitted all the components of a computer, central processing unit to memory and input/output controls, on a single chip. 
With the passage of time, these small computers became more and more powerful, and they were linked together to form networks, which in turn led to the development of the Internet. It was also in the fourth generation computers that GUIs, mouse and other handheld devices were introduced.

Generations of computers
Generations of computers

Fig.: Microprocessors

Fifth Generation (Present and Beyond) Artificial Intelligence
Fifth generation computers are based on artificial intelligence, which are still under development. The use of parallel processing and superconductors is helping to make artificial intelligence a reality. Nanotechnology is radically changing the face of computers. The goal of fifth-generation computing is to develop devices that respond to natural language input and are capable of learning and self-organization.

1 Response to Generations of computers

January 20, 2015 at 7:00 PM

thank you for these magnificient informations!!

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