Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Ankit Kochar
The history of computers is a fascinating tale of innovation, progress, and transformation. From the early days of room-sized machines with limited capabilities to the pocket-sized supercomputers we carry in our pockets today, the evolution of computers can be categorized into generations, each marked by significant technological advancements. In this comprehensive guide, we will embark on a journey through the generations of computers, exploring their development, key features, and the profound impact they have had on our lives.
How can it be defined as the term generation?
With the latest technology, new parts and computers are launched under the term "generation." For example, the Intel Pentium and Intel Pentium II computer processors, which belong to two separate eras, are both IBM-compatible CPUs. Another illustration of different computer generations is the Apple II and ENIAC. The updated generation may come with the newest features and abilities that either render older generations of gadgets incompatible or outdated or make them more suited than earlier generations.
Basic Terms Of Generations of Computer
The basic terms of generations of computers are as follows:
Vacuum Tube– A piece of electronics that regulates the movement of electrons in a vacuum. Many older radios, TVs, computers, etc. use it as a switch, amplifier, or display screen.
Transistor– An electrical component with switch and amplifier functions. In radios, televisions, computers, and other devices, it is used to regulate the flow of power.
Integrated Circuit(IC)– A microelectronic circuit that is printed on a silicon chip and has a large number of its own circuit components (e.g. transistors, diodes, resistors, etc.).
Microprocessor– An electrical component that is part of an integrated circuit that houses the CPU and other related circuits of a computer.
CPU(Central Processing Unit)– The majority of processing and operations occur here, which is sometimes referred to as the brain or engine of a computer (CPU is part of a microprocessor).
Magnetic Drum– A magnetically coated cylinder that may be used to store data and programs
Magnetic Core– Information is stored via a system of cores, which are collections of tiny magnetised rings.
Machine Language– A low-level programming language that the computer can read and understand that is made up of a series of binary numbers (ones and zeros).
Assembly Language– Similar to the machine language a computer can comprehend, assembly language substitutes shortened words for numbers (e.g., ADD, SUB, DIV..) (0s and 1s).
Memory– A physical object used in computers to store data, information, and programs.
Artificial Intelligence– A field of computer science that focuses on modelling and building intelligent machines or intelligent computer behaviour (they think, learn, work, and react like humans).
With the advent of your time, the modern computer began to take shape. The development of the computer had begun in the sixteenth century. Numerous improvements were made to the original computer. It continued to advance in terms of speed, accuracy, size, and cost in order to push the design of the current day computer.
This extensive time is frequently easily split into the following segments known as computer generations:
- First Generation Computers (1940-1956)
- Second Generation Computers (1956-1963)
- Third Generation Computers (1964-1971)
- Fourth Generation Computers (1971-Present)
- Fifth Generation Computers (Present and Beyond)
Before there were spreadsheets, computer algebra systems, or graphing calculators, mathematicians and innovators looked for ways to make calculations easier.
Here are the eight mechanical calculators used prior to the development of modern computers.
- Abacus (ca. 2700 BC)
- Pascal’s Calculator (1652)
- Stepped Reckoner (1694)
- Arithmometer (1820)
- Comptometer (1887) and Comptograph (1889)
- The Difference Engine (1822)
- Analytical Engine (1834)
- The Millionaire (1893)
You must have used computers as you grew up since they are necessary tools. Additionally, there’s a decent probability that you still use a computer on a regular basis. Have you ever questioned the true nature of a computer? Do you know what computer generation is?
It’s excellent that you want to know the answers to these questions. Both of these queries will be thoroughly addressed in this post.
Let’s start by discussing what computers imply. Computers are electrical devices used to manipulate information or data, according to experts. Information can also be stored, retrieved, and processed by computers.
People utilise computers in today’s world to type documents, play games, send emails, and browse the internet. These tools may also be used to make or modify films, spreadsheets, and presentations.
It may interest you to know that the development of computers started somewhere in the 1940s. The first generation of computers was developed at that period. Other computer generations have since been created by professionals. There are now five different computer generations.
Generation is a computer term in the world of electronics and technology. This phrase describes the transformation that a computer experiences. Previously, the word "generation" was used to describe the differences between various hardware innovations. Today, generation can refer to both the hardware and the software, which together make up the total computer system.
We shall talk about these five computer generations in the remaining sections of the text. An overview of these generations is necessary before we get into the specifics.
Evolution of Computer Generation
The Generation of Computer Evolution is Generally Divided Into 5 Categories.
The First Generation of Computers- (the 1940s-1950s)
- Vacuum tubes were the primary electronic component used in computers between the years of 1940 and 1950.
- Magnetic tapes and magnetic drums served as the primary memory storage devices.
- The programming language was the machine language.
- In the past, the sizes were enormous and could fill entire rooms, and the speed was incredibly sluggish.
- Paper tape and punched cards served as the only input and output mechanisms.
- The computers were built using over 100 different vacuum tubes.
- Examples include the UNIVAC1, ENIAC, IBM 701 and 650, among others.
Advantages of the First-Generation Computer
- When it came to calculation speed, these computers were quick. Millisecond calculations might be used.
- These computers employed vacuum tubes, which were the electronic components that were readily accessible at the time.
Disadvantages of the First-Generation Computer
- These computers weighed around 30 tonnes and were incredibly large, taking up a lot of room.
- These expensive, vacuum tube-based computers were incredibly expensive.
- They were only able to hold a minimal quantity of information because of the magnetic drums.
- Vacuum tubes, which the earliest generation of computers used, require a huge cooling system.
- They were less effective in their jobs and used a lot of energy.
- They had limited programming capability and used punch cards for input.
The Second Generation of Computers- (the 1950s-1960s)
- Transistors were the primary electronic component used in computers from the 1950s through the 1960s.
- Magnetic tape or disc and magnetic core served as the primary memory storage devices.
- The programming language utilised was assembly language.
- Compared to the first generation, the sizes were smaller, and they used to use less electricity and produce less heat.
- The pace of things increased.
- Magnetic tape and punched cards served as the input and output components.
- IBM 1401, IBM 7094 AND IBM 7090, UNIVAC 110 7, and other systems are examples.
Advantages of the Second Generation of Computers
- Transistors, as opposed to vacuum tubes, were used to reduce the size of the electron component. As a result, such computers were smaller in size than those from the preceding generation.
- Due to the initial generation of computers, these computers used less energy and did not generate as much heat.
- Punch cards and Assembly language were both employed as input methods in these machines.
- It was more portable and affordable than the first generation.
- These computers were also speedier since they could compute data in microseconds.
Disadvantages of the Second Generation of Computers
- It needed a cooling system and ongoing upkeep.
- Additionally, these computers were solely employed to do a certain task.
The Third Generation of Computers- (the 1960s-1970s)
- Integrated circuits (ICs) were the primary electronic components used in computers from the 1960s through the 1970s.
- The magnetic disc or take and a large magnetic core served as the memory storage components.
- The programming language was a high-level language like BASIC, COBOL, or Pascal.
- Minicomputers were the name given to the more compact and effective computers.
- Compared to the second generation of computers, there was an advance in speed and dependability.
- Keyboards, a magnetic tape monitor, a printer, etc. were the input and output equipment.
- IBM 370, IBM 360, UNIVAC 1108, and more examples come to mind.
Advantages of the Third Generation of Computers
- These computers were less expensive than those of the second generation.
- The integrated circuits utilised by the computers of this generation reduced their size. Additionally, they were dependable and swifter.
- The adoption of an integrated circuit not only helped to make computers smaller, but it also improved their performance when compared to second-generation computers.
- Large storage capacities were introduced with the third generation of computers.
- Instead of punch cards, keyboard and mouse were utilised in these computers to input data.
- The calculating times on computers of this generation were substantially faster, going from microseconds to nanoseconds.
- These computers also utilised operating systems, various programming languages, and the time-sharing idea for improved performance.
Disadvantages of the Third Generation of Computers
- These computers required air conditioning.
- IC chips are difficult to maintain and require highly advanced technology to manufacture.
The Fourth Generation of Computers- (1970s-present)
- The fourth generation of computers’ primary electronic components are microprocessors and extremely large scale integration (VLSI).
- VLSI is the term used to describe a single microchip that has thousands of transistors attached to it.
- The introduction of semiconductor memory storage devices like RAM and ROM.
- The contents of RAM (random-access memory), which is used to temporarily store applications and data, are erased when the computer is turned off.
- The contents of ROM (read-only memory), which permanently saves the data and applications, remain kept even after the computer has been turned down.
- Both the sizes and the pace have decreased.
- The input/output devices include a keyboard, mouse, printer, and monitor.
Advantages of the Fourth Generation of Computers
- The first benefit of the current generation of computers is that they are smaller and do computations more quickly than their predecessors.
- It requires little upkeep and produces very little heat.
- These computers allow for the usage of any high-level language.
Disadvantages of the Fourth Generation of Computers
- The microprocessor is complex in both its construction and design.
- Air cooling is frequently required since integrated circuits are so common.
- Modern technology is necessary to create integrated circuits.
Lets discuss Latest generation of computers.
The Fifth Generation of Computers- (present and the future)
- Artificial intelligence, which employs the parallel processing approach and ultra-large scale integration, is the primary electrical component utilised in the current generation of computers (ULSI).
- The fifth generation of computers is capable of understanding spoken language.
- Both the speeds and the sizes are really quick.
- The fifth generation of computers are mobile and provide a tonne of storage.
- Keyboards, displays, touchscreen pens, printers, light scanners, and other devices are examples of input/output devices.
- Tablets, cellphones, laptops, and desktop computers are among examples.
Advantages of the Fifth Generation of Computers
- It comes in different sizes and has distinctive characteristics.
- It is more dependable and capable of working considerably more quickly.
- It provides computers with multimedia functions and a friendlier user interface (UI).
Disadvantages of the Fifth Generation of Computers
- Low-level languages are needed in these machines.
- They could damage human brains by rendering them boring and hopeless.
The generations of computers represent not just a progression of technology but a testament to human ingenuity and our relentless pursuit of innovation. Throughout this journey, we’ve witnessed the remarkable transformation of computers from room-sized giants with limited capabilities to the sleek and powerful devices that empower us today.
As we look back at the five generations of computers, we can appreciate the tremendous impact they’ve had on our lives and the way we work, communicate, and explore the world. With each new generation, computers have become more accessible, efficient, and integrated into our daily routines.
As we move into the future, the sixth generation of computers promises even greater strides in technology, including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and advanced robotics. These developments will continue to shape our world and push the boundaries of what is possible.
FAQ related to Generations of Computer
Here are FAQs related to the generation of computers.
1. What are the five generations of computers?
The five generations of computers are:
- First Generation (1940s-1950s): Vacuum tube-based computers.
- Second Generation (1950s-1960s): Transistor-based computers.
- Third Generation (1960s-1970s): Integrated circuit-based computers.
- Fourth Generation (1970s-1990s): Microprocessor-based computers.
- Fifth Generation (1990s-present): Highly interconnected and intelligent systems.
2. What are some key characteristics of each computer generation?
- First Generation: Used vacuum tubes, large size, limited processing power.
- Second Generation: Featured transistors, smaller and more reliable.
- Third Generation: Introduced integrated circuits, reduced size and power consumption.
- Fourth Generation: Utilized microprocessors, personal computers emerged.
- Fifth Generation: Focused on parallel processing, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing.
3. What is the significance of Moore’s Law in the development of computers?
Moore’s Law, proposed by Gordon Moore in 1965, observes that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles approximately every two years, leading to exponential growth in computing power and performance. It has been a guiding principle in the advancement of computer technology.
4. What can we expect from the sixth generation of computers?
The sixth generation of computers is expected to bring revolutionary technologies such as quantum computing, advanced artificial intelligence, and highly interconnected systems. These innovations will enable computers to solve complex problems, process vast amounts of data, and interact with humans in more natural ways.
5. How have computers impacted various industries and daily life?
Computers have transformed industries such as healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and entertainment. They have also revolutionized communication, research, education, and entertainment. Computers have become an integral part of modern life, streamlining processes, enabling new possibilities, and enhancing productivity.