The Five Generations of Computers

A computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out an arbitrary set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically.

Charles Babbage is considered as the “father of the computer”. He invented the first mechanical computer in the early 19th century.

The principle of the modern computer was proposed by Alan Turing.

First Generation (1940-1956)

They used: vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory

Memory and Storage: Magnetic tapes, magnetic drums as secondary memory

Extra Information:

  • Very expensive to operate.
  • Relied on binary machine language, the lowest-level programming language to perform operations.
  • Binary Machine Language (0s and 1s) was difficult for users to understand
  • Could solve only one problem at a time

Examples:  UNIVAC and ENIAC computers 

Second Generation (1956-1963)

They used: Transistors

Memory and Storage: Main memory- Ferite cores. Secondary Memory- Magnetic disks and tapes

Extra Information:

  • Computers became smaller, faster, and cheaper.
  • Also binary Machine Language was replaced by Assembly Languages.
  • Use of assembly Language allowed programmers to specify instructions in words.

Examples: IBM 1401 and Honeywell 400 computers

Third Generation (1964-1971)

They used: Integrated Circuits

Memory and Storage: Main memory- RAM, ROM. Secondary Memory- Magnetic disks, tapes

Extra Information:

  • Computers became more smaller and cheaper.
  • Speed and efficiency of Computers was further increased by the use of semiconductors.
  • Keyboards and Monitors were introduced for input and screen
  • Different application could run at one time

Examples: IBM System/360, IBM 1130, UNIVAC 1107 computers

Fourth Generation (1971-Present)

They use: Microprocessors. VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) technology

Memory and Storage: Main Memory- RAM/ROM. Secondary Memory- Hard Disk

Extra Information:

  • Thousands of integrated circuits were built onto a single silicon chip.
  • Computers became more powerful.
  • Computers could be linked together to form networks now, which eventually led to the development of the Internet.
  • Graphic user Interface (GUIs), mouse and handheld devices were developed.
  • Programming languages closest to human language

Examples: Apple Macintosh, IBM PCs computers

Fifth Generation (Present and Beyond)

They use: Artificial Intelligence. ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology

Memory and Storage: Main Memory- RAM/ROM. Secondary Memory- Hard Disk

Extra Information:

  • Still in development.
  • Some applications like voice recognition are used today also
  • The goal of fifth-generation computing is to develop devices that respond to natural language (human language) input and are capable of learning and self-organization.

 

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