Generations of Computer- First to Fifth Generation

Generations of Computer- First to Fifth Generation

Each advancement in computer includes the change over the hardware and the software of the used computer. Too bulky computers were reduced to the size of portable machines and the time taken for calculations were considerably reduced from several minutes to micro seconds. These advancements are categorized into five different generations, which are as follows.

  1. First Generation Computers
  2. Second Generation Computers
  3. Third Generation Computers
  4. Fourth Generation Computers
  5. Fifth Generation Computers

First Generation Computers

The span of 1940-1956 was the period of first generation computers. This generation could be called as the generation of vacuum tube machines or thermo-ionic values based machines. These systems are called so since, they used the vacuum tubes for calculations and storage purposes. The vacuum tube is a cylinder of glass, with a filament in vacuum and this filament is heated for the operations, such as amplification and de-amplification. These first generation computers were believed to be the fastest of the period and were capable of performing difficult operations. But it has more disadvantages than its advantages and was not much preferred by most of the users.

First generation computers were bulky to handle and transfer. Despite its large size it was large size it was only able to store and execute single program at a time. The machines emitted a large amount of heat and did not provide an environment desirable for working. And another major setback was that, it was operated using machine language which was not easy to learn.

Second Generation Computers

The drawbacks present in the first generation computers led to the development of second generation. The span of 1956–1963 was the period of the second generation to overcome the disadvantages of the vacuum tubes, vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors.

Shockley, Brattin and Bardeen invented the transistor in 1947, which earned them a Nobel Prize. The architecture of the computers designed was completely replaced with transistors. The transistor is a semiconductor, which functions to increment the power of a signal without affecting the original signal. This increment of power of the transmitted signal ensures the quality of the original signal even after transmission. The transistor comprises three connections, an emitter (E), a base (B) and a collector (C). As the name implies, the emitter is a gate used to emit the signals, the base acts as the input terminal of a transistor. The collector terminal is used to receive the amplified signal. The diagrammatic representation of a transistor is as follows:

The transistors were smaller in size, faster, less expensive and did not melt as much as the vacuum tubes did. This resulted in the design of a compact, efficient and a faster computer with better performance than the first generation. The computer has comparatively more advantages than the first generations but it has its own disadvantages too. The most important of all is that it was programmed with assembly language which was easy to learn. Printers and other OS software were developed in this period. It required air conditioning. The mode of input to the computer was punched cards and the output was in the form of printouts. Apart from its advantages, the second generation computer too was capable of performing limited operations.

Third Generation Computers

The next generation of the computers was from 1964–1975. This generation used the new technology and a great technology that evolved to a great extent, the ICs, Integrated Circuits. The ICs were invented by Jack Kilby and Robert  in 1958. The Integrated circuit is the integration of transistors, capacitors, resistors on a single Silicon chip. The ICs were way much further efficient and cheaper than the transistors. They used a very low power for operations. And the third generation computers were better than the than the previous systems.      The smaller system made them easier to be portable and handling. The computational time for larger operations reduced to a great extent. They were longer durable. This was the era in which the high level languages were introduced. These high level languages were much easy to be programmed with, other than the assembly or machine level language. These generation computers were designed to be operable for business and scientific applications as well as the default operations. Apart from these advantages, there were some disadvantages too. These systems still required air conditioning. And storage capacity was too low to store large programs. Although these chips were cheap, the computers were expensive.

Fourth Generation Computers

The fourth generation computers, also called the personal computers, were in use during 1975-1989. This generation is called so because the computer was owned by many individuals during this period. The ICs used in the third generation were upgraded by LSI and VLSI technologies. The LSI technology incorporated thousands of single ICs together and the VLSI technology incorporated hundreds of thousands of ICs together onto a single silicon chip. The concept of incorporation of numerous IC developed the microprocessor which has a control unit, storage unit and a processing unit. All these desired a much compact system than the predecessors. Also it used the concept of Random Access Memory (RAM). This RAM helped the fourth generation computers to retrieve the data from a stored place and access it with greater speed. This resulted in the better performance of the computers. This generation computers were used by individuals at homes for various applications which are not presented in the previous generations.

Many applications were developed to support the fourth generation computers. These applications are GUIs, new operating systems, I/O devices, different storage devices and the method of LAN, connecting various nodes via a physical link and these were developed as an improvisation of the previous generation computers added with some additional features. But even these computers had some disadvantages such as the soldering of LSI and VLSI was not feasible with normal technologies. The computer was able to work only on the instructions as per the instructor.

Fifth Generation Computers

The fifth generation computers are the devices which we use everyday. These computers are designed to work independently without the guidance of the user, other than the primary instructions. This generation computer uses the ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology which incorporates millions of components onto a single silicon chip. This increased the efficiency of the computer to a peak of all the developments. The size of the computer has reduced to the size of the palm. New technologies used in this generation have increased the storage levels of the computer. The laptop, palmtop, PDA, pocket computer and all other portable computers were developed during this generation. The processors were provided with additional features to perform at a faster rate. The server client service was also developed during this generation. The invention of optical disc technology and internet raised during this era. They enabled multitasking at a single time. They were proved to satisfy the needs of the user completely to a great extent. It supported the multimedia applications. They are far beyond the previous generation computers and are still improving till date.

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