Computer generations are classified according to the major technological changes in computers occurred from time to time, such as the use of vacuum tubes, transistors, and now microprocessor. Five generations of computers are there till 2020.
For more information along with examples of computers and technology that come under each generation, each of them has been reviewed here:
First-generation (1940 – 1956)
Vacuum tubes were used as a major piece of technology for the first generation of computers. From 1940 through 1956, Vacuum tubes were widely used in computers. Vacuum tubes were larger components that resulted in quite large size of first generation computers, acquiring a lot of space in a room. Sometimes, an entire room was required for first generation computers.
One of the great examples of a first-generation computer is ENIAC. It was made up of nearly 20,000 vacuum tubes, 10,000 capacitors, and 70,000 resistors. It took up a lot of space and weighed over 30 tons that required a large room to keep it. EDSAC, IBM 701, and Manchester Mark 1 are the other examples of first-generation computers.
The main features of the first generation:
Slow input and output devices
Need of AC
Consumes lot of electricity
Vacuum tube technology
Generates lot of heat
Vacuum tubes, which are the only electronic component accessible during those days, were used.
These computers were capable to calculate in milliseconds.
The weight was about 30 tones and was very big in size.
These were vacuum tubes based computers.
The cost was very high.
Due to the presence of magnetic drums, it could store only a small amount of information.
Vacuum tubes require a large cooling system, which was also one of the main disadvantages of these computers.
Efficiency to work is very less.
Punch cards and programming capabilities were used to take inputs.
High energy consumption.
Constant maintenance is required and also not reliable.
Second generation (1956 – 1963)
Transistors were used instead of vacuum tubes in the second generation of computers. From 1956 to 1963, transistors were widely used. As compared to vacuum tubes, transistors were smaller in size and allowed computers to be, faster in speed, cheaper to build and smaller in size.
In 1956, the first computer to use transistors was the TX-0. IBM 7070, Philco Transac S-1000, and RCA 501 are the other computers that used transistors.
The main features of second generation:
Use of transistors
Still very costly
Supported machine and assembly languages
Reliable in comparison to first generation computers
Smaller size as compared to first generation computers
Generates less heat as compared to first generation computers
Consumed less electricity as compared to first generation computers
Faster than first generation computers
Due to the presence of transistors instead of vacuum tubes, the size of a computer was reduced as compared to first generation computers.
Produced less heat as compared to the first generation and less energy consumption.
For input, punch cards and assembly language were used for input.
Cost was less than the first generation computers.
Calculate data in microseconds with better speed.
Better portability in comparison to first generation
Required cooling system.
Required constant maintenance.
Used for specific purposes only.
Third generation (1964 – 1971)
In third generation of computers, the use of integrated circuits was introduced. The size of computers was reduced with use of IC even more as compared to second-generation computers, and they became even more faster.
Since the mid to late 1960s, nearly all computers have utilized IC’s. While the third generation to have spanned from 1964 to 1971 is considered by many people, IC’s are still used in computers. Today’s computers have deep root to the third generation, even after 45 years.
The main features of the third generation:
More reliable in comparison to previous two generations
Generated less heat
Consumed lesser electricity
Supported high-level language
Cheaper than second-generation computers.
They were reliable and fast.
Size becomes smaller with the use of IC.
This generation has a big storage capacity.
Mouse and keyboard are used for input, instead of punch cards.
They used an operating system for better resource management and used the principle of time-sharing and multi-programming.
Computational time gets reduced from microseconds to nanoseconds.
Maintenance of IC chips is difficult.
The manufacturing of IC chips requires highly sophisticated technology.
Required Air conditioning.
Fourth generation (1972 – 2010)
CPU is the more commonly used microprocessor which was invented during the fourth generation. Microprocessors, along with ICs, it became possible for computers to fit easily on a desk and also led to the introduction of the laptop.
Altair 8800, IBM 5100, and Micral were some of the earliest computers to use a microprocessor. Although the fourth generation has ended in 2010, the microprocessor is still used in computers even today.
Size gets reduced and computation is fastest as compared to the previous generation of computers.
Negligible heat generation.
Size is smaller as compared to previous generation computers.
Required less maintenance.
In this type of computers, all types of high-level language can be used.
Very complex Microprocessor design and fabrication.
Due to the presence of ICs, Air conditioning is required in many cases.
Manufacturing of ICs required advance technology.
Fifth generation (2010 to present)
The fifth generation of computers is launch to use artificial intelligence (AI), an exciting technology with many potential applications. In AI technology, and computers, leaps have been made but it still needs much improvement.
One of the well-known examples of artificial intelligence in computers is IBM’s Watson, which was featured as a contestant on the TV show Jeopardy. Other better-known examples include Microsoft’s Cortana on Windows 8 and Windows 10 computers and Apple’s Siri on the iPhone. To process user searches, the Google search engine also utilizes artificial intelligence (AI).
The main features of fifth generation:
Advancement in Superconductor technology
More user-friendly interfaces with multimedia features
Availability of very powerful and compact computers at cheaper rates
Development of true artificial intelligence
Development of Natural language processing
Advancement in Parallel Processing
1. Works faster and more reliable.
2. It is available with unique features in different.
3. With multimedia features, it provides computers with more user-friendly interfaces.
1. Very low-level languages are required.
2. Human brains may become dull and doomed.
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