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Generation of Computers

E ach phase of computer development is known as a separate generation of computers. The

computer can be classified into four generations according to their type of electronic circuits such
as vacuum tube, transistor, IC etc.

The First Generation Computers (1949-55)

The greatest single advancement in automatic computing came in 1945 when Dr. John Von
Neuman introduced the idea of storing the computer’s instruction internally. This idea was
incorporated in the design of (EDVAC), Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer. But the
world’s first successful computer was made in 1946 named ENIAC, Electronic Numerical
Integrator And Computer, developed by J.W. Mauchly and J.P. Eckert.

ENIAC was quite fast compared with earlier devices. But it was huge. It contained 18,000 vacuum
tubes. It occupied a two room car garage. It consumed a lot of electricity and had a water cooled
cooling system. The first generation computers are identified by the use of vacuum tubes.The
main examples of this generation computers are ENIAC and UNIVAC-I.

Main Features:
(i) The computers of this generation used vacuum tubes.
(ii) These computers used machine language for giving instructions.
(iii) They used the concept of stored program.
(iv) These computers were 5000 times faster than the MARK-I.
(v) The first generation computers were welcomed by Government and Universities.

(i) These computers were very big in size. The ENIAC machine was 30 x 50 feet in size and
30 tons in weight. So, these machines required very large space for their workings.
(ii) Their power consumption was very high.
(iii) These computers had slow operating speed and small computing capacity.
(iv) These computers had a very small memory.

The Second Generation Computers (1956-65)

In 1948, Bell Laboratories developed the transistor. The transistor performed the same functions
as vacuum tube but was smaller and less expensive, generated almost no heat and required less

The development of the transistor was soon applied to computers which reduced their size
substantially, the power required was less and had higher processing speed. IBM-700, 1401 and
ATLAS are some examples of the IInd Generation Computers.

The second generation computers are IBM 1401, IBM 1620, IBM 7094 and UNIVAC 1108.

Main Features:
(i) The computers of this generation replaced vacuum tubes with transistors.
(ii) Magnetic cores were invented for storage.
(iii) Different magnetic storage devices were developed in this generation.
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(iv) Commercial applications were developed during this period. Eighty percent of these
computers were used in business and industries.

Third Generation Computers (1966-75)

In 1964, third generation computers were introduced. These computers has a new technology,
the technology of integrated transistor circuits better known as IC or Integrated Circuits. These
computers had much higher speeds, larger storage capacities, and lower prices. Instead of
having one transistor working separately, several transistors would be integrated with other
components and sealed in a small package.

This package was called Integrated Circuit (I.C.) or the Chip. Examples of IIIrd generation
computers are IBM 360/370 and NCR 395.

The third generation computers are IBM-360 series, ICL-2900 series, KL 2903, CDC-1700 etc.

Main Features:
(i) The third generation computers replaced transistors with’ Integrated Circuits’ . These
Integrated Circuits are also known as chips.
(ii) The size of main memory was increased and reached about 4 megabytes.
(iii) Magnetic disk technology had been improved and drive having capacity upto 100 MBPS
came into existence.
(iv) The CPU become more powerful with the capacity of carrying out 1 million instructions per
(v) This generation computers were relatively inexpensive and faster.
(vi) The application area also increased in this generation. The computers were used in other
areas like education, small businesses survey, analysis along with their previous usage

The Fourth Generation Computers (1976-Present)

The fourth generation of computers has not been clearly defined. However, they can be identified
with the use of Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) technology. After 1971, the technology made it
possible to put all the main electric components of a computer system onto a single chip, which
was called the Microprocessor. The number of circuits per chip range from 1000 to several
hundred thousand.

The benefit of using microprocessor was that the cost was further reduced, the size was reduced,
computers became faster than before and they had very large storage capacity. Example of
rough generation: Mini Computers, Micro Computers.

The Fourth Generation Computers are Pentium, Power PC etc.

Main Features:
(i) The fourth generation computers replaced small scale integrated circuits and medium scale
integrated circuits with the microprocessors chip.
(ii) Semiconductor memories replaced magnetic core memories.
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(iii) The hard-disks are available of the sizes upto 200 GB. The RAID technology (Redundant
Array of Inexpensive Disks) gives storage upto thousands of GB.
(iv) Computer cost came down rapidly in this generation.
(v) Application of computers is increased in various areas like visualization, parallel computing,
multimedia etc.

The Fifth Generation Computers

Mankind along with the advancement in science and technology is working hard to bring the Vth
Generation of computer. These computers will have the capability of thinking on their own like an
man with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). the 21st century will see better, faster, smaller and
smarter computers.