Computer Generations

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Digital computer is not made by single person. Digital computer is a combination of many invention and thoughts which were by made by many people in past thousands of years. We measure technological improvement by generations. An explicit system is said to belong to an explicit “generation.” Each generation indicates a major change in computer design.

Computer genrations
Computer generations


The period of first generation was 1942-1959. Computer of first generation using Vacuum tubes as the basic components and magnetic drums and punch cards as memory.  These computers were very expensive and taking up entire rooms. They use lot of electricity and generated a lot of heat which was often the cause of malfunctions. Vacuum tubes were like bulbs which prone to frequent fusing of the installations. They required constant maintenance. This maintenance very expensive and could be afforded only by very large organizations.

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This generation computers works on machine language which the lowest- level programming language. This language understood by computers. These computers mainly used batch processing operating systems. These computers perform single instruction at a time. Inputs for these computers were based on punched cards and paper taps and output was displayed on printouts. Examples of first generation computers are UNIVAC, ENIAC and EDVAC. UNIVAC was the first commercial computer delivered to a business client the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951.



The period of first generation was 1959-1965. Transistors replaced vacuum tubes in the second generation of computers. The transistor was invented in 1947 but used in computer in late 1950s. Transistors were smaller, faster, cheaper, energy-efficient and more reliable. Thus second generation computers were smaller, use less power, cheaper and produced less heat. Magnetic disk storage increased capacity of storage and magnetic cores for main storage increased processing speed. Symbolic machine language or assembly language was used instead of machine language, which allowed programmers to make a improved software. High level programming languages were also being developed like FORTRAN, COBOL. There were use batch processing and multiprogramming operating systems.


The period of third generation was 1965-1975. Integrated Circuit (IC’s) instead of transistors used in this generation’s computers.  IC is a silicon chips which reduces the size of computer and increase speed and efficiency of processing. Each IC is solid state microcircuits which works similar likes many resistors, transistors, diodes and conductors. Now user interacted with third generation computers through keyboard, monitors and operating system instead of punched cards and printouts. In this generation, Remote processing, Time-sharing, Real-time, Multi-programming Operating System were used. High-level language (FORTRAN-II TO IV, COBOL, PASCAL PL/1, BASIC, ALGOL-68, etc.) were used during this generation.

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The period of Fourth Generation was 1975-1980. Very large scale Integrated (VLSI) circuits were used in Computer of this generation. VLSI circuits are having thousands of transistors in a single chip. Computers of this generation are more powerful, reliable, affordable and compact.  The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971 which is mostly used as Central Processing unit in theses computers. In 1981 IBM introduced its first computer for the home user, and in 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh. Computers of this generation also saw the development of GUIs, the mouse and handheld devices. In this generation, Time sharing, Real time, Networks, Distributed Operating System were used in computers. All the higher level languages like C and C++, DBASE, etc were used in this generation.


The period of Fifth Generation is 1980-till date. The VLSI technology became ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology, ULSI chips having ten million electronic components. Computers of this generation use parallel processing hardware and AI (Artificial Intelligence) software. Higher level languages like C and C++, Java, .Net, etc., are used in this generation.

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