5 Generations of computer

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Each of the five generations of computers is characterized by a major technological development that fundamentally changed the way computers operate, resulting in increasingly smaller, cheaper, more powerful and more efficient and reliable computing devices. This note explains about the five generations of computer.
5 Generations of computer

During the period of time, there has been a constant decrease in size, increase in speed, decrease in cost and increase in efficiency of a computer due to the change in technology, which is called generation of computer. There are all together 5 generation of computers, during which following events took place.

  1. Size of computers decreased drastically.
  2. Speed of computers increased significantly.
  3. Power consumption decreased from kilowatts to few watts.
  4. The heat generated by computer reduced drastically.
  5. The storage capacity increased from few bytes to terabytes.
  6. The processing speed increases few Kilo Hz to Giza Hz.
  7. Software become very user friendly and powerful
  8. Price of computers decreased significantly from millions of dollars to few hundred dollars.

First Generation of Computers (1945- 1955) Vacuum Tubes:

  • The computers in this generation used vacuum tube technology for building central processing unit (C.P.U).
  • They were very big in sizes, taking up entire room.
  • A single computer consisted of 1500 of vacuum tube so they consumed a lot of electricity and generated massive amount of heat.
  • Due to heat the computer used to malfunction and was so usually kept inside air conditioned environment.
  • Magnetic drum or punched cards were used as secondary storage.
  • There were not available for commercial purpose as the cost was very high.
  • They had to rely on machine language to perform operations.
  • They were used by government for census, defense, etc.
  • There was no programmed operating system and all operations had to be performed by user themselves.

Second generation of computer (1955- 1964) Transistors:

  • The transistor made computer to be smaller, faster, and cheaper, more efficient and reliable than the first generation of computer.
  • Heat generated by computer was significantly less than that of 1st generation because 1000 vacuum tube were placed by 1 transistor.
  • Processing speed was in few Kilo Hz (58 Kilo Hz).
  • Magnetic core (ferrite) memory was used as internal storage.
  • Magnetic tapes/ drums/ disk were used as secondary storage.
  • This generation of computer started their instruction memory for the first time.
  • Operating system was batch processing type.
  • It still relied on punch card for input and output.

Third generation of computer (1964- 1975) Integrated Circuits:

  • In this generation large number of transistor would be fabricated in silicon chips called Integrated circuit (IC).
  • The invention of IC reduced the size of computer.
  • They consumed less electricity and were more reliable than the previous generation.
  • Processing speed was in mega Hz.
  • Semiconductor memory used as primary storage.
  • Magnetic tapes/ Disk were used as secondary storage.
  • Key board and video display were introduced as input and output devices respectively.

Fourth generation (1975 - Present) Microprocessors:

  • In this generation very large scale integration (VLSI) and ultra large scale integration (VLSI) technology was introduced.
  • Due to this, it was possible to build CPU in a single chip known as microchip.
  • Size of computer reduced significantly, some of the computer fit on the palm of hand.
  • Cost was reduced drastically so that ordinary people were able to purchase desktop computer, small computer such as Laptop and hand held devices like palmtop, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).
  • Processing speed is very high, measured in Giga Hz.
  • Multimedia, networking, distributed computing was introduced.
  • Faster input and output device such as mouse, joysticks were introduced.
  • Artificial intelligent (AI) in software level such as voice recognition, robot disk, pattern classification, identification, etc. was possible
  • Graphical user interface (GUI) operating system such as MS Windows was used in this generation.

Fifth generation computer (Present & beyond) Artificial Intelligence

  • This computer will have logical power, decision making capability and expert system similar to human beings.
  • They will use parallel processing so that heavy processing will be possible.
  • Biochips made up of protein fiber Gallium Arsenide (GA) will be used as memory device.
  • Knowledge information processing system (KIPS) Architecture will be used.
  • The goal of fifth-generation computing is to develop devices that respond to natural language input and are capable of learning and self-organization.

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Things to remember
  • The development of modern computers have been divided into 5 generations.
  • The first generation of computers used vacuum tubes for processing.
  • The second generation of computers used transistors
  • The third generation of computers used Integrated Circuits
  • The forth generation of computers used microprocessors
  • The fifth generation of computer are expected to be self aware and have artificial intelligence.
  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.
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Questions and Answers
The phase wise development of computers on the basis of speed electronic component, performance and specific period is known as computer generations.

Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science that refers to the use of computers in such a way that they will be able to reason, learn and understand natural language as human being. Robots are made by using this technology.

The fifth generation computers will be based on biochips and super conductor chip. They will possess Artificial Intelligence and will be able to program themselves for the uses according to the user's instruction. The Deep Blue of IBM computer is that with Artificial intelligence.

Vacuum tube was the earliest electronic device developed by using filament which was used for controlling flow of electronic current. It was developed by Lee De Forest.

Transistors are a semi-conductor device used for controlling the flow of current between two terminals emitter and collector. It was developed by William Shockely, Wlter H. Britain and Johan Burden.

The features of second generation computers are:
  • Transistors were used as main component.
  • Their speed was up to microsecond.
  • They were smaller than first generation.
  • They used assembly language for programming.

The division of computer according to the development period, memory, processing speed, efficiency, storage etc. is called computer generation. There are five computer generations:

First generation computers
  • Transistors were used as main component.
  • Their speed was up to microsecond.
  • They were smaller than first generation.
  • They used assembly language for programming.
Second Generation (1959-1964)
  • They used transistors in place of vacuum tubes. 1 transistor=1000 vacuum tubes.
  • Speed of processing was increased to microsecond.
  • They used magnetic core as primary memory and magnetic tapes as auxiliary memory.
  • They were much smaller and more reliable.
  • They used assembly language for programming.
Third generation (1965-1974)
  • Integrated Circuit (IC) replaced transistors. 1 IC=100 transistors.
  • Processing speed was increased to nanosecond.
  • Semi conductor memory was used instead of magnetic core memory.
  • They used high-level language for programming.
  • They were smaller, more efficient and more reliable.
Forth Generation (1975-1990)
  • Microprocessor is used in place of transistors. Very Large Scale integration (VLSI) containing 10/20 LSIs(Large Scale Integration) is called microprocessor.
  • Speed of processing is increased to Pico second. Billions of instructions could be processed in a second.
  • They are very user-friendly computers which use many high level languages for programming
Fifth Generation Computer (1991-Personal and beyond)
  • These computers will use parallel processor made from super conductors Gallium Arsenide (GaAs)/biochip.
  • They will posses Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • They will be able to input in nature language.

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