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Generations of Computer

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A computer is an electronic device that manipulates information or data. It can store, retrieve, and process data. 
Nowadays, a computer can be used to type documents, send an email, play games, and browse the Web. It can also be used to edit or create spreadsheets, presentations, and even videos. But the evolution of this complex system started around 1940 with the First Generation of computers and evolving ever since. 

Computers have evolved significantly over the years, and the history of computers is often divided into generations based on the technology used. Here are the five generations of computers:

  1. First Generation (1940s-1950s): The first computers used vacuum tubes for processing and magnetic drums for storage. They were large, expensive, and unreliable.
  2. Second Generation (1950s-1960s): The second generation of computers replaced vacuum tubes with transistors, making them smaller, faster, and more reliable. Magnetic core memory was also introduced, which was faster and more reliable than magnetic drums.
  3. Third Generation (1960s-1970s): The third generation of computers used integrated circuits, which allowed for even smaller and faster computers. They also introduced magnetic disk storage and operating systems.
  4. Fourth Generation (1970s-1980s): The fourth generation of computers saw the introduction of microprocessors, which made personal computers possible. They also introduced graphical user interfaces and networking.
  5. Fifth Generation (1980s-Present): The fifth generation of computers is still ongoing, and is focused on artificial intelligence and parallel processing. This generation also saw the development of mobile computing and the internet.

Each generation of computers has built upon the advancements of the previous generation, leading to the computers we use today.

There are five generations of computers. 

  • Introduction: 
    1. 1946-1959 is the period of first generation computer.
    2. J.P.Eckert and J.W.Mauchy invented the first successful electronic computer called ENIAC, ENIAC stands for “Electronic Numeric Integrated And Calculator”.
  • Few Examples are: 
    1. ENIAC
    2. EDVAC
    3. UNIVAC
    4. IBM-701
    5. IBM-650
  • Advantages: 
    1. It made use of vacuum tubes which are the only electronic component available during those days. 
    2. These computers could calculate in milliseconds. 
  • Disadvantages: 
    1. These were very big in size, weight was about 30 tones.
    2. These computers were based on vacuum tubes.
    3. These computers were very costly.
    4. It could store only a small amount of information due to the presence of magnetic drums.
    5. As the invention of first generation computers involves vacuum tubes, so another disadvantage of these computers was, vacuum tubes require a large cooling system.
    6. Very less work efficiency.
    7. Limited programming capabilities and punch cards were used to take inputs.
    8. Large amount of energy consumption.
    9. Not reliable and constant maintenance is required.
  • Introduction: 
    1. 1959-1965 is the period of second-generation computer.
    2. 3.Second generation computers were based on Transistor instead of vacuum tubes.
  • Few Examples are: 
    1. Honeywell 400
    2. IBM 7094
    3. CDC 1604
    4. CDC 3600
    5. UNIVAC 1108
  • Advantages: 
    1. Due to the presence of transistors instead of vacuum tubes, the size of electron component decreased. This resulted in reducing the size of a computer as compared to first generation computers.
    2. Less energy and not produce as much heat as the first generation.
    3. Assembly language and punch cards were used for input.
    4. Low cost than first generation computers.
    5. Better speed, calculate data in microseconds.
    6. Better portability as compared to first generation
  • Disadvantages: 
    1. A cooling system was required.
    2. Constant maintenance was required.
    3. Only used for specific purposes.
  • Introduction: 
    1. 1965-1971 is the period of third generation computer.
    2. These computers were based on Integrated circuits.
    3. IC was invented by Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby In 1958-1959.
    4. IC was a single component containing number of transistors.
  • Few Examples are: 
    1. PDP-8
    2. PDP-11
    3. ICL 2900
    4. IBM 360
    5. IBM 370
  • Advantages: 
    1. These computers were cheaper as compared to second-generation computers.
    2. They were fast and reliable.
    3. Use of IC in the computer provides the small size of the computer.
    4. IC not only reduce the size of the computer but it also improves the performance of the computer as compared to previous computers.
    5. This generation of computers has big storage capacity.
    6. Instead of punch cards, mouse and keyboard are used for input.
    7. They used an operating system for better resource management and used the concept of time-sharing and multiple programming.
    8. These computers reduce the computational time from microseconds to nanoseconds.
  • Disadvantages: 
    1. IC chips are difficult to maintain.
    2. The highly sophisticated technology required for the manufacturing of IC chips.
    3. Air conditioning is required.
  • Introduction: 
    1. 1971-1980 is the period of fourth generation computer.
    2. This technology is based on Microprocessor.
    3. A microprocessor is used in a computer for any logical and arithmetic function to be performed in any program.
    4. Graphics User Interface (GUI) technology was exploited to offer more comfort to users.
  • Few Examples are: 
    1. IBM 4341
    2. DEC 10
    3. STAR 1000
    4. PUP 11
  • Advantages: 
    1. Fastest in computation and size get reduced as compared to the previous generation of computer.
    2. Heat generated is negligible.
    3. Small in size as compared to previous generation computers.
    4. Less maintenance is required.
    5. All types of high-level language can be used in this type of computers.
  • Disadvantages: 
    1. The Microprocessor design and fabrication are very complex.
    2. Air conditioning is required in many cases due to the presence of ICs.
    3. Advance technology is required to make the ICs.
  • Introduction: 
    1. The period of the fifth generation in 1980-onwards.
    2. This generation is based on artificial intelligence.
    3. The aim of the fifth generation is to make a device which could respond to natural language input and are capable of learning and self-organization.
    4. This generation is based on ULSI(Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology resulting in the production of microprocessor chips having ten million electronic component.
  • Few Examples are: 
    1. Desktop
    2. Laptop
    3. NoteBook
    4. UltraBook
    5. Chromebook
  • Advantages: 
    1. It is more reliable and works faster.
    2. It is available in different sizes and unique features.
    3. It provides computers with more user-friendly interfaces with multimedia features.
  • Disadvantages: 
    1. They need very low-level languages.
    2. They may make the human brains dull and doomed.

Here are some references related to the generations of computers:

  1. “A Brief History of Computer Generations” by Techopedia:
  2. “Computer Generations” by GeeksforGeeks:
  3. “History of Computers: A Brief Timeline” by Live Science:
  4. “The Five Generations of Computers” by Lifewire:
  5. “History of Computers – A Look at Generations” by ThoughtCo.:


Last Updated : 19 Apr, 2023
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