Computer Science

Generations of Computer

The development of electronic computers can be divided into generations depending upon the technologies used. Different generations of computers are as follows:

    1. First-generation      (Vacuum tube)        1946-1957
    2. Second generation        (Transistor)        1958-1963
    3. Third generation        (Integrated Circuits)      1964-1970
    4. Fourth generation        (Microprocessor)       1971-Present
    5. Fifth generation        (Artificial intelligence)         Present and Future

First Generation Computers (1946-1957)

The first-generation computers used vacuum tubes. A vacuum tube was expensive. It produced much heat that caused the computer to break down. Two examples of first-generation computers are ENIV AC and UNIV AC-I etc.


    • Vacuum tubes made it possible to make electronic digital computers.


    • These computers were very large in size.
    • They were not portable.
    • They produced too much heat and needed air conditioning.
    • They were not very reliable.
    • They were more costly.
    • They were quite slow in speed.
    • They consumed a lot of power.
    • They were difficult to maintain.
    • They used punch cards for input.
    • They used magnetic drums that provided less storage.
    • The output was printed using electric typewriters.
    • They used machine language only.

Second Generation Computers (1958-1963)

The second-generation computers used transistors. The transistor was invented by three scientists William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain at Bell Labs in 1947.
The size of the computer was decreased by replacing vacuum tubes with transistors. Examples of second-generation computers are IBM 7094 series, IBM 1400 series, and CDC 164 etc.


    • These computers were smaller in size than the first generation.
    • They consumed less power than first-generation computers.
    • They were more portable.
    • They had high processing speeds and were more reliable
    • They were less expensive than the first generation.
    • They used magnetic core memory as internal storage.
    • They used punched card readers, magnetic tape, magnetic disks, and printers.
    • The assembly language was used in these computers.
    • High-level programming languages were introduced such as FORTRAN and COBOL


    • They needed air conditioning and constant maintenance.
    • Commercial production was difficult.
    • They were only used for specific purposes.
    • They were not very versatile.

Third Generation Computers (1964-1970)

The third-generation computers used integrated circuits (IC). The IC was invented by became Jack Kilby. It was an important invention in the computer field. The computer is smaller in size, faster, more reliable, and less expensive. Examples of third-generation computers are IBM 370, IBM System/360, UNIV AC 1108, UNIVAC 9000, etc.


    • These computers were smaller in size and easier to operate.
    • They produced less heat than previous generations.
    • They were more reliable and less expensive.
    • They consumed less power and provided higher processing speed.
    • The maintenance cost was low.
    • The keyboard, mouse, and monitor were introduced for input and output.
    • The hard drives were typically used for storage.
    • They supported high-level programming languages.


    • They required air conditioning.
    • The highly advanced technology was required to make IC Chips.

Fourth Generation Computers (1971-Present)

The fourth-generation computers started with the invention of microprocessors contains thousands of ICs. Ted Hoff
microprocessor. They produced the first microprocessor in 1971 for Intel It was known as Intel 4004. The technology of integrated circuits improved rapidly.
The LS1 (Large Scale Integration) circuit and VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) circuit were designed. It greatly reduced the size of the computer. The original IBM PC, Apple Macintosh, and most of today’s traditional computers are examples of fourth-generation computers.


    • These computers are smaller in size than previous generations.
    • The cost of these computers is lower than in previous generations.
    • They consume less power and generate less heat
    • They are more reliable and powerful.
    • They have high processing speed.
    • They are produced for commercial purposes.
    • They are general-purpose computers.
    • A large variety of software is available for use on personal computers.
    • They use the operating system with a graphical user interface.
    • They support multimedia software that combines text, image, audio, and video.
    • They support all types of high-level languages.
    • They typically use a keyboard and mouse for input and a monitor and printer for output.
    • They used computer networks, wireless technologies, and the Internet.
    • They use storage devices such as hard drives, flash memory media, and optical discs.


    • The latest technology is required for manufacturing microprocessors.

Fifth Generation (Present and Future)

The fifth generation is based on artificial generation intelligence (AI). Some applications of this create a computer with real IQ. Voice recognition, robotics and game playing, etc. The scientists are trying to natural language input and the goal is to develop a computer that can understand the natural language input and has the ability to learn.

The computers in the future might be constructed differently than today’s computers. They might be in the form of optical computers that process data using light instead of electrons. Nanotechnology can be used to develop tiny computers.

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