What are the five generations of Computers?

The history of computer development is often referred in the different generations of computer devices. A generation refers to state of improvement in the production process. Each generation of computer is characterized by major technological development that fundamentally changes the way computer operates.

1. First Generation

The period of first generation was 1946-59. The computers of first generation used vacuum tubes as the basic components for memory and circuitry for CPU (Central Processing Unit). In this generation mainly batch processing operating system were used. Punched cards, paper tape, and magnetic tape were used as input and output devices.

Example: ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer), UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer), IBM-701 and IBM- 650.

2. Second Generation

The period of second generation was 1959-65. In this generation transistors were used. It is cheaper, consumed less power, more compact in size, more reliable and faster than the first generation machines made of vacuum tubes. These were also the first computers that stored instruction in their memory. The computers used batch processing and multiprogramming operating system.

Example: IBM 1620 , IBM 7094, CDC 1604, CDC 3600, UNIVAC 1108

3. Third Generation

The period of third generation was 1965-71. The computers of third generation used Integrated Circuits (IC’s) in place of transistors. A single IC has many transistors, resistors and capacitors along with the associated circuitry. High-level languages (FORTRAN-II TO IV, COBOL, PASCAL PL/1, BASIC, ALGOL-68 etc.) were used during this generation.

Example: IBM-360 series, Honeywell-6000 series, PDP(Programmed Data Processor), IBM-370/168 and TDC- 316

4. Fourth Generation

The period of fourth generation was 1971-80. The computers of fourth generation used Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) circuits. VLSI circuits having about 5000 transistors and other circuit elements and their associated circuits on a single chip made it possible to have microcomputers of fourth generation. All the high-level languages like C, C++, DBASE etc., were used in this generation.

Example: DEC 10, STAR 1000,PDP 11, CRAY-1(Super Computer) and CRAY-X- MP(Super Computer)

5. Fifth Generation

The period of fifth generation is 1980 onwards. In the fifth generation, the VLSI technology became ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology, resulting in the production of microprocessor chips having ten million electronic components. This generation is based on parallel processing hardware and AI (Artificial Intelligence) software used for Robots designing.

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