Computer Evolution: From 1st to 6th generation

Nowadays, most sectors are highly dependent on either the creation, collection or distribution of information and computers play a crucial role in this information department.

As each new computer generation improved on its previous generation, there has been a corresponding reduction in the size of computer circuitry. In contrast to the reduced scale, the speed, power, and memory of computers have also proportionally increased.

This article addresses the different evolutions in the world of computer technology.

The first Generation Computer (the 1940s to 1950s)

  • Vacuum Tubes

Vacuum Tubes

These early computers used to consist of huge vacuum tubes (just like light bulbs) whose primary objective was to boost weak signals for transmission. The vacuum tubes played the role of switches to turn on and turn off the immediate flow of electricity. The concept underlying the on/off switch originate from the idea of ones and zeros. The idea of combining ones and zeros or the on and off switch kind of introduced to the world a type of machine language that could be used to process information.

Mark 1, the first ever computer was so big that it could have filled a typical stadium field. Rumours had it that it used more than 500 miles of wire. But its sucees was determined due to its great processing power,where for example a mathematical problem that normally took around 40-50 hours to solve, only took 1- 20 seconds for Mark to produce a result. The U.S. Navy during World War II took agreta liking to this computer and therefore used it to help solve strategic military mathematical problems like cracking secret codes and creating composite fire tables for naval guns and artillery. The same computer was used by scientists to predict weather patterns and for analyzing problems in airplane design. Apparently, the language of this first generation was called machine language, which comprised zeros and ones for programming the computer.

The Second Generation Computer (Mid 1950s – early 1960s)

  • Transistors


During this generation, the significantly smaller transistors eventually took the place of vacuum tubes as the processing component of the computer. Engineers are the ones who benefitted a lot from this transistion as this new invention dramatically reduced the size and space needed to house a computer. They proved to be less costly to produce and emitted absolutely no heat, thus leading to a fall in the costs of manufacturing and making the technology much more comprehensible since they conducted electricity faster than vacuum tubes and failed less often.

This computer generation was said to have paved the way for space travel and for the development of more sophisticated programming languages that faciliated programmers’ works in terms of the use of short specific terms to represent certain computer processing instructions. Higher-level programming languages such as FORTRAN, ALGOL and COBOL, which use short English‐like words, were developed during this generation.

The Third Generation Computer (Early 1960s – Early 1970s)

  • Integrated Circuits

When it comes to this computer generation, it was noted to have greatly improved on the previous one in terms of miniaturizing the transistor and building several onto a single chip of silicon. This techonology of compressing millions of transistors in a small space, also called an integrated circuit, greatly increased the power of the computer, the processing speed, definitely lowered the costs of production so much and reduced the size of the computer.

Furthermore, back then, input and output devices were introduced to users. Taht’s a time when keyboards, monitors, and the mouse made the computer a more user-friendly environment and reduced the need for huge stacks of punch cards to input data into a mainframe computer. The output of the computer calculations could be read on-screen vice printing out large amounts of paper with graphic symbols on them.

The Fourth Generation Computer (Early 1970s – Mid 1980s)

  • The Microprocessor

The Microprocessor

There’s no denying that this is another improvement on the previous generation as this one significantly reduced the size of the silicon chip that can be easily compared to that of a pencil eraser while vastly increasing its computational speeds. This single chip with immense power and great processing speeds of a computer was called a micro‐processor and was initially intended to be used in calculators and not computers.

During this period, more and more powerful programming languages arose, some which were Pascal, C and compilers which helped convert the program to a lower-level language that the machine could easily process. The now famous UNIX operating system was also developed during this time

The Fifth Computer Generation Computer (Mid 1980s – Early 1990s)

  • Artificial intelligence and Parallel Processing

We all know that the main objective behind the techology of this generation was to develop devices that have the power to respond sensibly to a user’s natural language and also possess the ability to learn and self-organize. It featured the beginning of computers with hundreds of processors that could be allocated to work on different parts of a single program. This is known as parallel processing, and is being used to develop communication between a computer in natural spoken language and its user, through access to a very wide spectrum of knowledge database to make intelligent inferences and draw logical conclusions in the way that humans do.

The Sixth Generation (Mid 1990s to Present)

  • Computers and Video Games

Computers and Video Games

This era refers to the generation of computer and video games which became popular around 1998. The Nintendo Game Cube, Sony PlayStation 2, and Microsoft’s Xbox are noted to have dominated game playing in all age groups.

What do you think about this line of computer evolutions?


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