Computers are an integral part of our life. Whether it is about typing documents, editing or creating spreadsheets, sending emails, playing games, browsing Web or anything, a computer is the device that helps us do it all. It was first invented in 1946 and since then, it has been evolving.
Though the history of the computer is several decades old but there are five different generations of computers.
Each generation has technological advancements associated with it making the computers more compact, less expensive, more powerful and efficient and a very easy to use device.
1940 – 1956: First Generation of computers
The first generation of computers used vacuum tubes as their circuitry and magnetic drums as the memory to save data. As a result the computers were so huge that they were literally housed in an entire room and costing treasures to run. The technology used generated a lot of heat and used huge electricity. These factors caused frequent breakdowns in the computers. They used punched cards for inputs.
The first generation computers relied completely on ‘machine language’. They were limited to solving one problem at a time. The machines of this era were named as UNIVAC and ENIAC machines where the UNIVAC was the first commercial computer.
1956 – 1963: Second Generation of computers
The vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors and it known to be the second generation of computing. Though the heat that was generated by the machine was still the same but the use of transistors was a big improvement over the vacuum tube. Transistors made the second generation computers superior, smaller, faster, cheaper and they used lesser electricity. The second generation computers still used punched card for inputs.
The language used was not binary machine language but it also evolved to assembly language. This helped the users to create instructions in words. High level programming languages were also being developed at that time. Unlike the first generation machines, the second gen computers used magnetic cores as memory storage. So the second generation computers were the first machines to store instructions into their memories.
1964 – 1971: Third Generation of computers
Thanks to the technology, the transistors were now being put on silicon chips known as semiconductors. This technological advancement led to an enormous increase in speed and efficiency of these machines. This generation was the first one to use keyboards and monitors which interfaced with the operating system. The technology enabled these machines to run several applications at the same time and a central processing unit was used to save the data in the memory.
These advancements made the machines further cheaper and smaller.
1972 – 2010: Fourth Generation of computers
The credit for the Fourth Generation computer goes entirely to Intel. Intel developed a chip in 1971, which stationed all the computer components (CPU, memory, input/output controls) onto a single chip, known as microprocessor. The small chip sited thousands of integrated circuits on it. Microprocessors were not limited to the computers but they were used in a number of everyday products also.
These small computers were powerful and they could be linked with each other using networks. Ultimately this leads to the development and speedy evolution of the Internet. The technology made the computers smaller day by day and finally the laptop and other hand held devices came in being.
2010 – Present: Fifth Generation of computers
Technology keeps on developing itself. Fifth generation devices with artificial intelligence are still under development, but some of these technologies have emerged and are being used. Artificial Intelligence uses superconductors and nano technology.
The technology will ultimately create machines which can respond to natural language and can learn and organise themselves.