What are 5 Generation of Computer ?
An international conference in 1962 classified computers into 5 distinct generations – 3 of which are already passed by and we are in fourth generation now. The fifth generation computers are undergoing research and a few computers of this generation are developed that meets some of the expected feature of fifth generation.
Each generation of computers is characterized by a major technological development that fundamentally changed the way computers operate, resulting in increasingly smaller, cheaper, more powerful, and more efficient and reliable devices.
How was the generation of computer classified?
In fact, each computer is classified into different generations based on what electronic component it used. It’s not the time period, nor the model.
Vacuum tubes, transistors, ICs, LSI & VLSI chips are used as switching components or memory and processing devices.
These are the Generations of Computer
First Generation (1946 to 1954)
First generation computers used vacuum tubes as switching device and magnetic drum for memory. These computers were often huge, occupying an entire hall.
The image shows different vacuum tubes.
Because first generation computers used vacuum tubes, they consumed a lot of electricity and produced excessive heat. You require cooling facilities to operate computers. This was the major problem of this generation of computers. Moreover, these tubes burned out because of too much heating and need to be replaced more frequently.
The operation cost of these computers was too expensive.
In first generation computers, the operating instructions or programs were specifically built for the task for which computer manufactured. The Machine language was the only way to tell these machines to perform the operations. That’s why there was great difficulty to program these computers and more when there were some malfunctions.
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Second Generation (1955 to 1964)
In 1906 the American physicist Lee De Forest invented vacuum tube triode. It’s the first three terminal device and enabled amplification and switching of electrical signals. Though it helped to push the development of technology a great deal, it had its own problems. The metal that emitted electrons in the vacuum tubes burned out. It occupied lot of space, consumed much power and produced heat.
In 1947 the three American physicists – John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain – at Bell Telephone Laboratories invented transistors. They received the 1956 Nobel Prize jointly for this awesome invention.Transistors proved to be a much better alternative to the vacuum tubes. They were much smaller, produce low heat and were very reliable. This made it possible to develop computers smaller, efficient and more reliable.
By 1948, the invention of the transistor greatly changed the computer’s development. Coupled with early advances in magnetic-core memory, transistors led to second generation computers that were smaller, faster, more reliable and more energy-efficient than their predecessors.
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Third Generation (1964 to 1974)
Many people enjoy a misconception that all larger computers are from older generations and small computers are the fourth generation computers. Remember, computers are classified into different generations NOT based on their sizes. It is true that the old computers were compelled to be of bigger size (larger components and lack of advanced technology).
The vacuum tubes used in first generation replaced with transistors in second and which in turn replaced by ICs (Integrated Circuits) in third generation computers.
Integrated Circuit (IC) is a small electronic device made with semiconductor material. The first integrated circuit developed in the 1950s by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor.- WeboPedia
It is amusing to know that two people thought about the same solution but independently. Here is the interesting story about how Robert Noyce got the patent.
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Fourth Generation (1975 to 1990)
Fourth generation for the computers is the era of blooming in multiple dimensions rather than invention of electronic components which uses ICs as in third generation.
Third generation computers used Small Scale and Medium Scale ICs where as in fourth generation Large Scale ICs (LSI), Very Large Scale ICs (VLSI) and the Ultra Large Scale ICs (ULSI) are used.
Millions of electronic components got integrated in a tiny chip, the computers became very small with increased speed, reliability and reduction in cost.
The size of computer reduced to mini computers and microcomputers. Today, we have laptops, palm tops and pocket PCs.
Probably the most important development in this generation is microprocessor. The Intel4004 chip, developed in 1971, took the integrated circuit one step further by locating all the components of a computer (central processing unit, memory, and input and output controls) on a minute chip.
Previously the integrated circuit had to be manufactured to fit a special purpose, now one microprocessor could be manufactured and then programmed to meet any number of demands. Soon everyday household items such as microwave ovens, television sets, and automobiles with electronic fuel injection incorporated microprocessors.
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Fifth Generation (1990 to Still on Research)
Up to the fourth generation we saw how computers evolved as the switching devices improved. Fifth generation computers are future computers.
In 1982 Japan started a project named Fifth Generation Computer Systems Project (FGCS) initiated to create a “fifth generation computer” which supposed to perform much calculation using massive parallel processing.
The project to create the computer over a ten year period, after which it considered ended and investment in a new, Sixth Generation project, began.
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Source: ICTTrends ,Suresh Khanal, Wiki
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