Generations of Computer – Features, Hardware, and Computers

Here we are going to talk about the Generations of computer. Not only about 5 generations but what set them apart, key hardware technology of each age, and features of each generation of computers.

Generations of Computer

In Short, there are 5 Generations of computers as of now

GenerationKey TechnologyRepresentative Systems
First (1940 – 1956)vacuum TubesENIAC, EDVAC, EDSAC, UNIVAC I, IBM 701
Second (1956-1963)TransistorHoneywell 400, IBM 7030, CDC, 1604, UNIVAC LARC
Third (1964 – 1971)Integrated CircuitIBM 360/370, PDP-8, PDP-11, CDC 6600, TDC 316
Fourth (1971 – 1980)VLSI microprocessorIBM PC’s, Apple II, TRS-80, VAX 9000
Fifth (1980 – to now)ULSI microprocessorIBM Notebooks, Pentium PCs, Modern Computers, and Laptops

Suggested: Evolution of Computers

First Generation (1940 – 1956)

First Generation computers were the size of a room, very-very costly, generated lots of heat, and used vacuum tubes as their basic component.

Machines of this being first in line weren’t very reliable.

This generation of computers used high-level programing language and considering they had no OS, programming in those machines was a very tedious task.

Since those machines used lots of electricity, as a result, they generated lots of heat and because of that Air conditioning was required.

Computers of this time were the size of a room and that makes them non-portable.

Key Features

  • First Generation computers used vacuum tubes as basic components.
  • Computers from this generation were huge in size, very costly, non-portable, and unreliable.
  • Supported only the machine language.
  • Generate lots of heat, consumed lots of electricity, and AC was a must.

Key Hardware Technologies

Computers from this generation use vacuum tubes which is also known as electron tube, valve, thermionic tube, or thermionic valve.

Representative Systems

  • ENIAC – It was the first programmable electronic computer which was finished in the year 1945. IT was able to solve a large class of numerical problems.
  • EDVAC – It was the successor of ENIAC but unlike ENIAC rather than using the decimal system it used binary.
  • UNIVAC – UNIVAC was the first general-purpose computer that have been built for commercial use.
  • IBM 701 -IBM 701 was IBM’s first commercial scientific computer.
  • IBM 650 -In 1962 IBM produced 2,000 IBM 650 computers which were marketed for business, science, and engineering.

Second Generation (1956-1963)

In the Second generation, computers used transistors instead of using vacuum tubes.

As a result computers of this age compare to their predecessors consumed much less electricity, were much cheaper to produce, and were more compact in size.

However, they are still very costly but are faster and more reliable than first-generation computers.

Key Features

  • These computers use transistors.
  • Second-generation computers compared to first-generation machines were small in size, consumed less electricity, and generated less heat.
  • Supported both machine and assembly languages.
  • Programming in that machine was easier compared to the previous generation since it supports assembly language and high-level programming languages like FORTRAN & COBOL.

Key Hardware Technologies

The computer this time around instead of Vacuum Tubes used transistors.

Representative Systems

  • IBM 1620 -This was marketed as an inexpensive scientific computer.
  • IBM 7094 – This was a transistorized version of the earlier first-generation machine IBM 709.
  • CDC 1604 – Created by Control data corporation this was known as the ‘first commercially successful Computer’.

Third Generation (1964 – 1971)

The invention of Integrated Circuits made computers in the third generation smaller, more effective, less power hungry, and more reliable.

Computers from this age had remote processing, time-sharing, and multiprogramming operating system among a list of other features.

Key Features

  • Third Generation computers were much more reliable compared to previous gen computers.
  • Computers in this generation were much faster, smaller in size and consumed lesser electricity.
  • Even tho computers in the third generation are smaller they are still costly.

Key Hardware Technologies

In the third generation, computers were involved from Transistors to Integrated circuits.

The use of ICs made a pathway for much smaller and compact computers.

Representative Systems

  • IBM-360 series – This was one of the mainframe computer systems designed for commercial and scientific use.
  • Honeywell-6000 series – These computers were released between 1970 to 1989.

Fourth Generation (1971 – 1980)

In fourth generation computers used VLSI (Which stands for Very Large Scale Integrated circuits).

While a single IC could contain few transistors, a single VLSI circuit had about 5000 transistors with other circuit elements on a single chip.

That made micro-computers of this generation possible.

It was in this age when not only commercial computers but personal computers were on the rise.

Programming languages like C, and C++ also developed during this era.

Key Features

  • VLSI Technology made computers more portable and truly powerful.
  • Computers become available for every user.
  • The concept of the internet was also introduced during this time.
  • Since computers generated much less heat AC is no longer required.

Key Hardware Technologies

In the fourth generation, VLSI technology was used which was much more powerful compared to the single IC of the previous generation.

Representative Systems

  • CDC STAR 100 – This was a vector supercomputer that was developed by CDC.
  • Apple I and II – First and second computers released by Apple.
  • Altair 8800 – It was the first commercially successful personal computer.

Suggested: Introduction to Computer

Fifth Generation (1980 – now)

After the rise of personal computers and the Internet computers become much more popular.

In this gen, VLSI technology become ULSI allowing computers truly powerful, less expensive, and small in size.

While computers in the previous generation were used only for commercial or work-related purposes.

That is no longer true, computers in this age, our age is used everywhere.

Computer kinda becomes not only part of our daily life but also an extension of ourselves.

With the rise of PC, Small handheld devices aka Smartphones we don’t have can do things in a few seconds which could take minutes/hours or even days.

We can not only perform a complex calculation without breaking a sweat but talk to anyone on this planet face-to-face, play realistic games, and so on.

Key Features

  • Computers became much smaller you can do work by carrying on your lap (Laptop) or in the palm of your hand (Smartphone).
  • The rise of Robotics, Natural networks, and Artificial intelligence allows the computer to do the work that requires a human brain.
  • Computers are much more powerful than ever before.
  • Now Computers have almost negligible electricity, generate so little heat that you can run them at room temperature, and are much more portable.

Key Hardware Technologies

ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology allowed the production of microprocessor chips that can have millions of electronic computers.

ULSI isn’t the only key technology in this age.

AI and robotics really made computers more advanced.

Representative Systems

  • Desktop – Computer that seats on your desk. It has diffrent parts like a monitor, keyboard, CPU, and mouse. Combining all that make a Desktop PC.
  • Laptop – Small portable computer that you can carry anywhere.
  • NoteBook – Small version of notebook targeting students.
  • Smartphones – Combining both telephone and computers. Smartphones are the smart version of the boring old feature phone. No need to define it since you probably reading this article on this device

I'm Rahul Bodana, Writer by day, YouTuber by night, coder when the coffee kicks in, and trader when I want to test the limits of my stress tolerance.

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