The Evolution of Computer Generation

The Evolution of Computer Generation – Full Information

The word computer has being derived from the word ‘computing’ which mainly involves counting. Commonly Operated Machine Particularly Used In Technical and Educational Research” in short computer is a general purpose electronic device that is used to perform arithmetic and logical operations automatically.

Nowadays, with the advancement of computer technology, its use is increasing in the education system, research field, and technological field and even in our homes. However, today’s advanced computers have come to this stage through many evolutions long ago, which we will discuss in detail today.

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The Brief History of Computer Evolution

Stone Age people used pebbles or made scratch marks on the cave wall to count the number of cattle they had. Whenever a newborn was there, they added another pebble and when someone died they remove one. In this way they kept the record of their daily routine. Consequently they used their fingers for counting.

But the process was extremely slow and complicated so some new techniques were developed to assist in their daily work.

  • The ‘ABACUS’ probably is the oldest counting machine which was developed around 500 B.C. in China. It consists of a wooden frame with rods and columns of bead on them for counting. A crossbar usually separates the beads into two sections. By removing the beads one can make addition and subtractions. It is still used in China and Japan named ‘Soroban’.An adapted abacus, invented by Tim Cranmer, called a Cranmer Abacus is still commonly used by individuals who are blind.
  • The first device to help in multiplication and division was developed by a Scottish mathematician John Napier. Napier designed a system called ‘NAPIER’S BONES’, which was made in 1617 by ivory rods, which were etched in several numbers based on a table of logarithms. To multiply two numbers one has to simply add two numbers and get the result using the principles of logarithm.
  •  Next in 1642 a French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal made Pascal’s Adding Machine which was also called ‘PASCALINE’. It was the first calculator that could calculate automatically once a number was given. It was a mechanical calculator made with gears and wheels that could addition and subtractions in base 10.
  • Later on in 1671, the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz developed Pascaline machine by studying Pascal’s original notes and drawings, which was also known as ‘LEIBNIZ’S STEP RECKONER’. This machine was able to calculate multiplications and divisions as well, along with large additions and subtractions.
  • In 1822 Charles Babbage, a professor of Cambridge University invented a machine, ‘DIFFERENCE ENGINE’ which was later used to produce astronomical tables for an observatory in Albany, New York.

Later in 1834, he invented the ‘ANALYTIC ENGINE’, which is considered to be the predecessor of today’s advanced computers. The basic concepts which were developed by Babbage are still the basis of today’s digital computers and for this reason, he is known as “THE FATHER OF COMPUTERS”.

  And thus in human life computers gradually began to play an important role in our daily work.

ABACUS500 B.C.ChinaOne can do addition and subtraction.
NAPIER’S BONES1617John NapierOne can multiply two numbers using the logarithm formula.
PASCALINE1642Blaise PascalAddition and subtractions in base 10.  
LEIBNIZ’S STEP RECKONER1671G.W. Von LeibnizAddition, subtraction, multiplication, division.
DIFFERENCE ENGINE1822Charles BabbageAddition, subtraction, multiplication, division faster.
ANALYTIC ENGINE1834Charles BabbageConsidered to be the predecessor of today’s advanced computers.
:: Summary Chart

The Historical Evolution of Computer Generation

Above we have already discussed in detail how computers took place in human life. Now we will discuss about computer generation. Though at present both hardware and software technologies together form the basis of the computer generations but earlier the term generation was used to indicate the different hardware technologies. In this way we can divide the history of computer evolution into Five Generations.

  • First Generation (About 1942-1955) ­­– The Age Of  VACUUM TUBE

The first generation of computers used Vacuum Tubes as a major piece of technology. Vacuum tube was invented in 1906 by the American Physicist Lee De Frost which was widely used in computers from 1942 through 1955 and soon replaced the electromechanical relays. These types of computer consume high electricity and generated much heat and were also large in size.

Vacuum Tubes -  The Evolution of Computer Generation
Vacuum Tubes

Example: –

1. ENIAC ELECTRONIC NUMERICAL INTEGRATOR AND COMPUTER which was invented by J.P.Eckert and J.W. Mauchly. It was the world’s first general purpose electronic computer, built in 1946.

2. UNIVAC1 UNIVERSAL AUTOMATIC COMPUTER which was invented by J.W.Mauchly to be used by the War Department’s Ballistic Research Laboratory. The computer was built over the course of three years by a team of engineers led by J. W. Mauchly and his former student J.P.Eckert. It was the first general purpose electronic digital computer designed for commercial use, built in June 14, 1951.          

  • Second Generation (About 1956- 1964) – The Age Of TRANSISTOR

The introduction of semiconductor components are Considered to be the beginning of second generation computers. In this generation, Transistors were widely used that were cheaper, less energy consuming, more compact in shape, more reliable and faster than first generation machines made by vacuum tubes.

Transistors  -  The second generation of computer

Transistor invented in 1947 by William Shockley, Walter Houser Brattain and John Bardeen at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. During this time some programming languages like COBOL, FORTRAN were introduced.

Example: – IBM 1401, HONEYWELL 400, IBM 1620, CDC 1604 became the most popular computer during this period.

  • Third Generation (About 1965-1971) – The Age Of  INTEGRATED CIRCUIT (IC)

With the use of transistors, the general size of the computing machines decreased but as computers became more powerful so more transistors needed to be used so the computer of the third generation used Integrated Circuits (ICs) in place of transistors. As a single IC has many transistors, resistors, and capacitors along with the associated circuit so the processing speeds of this generation of computers were calculated in nanoseconds and the machines also became cheaper.

Integrated Circuits (ICs) - The third generation of computer
Integrated Circuits (ICs)

Robert Noyce developed the integrated circuit while at Fairchild Corporation. But the same concepts discovered by Jack Kilby a few months ago at Texas Instruments in Dallas. In July 1959, Noyce patented the concept of an integrated circuit.

Example: – some of the most popular third generation computers are – IBM-360 series, Honeywell 6000, IBM 370 and CDC 1700.

  • Fourth Generation (About 1971-1985) – The Age Of  MICROPROCESSOR (µP)

Fourth generation computers use Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) Circuits which  indicate the total  number of active components or transistors  that are being packed into a single IC chip. Thus millions of transistors were packed onto the single IC in the process, to produce a microprocessor, which is considered to be the beginning of the fourth generation of computers. Then computers began to be used personally due to their lower cost, smaller size, better performance, and obviously to do daily operations easily.  

Microprocessor (µP) -  The fourth generation of computer
Microprocessor (µP)

In January, 1971 the first microprocessor was designed by a team of logic architects and silicon engineers which was consisted  of Federico Faggin  the Italian-American physicist and engineer, American engineer Marcian Hoff and Stanley Mazor, and Japanese engineer Masatoshi Shima .They worked on this project for the Japanese calculator manufacturer Busicom.

Intel The Die is Cast: Intel’s 4-bit 4004 chip is widely regarded as the World’s First Microprocessor.

Example: – Intel 8085, 80286, 386 etc are used in PCs of this era. Intel was the first company to develop a microprocessor. Their Pentium processors are still widely used in our PCs.

INTEL and AMD are the two most popular processor making companies yet.

  • Fifth Generation (About 1985-Present) – The Age Of ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The computer technologies of the fourth and fifth generation do not have a distinct borderline, but the major fact is – the VLSI technology of fourth generation of computers became ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology, resulting in the production of microprocessor chips having ten million electronic components.

The fifth generation of computers were introduced with a new technology called ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI), means this generation of computers should be able to learn from their mistakes and they will also be able to take instructions from spoken words and imitate human reasoning.

Artificial Intelligence - The Evolution of Computer Generation
Artificial Intelligence  (AI)

The term artificial intelligence was first coined by John McCarthy in 1956 when he held the first academic conference on the subject. He was also known as The Father Of Artificial Intelligence, in 2006, five years before his death.

In December 1955, Herbert Simon and Allen Newell developed the first artificial intelligence program, ‘Logic Theorist’.

Example: – Desktop, Laptop, Notebook, Ultra Book etc.

  Thus after many years of changes, today’s modern computers have come which is a very important thing in our daily life. Hopefully we’ll see some more new technology later.

Genera-tion  Period (About)Age OfInventor(s)CharacteristicsExamples
First1942-1955Vacuum TubeLee De Frost1. Large in size and generate much heat.
2. Consume high power.
3. Slow processing power (milliseconds).
Second1956-1964TransistorW. Shockley,   W.H. Brattain,   J. Bardeen1. Floating point operations were widely used.
2. COBOL, FORTRAN introduced.
3. Speed calculates in microseconds.
IBM 1401, Honeywell- 400 etc.
Third1965-1971Integrated Circuit(IC)Jack Kilby1. Smaller, cheaper and faster computer.
2. Speed calculates in nanoseconds.
IBM- 360,CDC -1700 etc.
Fourth1971-1985Micro -Processor (µp)F. Faggin, M. Hoff, S. Major, M. Shima1. Cheapest and fastest among all generation.
2. User-friendly software packages introduced.
Intel 8085, Pentium etc.
Fifth1985-PresentArtificial Intelligence (AI)John McCarthy1. Based on the concept of parallel processing and neural networks.
2. User friendly and easy to use.
3. Very high processing power.
4. Low electricity consumption.
PC, Laptop etc.
:: Summary Chart

Hopefully from the above discussion you have come to know some unknown and interesting information about the evolution of computer and its generation.

THANKS for visiting my website.


Today’s smart phones have more processing power than all the computers in the Apollo-11 Lunar Lander that helped 2 men to land on the moon in 1969.

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