The 4 Generations of Computers

From 1946-2013

The 1st Generation

In 1946 the first generation of computers were established. In 1946 two Americans, Presper Eckert, and John Mauchly built the ENIAC electronic computer which used vacuum tubes (which work similar to light bulbs) to amplify weak signals and switch things on and off instantly. The invention of vacuum tubes made the first electronic computer possible.


The 2nd Generation

In 1947 three scientists, John Bardeen William Shockley and Walter Brattain invented something that would replace vacuum tubes forever.This invention was the transistor, which functions like a vacuum tube in that it can be used to relay and switch electronic signals. The transistor was faster, more reliable, smaller, and much cheaper to make than a vacuum tube. Without the invention of the transistor, space travel in the 1960's would not have been possible.

The 3rd Generation

In 1965 Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit. It was simply a wafer of silicon that had hundreds and hundreds of transistors on it. This dramatic decrease in size made computers much smaller and a lot cheaper to make. The integrated circuit is sometimes known as the motherboard.


The 4th Generation

In 1971 Ted Hoff invented a chip the size of a marshmallow that could do all the computing and calculations of a computer. It was the microprocessor. It was similar to the more basic integrated circuit but it had millions of transistors in one tiny chip. The microprocessor allowed computers to do billions and calculations every second.