The Four Generations of Computers
2014 - 2015 Edition
The Second Generation
The transistor was invented in 1947 but did not see widespread use in computers until the late 1950s. The transistor was far superior to the older computers, allowing computers to become smaller, faster, cheaper, more energy-efficient and more reliable than their first-generation predecessors. But the transistor still generated a great deal of heat that subjected the computer to damage, it was a vast improvement compared to the older generations. Second-generation computers still relied on punched cards for input and printouts for output.Second generation computers moved from cryptic binary machine language to symbolic, or assembly, languages, which allowed programmers to specify instructions in words.
The Third Generation
Here we go again...
The development of the integrated circuit was the hallmark of the third generation of computers. Transistors were miniaturized and placed on silicon chips, called semiconductors, which drastically increased the speed and efficiency of computers.
Instead of punched cards and printouts, users interacted with third generation computers through keyboards and monitors and interfaced with an operating system, which allowed the device to run many different applications at one time with a central program that monitored the memory. Computers for the first time became accessible to a mass audience because they were smaller and cheaper than their predecessors.
The Fourth Generation
The microprocessor brought the fourth generation of computers into our world, as thousands of integrated circuits were built onto a single silicon chip. In the first generation what filled an entire room could now fit in the palm of the hand. The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971, had all the components of the computer from the central processing unit and memory to input/output controls on a single chip.
Time to go Beyond
Fifth generation computing devices, based on artificial intelligence, are still in development, though there are some applications, such as voice recognition, that are being used today. Quantum computation, molecular and nanotechnology will radically change the face of computers in years to come. The goal of fifth-generation computing is to develop devices that respond to natural language input and are capable of learning and self-organization.