Generations of computers can be defined as a series of stages in the development of computing or a shift in the specific technology that the computer is/was using.

First-generation, second-generation, third-generation, fourth-generation, and fifth-generation computers are the five known generations of computers.

Each generation of computers is distinguished by a significant technological advancement that fundamentally altered how the computer functions, leading to cheaper, more powerful, and more efficient computers.

First-generation Of Computer (1946-1959)

This is the world's first computer generation. The first generations of computers used vacuum tubes as their circuitry and magnetic drum as memory.

Vacuum tubes

The first generation of computers relied on machine language to perform their operations and could only solve one problem at a time. 

In addition to that, it generated a great deal of heat which cause it to malfunction frequently.

Also, the first generation of computers was very enormous such that they could take up a room.

UNIVAC 1, IBM 700, 1BM 701, IBM 650, and ENIAC are all first-generation computers.


Characteristics of First-generation of computers

1. They were mainly mainframe computers

2. Its speed range is milliseconds

3. The First generation computers relied on machine language, the lowest-level language, to perform their operations.

4. They were so large that they could fill a room.

5. First-generation computers consumed and used a lot of electricity.

6. They also generated a lot of heat and therefore required an air-conditioner.

7. Computing capabilities were limited as they were not so reliable.

8. Punch cards and print cards were used as input and output devices respectively in the first generation.

9. First-generation computers could only solve one problem at a time and, therefore, are not suitable for multitasking operations.

Second Generation Of Computers (1959-1965)

Unlike the first generation computers which use vacuum tubes, second-generation computers use transistors.

Transistor factoid

Transistors are superior to vacuum tubes as they allow computers to be smaller, more energy-efficient, and faster than first-generation computers.

However, these transistors still produce enough heat that caused the computer to malfunction. 

Examples of this generation of computers are Honeywell 800 and 1BM 1401, and IBM 704.

Second generation computer

Characteristics of Second-Generation of Computers

1. Second-generation produce lesser heat than first-generation computers. However, AC was still required.

2. Transistor was used instead of the vacuum tube.

3. Second-generation computers were cheaper than computers that use vacuum tubes.

4. Computer capabilities in the second generation were greater than first-generation computers.

5. The Second generation of computers saw the introduction of assembly language and High-level language.

6. The speed range of second-generation computers was microseconds

7. Second-generation computers shared two characteristics with first-generation computers. The first is that they used punch cards and print out as input and output devices like their first-generation counterparts. Secondly, They were also mainframe computers.

8. The primary memory of second-generation computers was Magnetic cores while the second memory was magnetic tapes and disks.

9. Though second generations of computers were cheaper than the first generation computers, they were still relatively expensive.

10. the Second generation is also the first generation of computers to see computer store instructions in their memory.

Third-generation Of Computer (1965-1971)

The world would see integrated circuits replace transistors in the third generation of computers.

Integrated circuit

As a result, the size of the computer was reduced to a great extent. Plus, the speed of computers was increased as computers can now run in nanoseconds rather than microseconds.

Honeywell 316, IBM 370, and PDP-11(personal data processor) are all third-generation computers. 

3rd generation computers

Characteristics of Third-Generation of Computers

1. Minicomputer was introduced in the third- generation.

2. The use of punch cards and paper as input/output devices was relegated in the third generation. For the very first time, the user can now interact with the computer via keyboard and monitor. Accordingly, the keyboard was the input device while the monitor was the output device. Both devices are still in use today.

So, the keyboard and monitor were first introduced in the third generation as input and output devices.

3. This generation of computers utilized the integrated circuit.

4. More high-level languages were introduced during the third generation.

5. The size of third-generation computers was greatly reduced compared to other generations of computers.

6. Third-generation computers allow users to interface with real operating systems for the first time. 

Thus, multi-programming was introduced in the third generation as different applications can now run concurrently with an operating system monitoring the g memory usage of each application.

7. Third-generation computers were cheaper and smaller. As a result, the computer became available to a large number of users.

8. The speed range of the third-generation computers is nanoseconds.

9. They were more reliable than previous generations of computers.

10. It still generated enough heat. so, AC is required.

11. The third generation of computers also saw the introduction of time-sharing processing.

Fourth Generation Of Computer(1971-1990)

Fourth-generation computers used a very large-scale integrated circuit (VLSI) or microprocessor.

In the fourth generation of computers, many integrated circuits were built into a single silicon chip called a microprocessor.


Consequently, computers became even smaller as computers that in the first generation fill a room can now be held in hand. 

The fourth generation also saw the introduction of the mouse as an input device which is still in use today

IBM-PC, Apple Macintosh, ALTAIR 8800 are examples of the fourth generation of computers. 

Characteristics of the Fourth generation of computers

1. The Fourth generation of computers saw the introduction of microcomputers.

2. Computers that can be held on the lap (laptop) or palm (palmtop) were introduced. In essence, the fourth-generation computers were very much portable.

3. The use of the keyboard and monitor was still retained.

4. With the introduction of GUIs(Graphical user interface) and mice in the fourth generation, computers became more enjoyable and pleasing to use.

5. Thanks to microprocessors, fourth-generation computers have more storage capacities than the previous three generations.

6. They were also faster, more accurate, and more reliable as compared to priors generations of computers.

7. CD-ROM and floppy disks were used as external storage in the fourth generation of computers.

8. The processing capabilities of the computer became even better.

9. Expectedly, the price of computers was reduced to a large extent. Thus, computers became less expensive in the fourth generation of computers.

10. The fourth generation of computers saw the introduction of networking and the internet which is still in use today.

The introduction of networking was a result of computers becoming more and more smaller and powerful such that they could now be linked together.

11. For the first time, computers do not require air conditioning.

12. The speed range of the fourth-generation computers is microseconds

13. Non-procedural programming language (like object-oriented languages) was also introduced in the fourth generation of computers.

Fifth Generation Of Computer (1991 Beyond)

Artificial Intelligence is the most important feature of the fifth generation computers. Artificial intelligence is a computer or software which exhibits artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence

The fifth generation of computers is still in its development and more artificial intelligence is expected to develop in the coming years.

Voice recognition (used by Google), IBM Watson, and Microsoft Cortana are examples of AI.

Characteristics of the Fifth generation of Computers

1. Computers are expected to be faster than they are now.

2. More artificial entities with human-like capabilities and intelligence are expected to be developed.

3. Parallel computing/processing is expected in the fifth generation. By parallel processing, we mean that the computer will be able to carry out multiple commands simultaneously.

4. the Fifth generation of computers also used ultra-large-scale integration is used 

5. The Fifth generation of computers uses very high-level language.

6. Super large-scale integrated chip is used in the fifth generation.

7. Development of natural language processing is also a feature of fifth-generation computers

8. With the introduction of the multimedia feature, user-friendly interfaces just get bigger.

9. More than ever before, computers will be able to recognize images and graphs easily.

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  1. Is there a way to differentiate the computer of each Generation because they look similar. Like something specific to all first Generation computer or an Acronym for it

  2. What do we mean by something being a non-profit procedural language. And what does Object oriented programming entails

  3. A non-procedural language is a computer in which the instructions are not written in a definite order.

    Non-procedural languages are also known as declarative languages.

    Object-oriented language, on the other hand, is a programming language that makes use of objects.

    Python is an example of an object-oriented language.


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