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Topic: Generations of Computers
Written & Compiled
An Introduction to Computer and its generation:
Computer is an electronic device that stores, retrieves and processes data and can be programmed with instructions. A computer is composed of hardware and software and can exist in a variety of sizes and configurations. A generation refers to the state of improvement in the development of a product. This term is also used in the different advancements of computer technology. With each new generation, the circuitry has gotten smaller and more advanced than the previous generation before it. As a result of the miniaturization, speed, power, and memory of computers have proportionally increased. New discoveries are constantly being developed that affect the way we live, work and play. The First Generation: 1940-1956 (The Vacuum Tube Years) The first generation computers were huge, slow, expensive, and often undependable. In 1946two Americans, Presper Eckert, and John Mauchly built the ENIAC electronic computer which used vacuum tubes instead of the mechanical switches of the Mark I. The ENIAC used thousands of vacuum tubes, which took up a lot of space and gave off a great deal of heat just like light bulbs do. The ENIAC led to other vacuum tube type computers like the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete
Variable Automatic Computer) and the UNIVAC -I (Universal Automatic Computer). The vacuum tube was an extremely important step in the advancement of computers. Vacuum tubes were invented the same time the light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison and worked very similar to light bulbs. Its purpose was to act like an amplifier and a switch. Without any moving parts, vacuum tubes could take very weak signals and make the signal stronger (amplify it). Vacuum tubes could also stop and start the flow of electricity instantly (switch). These two properties made the ENIAC computer possible. The first generation computers used vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory, and were often enormous, taking up entire rooms. They were very expensive to operate and in addition to using a great deal of electricity, generated a lot of heat, which was often the cause of malfunctions. First generation computers relied on machine language to perform operations, and they could only solve one problem at a time. Input was based on punched cards and paper tape, and output was displayed on printouts.
The UNIVAC and ENIAC computers are examples of first-generation computing devices. The UNIVAC was the first commercial computer delivered to a business client, the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951.
The ENIAC gave off so much heat that they had to be cooled by gigantic air conditioners. However even with these huge coolers, vacuum tubes still overheated regularly. It was time for something new.
The Second Generation: 1956-1963(The Era of the Transistor) The transistor computer did not last as long as the vacuum tube computer lasted, but it was no less important in the advancement of computer technology. In 1947 three scientists, John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain working at AT&T's Bell Labs invented what would replace the vacuum tube forever. This invention was the transistor which functions like a vacuum tube in that it can be used to relay and switch electronic signals. There were obvious differences between the transistor and the vacuum tube. The transistor was faster, more reliable, smaller, and much cheaper to build than a vacuum tube. One transistor replaced the equivalent of 40 vacuum tubes. These transistors were made of solid material, some of which is silicon, an abundant element (second only to oxygen) found in beach sand and glass. Therefore they were very cheap to produce. Transistors were found to conduct electricity faster and better than vacuum tubes. They were also much smaller and gave off virtually no heat compared to vacuum tubes. Their use marked a new beginning for the computer.
Transistors replaced vacuum tubes and ushered in the second generation of computers. The transistor was invented in 1947 but did not see widespread use in computers until the late 50s. The transistor was far superior to the vacuum tube, allowing computers to become smaller, faster, cheaper, more energy-efficient and more reliable than their first-
generation predecessors. Though the transistor still generated a great deal of heat that subjected the computer to damage, it was a vast improvement over the vacuum tube. 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. Highlevel programming languages were also being developed at this time, such as early versions of COBOL and FORTRAN. These were also the first computers that stored their instructions in their memory, which moved from a magnetic drum to magnetic core technology. The first computers of this generation were developed for the atomic energy industry. Without this invention, space travel in the 1960's would not have been possible. However, a new invention would even further advance our ability to use computers. The Third Generation: 1964-1971 (Integrated Circuits Miniaturizing the Computer) Transistors were a tremendous breakthrough in advancing the computer. However no one could predict that thousands even now millions of transistors (circuits) could be compacted in such a small space. The integrated circuit, or as it is sometimes referred to as semiconductor chip, packs a huge number of transistors onto a single wafer of silicon. Robert Noyce of Fairchild Corporation and Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments independently discovered the amazing attributes of integrated circuits. Placing such large numbers of transistors on a single chip vastly increased the power of a single computer and lowered its cost considerably. Since the invention of integrated circuits, the number of transistors that can be placed on a single chip has doubled every two years, shrinking both the size and cost of computers even further and further enhancing its power. Most electronic devices today use some form of integrated circuits placed on printed.
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.
These third generation computers could carry out instructions in billionths of a second. The size of these circuit boards-- thin pieces of Bakelite or fiberglass that have electrical connections etched onto them -- sometimes called a mother board. Machines dropped to the size of small file cabinets. Yet, the single biggest advancement in the computer era was yet to be discovered. The Fourth Generation: 1971-Today (The Microprocessor) This generation can be characterized by both the jump to monolithic integrated circuits (millions of transistors put onto one integrated circuit chip) and the invention of the microprocessor (a single chip that could do all the processing of a full-scale computer). By putting millions of transistors onto one single chip more calculation and faster speeds could be
reached by computers. Because electricity travels about a foot in a billionth of a second, the smaller the distance the greater the speed of computers. However what really triggered the tremendous growth of computers and its significant impact on our lives is the invention of the microprocessor. Ted Hoff, employed by Intel (Robert Noyce's new company) invented a chip the size of a pencil eraser that could do all the computing and logic work of a computer. The microprocessor was made to be used in calculators, not computers. It led, however, to the invention of personal computers, or microcomputers. The microprocessor brought the fourth generation of computers, as thousands of integrated circuits were built onto a single silicon chip. What in the first generation filled an entire room could now fit in the palm of the hand. The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971, located all the components of the computer from the central processing unit and memory to input/output controls - on a single chip. In 1981 IBM introduced its first computer for the home user, and in 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh. Microprocessors also moved out of the realm of desktop computers and into many areas of life as more and more everyday products began to use microprocessors. As these small computers became more powerful, they could be linked together to form networks, which eventually led to the development of the Internet. Fourth generation computers also saw the development of GUIs, the mouse and handheld devices.
It wasn't until the 1970's that people began buying computer for personal use. One of the earliest personal computers was the Altair 8800 computer kit. In 1975 you could
purchase this kit and put it together to make your own personal computer. In 1977 the Apple II was sold to the public and in 1981 IBM entered the PC (personal computer) market. We have all heard of Intel and its Pentium® Processors but the beginning of the 21st century has marked sudden long leap forward in terms of raw speed with the latest extremely fast processors like the Intel Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Extreme, Core i7, Core i5 series. And the rapid developments in the software department have seen the development of touch screen, finger-print and face detection technologies. Fifth Generation: Present and Beyond (Artificial Intelligence and Massively Parallel Computers) From Wikipedia, “The Fifth Generation Computer Systems project (FGCS)” was an initiative by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, begun in 1982, to create a "fifth generation computer", which was supposed to perform much calculation utilizing massive parallelism. It was to be the end result of a massive government/industry research project in Japan during the 1980s. It aimed to create an "epoch-making computer" with supercomputer-like performance and usable artificial intelligence capabilities." Also from Wikipedia, "The term fifth generation was intended to convey the system as being a leap beyond existing machines....the fifth generation, it was widely believed at the time, would instead turn to massive numbers of CPUs for added performance." Though the project was canceled in 1993 with little appreciable lasting impact. 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.
Artificial Intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans. The term was coined in 1956 by John McCarthyat the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Artificial intelligence includes: Games playing: programming computers to play games such as chess and checkers. Expert Systems: programming computers to make decisions in real-life situations (for example, some expert systems help doctors diagnose diseases based on symptoms).
Natural Language: programming computers to understand natural human languages. Neural Networks: Systems that simulate intelligence by attempting to reproduce the types of physical connections that occur in animal brains. Robotics: programming computers to see and hear and react to other sensory stimuli.
Currently, no computers exhibit full artificial intelligence (that is, are able to simulate human behavior). The greatest advances have occurred in the field of games playing. The best computer chess programs are now capable of beating humans. In May, 1997, an IBM super-computer called Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in a chess match. In the area of robotics, computers are now widely used in assembly plants, but they are capable only of very limited tasks. Robots have great difficulty identifying objects based on appearance or feel, and they still move and handle objects clumsily. Natural-language processing offers the greatest potential rewards because it would allow people to interact with computers without needing any specialized knowledge. You could simply walk up to a computer and talk to it. Unfortunately, programming computers to understand natural languages has proved to be more difficult than originally thought. Some rudimentary translation systems that translate from one human language to another are in existence, but they are not nearly as good as human translators. There are also voice recognition systems that can convert spoken sounds into written words, but they do not
understand what they are writing; they simply take dictation. Even these systems are quite limited – you must speak slowly and distinctly. In the early 1980s, expert systems were believed to represent the future of artificial intelligence and of computers in general. To date, however, they have not lived up to expectations. Many expert systems help human experts in such fields as medicine and engineering, but they are very expensive to produce and are helpful only in special situations. Today, the hottest area of artificial intelligence is neural networks, which are proving successful in a number of
disciplines such as voice recognition and natural-language processing. There are several programming languages that are known as AI languages because they are used almost exclusively for AI applications. The two most common are LISP and Prolog. Voice Recognition: This field of computer science deals with designing computer systems that can recognize spoken words. The most powerful system available can recognize up to thousands of words. The speakers need to speak slowly and distinctively and because of their limitations and high cost, these systems are not often used. The computers of the next generation will have millions upon millions of transistors on one chip and will perform over a billion calculations in a single second and with the addition of artificial intelligence, there is no end in sight for the computer movement. ---thank you
Date: 09.03.2010 -------X-------
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