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CHAPTER 1 COMPUTER –AN INTRODUCTION

Computer, machine that performs tasks, such as mathematical calculations or electronic communication, under the control of a set of instructions called a program. Programs usually reside within the computer and are retrieved and processed by the computer’s electronics, and the program results are stored or routed to output devices, such as video display monitors or printers. Computers are used to perform a wide variety of activities with reliability, accuracy, and speed. People use computers in a wide variety of ways. In business, computers track inventories with bar codes and scanners, check the credit status of customers, and transfer funds electronically. In homes, tiny computers embedded in the electronic circuitry of most appliances control the indoor temperature, operate home security systems, tell the time, and turn videocassette recorders on and off. Computers in automobiles regulate the flow of fuel, thereby increasing gas mileage. Computers also entertain, creating digitized sound on stereo systems or computer-animated features from a digitally encoded laser disc. Computer programs, or applications, exist to aid every level of education, from programs that teach simple addition or sentence construction to programs that teach advanced calculus. Educators use computers to track grades and prepare notes; with computer-controlled projection units, they can add graphics, sound, and animation to their lectures. Computers are used extensively in scientific research to solve mathematical problems, display complicated data, or model systems that are too costly or impractical to build, such as testing the air flow around the next generation of space shuttles. The military employs computers in sophisticated communications to encode and unscramble messages, and to keep track of personnel and supplies.

CHARACTERSTICS OF A COMPUTER

The characteristics of computer are high speed of operations, accuracy, reliability, flexibility and economy coupled with efficiency in storing and processing data. · SPEED: The speed of a computer is virtually instantaneous. It is measured in terms of microseconds (1/10-6 second), nanoseconds (1/10-9 second) and picosecond (1/10-12 second). · STORAGE : One of the prime characteristic of a computer is its ability to store information which it can access very quickly. · ACCURACY: Computers are very accurate. They seldom make mistakes, though they do occasionally break down. · VERSATILITY: For all practical purposes, computers can perform any task that can be reduced to a series of logical steps. · AUTOMATION : Once a program is in computer’s memory, the individual instruction are then transferred, one after the other, to the control unit for execution. No human intervention is required until the control unit meets the last instruction which tells the computer to stop program execution. · DILIGENCE: A computer can work endlessly for hours and hours, without suffering from the human traits of tiredness, boredom and lack of concentration.

APPLICATION OF COMPUTERS
A Computer can be employed for a wide variety of purposes. They are used to assist humans in business organization, in research and on many other walks of life. Some of the area’s of Computers applications are : · Payroll: This involves recording of employee details, such as name, gross-pay or rate of job, tax code, national insurance etc. These data serves as the input for the program that contains formula for calculating all the deductions and allowances to arrive at net-

By way of satellites. calls can be transmitted at faster speeds. hospital accounting and for a bed allocation. · Medicine: Computers are widely used in hospital administration for such tasks as maintaining drugs. · Telephones: Computerized telephone exchanges handle an ever increasing volume of calls very efficiently. for payroll. All this data is transmitted to the meteorology centers where the computer system is able to analyse the data for accurate prediction of weather. But before looking into that. car. we require to define some of the terms associated with it. page makeup software and a laser printer. · Desktop Publishing: A DTP system is built around three components–a microcomputer. sections of a motorcar. Data can be represented in various forms i. an entity or an event. · Industrial Applications: In industry. The program finally contains instruction to print the payslips for all employees. · Meteorology: Data is recorded at different levels of atmosphere. · Office Automation: Office automation can be defined as the application of today’s technology to current office practice. surgical equipments and linen.pay. using remote sensors carried on a satellite.g. symbols etc. · An Aid to Management: The computer can also be used as a management tool to assist in solving business problems. · Word Processing: Word processors are partially useful for preparing reports and producing standard letters and documents. · Road Traffic Control: Computers assist with the control of traffic lights. production may be planned. .e. coordinated and controlled with the aid of a computer. road or a building) are satisfactory and also assist in the designing. deposits. at different places. The computer may be used to operate assembly machines which piece together parts of equipments e. It allows a user to set up. in figures. view and change page layout as many times as is necessary to achieve the right design. · Engineering Design: Computers help in calculating that all the parts of a proposed design (be it that of an airplane. characters. Word processor a program that allows you to checks the spelling of your documents contents. bridge. Branches are equipped with terminals giving them an on-line accounting facility and enabling them to access information on such things as current balances. DATA PROCESSING CYCLE Being a data processing system it becomes important to have an in-depth analysis of what all is involved in processing the data. These computers are programmed to continuously analyse data relayed from various instruments. · Instruction : It specifies how the data is to be manipulated. · Banking: In most instances. · Data : It is a raw set of facts and figures associated with an individual. so as to provide coordinated information to the pilot in time for human decision and action. overdrafts and interest charges. · Air Travel: Small computers are installed as a part of the plane’s equipment. the computer is sited centrally.

the bus that connects the various computer components. · Control Unit (CU): The control unit interprets and controls all the activities being carried out within the computer. subtraction. commonly known as CPU. which is meaningful. It is the heart of the computer and a most important component of a computer‘s hardware. The programs that run the computer are called software. and the output devices. · Output : The result obtained from the processor is called output. and division.1) Processing could take one of the following forms: · Data Processing · Text Processing · Graphical Processing · Arithmetical Processing · Decision-making etc. gives an outcome commonly called an ‘OUTPUT’. Main part of the computer that processes the data and provides the output is Central Processing Unit. · Information : Output. to draw a graph. such as printers and video display monitors. that allow the user to communicate with the computer. one by one. or to direct the general operation of the computer.· Process : It is the actual interpretation and execution of the instruction. "Is a given character equal to M (for male) and F (for female)?". to control the arm of a robot to weld a car’s body. Software generally is designed to perform a particular type of task-for example. such as a keyboard or mouse. This output which is the outcome. . multiplication. Data Processing Cycle Or Input-Process-Output Cycle This Input output cycle. which is carried out by the microprocessor (This will be explained in chapter 2). Computer hardware includes the memory that stores data and instructions. Further processing of the data as per the instruction provided in a logical sequence. to write a letter. CPU further consists of other units: · Arithmetical and Logical Unit (AMU): This unit performs arithmetical and logical functions such as addition. the central processing unit (CPU) that carries out instructions. that enable the computer to present information to the user. HOW COMPUTER REALLY WORKS The physical computer and its components are known as hardware. the input devices. and the logical operations such as: " Is A=B ?" ( Is A equals to B). acts as data or input to a second process and so on and so forth. (Figure 1. which begins with the data and information being input to the computer and being stored. is termed as Information.

to represent various commands. a byte has 256 possible combinations of 0s and 1s. Then how does it process your data and give you the output?. such as Microsoft Windows and the Macintosh system (Mac OS).024 bytes-can store about 1. A byte also can be interpreted as a pattern that represents a number between 0 and 255. The binary system is a system based on 0s and 1s. 001. each having two possible representations (0 or 1). characters and symbols. Popular operating systems. The Operating System When a computer is turned on it searches for instructions in its memory. A kilobyte-1. a megabyte can store about 1 million characters. B. which is the software that makes the computer work. Every data you provide is converted into a format that computer can recognize. 011. the first set of these instructions is a special program called the operating system. 010. Usually. and controls the sequence of the software and hardware actions. It prompts the user (or other machines) for input and commands. the number of representations is doubled. as well as numeric digits. We provide the data in the form of numbers. 100. 110. data are stored in a computer in the form of binary digits. the operating system loads the program in the computer’s memory and runs the program. Computers operate using the Binary System. 101. stores and manages data. or 11. 10. or 111. A third bit added to this two-bit representation again doubles the number of combinations. When the user requests that a program run. 01. (Figure 1.· Memory: This unit stores all the data and information required by various units to perform their function.2) A. and a terabyte can store about 1 trillion characters. a display that uses tiny pictures. If a second bit is added to a single bit of information. resulting in eight possibilities: 000. the user clicks the mouse on the icon or presses a combination of keys on the keyboard. A byte is a useful quantity in which to store information because it provides enough possible patterns to represent the entire alphabet. the number of possible patterns is doubled. 1 or 0. including non-English characters such as p. Each time a bit is added. reports the results of these commands and other operations. or icons.000 characters. have a graphical user interface (GUI)-that is. and several character-sized graphics symbols. a gigabyte can store about 1 billion characters. or bits. resulting in four possible combinations: 00. in lower and upper cases. Smallest and . To execute these commands. representing switches or electrical currents that can be on or off. punctuation marks. Eight bits is called a byte. Computer Memory To process information electronically. but the computer cannot recognize these symbols.

The most common method is to repeatedly divide the number by 2 and then arrange the remainders from bottom to top let’s see how ? Example : A decimal number (13)10 So (13)10 is represented as (1101)2 in the Binary format.3) Converting DECIMAL numbers to BINARY There are many methods to convert a decimal number to a binary format. if you imagine binary numbers as electrical switches it is like the following: (Figure 1. Let’s see another example (112)10 Exercise: Convert these numbers to binary format (1) (39)10 (2) (123)10 (3) (499)10 (4) (253)10 Converting Binary numbers to Decimal numbers Let’s see how to convert binary numbers to decimal . In binary form it is ‘11011’. Therefore.fundamental unit of computer data is Bits (Binary Digits). We use the decimal number ‘27’ for example below.

with 16 parallel wires. For example. One way to store memory is within the circuitry of the computer. such as magnetic floppy disks. The Central Processing Unit Information from an input device or memory is communicated via the bus to the central . such as the CPU and memory. Other input devices include a joystick. usually in tiny computer chips that hold millions of bytes of information. which can store 8. A single CDROM can store nearly as much information as 700 floppy disks can. which senses the placement of a user’s finger. a computer’s video display by pressing the pen against the display’s surface. which can be read by the computer but not altered. which can store about 2 megabytes of information. a touch panel. Input Devices Input devices. The Bus The bus is usually a flat cable with numerous parallel wires. such as a keyboard or mouse. Typically. and a microphone. a 16-bit bus. permit the computer user to communicate with the computer. used to gather sound information. Memory also can be stored outside the circuitry of the computer on external storage devices. which can store thousands of megabytes of information. to communicate. which converts images such as photographs into binary information that the computer can manipulate. C. D. hard drives. E. several bits at a time are sent along the bus. which can draw on.The physical memory of a computer is either Random Access Memory (RAM). a scanner. or Read-Only Memory (ROM). which can store up to 630 megabytes of information. a rodlike device often used by game players. and DVDs (digital video discs). a light pen. or select objects from. The bus enables the components in a computer. and a DVD can hold 15 times as much data as a CD-ROM. allows the simultaneous transmission of 16 bits (2 bytes) of information from one device to another.5 gigabytes of information. which can be read or changed by the user or computer. The memory within these computer chips is RAM. CD-ROMs (compact discs).

and speakers. Registers can be thought of as the CPU’s tiny scratchpad. . temporarily storing instructions or data. one register called the program counter keeps track of which program instruction comes next. Output Devices Once the CPU has executed the program instruction. When a program is run. These are not suitable for on-line retrieval of data. hardly to install the operating system alone. The CPU executes the instruction. CD-ROM is written into during the process of manufacture by a high power less beam. See also Input/Output Devices. A magnetic disk is a circular platter of plastic which is clotted with magnetizable material. where it is stored in a special instruction register. Information is retrieved from a CDROM using a low power laser. The head remains stationary while the disk rotates below it for reading or writing operation. G. such as a video display monitor or a flat liquid crystal display. One of the key components of a magnetic disks is a conducting coil named as head which perform the job of reading and writing on the magnetic surface. the program may request that information be communicated to an output device. This ensures proper data transfer from CD-ROM to the main memory of the computer.processing unit (CPU). The current instruction is analyzed by a decoder. which is the part of the computer that translates commands and runs programs. the CPU locates the next instruction in the appropriate memory device. Thus. The CPU is a microprocessor chip-that is. since sequential searching will takes long time. Any data the instruction needs are retrieved via the bus and placed in the CPU’s registers. In CD-ROMs the information is stored evenly across the disk in segments of the same size. non volatile medium for storage of user files or data or applications. It is the Hard Disk which serves as a bulk. Since the recording is like that in a tape recorder used in audio system. In a typical sequence. videocassette recorders (VCRs). Therefore. the program counter is incremented to prepare for the next instruction. These are convenient for archival storage for backup.correction facility. Storage Devices When Power to the PC is switched OFF contents of the memory are lost. F. Today this would be totally inadequate. which determines what the instruction will do. These are cheaper and since these are removable from the drive. and the results are stored in another register or copied to specific memory locations. Information is stored in a CPU memory location called a register. Other output devices are printers. Meanwhile. and it retrieves the next instruction from memory. the CDROMs are rotated at variable speed for the reading process. Its hard to believe that not so long ago 100MB of hard disk space was considered to be generous. information retrieval will be only sequential and not random. CDROM players are more rugged and have error. The instruction then travels along the bus from the computer’s memory to the CPU. a single piece of silicon containing millions of electrical components. The CD-ROM (Compact disks read. they provide unlimited storage capacity. The CPU’s control unit coordinates and times the CPU’s functions. overhead projectors. which ingenerate in an optical disks drive unit. This consists of a flexible thin sheet of plastics material with a magnetic coating and grooves arranged in concentric circles with tracks.only memories) is a direct extension of audio CD. in CDROMs data stored on a track increases as we go towards other surface of disk. Floppy disks become a convenient recording medium to transport information from one location to another. Magnetic tapes are mounted on reels or a cartridge or a cassette of tapes to store large volumes or backup data.

Machine code instructions are few in number (roughly 20 to 200. For example. the statement "MOV A. These instructions are specific to the individual computer’s CPU and associated hardware. In addition. Hopper is credited for inventing the term bug. Machine code instructions are binary-that is.PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES Programming languages contain the series of commands that create software. For example. such as a Cray Y-MP supercomputer or a personal computer. The same instruction in machine code is a string of 16 0s and 1s. User!’). Because these numbers are not understood easily by humans. in 1945 she discovered a hardware failure in the Mark II computer caused by a moth trapped between its mechanical relays. It is still difficult to use. Intel Pentium and Power PC microprocessor chips each have different machine languages and require different sets of codes to perform the same task. Each machine language instruction has an equivalent command in assembly language. they contain general commands that work on different CPUs. depending on the computer and the CPU). High-level languages are easier to use than machine and assembly languages because their commands resemble natural human language. An executable program is a sequence of extremely simple instructions known as machine code. B. it is converted to a machine-language program by another program called an assembler. A compiler turns a highlevel program into a CPU-specific machine language. using compilers designed for those machines. In addition. a programmer may write a program in a high-level language such as C and then prepare it for different machines. which indicates a computer malfunction. In general. This command directs the computer’s CPU to display the greeting. because assembly-language instructions are a series of abstract codes. Languages that use words or other commands that reflect how humans think are easier for programmers to use. these languages are not CPU-specific. Once an assembly-language program is written. A program written in this type of language also runs faster. . B" instructs the computer to copy data from one location to another. Assembly language is sometimes inserted into a high-level language program to carry out specific hardware tasks or to speed up a high-level program. For example. a language that is encoded in binary numbers or a language similar to binary numbers that a computer’s hardware understands is understood more quickly by the computer. Instead. but a compiler is used. Machine Language Computer programs that can be run by a computer’s operating system are called executables. Like assembly-language instructions. and it will work no matter what type of CPU the computer uses. in 1957. but they are slower because the language must be translated first so the computer can understand it. for example. High-Level Languages High-level languages were developed because of the difficulty of programming assembly languages. different CPUs use different machine languages and therefore require different assembly languages. a programmer writing in the high-level Pascal programming language who wants to display a greeting need include only the following command: Write (‘Hello. FLOW-MATIC. Assembly language is fast and powerful because of its correspondence with machine language. however. Typical instructions are for copying data from a memory location or for adding the contents of two memory locations (usually registers in the CPU). C. Assembly Language Assembly language uses commands that are easier for programmers to understand than are machine-language commands. A. in assembly language. American naval officer and mathematician Grace Murray Hopper helped develop the first commercially available high-level software language. sequences of bits (0s and 1s). highlevel languages also must be translated. computer instructions usually are not written in machine code. This speeds the programmer’s task and makes the software more portable to different users and machines.

To perform calculations with a slide rule. Both 0 and 1 are analog numbers. The first line prints "ENTER A NUMBER" on the computer screen followed by a question mark to prompt the user to type in the number labeled "X. such as C++. a class defining squares can inherit features such as right angles from a class defining rectangles. It became a standard programming language because it can process mathematical formulas. Analog computer systems were the first type to be produced.14). Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. If a dimmer replaces the on/off switch. an acronym for FORmula TRANslation. If it has a simple on/off switch. FORTRAN and its variations are still in use today. COBOL. New interest has been shown recently in analog computers. the result of the operation is displayed on the computer screen. Objects." Y The numbers that precede each line are chosen by the programmer to indicate the sequence of the commands. then the lamp is analog. and Java. BASIC is interpreted-that is. are digital machines whose components have a finite number of . such as a circle. New compilers are being developed. the user slides a narrow.5 or a number like p (approximately 3. D. For example. Pascal. (IBM) developed FORTRAN. Analog refers to numerical values that have a continuous range. particularly in areas such as neural networks that respond to continuous electrical signals. the slide rule is analog. A popular analog computer used in the 20th century was the slide rule. gauged wooden strip inside a ruler-like holder. LISP. because the lamp either produces light at a given moment or it does not. but so is 1. Most modern computers. As an example. that number is divided by two. and in the third line.From 1954 to 1958 American computer scientist John Backus of International Business Machines. Other high-level languages in use today include C. then it is digital. For example. consider a desk lamp. have properties such as the radius of the circle and the command that draws it on the computer screen. Digital and Analog Computers can be either digital or analog." X 20 Y=X/2 30 PRINT "HALF OF THAT NUMBER IS. it is turned into machine language line by line as the program runs. but they enable a programmer to think in terms of collections of cooperating objects instead of lists of commands. are based on traditional high-level languages. Digital refers to the processes in computers that manipulate binary numbers (0s or 1s). which represent switches that are turned on or off by electrical current. HTML. interactive nature and its inclusion on early personal computers (PCs)." In the next line. Ada. resulting in more reliable and efficient programs. Inc. Classes of objects can inherit features from other classes of objects. This set of programming classes simplifies the programmer’s task. Prolog. The language was easier to learn than its predecessors and became popular due to its friendly. Unlike other languages that require that all their instructions be translated into machine code first. was developed by Hungarian-American mathematician John Kemeny and American mathematician Thomas Kurtz at Dartmouth College in 1964. Object-Oriented Programming Languages Object-oriented programming (OOP) languages. however. a program that divides a number in half can be written as 10 INPUT "ENTER A NUMBER. because the amount of light can vary continuously from on to off and all intensities in between. and many features available in one language are being made available in others. TYPES OF COMPUTERS A. or BASIC. Because the sliding is continuous and there is no mechanism to stop at one exact value. BASIC commands typify high-level languages because of their simplicity and their closeness to natural human language.

and a video display monitor or liquid crystal display (LCD) to display information. scheduling systems. The smallest are embedded within the circuitry of appliances. The smallest of these computers can be held in one hand and are called personal digital assistants (PDAs). memory. can be shared.states-for example. they can connect to worldwide computer networks to exchange information regardless of location. These computers are typically preprogrammed for a specific task. The advantage of a network is that data can be exchanged rapidly. and each CPU processes a portion of the task to increase overall speed and efficiency. speed. Mainframe computers have more memory. speed. These computers break a task into small pieces. These bits can be combined to denote information such as numbers. and to play games. the 0 or 1. NETWORKS Computers can communicate with other computers through a series of connections and associated hardware called a network. letters. and business environments that require high levels of computational abilities. and physical size. B. and address books. such as tuning to a particular television frequency or keeping accurate time. trackball. They control businesses and industrial facilities and are used for scientific research. They are used by the largest businesses. Such computers are called parallel processors. if equipped with a cellular phone. or other pointing device. They are used as notepads. called supercomputers. for word processing. and program instructions. graphics. industrial. They are typically found in scientific. a mouse. such as those used to create weather predictions. Workstations are similar to personal computers but have greater memory and more extensive mathematical abilities. such as televisions and wrist-watches. and they are connected to other workstations or personal computers to exchange data. process complex and timeconsuming calculations. Range of Computer Ability Computers exist in a wide range of sizes and power. and software and hardware resources. lightweight LCDs instead of video display monitors. to track finances. They are equipped with a keyboard. and capabilities than workstations and are usually shared by multiple users through a series of interconnected computers. . They have large amounts of internal memory to store hundreds of programs and documents. but they are more compact and have flat. such as hard-disk space or printers. scientific institutions. or on or off of bits. The most powerful mainframe computers. Programmable computers vary enormously in their computational power. Some supercomputers have many sets of CPUs. Laptop computers and PCs are typically used in businesses and at home to communicate on computer networks. and the military. Laptop computers usually have similar hardware and software as PCs.

TOPOLOGY The way in which network is configured is called Network topology. or terminals that have no computational abilities of their own. These data are extensively cross-indexed. which is usually a computer or terminal. DTE is a generic term used to describe the end user machine. The World Wide Web. They may be connected to PCs.4) One type of network. or animations. The second major goal in establishing a topology is to provide the best possible response time and throughput. Users can obtain a variety of information in the form of text. Short response time entails minimizing delay between the transmission and the receipt of the data between the DTEs . · Horizontal Topology (Bus) The horizontal topology or bus topology is illustrated in figure below .C. D. In 1984 the development of Internet technology was turned over to private. is a system of information resources accessed primarily through the Internet. a local area network (LAN). This arrangement is quite popular in local area networks. It is relatively simple to control traffic flow between and among the DTEs because the bus permits all stations to receive every transmission.and is especially important for interactive sessions between user applications. and utilities. Mainframe computers and supercomputers commonly are networked. In other words we can say that network topology is the physical connectivity of the network. and scientific agencies. Computers can connect to these networks to use facilities in another city or country. workstations. graphics. programs. That is. A server often contains all of a networked group’s data and enables LAN workstations to be set up without storage capabilities to reduce cost. sounds. consists of several PCs or workstations connected to a special computer called the server. It was created mostly by American computer scientist Vinton Cerf in 1973 as part of the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). a single station broadcasts to multiple stations. The Internet is a mammoth resource of data. the central computer. The first major goal in establishing a topology for the network is to provide the least cost path between the application processes residing on the DTEs(Data Terminal Equipments).(Figure 1. The largest WAN is the Internet. The main drawback of a horizontal topology stems from the fact that usually only one communication channel . highlighted text. a person in Los Angeles can browse through the computerized archives of the Library of Congress in Washington. or receive output from. Wide area networks (WANs) are networks that span large geographical areas. a global consortium of networks linked by common communication programs. For example. These "dumb" terminals are used only to enter data into. developed in the 1980s by British physicist Timothy Berners-Lee. enabling users to browse (transfer from one information site to another) via buttons. The server stores and manages programs and data. or sophisticated searching software known as search engines. government.

typically a computer. The star network was used in the 1960s and early 1970s because it was easy to control . Even though this approach is an expensive undertaking . (Figure 1. the entire network is lost. However.exists to service all the devices on the network. All traffic emanates from the hub of the star.5) · Star Topology The star topology is another widely used structure for data communications systems. One of the major reasons for its continued use is based on historical precedence. traffic can be routed around failed components or busy nodes. the central site in figure below. Consequently. except that the star topology has limited distributed processing capabilities. the star network is subject to potential bottleneck and failure problems at the central site. Site A . like the hierarchical structure.6) The mesh topology has been used somewhat in the last few years (figure below). Due to the multiplicity of paths from DTEs. Its attraction is its relative immunity to bottleneck and failure problems. Consequently. in the event of a failure of the communications channel. Fault isolation is relatively simple in a star network because the lines can be isolated to identify the problem. is in complete control of the DTEs attached to it.the software is not complex and the traffic flow is simple. it is quite similar to the hierarchical topology. labeled A. some users prefer the reliability o the mesh network to that of teh others(especially for networks with only a few nodes that need to be connected) . (Figure 1.

000 calculations a second. On November 15th Intel released the world’s first commercial microprocessor. The explosion in the use of computers began with ‘Third Generation’ computers. capable of an amazing 100.Lorenz cipher. Claire Kilby’s invention . Coupled with one of Intel’s inventions . Ray Holt and a team from AiResearch and American Microsystems.the integrated circuit or microchip.the microprocessor allowed fourth generation computers to be even smaller and faster than ever before. 360 increased storage and processing capabilities further.000 electronic valves and consumed around 25KW of electrical power. This processor was developed by Steve Geller. Transistorised computers are normally referred to as ‘Second Generation’ and dominated the late 1950s and early 1960s. First generation computers were normally based around wired circuits containing vacuum valves and used punched cards as the main (non-volatile) storage medium. This replaced the inefficient valves with a much smaller and more reliable component.the RAM chip (Kilobits of memory on a single chip) . Large scale integration of circuits led to the development of very small processing units.(Figure 1. using a microprocessor to locate much of the computer’s processing abilities on a single (small) chip. Colossus was an electronic computer built in Britain at the end 1943 and designed to crack the German coding system . the first integrated circuit was produced in September 1958 but computers using them didn’t begin to appear until 1963.B. The . It was. the 4004. While large ‘mainframes’ such as the I.M. an early example of this is the processor used for analyzing flight data in the US Navy’s F14A `TomCat’ fighter jet. These computers were among the first of the ‘first generation’ computers. Another general purpose computer of this era was ‘ENIAC’ (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) which was completed in 1946. It was typical of first generation computers. however.7) HARDWARE HISTORY OVERVIEW Modern computing can probably be traced back to the ‘Harvard Mk I’ and Colossus (both of 1943). The ‘Harvard Mk I’ was a more general purpose electro-mechanical programmable computer built at Harvard University with backing from IBM. the integrated circuit allowed the development of Minicomputers that began to bring computing into many smaller businesses. Despite using transistors and printed circuits these computers were still bulky and strictly the domain of Universities and governments. The next major step in the history of computing was the invention of the transistor in 1947. it weighed 30 tonnes contained 18. Fourth generation computers developed. These relied Jack St.

personal computers that were small and cheap enough to be available to ordinary people. released at the end of 1974. Commodore PET and eventually the original IBM PC in 1981.4004 was only capable of 60. so it is widely regarded that most of today’s computers still belong to the fourth generation. but it was followed by computers such as the Apple I & II. like the Cray-1 which could calculate 150 million floating point operations per second. Supercomputers of the era were immensely powerful. but later processors (such as the 8086 that all of Intel’s processors for the IBM PC and compatibles is based) brought ever increasing speed and power to the computers. The microprocessor allowed the development of microcomputers. . Although processing power and storage capacities have increased beyond all recognition since the 1970s the underlying technology of LSI (large scale integration) or VLSI (very large scale integration) microchips has remained basically the same. The first such personal computer was the MITS Altair 8800.000 instructions per second.