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Definition of Computer

An electronic device which is capable of receiving information

(data) in a particular form and of performing a sequence of
operations in accordance with a predetermined but variable set of
procedural instructions (program) to produce a result in the form of
information or signals.

Classification of computers
Micro Computers
These are small, low cost and single user computers. These
computers are stand alone machines which means they are
connected to create a network of computers. The Apple IIe, the
Radio Shack TRS-80, and the Genie III are examples of
microcomputers and are essentially fourth generation devices.
Microcomputers have from 4k to 64k storage location and are
capable of handling small, single-business application such as sales
analysis, inventory, billing and payroll.

Mini Computers
Mini Computers are multi user system computers which have high
processing speed, high storage capacity than micro computers. They
can support 4 to 100 users simultaneously forming terminals. These
type of computers are basically used for research, industries, etc.
IBM 8000 Series and PDP11 are some examples of mini computers.

Mainframe Computers
These are multi user, multi programming and high performance
computers. They operate on very high speed with very high storage
capacity along with centralised databases. These databases are
connected through dumb terminals. These dumb terminals cant
store data but the processing is done by them. Some of the
examples of mainframe computers are CDC 6600 and IBM E5000

Super Computers
These are very fast and most expensive computers. They are high
processing speed computers measured in FLO/ps (Floating Point
Operations/ per second). The speed of calculations is measured in
nanoseconds. PARAM 8000 is considered Indias first super computer.

Generation of computer

First Generation (1940-1956) Vacuum Tubes :-

Hardware Technology: The first generation of computers
used vacuum tubes) for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory.
The input to the computer was through punched cards and paper
tapes. The output was displayed as printouts.
Software Technology: The instructions were written in machine
language. Machine language uses 0s and 1s for coding of the
instructions. The first generation computers could solve one problem
at a time.
Computing Characteristics: The computation time was in
Physical Appearance: These computers were enormous in size and
required a large room for installation.
Application: They were used for scientific applications as they were
the fastest computing device of their time.

Second Generation (1956-1963) Transistors :-

Hardware Technology: Transistors replaced the vacuum tubes of the
first generation of computers. Transistors allowed computers to
become smaller, faster, cheaper, energy efficient and reliable. The
second generation computers used magnetic core technology for
primary memory. They used magnetic tapes and magnetic disks for
secondary storage. The input was still through punched cards and
the output using printouts. They used the concept of a stored
program, where instructions were stored in the memory of
Software Technology: The instructions were written using
the assembly language. Assembly language uses mnemonics like
ADD for addition and SUB for subtraction for coding of the
instructions. It is easier to write instructions in assembly language,
as compared to writing instructions in machine language. High-level
programming languages, such as early versions of COBOL and
FORTRAN were also developed during this period.
Computing Characteristics: The computation time was in
Physical Appearance: Transistors are smaller in size compared to
vacuum tubes, thus, the size of the computer was also reduced.

Third Generation (1964-1971) Integrated Circuits :-

Hardware Technology: The third generation computers used
the Integrated Circuit (IC) chips. shows IC chips. In an IC chip,
multiple transistors are placed on a silicon chip. Silicon is a type of
semiconductor. The use of IC chip increased the speed and the
efficiency of computer, manifold. The keyboard and monitor were
used to interact with the third generation computer, instead of the
punched card and printouts.
Software Technology: The keyboard and the monitor were
interfaced through the operating system. Operating system allowed
different applications to run at the same time. High-level
languages were used extensively for programming, instead of
machine language and assembly language.
Computing Characteristics: The computation time was in
Physical Appearance: The size of these computers was quite small
compared to the second generation computers.
Application: Computers became accessible to mass audience.
Computers were produced commercially, and were smaller and
cheaper than their predecessors.

Fourth Generation (1971-Present) Microprocessors :-
Hardware Technology: They use the Large Scale Integration
(LSI) and the Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) technology.
Thousands of transistors are integrated on a small silicon chip using
LSI technology The linking of computers is another key
development of this era. The computers were linked to form
networks that led to the emergence of the Internet. This generation
also saw the development of pointing devices like mouse, and
handheld devices.
Software Technology: Several new operating systems like the MS-
DOS and MS-Windows developed during this time. This generation
of computers supported Graphical User Interface (GUI). GUI is a
user-friendly interface that allows user to interact with the computer
via menus and icons. High-level programming languages are used
for the writing of programs.
Computing Characteristics: The computation time is in picoseconds.
Physical Appearance: They are smaller than the computers of the
previous generation. Some can even fit into the palm of the hand.
Application: They became widely available for commercial
purposes. Personal computers became available to the home user.

Fifth Generation (Present and Beyond) Artificial Intelligence :-

The goal of fifth generation computing is to develop computers that
are capable of learning and self-organization. The fifth generation
computers use Super Large Scale Integrated (SLSI) chips that are
able to store millions of components on a single chip. These
computers have large memory requirements.
This generation of computers uses parallel processing that allows
several instructions to be executed in parallel, instead of serial
execution. Parallel processing results in faster processing speed. The
Intel dual-core microprocessor uses parallel processing.
The fifth generation computers are based on Artificial Intelligence
(AI). They try to simulate the human way of thinking and reasoning.
Artificial Intelligence includes areas like Expert System (ES), Natural
Language Processing (NLP), speech recognition, voice recognition,
robotics, etc.

Calculating Machine
Abacus was the first mechanical calculating device used for
calculating large numbers. The word Abacus means calculating
board. It consists of bars in horizontal position on which sets of
beads are inserted. The horizontal bars have 10 beads each
representing units in 10s, 100s, 1000s, etc.
Napiers Bone
Napiers Bone was a mechanical device built for the purpose of
multiplication by Edmund & John Napier.
Slide Rule
Slide was developed by an English Mathematician Edmund in 16th
Century. Using the slide rule, one can perform addition, subtraction
and division.
Pascals Adding & Subtracting Machine
It was developed by Pascal. This device or machine was used for
adding & subtracting two numbers. The machine consisted of
wheels, gears and cylinders.
Leibnizs Multiplication & Dividing Machine
It was a mechanical device used for multiplication and division and
was developed by Gottfried Leibniz in 1673.
Punchcard Machine
It was developed by Jackquard to control the powerloom in 1801.
He invented the punchcard machine that could recognize the
presence of hole in a punchcard as a binary number(0&1).
Babbage Analytical Engine
An Englishman, Charles Babbage invented Babbage Analytical
Engine to do complex calculations in year 1823. The machine was
called as Difference Machine or Difference Engine.
Punchcard Tabulating Machine
It was invented by Herman Hollerith. The machine could read the
information from punchcard and could process it electronically.

Computer system
A system of interconnected computers that share a
central storage system and/or various peripheral devices such as
a printers, scanners, or routers. Each computer connected to the
system can operate independently, but has the ability to
communicate with other external devices and computers.