What generation of computers are we using today?

The five generations of computers

Learn about each of the five generations of computers and the key technological developments that have led to the computing devices used today.

The history of computer development is a topic in computers that is often used to refer to the various Generations of computers devices.



Each of the five computer generations is characterized by a great technological development This has fundamentally changed the way computers work.

Most of the major developments from the 1940s to the present day have resulted in smaller, cheaper, more powerful, and more efficient computing devices.

What are the five generations of computers?

In this Online Library Study Guide, learn about each of the five generations of computers and the technological advances that led to the creation of the many computing devices we use today. Our journey of the five computer generations began in 1940 with vacuum tube circuits and continues to this day. and beyond that with artificial intelligence (AI) systems and devices.

We will see…


Checklist of five generations of computers

Introduction: Knowing Key Terms
First generation: vacuum tubes
Second generation transistors
Third generation integrated circuits
Fourth generation microprocessors
Fifth generation artificial intelligence


Introduction: Knowing Key Terms

The following technology definitions will help you better understand the five generations of computers:

First generation: vacuum tubes (1940-1956)

Early computer systems used vacuum tubes for circuits and magnetic drums for memory, and they were often huge and took up entire rooms. These computers were very expensive to run, and early computers not only consumed a lot of electricity but also generated a lot of heat, which is a common cause of failure.



First generation computers trusted machine language, the lowest level programming language understood by computers to perform operations, and could only solve one problem at a time. It would take days or even weeks for operators to set up a new problem. The inputs are based on punch cards and paper tapes, and the outputs are shown on the printouts.

The UNIVAC and ENIAC computers are examples of first generation computing devices. The UNIVAC is the first commercial computer to be released to a commercial customer, the US Census Bureau, in 1951.


A UNIVAC computer in the Census Bureau.
Image source:United States Census Bureau

Recommended literature:ENIAC definition from the online library

Second generation: transistors (1956-1963)

The world would see transistors replace vacuum tubes in second generation computers. Transistors were invented at Bell Labs in 1947, but were not used in computers until the late 1950s.

The transistor is far superior to the vacuum tube, allowing computers to become smaller, faster, cheaper, more energy efficient and more reliable than their first generation predecessors. Although the transistor was still generating a lot of heat that damaged the computer, this is a huge improvement over the vacuum tube. Second generation computers still relied on punch cards for input and prints for output.



From binary to assembled

Second generation computers were shifted from cryptically binary machine to symbolic language, or montage, languages ​​that enabled programmers to give instructions in words. High-level programming languages ​​were also developed as early versions of COBOL y FORTRAN at this time. These were also the first computers to store their instructions in their memory, which switched from a magnetic drum to a magnetic core technology.

The first computers of this generation were developed for the atomic energy industry.

An early Philco transistor (1950s)
Image source:Vintage computer chip collectibles

Third generation: integrated circuits (1964-1971)

The development of the integrated circuit it is the hallmark of the third generation of computers. The transistors were miniaturized and used silicon potato chips called semiconductors, which dramatically increased the speed and efficiency of computers.

Instead of punch cards and printouts, users interacted through third-generation computers, keyboards y monitors y connected to an operating system, which enabled the device to run many applications simultaneously with a central program that monitors memory. Computers first became accessible to a mass audience because they were smaller and cheaper than their predecessors.

Did you know ...?An integrated circuit (IC) It is a small electronic device made of a semiconductor material. The first integrated circuit was developed by Jack Kiy of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1950s.

Fourth generation: microprocessors (1971-today)

the microprocessor brought the fourth generation of computers as thousands of integrated circuits were built on a single silicon chip. What filled an entire space in the first generation could now fit in the palm of your hand. The Intel 4004 chip developed in 1971 contained all of the computer's components from the central processing unit and memory for input / output controls on a single chip.

In 1981 IBM introduced its first computer to the home user and in 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh. Microprocessors also shifted from desktop computing to many areas of life as more everyday products began to use microprocessors.

As these little computers became more powerful, they were able to join together in networks, which eventually led to the development of the Internet. Fourth generation computers also saw the development of GUI, mouse y handheld devices.

Intel's first microprocessor, the 4004, was designed by Ted Hoff and Stanley Mazor.
Image source:Intel Timeline (PDF)

Fifth Generation: Artificial Intelligence (Present and Beyond)

Fifth generation computing devices based on artificial intelligence are still under development, although there are some applications such as speech recognition that are in use today. The use of parallel processing and superconductors help make artificial intelligence a reality.

Quantum Computing and Molecular and Nanotechnology It will radically change the face of computers in the years to come. The goal of fifth generation computing is to develop devices that are responsive to natural language contributions and are able to learn and organize themselves.

This article was last updated on February 1, 2019