Generations of Computer

Generation of computer terminology is a change in technology a computer is/was being used. Initially, the generation term was used to distinguish between varying hardware technologies. Nowadays, generation includes both hardware and software, which together make up an entire computer system.

Generations of Computer

There are five computer generations known till date. Each generation has been discussed in detail along with their time period and characteristics. In the following table, approximate dates against each generation has been mentioned, which are normally accepted.

Following are the generations of computers.

  • First Generation – The period of first generation: 1946-1959. Vacuum tube based.
  • Second Generation – The period of second generation: 1959-1965. Transistor based.
  • Third Generation – The period of third generation: 1965-1971. Integrated Circuit based.
  • Fourth Generation – The period of fourth generation: 1971-1980. VLSI microprocessor based.
  • Fifth Generation – The period of fifth generation: 1980-onwards. ULSI microprocessor based.

First Generation of Computers

The period of first generation was from 1946-1959.

  • The computers of first generation used vacuum tubes as the basic components for memory and circuitry for CPU (Central Processing Unit).
  • These tubes, like electric bulbs, produced a lot of heat and the installations used to fuse frequently.
  • Therefore, they were very expensive and only large organizations were able to afford it.

In this generation, mainly batch processing operating system was used. Punch cards, paper tape, and magnetic tape was used as input and output devices. The computers in this generation used machine code as the programming language.

The main features of the first generation are −

  • Vacuum tube technology
  • Unreliable
  • Supported machine language only
  • Very costly
  • Generated a lot of heat
  • Slow input and output devices
  • Huge size
  • Need of AC
  • Non-portable
  • Consumed a lot of electricity

Some computers of this generation were −

  • IBM-701
  • IBM-650

Second Generation of Computers

The period of second generation was from 1959-1965.

  • In this generation, transistors were used that were cheaper, consumed less power, more compact in size, more reliable and faster than the first generation machines made of vacuum tubes.
  • In this generation, magnetic cores were used as the primary memory and magnetic tape and magnetic disks as secondary storage devices.
  • this generation, assembly language and high-level programming languages like FORTRAN, COBOL were used.

The computers used batch processing and multiprogramming operating system.

The main features of second generation are −

  • Use of transistors
  • Reliable in comparison to first generation computers
  • Smaller size as compared to first generation computers
  • Generated less heat as compared to first generation computers
  • Consumed less electricity as compared to first generation computers
  • Faster than first generation computers
  • Still very costly
  • AC required
  • Supported machine and assembly languages

Some computers of this generation were −

  • IBM 1620
  • IBM 7094
  • CDC 1604
  • CDC 3600
  • UNIVAC 1108

Third Generation of Computer

The period of third generation was from 1965-1971.

  • The computers of third generation used Integrated Circuits (ICs) in place of transistors.
  • A single IC has many transistors, resistors, and capacitors along with the associated circuitry.

The IC was invented by Jack Kilby. This development made computers smaller in size, reliable, and efficient. In this generation remote processing, time-sharing, multiprogramming operating system were used. High-level languages (FORTRAN-II TO IV, COBOL, PASCAL PL/1, BASIC, ALGOL-68 etc.) were used during this generation.

The main features of third generation are −

  • IC used
  • More reliable in comparison to previous two generations
  • Smaller size
  • Generated less heat
  • Faster
  • Lesser maintenance
  • Costly
  • AC required
  • Consumed lesser electricity
  • Supported high-level language

Some computers of this generation were −

  • IBM-360 series
  • Honeywell-6000 series
  • PDP (Personal Data Processor)
  • IBM-370/168
  • TDC-316

Fourth Generation of Computer

The period of fourth generation was from 1971-1980.

  • Computers of fourth generation used Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) circuits.
  • VLSI circuits having about 5000 transistors and other circuit elements with their associated circuits on a single chip made it possible to have microcomputers of fourth generation.

Fourth generation computers became more powerful, compact, reliable, and affordable. As a result, it gave rise to Personal Computer (PC) revolution. In this generation, time sharing, real time networks, distributed operating system were used. All the high-level languages like C, C++, DBASE etc., were used in this generation.

The main features of fourth generation are −

  • VLSI technology used
  • Very cheap
  • Portable and reliable
  • Use of PCs
  • Very small size
  • Pipeline processing
  • No AC required
  • Concept of internet was introduced
  • Great developments in the fields of networks
  • Computers became easily available

Some computers of this generation were −

  • DEC 10
  • STAR 1000
  • PDP 11
  • CRAY-1(Super Computer)
  • CRAY-X-MP(Super Computer)

Fifth Generation of Computer

The period of fifth generation is 1980-till date.

  • In the fifth generation, VLSI technology became ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration) technology, resulting in the production of microprocessor chips having ten million electronic components.
  • This generation is based on parallel processing hardware and AI (Artificial Intelligence) software.
  • AI is an emerging branch in computer science, which interprets the means and method of making computers think like human beings.

All the high-level languages like C and C++, Java, .Net etc., are used in this generation.

AI includes −

  • Robotics
  • Neural Networks
  • Game Playing
  • Development of expert systems to make decisions in real-life situations
  • Natural language understanding and generation

The main features of fifth generation are −

  • ULSI technology
  • Development of true artificial intelligence
  • Development of Natural language processing
  • Advancement in Parallel Processing
  • Advancement in Superconductor technology
  • More user-friendly interfaces with multimedia features
  • Availability of very powerful and compact computers at cheaper rates

Some computer types of this generation are −

  • Desktop
  • Laptop
  • NoteBook
  • UltraBook
  • ChromeBook

Sixth Generation of Computers

The Sixth Generation of computers is different from, other generation computers in terms of size, speed and tasks that perform.

  • These computers are called intelligent computers based on artificial intelligence or artificial brains.
  • Whereas, it uses the semiconductors as the raw material to its processors.
  • Moreover, the sixth generation introduces the voice recognition which takes dictation and recognizes the words.
  • By using the voice recognition, you can search and send the messages quickly and easily.

Although people need to speak slowly and clearly to work properly. With the 6th generation computers, the complex problem solving is possible and researches are ongoing to find the ways to solve the problems more efficiently and easily.

The main features of Sixth generation are −

  • In the military, the AI helped soldiers for unexpected problems arises in many situations around the world.
  • It helps to prevent the many of world’s spy network problems, and also
  • it can determine the actions occurring high volatile parts of the world.
  • In the automobile technology, robots are used for manufacturing,
  • But the artificial intelligence is used in some cars which allow to breaking and wearing the vehicle if necessary.

Future Generation Computers

In Today’s Computer, we touch everything virtually. But, the future computers may be neurons and attains the human level intelligence. We all have the image that the computer is a rectangular box either on desk or packet.

Similarly, biological computing performs the operations using DNA or RNA and understand the biotechnology as one computer.

The main features of future generation are −

  • Understand the biotechnology as one computer.
  • Access your computer with voice recognition.
  • The emotion-sensing technology can help to change the things.
  • Gestures to control the computers
  • In the coming future, the computers may have the pre-touch, brain interface.

Nowadays computers operate by using power, semiconductors and metals but, the future computers might use the atoms, DNA and light to perform the tasks.


Now we have used five generations of computers. In future generation computers have the power to access things like the human brain by taking inputs in different ways. The future generation of computers performs the tasks very faster than previous generations and devices may be invisible or smaller in size.

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