posted Nov 6, 2014, 1:19 AM by Maurice Nyamoti
updated Nov 6, 2014, 1:39 AM
DEVELOPMENT OF COMPUTERS.
- Before 1900, most data processing was done manually using
simple tools like stones & sticks to count and keep records.
Around 2000 years ago, Asian merchants came up with a
special calculating tool called Abacus
that could be used to calculate large figures.
An Abacus is made up of a rectangular frame and a crossbar
at the middle. It is fitted with wires
or strings running across from the frame to the crossbar.
How to represent a number using an Abacus.
- Each bead in the lower row has a value of 1, while each bead
in the upper row has a value of 5. To
represent a number, the bead is moved to the crossbar. Those beads away from the crossbar represent
The Figure below represents the number 6908 (Six thousand
nine hundred and eight).
- After Abacus, the first machine that is usually regarded as
the forerunner of modern computers was named the Analytical Engine, and was developed by an English mathematician
called Charles Babbage.
In 1939, Professor
Howard Aken of Horrard
University designed the
first computer-like machine named Mark 1. Since then, a series of advancements in
electronics has occurred. With each
breakthrough, the computers based on the older form of electronics have been
replaced by a new “generation” of computers based on the newer form of
- A Computer generation
is a grouped summary of the gradual developments in the computer
technology. The historical events are
not considered in terms of individual years, but are classified in durations (a
period of more than a year).
1ST Generation computers (1946 – 1956).
- The 1st generation of computers used thousands of
electronic gadgets called Vacuum tubes or Thermionic valves to store & process
- The tubes consumed a lot power, and generated a lot of heat
during processing due to overheating.
The computers constantly broke down due to the excessive
heat generated, hence were short-lived, and were not very reliable.
They also used Magnetic
Cards were used to enter data into the computers.
Their internal memory capacity was limited. The maximum memory size was approx. 2 KB
The computers used big physical devices in their circuitry;
hence they were very large in size, i.e. the computer could occupy several
office blocks. For example, ENIAC
occupied an area of about 150m2 - the size of an average 3-bedroom
They were very slow - their speed was measured in Milliseconds. E.g., ENIAC (the earliest electronic
computer) could perform 5,000 additions per second & 300 multiplications
The computers were very costly - they costed millions of
Examples of 1ST
- ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator) built in 1946 for use in World War II. It contained 18,000 Vacuum tubes.
(Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer) developed in 1945 by Dr. John Von Neumann. It was the first computer that used instructions
stored in memory.
- UNIVAC (UNIVersal Automatic Computer).
- IBM 650.
- LEO (Lyon’s Electronic Office).
2ND Generation computers (1957 – 1963).
- The 2nd generation computers used tiny,
solid-state electronic devices called Transistors. The transistors were relatively smaller, more
stable & reliable than vacuum tubes.
- The computers consumed less power, produced less heat, were
much faster, and more reliable than those made with vacuum tubes.
They used Magnetic
RAM Memory size expanded to 32 KB.
Their operation speed increased to between 200,000 – 300,000
instructions per second. Their speeds
were measured in Microseconds. E.g., a computer could perform 1 million
additions per second, which was comparatively higher than that of the 1st
The computers were smaller in size & therefore, occupied
less space compared to the 1st G computers.
They were less costly than the 1st G computers.
Examples of 2nd
- ¨ NCR
501, IBM 300, IBM 1401, IBM 7070, IBM 7094 Series & CDC-6600 Mainframe
- ¨ ATLAS
LEO Mark III.
- ¨ UNIVAC
- ¨ HONEYWELL
3RD Generation computers (1964 – 1979).
- Used electronic devices called Integrated Circuits (ICs), which were made by combining
thousands of transistors & diodes together on a semiconductor
called a Silicon chip.
4TH Generation computers (1979 – 1989).
- The 4th generation computers used Large Scale Integrated (LSI) circuits & Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) circuits. These circuits were made by compressing more
tiny circuits and transistors into even smaller space of the silicon chip.
5TH Generation computers (1990 – Present).
- In this generation fall today’s computers.
The technologies used are Parallel architectures, 3-Dimensional
circuit design & super conducting
These technologies have led to the development of computers
referred to as Supercomputers, which
are very powerful, and have very high processing speeds. Their speeds are measured in Nanoseconds & Picoseconds.
They are able to perform parallel (or multiprocessing)
whereby a single task is split among a number of processors.
The memory sizes range between 1 Gigabyte & 1 Terabyte.
The computers are designed using VLSI and the Microchip technology that has given rise to the
smaller computers, known as Microcomputers used today.
The computers have special instruction sets that allow them
to support complex programs that mimic human intelligence often referred to as Artificial
Intelligence. Such programs can
help managers to make decisions and also provide critical expert services to
users instead of relying on human professionals.
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