The history of computer development is often referred to in reference to the different generations of computing devices. A generation refers to the state of improvement in the product development process. This term is also used in the different advancements of new computer technology. With each new generation, the circuitry has gotten smaller and more advanced than the previous generation before it. As a result of the miniaturization, speed, power, and computer memory has proportionally increased. New discoveries are constantly being developed that affect the way we live, work and play. Each generation of computers is characterized by major technological development that fundamentally changed the way computers operate, resulting in increasingly smaller, cheaper, more powerful and more efficient and reliable devices. Read about each generation and the developments that led to the current devices that we use today. First Generation - 1940-1956: Vacuum Tubes
The first computers used vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory, and were often enormous, taking up entire rooms. A magnetic drum,also referred to as drum, is a metal cylinder coated with magnetic iron-oxide material on which data and programs can be stored. Magnetic drums were once use das a primary storage device but have since been implemented as auxiliary storage devices. The tracks on a magnetic drum are assigned to channels located around the circumference of the drum, forming adjacent circular bands that wind around the drum. A single drum can have up to 200 tracks. As the drum rotates at a speed of up to 3,000 rpm, the device's read/write heads deposit magnetized spots on the drum during the write operation and sense these spots during a read operation. This action is similar to that of a magnetic tape or disk drive. They were very expensive to operate and in addition to using a great deal of electricity, generated a lot of heat, which was often the cause of malfunctions. First generation computers relied on machine language to perform operations, and they could only solve one problem at a time. Machine languages are the only languages understood by computers. While easily understood by computers, machine languages are almost impossible for humans to use because they consist entirely of numbers. Computer Programmers, therefore, use either high level programming languages or an assembly language programming. An assembly language contains the same instructions as a machine language, but the instructions and variables have names instead of being just numbers. Programs written in high level programming languages retranslated into assembly language or machine language by a compiler. Assembly language program retranslated into machine language by a program called an assembler (assembly language compiler). Every CPU has its own unique machine language. Programs must be rewritten or recompiled, therefore, to run on different types of computers. Input was based onpunch card and paper tapes, and output was displayed on printouts. The UNIVAC and ENIAC computers are examples of first-generation computing devices. The UNIVAC was the first commercial computer delivered to a business client, the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951. Acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, the world's first operational electronic digital computer, developed by Army Ordnance to compute World War II ballistic firing tables. The ENIAC, weighing 30 tons, using 200 kilowatts of electric power and consisting of 18,000 vacuum tubes,1,500 relays, and hundreds of thousands of resistors,capacitors, and inductors, was completed in 1945. In addition to ballistics, the ENIAC's field of application included weather prediction, atomic-energy calculations, cosmic-ray studies, thermal ignition,random-number studies, wind-tunnel design, and other scientific uses. The ENIAC soon became obsolete as the need arose for faster computing speeds. Second Generation - 1956-1963: Transistors...
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