When we talk about generations of computers then we are tracing the different generations of computing devices. Every generation of computer devices changed the way we operate the computer and resulted in increasingly smaller, cheaper, and more powerful and efficient devices.
The first generation of computer
The first generation of computers was entirely based on electrical components such as vacuum tubes which used to store the instructions. They used heavy magnetic drums for storing the memory. The vacuum tubes were a form of light bulbs that contained a cathode and an anode that worked when they were hit with the lights from the bulbs. They contained many numbers of vacuum tubes and this led to computers occupying space as much as two clothes cupboards.
Example of First Generation of Computers
The examples of the first generation of computers include UNIVAC 1, ENIAC, Mark 1. The UNIVAC was the first commercial electronic computer. The applications of the first generation of computers were in payroll processing and record-keeping.
Advantage of first generation of computers
- They were the first machine to implement vacuum tubes with electronic circuits.
- They introduced the first form of low-level machine language (ones and zeros) which made the further development of the computer possible.
- These computers were able to perform instructions within fractions of seconds and therefore made the concept of modern-day calculator possible, which was failed when Charles Babbage used water pressures to perform the calculation.
- The machine was developed for scientific and military purposes but later on, the computer shifted entirely to business purposes.
- They were the first machines that can be programmed to execute instructions repeatedly with little human intervention.
- Also, they introduced magnetic drums as a storage device which will later be enhanced to magnetic disk but based on the same concept.
- Brought low-level symbolic programming language.
Disadvantages of First Generation of Computers
- The vacuum tubes radiated a lot of heat as they emitted lights. The heating of the tubes led to the heating of computers and therefore they required air conditioning to keep the room and computer cools. Also, these tubes malfunctioned easily because the component of the tube may heat up and melt causing an error in the instructions and it became tiresome work to replace these vacuum tubes.
- The magnetic drums had a very limited capacity to store the information which limited the capacity of the vacuum tubes to process the instructions.
- The input in the computer was in the form of punch cards and the instructions which were given to the computer were in the form of bundles of punch cards that had to be inserted into the device.
- The speed of the instructions to be processed was very slow if we compare it to the second generation of computers.
- The slow computation and non-portable facility made it non-viable for commercial applications and it will have taken the time when the transistors were introduced to computers to become a commercial application.
- The computers always got heated too much quickly and lack of air conditioning can cause a lot of damage to the computer. The vacuum tubes have to be replaced every day which makes the maintenance task of the computer hectic.
- Because the electrical components can melt easily they sometimes produce inaccurate results.
- They did not have the features to multitask that were provided in the second generation of the computer that means it could perform only one task at a time.