The term “first generation of computers” describes the years 1940–1956, when the first electronic computers were created and put to use for a variety of tasks. John Ambrose Fleming pioneered vacuum tube technology in 1904, which served as the foundation for these computers. The electric current flow between electrodes in a high vacuum was regulated using vacuum tubes. In the early computers, they were employed for control, storage, and calculations.
The Characteristics of the First Generation of Computers
A number of unique characteristics set the first generation of computers apart from the rest of the field. The following were some of the primary traits of the initial computer generation:
- They took up a lot of room and energy because they were so big and hefty.
- Large enterprises, governments, and academic institutions were the only entities that could afford these uncommon and costly items. Their primary uses were in engineering, science, and the military.
- They were incredibly sluggish and unreliable, prone to mistakes and malfunctions. They represented data with binary digits, but they carried out arithmetic operations using decimal notation. They needed to be manually programmed and rewired for every new assignment, and they could only tackle one problem at a time.
- They used magnetic drums and cassettes to store data and programs, but their memory and storage capacity were severely limited. Under a read/write head, magnetic drums were cylindrical metal devices coated with magnetism. Reels of plastic film coated in magnetism that could be read and written on using a tape drive were known as magnetic tapes. Both devices had low data densities and were quite sluggish.
- The lowest level programming language, machine language, was utilized by them. It was made up of binary codes that matched the computer hardware’s commands. Writing and comprehending machine language needed a great deal of technical expertise and understanding.
The Examples of the First Generation of Computers
Some of the most well-known and significant computers in computing history have come from the first generation of computers. Several instances of the initial computer generation included:
- John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert designed the first general-purpose electronic computer, known as the ENIAC, in 1942 and finished it in 1945.
- The first electronic computer with stored programs was called the Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC), created in 1945 by John von Neumann and colleagues and finished in 1951.
- The first electronic computer to be sold commercially was the UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer I), which was created in 1946 by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert and finished in 1951.
- The first electronic computer to be mass-produced was the IBM 701 (Defense Calculator), which was created by IBM in 1951 and finished in 1953.
- The most well-known first-generation computer was the IBM 650 (Magnetic Drum Data-Processing Machine), which was created by IBM in 1953 and finished in 1954.
The first electronic computers were created and employed for a variety of uses at the beginning of the digital era, which marked the beginning of the computer age. John Ambrose Fleming pioneered vacuum tube technology in 1904, which served as the foundation for these computers. Among their many unique characteristics were their enormous size, high cost, slow speed, unreliability, and limitations.