One of the most significant inventions of the 20th century is the computer. Numerous disciplines, including science, engineering, business, education, entertainment, and more, have been transformed by them. However, how did computers get from being massive apparatuses that took up whole rooms to becoming little gadgets we can carry around in our pockets? The invention of the integrated circuit (IC), which signaled the start of the third generation of computers, holds the key to the solution.
What is an Integrated Circuit?
A tiny piece of semiconductor material, often silicon, that has thousands of transistors and other components is called an integrated circuit. An apparatus with the ability to switch or amplify electrical signals is a transistor. The fundamental components of logic circuits, which carry out computations and other tasks in computers, are transistors. The integrated circuit allowed for the construction of more complicated and potent circuits with reduced dimensions, expenses, and power requirements by shrinking transistors and linking them on a single chip.
In 1958, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor separately designed the integrated circuit. They both understood that they could build an entire circuit on a single silicon piece rather than connecting individual transistors together. This discovery changed the course of the computer industry by paving the way for the creation of memory chips, microprocessors, and other crucial parts of contemporary computers.
What are the Characteristics of the Third Generation of Computers?
The third generation of computers spanned from 1965 to 1971, although some sources may vary by one or two years. The main feature of this generation was the use of integrated circuits instead of individual transistors. This resulted in several advantages over the previous generations of computers, such as:
- decreased size: Because integrated circuits could house thousands of transistors on a single chip, they greatly decreased the size of computers. Because they were so much smaller than the computers of the first and second generations, which took up entire rooms or buildings, these machines were also known as microcomputers.
- Faster speed: Because integrated circuits could process more data faster, computers were able to operate at a higher pace. The third generation computers’ processing times were expressed in nanoseconds, or one billionth of a second. One millionth of a second, or microseconds, was utilized by earlier generations.
- Increased reliability: By reducing the amount of parts and wires that could fail or break, integrated circuits increased the reliability of computers. Compared to earlier generations, this generation of computers also produced less heat and needed less upkeep.
- Reduced cost: Because less materials and laborers were required to create computers thanks to integrated circuits, the cost of computers was decreased. This generation’s computers also consumed less electricity and didn’t require air conditioning to stay cool.
The third generation of computers also introduced some new features and innovations, such as:
High-level programming languages: Compared to the low-level languages of earlier generations, high-level programming languages are simpler to create and comprehend, and they are utilized by computers of this generation. This generation saw a rise in the popularity of high-level languages like BASIC, PASCAL, ALGOL-68, COBOL, and FORTRAN-II. Programmers were able to produce more intricate and varied computer programs because to these languages.
Keyboard and mouse: This generation of computers used a mouse and keyboard as input devices instead of punch cards from earlier generations. Users were able to communicate with computers in a more easy and natural way thanks to the mouse and keyboard.
Magnetic storage: This generation of computers stored and retrieved data using magnetic storage devices like hard drives and floppy disks. Compared to earlier storage methods like magnetic tapes and drums, magnetic storage systems have a larger capacity and faster access.
What are some Examples of the Third Generation of Computers?
IBM 370: IBM debuted a line of mainframe computers known as the IBM 370 in 1970. Among the most popular and significant computers of this generation, the IBM 370 was utilized extensively by corporations, governments, and academic institutions. Because of its 32-bit design, the IBM 370 was able to process 32 bits of data at once. Additionally, it was capable of running numerous programs at once thanks to multiprogramming capability. Up to 16 megabytes of memory could be used by the IBM 370, which could process up to 3 million instructions per second.
PDP-11: In 1970, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) unveiled the PDP-11 line of minicomputers. One of the earliest machines to run the widely used UNIX operating system was the PDP-11. Due to its 16-bit design, the PDP-11 was able to process up to 16 bits of data simultaneously. Additionally, it featured time-sharing, which meant that numerous people could use the computer simultaneously. Up to 4 megabytes of memory could be allocated to the PDP-11, which could process up to 1 million instructions per second.
IBM System/360: In 1964, IBM unveiled the IBM System/360, a line of mainframe computers. One of the earliest computers to employ the idea of a family of compatible computers was the IBM System/360. This allowed various models within the same series to utilize the same peripherals and run the same software. Because of its 32-bit design, the IBM System/360 was able to process 32 bits of data at once. It could also use disk space as an extension of the main memory because it supported virtual memory. Up to 8 gigabytes of memory could be used by the IBM System/360, which could process up to 1.7 million instructions per second.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Third Generation of Computers?
The third generation of computers had many advantages over the previous generations, such as:
- They were smaller, faster, more reliable, and cheaper than the first and second generation computers.
- They used high-level programming languages, which made programming easier and more versatile.
- They used mouse and keyboard, which made inputting data more convenient and user-friendly.
- They used magnetic storage, which increased the storage capacity and speed of the computers.
However, the third generation of computers also had some disadvantages, such as:
- They nevertheless produced a lot of heat and consumed a lot of electricity, necessitating ventilation and cooling systems.
- Since they were mostly utilized by big firms and institutions, they remained pricey and out of reach for the majority of consumers.
- They still needed to be tested and debugged because they were prone to mistakes and problems.
How did the Third Generation of Computers Impact the World?
The third generation of computers had a significant impact on the world, as they enabled the development of many new fields and applications, such as:
- Computer graphics: Realism and interactivity were made possible by the third generation of computers, and these images were utilized for simulation, teaching, and amusement. Video games, computer animation, and computer-aided design (CAD) are a few instances of computer graphics from this period.
- Artificial intelligence: The ability of computers to carry out tasks that ordinarily need human intelligence was made possible by the research and development of artificial intelligence, which was made possible by the third generation of computers. This generation’s examples of artificial intelligence included expert systems, speech recognition, and natural language processing.
- Internet: The global network of linked computers that exchange resources and information was made possible by the third generation of computers. Email, file transfer protocol (FTP), and hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) are a few instances of the internet in this generation.
The third generation of computers, which introduced smaller, more inexpensive devices to replace the larger, more costly ones, was a significant turning point in the history of computing. The primary innovation that allowed for the construction of more potent and intricate circuits with reduced cost, size, and power consumption was the integrated circuit. Along with these many new features and advancements, the third generation of computers also included a mouse and keyboard, magnetic storage, and high-level programming languages.The creation of numerous new industries and applications, including computer graphics, artificial intelligence, and the internet, was made possible by the third generation of computers, which had a significant impact on the globe as well. The world was altered by the third generation of computers because they increased computing’s accessibility, adaptability, and power.