The second generation of computers was a remarkable period in the history of computing, as it marked the transition from vacuum tubes to transistors, which led to the development of faster, smaller, cheaper, and more reliable machines. In this blog post, we will explore the characteristics, advantages, disadvantages, and examples of the second generation of computers, and how they changed the world of computing.
What are the second generation of computers?
The term “second generation” describes the category of computers that used transistors as their primary circuitry component, as opposed to vacuum tubes. Semiconductor devices with the ability to switch or magnify electrical signals are called transistors. At Bell Labs, they were created in 1947 by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley. In 1956, their discovery earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics.
The years 1957 to 1963 are considered to be the second generation of computers, while various sources slightly differ on this. Here are a few prominent examples of computers from the second generation:
- One of the most well-known and often used computers in the early 1960s was the IBM 1401 model. It was a variable-word-length, decimal computer with a maximum addition speed of 193,000 operations per second. Its memory capacity ranged from 4,000 to 16,000 characters, and its input and output methods were punched cards and magnetic tapes. It was used for data processing, programming, and calculations related to science, engineering, and business.
- A scientific and technical computer called the IBM 7094 was capable of up to 229,000 additions per second. It employed punched cards, magnetic tapes, and magnetic drums for input and output. Its memory held 32,768 words. Having a floating-point unit made it the first IBM computer capable of handling intricate mathematical computations. Additionally, it was the first IBM computer to employ a transistorized version of FORTRAN, one of the most popular programming languages at the time.
- A high-performance computer capable of up to 100,000 additions per second was the CDC 1604. It employed punched cards and magnetic tapes for input and output, and it had a 32,768 word memory. Seymour Cray, who went on to become well-known for his supercomputers, created it. It was the first computer to employ a word length of 48 bits, which enabled it to process numbers with more accuracy. Additionally, it was the first computer to use a fully transistorized clock, which improved both its dependability and speed.
What are the characteristics of the second generation of computers?
- More dependable and less heat-producing: Compared to the first generation of computers, which relied on hot and brittle vacuum tubes, the second generation of computers was far more dependable and produced less heat. Transistors decreased computer faults and failures and were far more reliable and long-lasting. Additionally, they produced a lot less heat, which extended the computers’ lifespan and enhanced their performance.
- less expensive to construct: Compared to the first generation of computers, which relied on pricey and rare vacuum tubes, the second generation computers were substantially less expensive to construct. Transistors were considerably more affordable and widely available, which decreased the price and upkeep of the computers.
- speedier: Due to the slow and unstable vacuum tubes of the first generation of computers, the second generation of computers ran far quicker than the first. Computers could process and switch information faster because to transistors, which were also far more dependable and efficient.
- Reduced in size: The first generation of computers, which relied on heavy and brittle vacuum tubes, were significantly larger than the second generation computers. Computer space and power requirements were decreased by transistors, which were also far more robust and small.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the second generation of computers?
Comparing the second generation of computers to the first, there were a number of advantages and disadvantages, including:
- Compared to the first generation of computers, they were more dependable, smaller, faster, and less expensive.
- Compared to the machine language used by the first generation of computers, they used assembly language and high-level programming languages like COBOL and FORTRAN, which made programming simpler and more effective.
- The computers’ speed and storage capacity were enhanced by the introduction of magnetic tapes and magnetic cores for memory.
- They could handle increasingly complicated and varied applications, like data processing, programming, and computations for commerce, science, and engineering.
- For input and output, they continued to use punched cards, which were laborious and slow to use.
- Even so, they produced a lot of heat, necessitating ventilation and air conditioning systems to keep them cool.
- They continued to use a lot of electricity, which raised the computers’ running expenses.
- They remained out of reach for the majority of people and extremely costly.
How did the second generation of computers change the world of computing?
The second generation of computers changed the world of computing in many ways, such as:
They cleared the path for the creation of minicomputers and microcomputers as well as the third generation of computers, which employed integrated circuits rather than transistors.
By automating and optimizing their procedures and activities, they raised the productivity and efficiency of numerous sectors and industries, including commerce, science, engineering, education, and government.
By enabling more intricate and sophisticated calculations and programming, they increased the breadth and diversity of computing applications, including modeling, simulation, artificial intelligence, graphics, and gaming.
They encouraged the creation of numerous additional languages, including BASIC, C, and Java, and popularized the usage of programming languages like COBOL and FORTRAN, which eventually became the standard languages for many fields and specialties.
The switch from vacuum tubes to transistors in the second generation of computers ushered in a new era in computing history and allowed for the creation of devices that were more dependable, quicker, smaller, and more affordable. The second generation of computers impacted the computing industry in many ways and had a number of traits, benefits, drawbacks, and examples. They cleared the path for the creation of minicomputers and microcomputers as well as the third generation of computers, which employed integrated circuits rather than transistors. They also made a variety of industries and sectors more productive and efficient, broadened the range and variety of computing applications, and made programming languages more widely used.It is important to recognize and honor the significant contributions made by the second generation of computers to the field of computing.