Computers between 1971 to 1980 are called fourth generation computers.
The fourth generation of computers began with the use of microprocessors in computer systems. Microprocessor is a small chip, which is used as a control unit in microcomputers.
It can perform arithmetic and logical operations and also helps in communication with other connected devices.
It was jointly developed in 1971 by Federico Faggin, Marcian (Ted) Hoff, Stanley Mazor, and Masatoshi Shima.
The invention of the microprocessor revolutionized the field of computers because hundreds to thousands of integrated circuits could be assembled on a single silicon chip.
This eventually enabled manufacturers to develop computers in a very compact size that could easily fit even on a desk.
Microprocessors were typically developed using LSI (large-scale integration) and VLSI (very large-scale integration) techniques.
VLSI circuits helped to combine about 5000 transistors and many other circuit elements on a single chip, which is called a microprocessor.
Due to microprocessors, fourth generation computers became smaller in size, leading to the development of microcomputers.
Microprocessors were widely used as a major component in computers from 1971 to 1980. Although they are still in use for computers today, they are no longer considered mainstream technology. Therefore, the period of the fourth generation of computers is considered to be from 1971 to 1980.
Fourth generation computers became more powerful, reliable and economical than the previous generation.
High-level languages like C, C++, Java, PHP, DBASE were used in this generation. In addition, time-sharing, real-time networks, and distributed operating systems were used in computers.
Object-oriented programming was used in the fourth generation of computers. Different types of languages exist in object-oriented programming such as Java, Visual Basic etc. These object-oriented programs were designed to solve specific problems.
The fourth generation is an extension of the third generation. The first generation computers filled the space of an entire room, but the fourth generation computers could fit in the palm of the hand. A minimum amount of electricity was required to run these computers.
Fourth generation computers were more affordable in addition to smaller size. This eventually led to the widespread use of the personal computer (PC). This means that computers became accessible to people at large because of their portability.
The use of PC increased in the fourth generation. IBM developed the first personal computer (PC) belonging to the fourth generation.
Intel was the first company that could develop a microprocessor. The first processor was the Intel 4004 built in 1971 on a single silicon chip, and contained 2,300 transistors.
Compared to the previous generation computers, the fourth generation computers were supercomputers capable of performing many calculations accurately. These supercomputers were also used in networking. Storage capacity was increased to several gigabytes or terabytes.
The fourth generation included many different applications such as data management, report generation, GUI development, mathematical optimization, and web development.
The fourth generation computers used microprocessors with serial numbers. Serial numbers used to show the functionality of the computer as well as its speed.
Architecture of Fourth Generation Computer
Fourth generation computers had five different units (eg -: Input Unit, Arithmetic and Logic Unit, Memory Unit, Output Unit, and Control units), which is shown in the figure below.
Examples of Fourth Generation of Computer
Following are the main computers of the fourth generation:
- DEC 10
- STAR 1000
- PDP 11
- CRAY-1 (Super Computer)
- CRAY-X-MP(Super Computer)
- CRAY Y-MP
- CRAY Y-MPC
- IBM 4341
- IBM PC
- Apple II
- VAX 9000
Features of Fourth Generation Computer
Following are the features of fourth generation computers:
1) Development of Microprocessor
With the development of VLSI, it is now possible to design an entire CPU in a chip less than an inch in size, which is called a microprocessor.
2) Input/Output media
New input/output media such as monitors, printers were developed along with the use of keyboards.
3) Semiconductor internal memory
In the fourth generation, instead of magnetic memory, semiconductors were used as internal memory. These memories were faster in speed, smaller in size and cheaper in cost.
4) Modern secondary memory
New secondary memory magnetic bubble, floppy disk was used with magnetic disk as secondary memory.
5) Miniature size
With the use of VLSI and the microprocessor, it is now possible to design thousands of components in a circuit, which has reduced the size of computers significantly. Typewriter sized microcomputers are now available.
The computers of these generations were faster than the previous generations. These computers could execute millions of instructions per second.
7) Use of improved high-level language
New standard high-level languages like C++, KLI, RPG, SQL were developed.
The cost of a microcomputer, also known as a personal computer or PC, was much lower than the cost of all previous generations of computers.
9) Development of application software
With the increasing use of computers, specialized software has been developed for different fields. Word processors, spreadsheets, database management systems were developed which made the PC a powerful tool for both homes and offices.
Fourth generation computers were more reliable than all the previous generation computers.
11) Power consumption
Fourth generation computers consumed less power and did not require AC to keep them cool.
Advantages of Fourth Generation Computer
- Fourth generation computers were used for general purpose.
- This generation of computers did not require as much air conditioning system as the previous generation.
- Fourth generation computers were more reliable than the previous generation.
- These computers could calculate data in picoseconds.
- Computers of this generation consumed less power than the computers of the previous generation.
- Produced less heat than the previous generation computers.
- Their maintenance used to cost very little.
- Microprocessor was used in these computers.
- Storage capacity was increased in the fourth generation computers.
- The processing power and speed of these computers were much higher than the previous generation computers.
- In the fourth generation, the size of computer devices was small.
- These computers required very little repair.
- Computers were small in size and could easily fit on a desk.
- Fourth generation computers were somewhat cheaper than the previous generation computers. Due to this, the use of these computers started increasing a lot.
- Almost all high-level programming languages were used in fourth generation computers.
- Distributed operating systems were used in computers, with time-sharing being added to the fourth generation of computers.
- Computers were quite portable.
- The use of personal computers (PCs) increased in the fourth generation.
Disadvantages of Fourth Generation Computer
- AC was required in many cases due to the use of IC (integrated circuit).
- The design and manufacture of microprocessors was very complex.
- Advanced technology was required to manufacture VLSI circuits.
- Even after generating very little heat, fourth generation computers required fans to cool the internal components.
- During heavy usage of the computer, the fan produced annoying noises.
- Fourth generation computers still used integrated circuits and hence advanced technology was needed to manufacture ICs (Integrated Circuits).
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