PLATFORMS - 1st generation computers

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PLATFORMS - 1st generation computers

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:09 pm

First Generation (1940-1956)

The first computers used vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory, and were often enormous, taking up entire rooms. They were very expensive to operate and in addition to using a great deal of electricity, generated a lot of heat, which was often the cause of malfunctions. First generation computers relied on machine language, the lowest-level programming language understood by computers, to perform operations, and they could only solve one problem at a time. Input was based on punched cards and paper tape, and output was displayed on printouts. The UNIVAC and ENIAC computers are examples of first-generation computing devices. The UNIVAC was the first commercial computer delivered to a business client, the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951. 

Vacuum Tubes:

A vacuum tube (also called a VT, electron tube or, in the UK, a valve) is a device sometimes used to amplify electronic signals. In most applications, the vacuum tube is obsolete, having been replaced decades ago by the bipolar transistor and, more recently, by the field-effect transistor . However, tubes are still used in some high-power amplifiers, especially at microwave radio frequencies and in some hi-fi audio systems. Tubes operate at higher voltages than transistors. A typical transistorized amplifier needs 6 to 12 volts to function; an equivalent tube type amplifier needs 200 to 400 volts. At the highest power levels, some tube circuits have power supplies delivering several kilovolts. Vacuum tubes are making a comeback among audiophiles who insist that tubes deliver better audio quality than transistors. These old-fashioned components are more electrically rugged than their solid-state counterparts; a tube can often withstand temporary overload conditions and power-line transients that would instantly destroy a transistor. The major disadvantages of tubes include the fact that they require bulky power supplies, and the high voltages can present an electric shock hazard.

Magnetic Drum:

A direct-access, or random-access, storage device. A magnetic drum, also referred to as drum, is a metal cylinder coated with magnetic iron-oxide material on which data and programs can be stored. Magnetic drums were once used as a primary storage device but have since been implemented as auxiliary storage devices. The tracks on a magnetic drum are assigned to channels located around the circumference of the drum, forming adjacent circular bands that wind around the drum. A single drum can have up to 200 tracks. As the drum rotates at a speed of up to 3,000 rpm, the device's read/write heads deposit magnetized spots on the drum during the write operation and sense these spots during a read operation. This action is similar to that of a magnetic tape or disk drive. Unlike some disk packs, the magnetic drum cannot be physically removed. The drum is permanently mounted in the device. Magnetic drums are able to retrieve data at a quicker rate than tape or disk devices but are not able to store as much data as either of them.


Internal storage areas in the computer. The term memory identifies data storage that comes in the form of chips, and the word storage is used for memory that exists on tapes or disks. Moreover, the term memory is usually used as a shorthand for physical memory, which refers to the actual chips capable of holding data. Some computers also use virtual memory, which expands physical memory onto a hard disk. Every computer comes with a certain amount of physical memory, usually referred to as main memory or RAM. You can think of main memory as an array of boxes, each of which can hold a single byte of information. A computer that has 1 megabyte of memory, therefore, can hold about 1 million bytes (or characters) of information.

There are several different types of memory:
• RAM (random-access memory): This is the same as main memory. When used by itself, the term RAM refers to read and write memory; that is, you can both write data into RAM and read data from RAM. This is in contrast to ROM, which permits you only to read data. Most RAM is volatile, which means that it requires a steady flow of electricity to maintain its contents. As soon as the power is turned off, whatever data was in RAM is lost.
• ROM (read-only memory): Computers almost always contain a small amount of read-only memory that holds instructions for starting up the computer. Unlike RAM, ROM cannot be written to.
• PROM (programmable read-only memory): A PROM is a memory chip on which you can store a program. But once the PROM has been used, you cannot wipe it clean and use it to store something else. Like ROMs, PROMs are non-volatile.
• EPROM (erasable programmable read-only memory): An EPROM is a special type of PROM that can be erased by exposing it to ultraviolet light.
• EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory): An EEPROM is a special type of PROM that can be erased by exposing it to an electrical charge.

Machine Language:

The lowest-level programming language (except for computers that utilize programmable microcode) Machine languages are the only languages understood by computers. While easily understood by computers, machine languages are almost impossible for humans to use because they consist entirely of numbers. Programmers, therefore, use either a high-level programming language or an assembly language. An assembly language contains the same instructions as a machine language, but the instructions and variables have names instead of being just numbers. Programs written in high-level languages are translated into assembly language or machine language by a compiler. Assembly language programs are translated into machine language by a program called an assembler.


Acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, the first operational electronic digital computer in the U.S., developed by Army Ordnance to compute World War II ballistic firing tables. The ENIAC, weighing 30 tons, using 200 kilowatts of electric power and consisting of 18,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and hundreds of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors, was completed in 1945. In addition to ballistics, the ENIAC's field of application included weather prediction, atomic-energy calculations, cosmic-ray studies, thermal ignition, random-number studies, wind-tunnel design, and other scientific uses. The ENIAC soon became obsolete as the need arose for faster computing speeds.


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