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Historical Evolution of Computer Architecture

Computer architecture has evolved over the years from one form to the next. We shall make comparisons between the first, second, third and fourth generations. Before we compare the different generations as they evolve let me define the term Computer Architecture as the physical attributes of the computer system that is both visible and familiar to the programmer in such a way that he can write programs for the specific computer and successfully execute them. In the first generation systems (1945-1958) the Cathode ray tube (CRT) was mainly employed in the early onset of the generation as a useful one-way electrical valve as well as to do basic electronic switching, a lot of which was mostly electrical rather than electronic. The programming language used in the first generation was simple machine code and assembly language. These machines were not general purpose but designed individually for special or specific purposes. The memory was a drum or magnetic core type. Programs were loaded to memory using paper tape or punch cards Memory size was as low as two kilobyte (2Kb). Examples of the first generation systems include: The Havard Architecture which employed a relay-based computer which stored instructions on a punched tape and the data in relay latches. The Von Neuman Architecture which uses a single storage structure to hold programs and data. The Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator (ENIAC) (First general purpose computer) and was built initially to calculate the trajectories for ballistic shells during World WarII. periods. In 1953, IBM rolled out its first general purpose commercial computer, the IBM 701, that had an electrostatic storage tube memory with magnetic tape to store information and used the first binary single address hardware. The 701 was soon upgraded to the IBM 650 - first mass produced computer. The Second Generation Computer eventually succeeded the first generation computers with wholesale transformation from cathode ray tubes (vacuum tubes) to a much smaller, lower power, lower cost transistors and semi-conducting diodes (as one-way electronic valves). Besides being smaller, lower cost, low powered alternatives the smaller electronic devices then allowed computers to be much more compact. It employed a magnetic core memory, reduced execution time from milliseconds to microseconds. It employed high level programming language that handled one program at a time. Examples of the Second Generation Systems are: IBM 7000 series main-frame (1959) which was fully transistorized.

IBM 7090 most powerful system up to the end of the 50s upward developed for general purpose needs, it was designed with special attention to the design of missiles, jet engines, nuclear reactors and supersonic aircrafts. It could process instructions at a rate of up to 3MB per second with its extremely fast magnetic storage. The Third Generation System took technology yet a step further in the early 60s to early 70s (1974) making use of integrated circuits with thousands of transistors on a single chip. The second generation employs a semiconductor memory of 2MB to 5MB per second, time-sharing, graphics, cache memory and structured programming. Examples of the Third Generation Systems are: IBM 360 model 91 (1966) most powerful computer in use at that time it was specifically designed to manage high speed data processing for scientific applications like space exploration, astronomy and global weather forecasting. The Fourth Generation was since 1974 until present, with great strides in memory storage, implementing Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) and Ultra Large-Scale Integration (ULSI) which combines millions of transistors. Emergence of the single chip processor, smallest in size because of its high component density. The personal computer then emerged, object-oriented programming, functions and logics predicates. Examples of the Fourth Generation includes but not by any means limited to: Scelbi (1975-1977) first P.C. as kits, based on Intels 8008 microprocessor Mark8 Altair Apple I First circuit board computer (1976) with dynamic RAM. Apple II Second model Apple P.C. (1977) which used cassette drive then floppy disks in the latter part for storage. IBM Open Architecture (1981) P.C. with 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor this was the first P.C. to be marketed by outside distributors. Since 1981, Computer Architecture have since skyrocketed into the super machines we now have and will take us to who knows where in education, scientific research, medicine, space exploration and the automotives in the latter part of the twenty first century (2100s).