First Generation of Computers

First Generation of Computers

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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on Mar 16, 2023 18:07 IST

The first generation of computers refers to the original phase of electronic computers. The first generation of computers was relatively large, expensive, slow, and was only able of performing limited functions.


But, indeed after being large, expensive, slow, and having limited capabilities, the first generation of computers set the foundation for unborn developments in computer technology.

You can also explore: Different Types Of Computer

In this article, we will discuss the first generation of computers in great detail. But, before we dive deeper into the article, let’s first go through the list of topics listed under the table of contents (TOC) we will cover. Here’s the table:

Table of Contents (TOC)

What is a First Generation of Computers?

The first computers were made using vacuum tube technology, which was invented by an electrical engineer named Lee De Forest. These computers were built between 1946 and 1959 and were very expensive because the vacuum tubes used as basic components for memory and CPU circuitry, like electric bulbs, produced a lot of heat and frequently burned out. As a result, only large organizations could afford them.

During this time, batch processing operating systems were mainly used. Punch cards, paper tape, and magnetic tape were used as input and output devices. The programming language used for these computers was machine code.

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The first generation of computers used a programming language called machine language to carry out different tasks. These computers were not capable of multitasking and could only solve one problem at a time. The ENIAC, designed by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, Jr., was the first electronic general-purpose computer that used 18,000 vacuum tubes and was built in 1943.

It was used primarily for war-related calculations, such as helping build the atomic bomb and constructing ballistic firing tables. The Colossus, a British machine, was also built during this time and was used to decode enemy messages. These machines were programmed using plugboard wiring or paper tape and did not have internal storage for programs.

The concept of stored-program computers was first developed by the team working on the ENIAC. This led to the development of machines like the EDSAC, EDVAC, and UNIVAC. UNIVAC was the first successful commercial computer delivered to a business client. And it used magnetic tape for bulk storage. Here are some examples of first generation of computers:

  • IBM-650
  • IBM-701
  • Manchester Mark 1, Mark 2, etc.

Features of First Generation of Computers

Here are some of the features of first generation:

  • They only supported machine language.
  • The first generation used vacuum tube technology.
  • They were expensive to build and maintain and produced a lot of heat.
  • They required an air conditioning system and consumed a lot of electricity to work.
  • The input and output devices used in the first generation were slow and machines were very large and heavy.

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Advantages of First Generation of Computers

Here are some of the advantages of first generation:

  • The first generation was tough to hack and was quite strong.
  • The first generation paved the way for future computer generations.
  • The first generation had a color-coded feature that made it easier to identify readings quickly.
  • They were built using vacuum tubes, which were the only electronic parts available at that time.
  • The first generation could perform calculations very quickly, in just one-thousandth of a second.
  • The vacuum tubes used in these computers made it possible to create electronic digital computers.

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Disadvantages of First Generation of Computers

Here are some of the disadvantages of first generation:

  • They consumed high amounts of energy/electricity.
  • They were not portable due to their weight and size.
  • They were slow due to their use of inefficient vacuum tube technology.
  • First generation computers were heavy, weighing around 30 tons, and large in size.
  • Their limited storage capacity, due to magnetic drums, could only hold a small amount of information.
  • Only big and established organizations could afford first generation computers, as they were very expensive.
  • They required constant maintenance and sometimes shut down automatically due to overheating vacuum tubes.
  • They had limited programming capabilities and were dependent on machine language, which is only understandable by the computer.
  • The vacuum tubes they used heated up quickly, requiring air conditioning in the computer room to keep the computer’s operating system cool so it could function properly.

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In this article, we have explored what the 1st generation of computers is. We have also explored its features, advantages, and disadvantages in great detail. If you have any queries related to the topic, please feel free to send your queries to us in the form of a comment. We will be happy to help.

Happy Learning!!

About the Author
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio