Computer fundamentals is a common topic for most Government exams, especially Bank, Insurance, SSC, and Railway exams. It must be noted that very basic questions are asked from the computer section for most Government exams as the weightage of marks is not very high for this section. Questions related to networking, the background of computer, Internet and other Computer associated terms are frequently asked in various competitive exams. So, in this article, we shall discuss the Computer fundamentals such as the basics of computer, its evolution over the years, the different types of computers available today.
What is a Computer?
Computer is an an electronic device that accepts data and processes it into useful information. There are two main aspects of the computer: 1) Input 2) Output
Input: The data we enter into the computer is called the input. Input is basically the data that we provide or the raw facts which we want the system to process and provide back some useful information.
Output: The answer that the computer provides in return of the raw data entered, is called output
Evolution of Computer System
The computer started as a huge electronic device which took a large area to setup, and a complicated mechanism to operate. However, with time, those huge machines were converted into smaller versions – monitors, Laptops, Tablets, and mobiles.
The first fully electronic computer was introduced in the 1930s, and since then, the development of computer has come a long way with five generations of computer devices.
Generations of Computer
There are a total of five Generations of Computer, with each Generation something new was discovered to improvise the functioning and the use of the computer systems.
First Generation of Computers (Vacuum Tubes) – 1940-1956:
This Generation computers relied on Machine Language (the Language of 0s and 1s) and used Vacuum tubes as components of memory. They were huge in size and occupied almost a room-size area to fit in.
Given below are a few characteristic features of the 1st Generation of computer:
- They were huge in size and required a large installation and setup area
- The cost of managing these computers was very high
- They were not capable of multitasking, and only one task could be performed at a time
- There was no use of monitors; the output was directly given in the form of print outs
- The electricity consumption was very high
- Examples of computers developed in this generation are ENIAC – Electronic Numeric Integrated and Computer, UNIVAC- Universal Automatic Computer, EDSAC – Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator and EDVAC – Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer
Second Generation of Computers (Transistors) – 1956-1963:
The first-ever transistor was invented in 1947 but could never be used in the computer until the 1950s. Given below are a few characteristic features of the 2nd Generation computers:
- The speed of the transistor decided the speed of the computer
- It was less expensive in comparison to the 1st Generation computers
- The electricity consumption had also reduced with the use of transistors
- There was no change in the output as it was still received through a printout
- From machine language, there was a change to usage assembly language in computers. Thus, now computers could understand words
- High-level programming languages were used
Two significant developments during this phase include the development of FORTRAN or Formula Translation and COBOL or Common Business Oriented Language, which was developed for business use.
Third Generation of Computers (Integrated Circuits) – 1964-1971:
Notable aspect of this phase is that keyboards and monitors has started for the input and output. The transistors had been reduced in size and were placed on silicon chips. This increased the speed of the computer.
Given below are the features of the 3rd Generation of computers:
- The Integrated circuits were used where small circuits could work as efficiently as the larger ones
- Multitasking could be done in the computers developed during the 3rd phase
- Functions of the computer were based on the memory of the monitor
- A few examples from this Generation of computer are PDP 8, IBM 360, ICL 2900, etc.
Fourth Generation of Computers (Microprocessors) – 1972-2010:
The maximum developments were done during this time phase as technology has advanced many folds. By this time, millions of transistors could be placed on the silicon circuits.
The characteristic features of this Generation are given below:
- The first microprocessor, Intel 4004 chip was discovered by Ted Hoff and was made commercially available in 1971. This led to the introduction of personal computers
- GUI – Graphical User Interface was developed during this phase by Xerox, and this Generation saw revised versions of computers being introduced in the form of laptops, tablets, and mobiles.
- Speed, memory and storage had also improved in the computers of this Generation
- The computers which were introduced during this Generation include Apple II, the first IBM computer, STAR 1000, and many more.
Fifth Generation of Computers (Artificial Intelligence) – 2010-till date:
The current generation of computers which have made our lives easier and more convenient is all a part of the fifth generation of the computer.
Given below is some basic information about the 5th generation of computers:
- Artificial intelligence is being used in devices currently which has enabled millions on tasks to be completed within seconds on a device
- Advancement in the functioning of laptops, palmtops, etc.
- Other robotic devices have started being used to reduce human labour
- The devices from this generation are cost-effective, faster, consume lesser electricity and are easily portable and convenient to use
Types of Computer
There are majorly 4 types of computers which have been described briefly below. Candidates must know about the different types of computers with respect to the upcoming competitive exams:
Super Computer – The computers which are used to process a huge amount of data at once are called Supercomputers. They are mostly used in scientific and engineering operations where the processing is complex. They are expensive and complicated to work. For example – The computers used by NASA to launch space shuttles.
Mainframe Computer – Computers designed to be used in large firms and organisations where a lot of people have to work on the same database are called mainframe computers. They are almost equally as expensive as Supercomputers and are the fastest working computers at present. They are mostly used in Banks.
Workstation – Usually a single user system is called a work station. The RAM for such systems is more, and the processors are quite fast. They are mostly used by an individual and can be used for multiple purposes.
Microcomputer – Designed for personal use only. This type of computers can easily be moved from one place to the other. They have a personal storage area, input & output unit and a Central Processing Unit. Examples for microcomputer are desktop, laptop, mobile phone, tables, etc.