Second Generation Computers (1955-1964) - News4u95

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Monday, 15 February 2021

Second Generation Computers (1955-1964)

Second Generation Computers (1955-1964)

Second Generation Computers (1955-1964)
Second Generation Computers (1955-1964)


John Bardeen, Willian Shockley and Walter Brattain invented a new electronic switching device called transistor at Bell Laboratories in 1947. Transistors soon proved to be a better electronic switching device than vacuum tubes due to their fallowing properties:


  1. They were more rugged and easier to handle than tubes since they were made of germanium semiconductor material rather than glass.
  2. They were highly reliable as compared to tubes since they had no parts like a filament that could burn out.
  3. They could switch much faster (almost ten times faster) than tubes. Hence, switching circuits made of transistors could operate much faster than their counterparts made of tubes.
  4. They consumed almost one-tenth the power consumed by a tube.
  5. They were much smaller than a tube.
  6. They were less expensive to produce.
  7. They dissipated much less heat as compared to vacuum tubes.

Second generation computers were manufactured using transistors. They were more powerful, more reliable, less expensive, smaller, and cooler to operate than the first-generation computers.


The second generation also experienced a change in storage technology. Memory of second generation computers was composed of magnetic cores. Magnetic cores are small rings made of ferrite that can be magnetized in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Large random access memory (having storage capacity of few tens of kilobytes) had several magnetic cores strung on a mesh of wires.


In 1957, researchers introduced magnetic tape as a faster and more convenient secondary storage medium. Later magnetic disk storage was also developed, and magnetic disk and magnetic tape were the main secondary storage media used in second-generation computers. Users still used punched cards widely for preparing and feeding programs and data to a computer.


On software front, high-level programming languages (like FORTRAN, COBOL, ALGOL, and SNOBOL),and batch operating system emerged during second generation. High-level programming languages made second-generation computers easier to program and use than first-generation computers. Introduction of batch operating system helped in reducing human intervention while processing multiple jobs resulting in faster processing, enhanced throughput, and easier operation of second-generation computers.


In addition to scientific computations, business and industry users used second-generation computers increasingly for commercial data processing applications like payroll; inventory control, marketing, and production planning.


Ease of use of second generation computers gave birth to a new profession of programmers and systems analysts in computing that is more oriented towards usage rather than design of computers. This triggered introduction of computer science related courses in several colleges and universities.


Characteristic features of second generation computers are as follows:


  1. They were more than ten times faster than the first generation computers.
  2. They were smaller than first generation computers and required smaller space.
  3. They consumed less power and dissipated less heat than the first generation computers. The rooms/areas in which the second generation computers were located still required to be properly air-conditioned.
  4. They were more reliable and less prone to hardware failures than the first-generation computers.
  5. They had faster and larger primary and secondary storage as compared to first-generation computers.
  6. They were easier to program and use than the first generation computers. Hence, they had wider commercial use.
  7. In these computers, thousands of individual transistors had to be assembled manually by hand into electronic circuits making commercial production of these computers difficult and costly.


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