The Generations of Computers

The Generations of Computers

1. Computer technology is one of the youngest and most dynamic branches of modern science and technology. From the 1940s to the present, the technology used to build computers has gone through several revolutions. People sometimes speak about of different generations of computers.

2. The First Generation.First-generation computers prevailed in the 1940s and for much of the 1950s. They used electronic vacuum tubes for calculation, control, and sometimes for memory as well. First-generation machines used several other ingenious devices for memory. In one, for instance, information was stored as sound waves circulating in a column of mercury¹. All these first-generation memories are now obsolete.

3. The Second Generation.In the late 1950s, the transistor became available to replace the vacuum tube. A transistor, which is only slightly larger than a kernel of corn2, generates little heat and enjoys long life. At about the same time, the magnetic-core memory was introduced. Information could be stored in core memory or retrieved from it in about a millionth of a second. Core memory dominated the high-speed memory scene for much of the second and third generations.

4. The Third Generation.The early 1960s saw the introduction of integrated circuits, which incorporated hundreds of transistors on a single silicon chip. The chip itself was small enough to fit on the end of your finger. With integrated circuits, computers could be made even smaller, less expensive, and more reliable. Integrated circuits made possible minicomputers and tabletop computers.

5. The most recent jump in computer technology came with the introduction of large-scale integrated circuits3, often referred to simply as chips. Whereas the older integrated circuits contained hundreds of transistors, the new ones contain thousands or tens of thousands. It is the large-scale integrated circuits that make possible the microprocessors and microcomputers. They also make possible compact, inexpensive, high-speed, high-capacity integrated-circuit memory. All these recent developments have resulted in a microprocessor revolution, which began in the middle 1970s and for which there is no end in sight.

6. The Fourth Generation. In addition to the common applications of digital watches, pocket calculators, and personal computers, you can find microprocessors – the general-purpose processor-on-a-chip – in virtually every machine in the home or business – microwave ovens, cars, copy machines, TV sets, and so on. Computers today are hundred times smaller than those of the first generation, and a single chip is far more powerful than any computer of the first generation.

7. The Fifth Generation. The term was coined by the Japanese to describe the powerful, intelligent computers they wanted to build by the mid-1990s. Since then it has become an umbrella term4, encompassing many research fields in the computer industry. Key areas of ongoing research are artificial intelligence (AI), expert systems, and natural language.


1. circulating in a column of mercury – циркулирующих в столбике ртути

2. a kernel of corn – ядрышко хлебного зерна

3. large-scale integrated circuits – интегральные схемы с большой степенью интеграции

4. an umbrella term – всеохватывающий термин



II. Say whether the following statements are true or false:

1. Computer technology is one of the oldest branches of modern science and technology. 2. First-generation machines used not only vacuum tubes for memory. 3. All recent developments have resulted in a transistor. 4. Computers of today are hundred times smaller than those of the first generation.

III.Answer the following questions on paragraph 2:

1. When did the first generation of computers appear? 2. What did they use for calculations and control? 3. What were the disadvantages of the first-generation computers?

IV.Find the place in paragraph 3 containing the information about the transistor. Share this information with your group-mate.

V.In paragraphs 4 and 5 find the English equivalents of the following words and word-combinations. Use these words for describing large-scale integrated circuits:

схема; кремний; надежный, прочный; содержать, вмещать; иметь отношение, относиться; недавний, последний; скачок в компьютерной технологии; микропроцессор; память; сделать возможным.

VI.Translate paragraph 6.

VIII.Read paragraph 7 and say what key areas of ongoing research are.

IX. Describe the advances in developing computers.

X. Find Russian equivalents to the words in boxes of the logical diagram.



to be developed   to use

first generation computers electronic vacuum tubes


second generation computers discrete semiconductor devices

third generation computers integrated circuits

fourth generation computers microprocessor

fifth generation computers artificial intelligence

X.Divide text A into logical parts and find the topical sentences in each part.

XI.Describe the generations of computers using the topical sentences and words from the logical diagram.



I.Look through the list of English words and their Russian equivalents facilitating reading text B:

assembly – скомпонованный блок, сборка, монтаж; working tool – рабочий инструмент; microprocessor unit – блок микропроцессора; proper – подходящий, нужный; to alter – изменять, видоизменять; chunks of information – порции информации; in an orderly fashion – организованным (правильным) образом; to reduce to – сводить к; to increment – прирастить; flexibility – гибкость; stream – поток; to fetch – вызывать; to measure – измерять; to transfer – передавать; to bring in – вводить, вносить; serial –последовательный.

II. Skim through the text. Try to understand its main idea (you are given 15 minutes).

Text В

Microprocessor System

A functioning microprocessor is not simply a tiny piece of silicon which can replace a room full of data processing equipment. It requires many other components to make it work. The term "microcomputer" refers to the assembly of parts which make the microprocessor a useful working tool.

The microprocessor unit (MPU) is the “brain” of the system and directs all of the other parts to perform their function at the proper time.

An MPU is a complex integrated circuit. It is a highly miniaturized version of the minicomputers. A typical MPU will have the equivalent of about 7,000 transistors, diodes, resistors, etc., on a single piece of silicon less than 1/16 in. square.

The job of the microprocessor is to move or alter chunks of information in an orderly fashion. The chunks of information are reduced to coded form represented as binary numbers which the microprocessor can manipulate. The MPU can only do extremely elementary actions, such as move a piece of data, add two numbers, increment a counter, etc.

Each one of the elementary operations of an MPU has its own binary code. The sequence of codes which makes the processor do its intended function is called a program or software. The inherent flexibility of an MPU comes from the fact1 that instructions can be combined in limitless variations.

The MPU can perform only one operation at a time. A clock, which is simply a stream of regular pulses, is required to control the proper sequencing. During operation the microprocessor fetches an instruction from memory, decodes the function, performs the proper activity and fetches the next instruction. It repeats this sequence as long as power is on and the clock is running2.

MPUs are measured by the size of the piece of data which can be transferred to and from memory. Most MPUs are 4-bit, 8-bit or 16-bit in size.

An MPU system also needs a way to get information to the outside world and to bring in outside information that has been properly coded. Input/output devices exist which perform this function. Generally, they come in two types, parallel and serial. Parallel devices can send and receive coded data in one chunk. Serial devices transform the coded data into a single stream which must be reconstructed at the receiving end.

The minimum MPU system will be composed of the following: an MPU, memory, some form of input/output, a clock and some source of power.



1 the inherent flexibility of an MPU comes from the fact — свойственная микропроцессорному блоку гибкость исходит из того

2 it repeats this sequence as long as power is on and the clock is running — он повторяет эту последовательность до тех пор, пока включена энергия и работает синхронизатор

III.Answer the following questions on the contents of the text:

1. What is a microprocessor unit? 2. What are the chunks of information reduced to? 3. The MPU can perform only one operation at a time, can't it? 4. How are MPUs measured? 5. What can parallel and serial devices do?

IV.Give the main points of the text.

V. Speak about the job of the microprocessor.


I. Look through the list of English words and their Russian equivalents facilitating reading text C:

indication – указание, показание, знак; groundless – беспричинный, беспочвенный, неосновательный; data storage – запоминание (хранение) данных; entirely – полностью, совершенно; simultaneously – одновременно; consecutively – последовательно; to graduate – постепенно изменяться; to be unaware of – не знать, не подозревать; notion – понятие; pinnacle – вершина, кульминационный пункт, пик.

II.Read the text carefully and find the information about the advantages of DNA computers.

Text C

A Step away from Ideal


1. All the indications are that the era of traditional silicon computers is coming to a close. A discovery made by scientists could turn around the high-tech market.

2. The researchers built a computer with DNA molecules. According to the scientists the computer of one trillion molecules will be able to perform one billion operations per second with a 99.8 per cent accuracy.

3. This claim is not at all groundless. One cubic centimetre of DNA can contain more information than a trillion CDs. Moreover, DNA-computers use very little energy.

4. Research in DNA computer technology began when scientists saw a striking similarity between the way a DNA works and the way an ideal computing machine – the so-called Turing machine¹ – could be organized. In 1994 the test-tube DNA was first used to solve a mathematical problem. Already at the time it was clear that it was far more convenient to work with the DNA computers than with the usual kind. They have capacity to store and work out vast amounts of information. The density of data storage on such machines is approximately 100,000 times higher than on a regular hard disk.

5. The DNA computer consists of DNA molecules and molecules of enzymes, or DNA analyzing substances. The new computer can work entirely on its own. This miniature electronic computing machine does not need a human. Thus far it can only process synthesised DNA. But it will soon graduate to read molecules.

6. An ordinary computer is unable to perform several tasks simultaneously. It performs them consecutively – true, very fast, so fast in fact that users are unaware of the defect. The DNA computer is free from any such shortfall. DNA molecules work as a team, and this is why the new machine is polychromic being able to perform several tasks at once.

7. The DNA computer processed information and stores it in the form of a chain of symbols.

8. So far the DNA computer operates with only two symbols, the way ordinary computers operate with the notions of “logical 0” and “logical 1”. Thus far the system is too elementary to work out any specific task. But it can serve as a platform for DNA computers of the future that will be able to work directly in a human cell identifying potential diseases and curing them. It may still be a long way to the shining pinnacles of the future. But the first step has already been made.



1. Turing machine – машина Тьюринга (Абстрактная машина, использованная Тьюрингом для точного определения понятий алгоритма и вычислимости).

III. Say:

a) what the future of traditional silicon computers is; b) what kind of computer the researchers built.

IV.Find the information about the possibilities of DNA computers. Say it to your group-mate.

V.Explain why the new machine is able to perform several tasks at once.

VI.Which paragraph contains the information dealing with DNA computer of the future? Describe it.

VII.Summarize the general ideas developed in texts A, B and C.

VIII.Make a report about the computers and microprocessor system. While preparing it use the information of units 8, 9, 10. The following plan will help you:

1. The development of the computer.

2. Kinds of modern computers.

3. Uses of the computer.

4. Programming a digital computer.

5. Miniaturization of computers.

6. Generations of computers.

7. The microprocessor system and its functioning.

8. A computer with DNA molecules.




Grammar:Modal Verbs and Their Equivalents (§5).

Modal Verbs with Perfect Infinitive (§5).

Word-Formation; n+-y =adj

n +-al =adj

•Individual Work:Lab Work "Modal Verbs".



Pre-text Exercises

I. Practise the reading of the following words:

frequently ['fri:kwqntli], to excite [Ik'saIt], coin ['kOm], to accept [qk'sept], nowadays ['naVqdeIz], article ['a:tIrkl], to stamp ['stxmp], dozen ['dAzn], stroke ['strqVk], to adjust [q'GAst], to measure ['meZq(r)], feedback ['fi:dbxk], controllable [kqn'trqVlqbl], to require [rI'kwaIq(r)], extensive [Ik'stensIv].

II. Make sure if you can read these words correctly and say what Russian words help you to guess their meaning:

automation, expert, material, operator, production, electrical, mechanization, information, mechanical, instruction, control, idea.

III. Give the initial forms of the following words:

handling, parts, manufactured, engines, completes, accepted, growing, traced, watches, fitted, replaced, operates, variables, finished.

IV. State to what parts of speech the following words belong:

1. A magnetic needle always points in the direction of the North Pole. 2. Bright pointson the screen of a radar mark detected aims. 3. Our professor answersall our questions. 4. At the age of 76 Einstein still looked for the answersof new secrets of time and space. 5. These apparatus controlthe flight of a rocket. 6. Remote controlis widely applied in atomic installations.

V. Form adjectives adding the suffixes a) -al and b) -y to the given nouns. Translate them into Russian:

Example: a) experiment — эксперимент b) bulk — большое количество

experimental — экспериментальный bulky — громоздкий, большой

a) industry, digit, dimension, essence, vision, virgin, nature, sequence, electricity, logic, medicine, physics, instrument, proportion;

b) fault, air, fire, grain, fruit, crag, silver, smoke, wealth, dust, sun, sand, frost, chill, cloud, storm, noise, fog, rain, snow.

VI. Make sure if you remember the meaning of the following verbs. Consult a dictionary if necessary:

to listen, to invent, to trace, to avoid, to make, to do, to watch, to suppose, to examine, to order, to carry, to operate, to get, to sell, to bring, to decrease, to increase, to cut, to mean.

VII. Translate the following sentences into Russian. Pay attention to the modal verbs:

1. Heat is a form of energy and may be measured in the units in which energy is measured. 2. We must say that the discovery of atomic energy is as important as the discovery of fire. 3. Electronic machines can add, subtract, multiply and divide much quicker than man. 4. The origin of automation can be traced back to the early days of the first industrial revolution. 5. She may use different methods in her research work. 6. For a long time scientists could not discover the secret of the atom. 7. This equipment can work with high accuracy. 8. You may use these devices in your research work. 9. The atom is a great force that must be used for the good of mankind. 10. Chemists must create the materials which don't exist in nature. 11. Naturally, this circuit can be modified if necessary. 12. This kind of energy must find application in transport.

VIII. Choose the sentences where the verbs to have and to be are used in the functions of modal verbs and translate them:

1. These devices have been used in our experiment. 2. Scientists have to work hard to create a new atomic technique. 3. A modern computer has two main parts: a memory and a computing unit. 4. As the known resources of coal and oil are limited, man has to find new sources of power. 5. Very difficult calculations in mathematics and electrical engineering have to be solved by computers. 6. People of good will have to struggle for peaceful use of atomic energy. 7. When technique reaches a very high stage of development, new methods of work will become possible. 8. We are to take into consideration all the advantages and disadvantages of this device for the future work. 9. We are to take special steps to reduce the weight of this mechanical part. 10. These new data are obtained after our experiment. 11. At present our engineers are to develop the most advanced methods of production. 12. Our design bureau has to construct a new adding machine. 13. This device has been used in our experiment. 14. The experts are to inspect this plant.

IX. Translate the sentences into Russian. Pay attention to the use of modal verbs and their equivalents:

1. Without a computer scientists will not be able to solve complicated problems. 2. Modern computers can multiply two numbers in a microsecond. 3. This machine can do the work of hundreds of workers. 3. He has to finish his experiment in time. 4. She was allowed to carry out this research as she had taken part in the scientific symposium. 5. Every student must know the difference between automation and mechanization. 6. With the help of radioactive elements we were able to measure the thickness of various materials. 7. Every engineer must improve his technical knowledge. 8. Scientists of different countries must cooperate in their research and peaceful application of their discoveries. 9. In fact, there is hardly any sphere of life where the atom may not find useful application. 10. The computer can perform different mathematical operations. 11. Our plant is to increase its output. 12. Every plant must fulfil its plan in time. 13. Workers must apply new methods of production.

X. Translate the following sentences into Russian paying attention to modal verbs with Perfect Infinitive:

1. The engineer might have overlooked something that may turn out to be important in carrying out this experiment. 2. All the preparations must have been completed long ago. 3. Some day atomic energy might have been used to control the weather of the world. 4. He may have got the condenser he needed for his experiment. 5. He cannot have broken the tube while making this experiment. 6. You should have changed the current strength at all points of the circuit. 7. He may have got the article he needed. 8. You should have helped your friend.

XI. Find the pairs of words which are opposite in meaning:

a) small, frequently, same, visible, rapid, early, simple, outside, addition, multiplication, to destroy, mountain, to sell, peace, known;

b) seldom, complex, late, slow, invisible, different, big, inside, subtraction, division, to construct, plain, to buy, war, unknown.

XII. Try to memorize the word-groups:

■ automatic production — автоматическое производство ■ the origin of automation — происхождение автоматизации ■ sensitive and measuring devices — чувствительные и измерительные устройства (приборы) ■ a manual control — ручное управление ■ feedback information — информация обратной связи ■ to operate through a closed loop — работать посредством замкнутого цикла ■ to trace back — восходить к ■ extensive mechanization — экстенсивная механизация ■ the automatic handling of materials — автоматическая обработка материалов ■ an electronic control system — электронная система управления ■ a machine-tool — станок ■ a hand-tool — ручной инструмент ■ automatic production — автоматическое производство ■ an automatic control — автоматическое управление.



I. Before reading the text try to answer the following questions:

1. What is automation? 2. What is the relation between automation and mechanization?

II.Study text A. Try to understand all details. Use a dictionary if necessary:

Text A

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