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Brief History of the Progression of Computer Technology

IBM 1401

The IBM 1401 data processing system was the first computer system to reach 10,000 units in sales. The system included the IBM 1403 printer, the industry's first commercial "chain" printer. The 1403 printer four times faster than any competitor launched the era of highspeed and high volume printing, and was not surpassed for print quality until the advent of laser printing technology in the 1970s. Third and Fourth Generation Computers Though transistors were clearly an improvement over the vacuum tube, they still generated a great deal of heat, which damaged the computer's sensitive internal parts. The quartz rock eliminated this problem. Jack Kilby, an engineer with Texas Instruments, developed the integrated circuit (IC) in 1958. The IC combined three electronic components onto a small silicon disc, which was made from quartz. Scientists later managed to fit even more components on a single chip, called a semiconductor. As a result, computers became ever smaller as more components were squeezed onto the chip. Another third-generation development included the use of an operating system that allowed machines to run many different programs at once with a central program that monitored and coordinated the computer's memory.

After the integrated circuits, the only place to go was down - in size, that is. Large scale integration could fit hundreds of components onto one chip. By the 1980's, very large scale integration squeezed hundreds of thousands of components onto a chip. Ultra-large scale integration increased that number into the millions. The ability to fit so much onto an area about half the size of a U.S. dime helped diminish the size and price of computers. It also increased their power, efficiency and reliability. The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971, took the integrated circuit one step further by locating all the components of a computer (central processing unit, memory, and input and output controls) on a minuscule chip. Whereas previously the integrated circuit had had to be manufactured to fit a special purpose, now one microprocessor could be manufactured and then programmed to meet any number of demands. Soon everyday household items such as microwave ovens, television sets and automobiles with electronic fuel injection incorporated microprocessors. Such condensed power allowed everyday people to harness a computer's power. They were no longer developed exclusively for large business or government contracts. By the mid-1970's, computer manufacturers sought to bring computers to general consumers.

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