The Evolution of the Microcomputer

By | July 20, 2015

Before the arrival of the PC there is a large history of how the computer has evolved. We start by looking at the First Generation models.

Konrad Zuse is often recognised as the inventor of the first fully programmable computer when he unveiled the Z3 in 1941. However, some history books claim that in fact it was John V. Atanasoff who designed the first electronic digital computer in 1936. Whoever it was that is regarded as being the inventor of the computer the first data input and storage machines had been created. These were known as the First Generation models.

These computers were powered by vacuum tubes and were huge and not very practical. Other computers of this era included models by John Atanasoff & Clifford Berry, who created the ABC, and ENIAC invented by John Presper Eckert & John W. Mauchly which was the first general purpose computer. The First Generation models were built between the early 1940s and 1950s.

The Second Generation computers were built between 1955 and 1960. They had now moved on from using vacuum tubes thanks to the invention of the transistor. The transistor computer used up a lot less power and although they were smaller than the First Generation models they were huge compared to todays equivalents. The first International Business Machine (IBM) was invented in 1953 and the first transistor computer was built at Manchester University in the same year. In 1956 IBM built the first disk drive!

1958 saw the invention of Integrated Circuits, also known as microchips, by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce. Making computers using pieces of silicon allowed them to be built a lot smaller and were a lot more practical. These computers were known as Third Generation Computers. And in 1964 the mouse was invented!

The 1970s saw the arrival of the microprocessor that eventually led to the evolving of the microcomputer, a variant of what we use today! The microchips-based CPUs consisted of lots of microchips for different CPU components. The graphics weren’t great but the computer as we know it now was just starting to evolve!