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FOURTH GENERATION COMPUTERS

FOURTH GENERATION COMPUTERS After 1971 the fourth generation computers were built. The fourth generation computers were the extension of third generation technology. The fourth generation computers emerged with development of the VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration).With the help of VLSI technology microprocessor came into existence. The computers were designed by using microprocessor, as thousands of integrated circuits were built onto a single silicon chip. What in the first generation filled an entire room could now fit in the palm of the hand. The fourth generation computers became more powerful, compact, reliable and affordable. As a result, they give rise to personal computer (PC) revolution. For the first time in 1981 IBM introduced its computer for the home user and in 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh Microprocessor. CHARACTERISTICS 1) The fourth generation computers have microprocessor-based systems. 2) They are the cheapest among all the computer generation. 3) The speed, accuracy and reliability of the computers were improved in fourth generation computers. 4) Many high-level languages were developed in the fourth generation such as COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC, PASCAL and C language. 5) A Further refinement of input/output devices was developed. 6) Networking between the systems was developed. IBM 4341, DEC 10, STAR 1000, PUP 11 and APPLE II are the examples of fourth generation computers.

Fourth Generation (1970-Present) Fourth Generation computers are the modern day computers. The earlier big size started to go down with the improvement in the integrated circuits. Very Large Scale or VLSI ((1000 devices per chip) and Ultra Large scale or ULSI (10000 devices per chip) ensured that millions of components could be fit into a small chip. Marcian Hoff invented a device microprocessor which could replace several of the components of earlier computers. The microprocessor is the characteristic of fourth generation computers, capable of performing all of the functions of a computer's central processing unit. The company also developed the first random access memory chip, the RAM chip, to provide temporary storage for the CPU. It reduced the size and price of the computers at the same time increasing its 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." In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the Apple II, the first personal computer in a garage in California. Core memories now were replaced by semiconductor memories and high-speed vectors dominated the scenario. Names of few such vectors were Cray1, Cray X-MP and Cyber205. A variety of parallel architectures developed too, but they were mostly in the experimental stage. As far as programming languages are concerned, there were development of high-level languages like FP or functional programming and PROLOG (programming in logic). Declarative programming style was the basis of these languages where a programmer could leave many details to the compiler or runtime system. Alternatively languages like PASCAL, C used imperative style. An interpreter unit of the BASIC programming language to boot and instruct the computer had been designed by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Two other conspicuous developments of this era were the C programming language and UNIX operating system. Ritchie, the writer of C and Thompson together used C to write a particular type of UNIX for DEC PDP 11. This C based UNIX was then widely used in many computers. Due to the reduction of cost and the availability of the computers power at a small place allowed everyday user to get benefit. First came the minicomputers, which offered users different applications, most famous of these the word processors and spreadsheets, which could be used by non-technical users. Video game systems like Atari 2600 generated the interest of general populace in the computers. In 1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer, Inc to begin experiments with their first computer models. They used the Z80 microprocessor as a CPU. The two founders began to mass produce their Apple II microcomputer in 1977. IBM introduced personal computers for home and office use in 1981 and in 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh Microprocessor. January 22, 1984, Apple released the Macintosh desktop computer. Setting the Apple trademark, the Macintosh became known for its engaging graphics capabilities. Macintosh introduced Graphic User Interface in which the users could use Mouse to give instructions to computer. "The number of personal computers in used in 1981 was more than double from 2 million to 5.5 million in 1982. Ten years later, 65 million PCs were being used."

Computer size kept getting reduced during the years. It went down from Desktop to laptops to Palmtops (I-pad, tab-pc etc). The continued improvement allowed the networking of computers for the sharing of data. Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN) were potential benefits, in that they could be implemented in corporations and everybody could share data over it. Soon the internet and World Wide Web appeared on the computer scene and fomented the Hi-Tech revolution of 90's. Another event that is mention worthy was the publication of the report by Peter D. Lax in 1982, which was sponsored by the US department and National Scientific Foundation, San Diego Supercomputing Center, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, John von Neumann Center and Cornell Theory Center were established. These institutes had really been instrumental in providing computing time to the students, training them and also helping in the development of software packages.