Cybersecurity For Everyone

A Brief History: Computers


Computers haven’t been around for a very long time, relatively speaking. It has been 200 years since the English mathematician, Charles Babbage, attempted to build the first computer. Less than 100 years ago the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was built, becoming the world’s first general purpose computer. Since then, rapid computational developments have influenced society in a great many ways. These developments are largely categorized by computer generations, spanning from 1642 to the present. The first generation, Generation 0, is the longest computer generation, beginning in 1642 and ending in 1945. The rest of the computer generation date ranges are as follows: Generation 1 (1945-1954), Generation 2 (1954-1963), Generation 3 (1963-1973), Generation 4 (1973-1985), and Generation 5 (1985-Present). In total, there are 6 computer generations.

While computers are so young, there are many companies much older than 200 years. However, the average age of a company is between 20 and 60 years (CNBC). Keeping this detail in mind, it is quite surprising that there is a company that has been involved in computational developments since Generation 0. International Business Machines (IBM), known in their inception as Computing-Tabulating-Recording (CTR), has had their hand in the development of computers since 1911. IBM is successful because they have their hands in every development they can, seeking to perfect it with prototypes and continued models. IBM’s future will continue with them being one of the leading providers in technology solutions.

IBM & Generation 0

IBM’s involvement in Generation 0 most assuredly takes place near the end of this computer generation due to their inception in 1911. One of IBM’s contributions to this generation was a huge step toward Generation 1 of computers: In 1943, IBM developed the Vacuum Tube Multiplier, which was the first machine to perform arithmetic electronically (IBM Archives). Prior to this development, vacuum tubes were used primarily in the radio industry. By utilizing vacuum tubes in calculators, information was able to be processed at speeds never before witnessed.

IBM & Generation 1

Each computer generation is marked by some sort of hardware or software development. In Generation 1, binary language was introduced, which implements a series of 0s and 1s to communicate with the computer. IBM also had a significant contribution to the technology during this generation. In 1953, IBM released the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Calculator. This device was heavily integrated into businesses and universities because the IBM 650 was able to handle many types of accounting and scientific computations.

IBM & Generation 2

The hardware introduced in Generation 2 were transistors, which was a small component made of semiconductor material. Transistors were a more efficient way to control electric current flow. They generated less heat, they were smaller than vacuum tubes, and they improved storage capacity in computers. A more efficient way to communicate with computers was also developed, called assembly language. Assembly language uses a series of mnemonic codes or symbols to execute commands without having to memorize a complex string of numbers in binary form. Assembly language must have a processor to translate the mnemonic code into binary language. The IBM Stretch was released in 1960 and was a transistor-based supercomputer. Due to the transistors implemented in this computer, it claimed the title of fastest computer in the world from 1961 until 1964.

IBM & Generation 3

Generation 3 of computers can be characterized by implementation of integrated circuits and compilers. Integrated circuits were smaller, faster, and had more improved input/output than the transistors of Generation 2. In addition, compilers were to translate high level programming languages into machine language, making computer programming a much swifter process. During every computer generation, IBM has been greatly involved, whether with countless computer developments or company growth. In Generation 3 IBM rolled out the 7094 II, helped NASA track space orbits, opened facilities across the country and world, helped with the Olympics, and enlarged its scope as a parent company. IBM’s second greatest innovation in Generation 3 was the IBM System/370. The first was the System/360 in 1964. IBM System/370 was able to run System/360 programs. They also implemented virtual memory, which was a huge breakthrough on how to increase computer memory in 1962. Regarding the IBM System/370 IBM chairman, Thomas Watson (1970) said: “We are confident that the performance of System/370, its compatibility, its engineering and its programming will make it stand out as the landmark for the 1970s that System/360 was for the Sixties,” (IBM Data Processing Division press release).

IBM & Generation 4

Spanning from 1973 to 1985, Generation 4 was not stagnant when it comes to computer innovations, and IBM wasn’t either. This generation brought improved integrated circuits, which was called Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI). VLSI was more user friendly and led to the development of personal computers. In fact, IBM was heavily involved in attempting to bring computers into the lives of everyday citizens all throughout Generation 4. In 1973 IBM began a swift 6-month project to get computers in individual homes. They called this prototype the “Special Computer, APL Machine Portable” (SCAMP). IBM’s online archives state that “SCAMP could be used as a desktop calculator, an interactive APL programming device and as a "dispenser" of canned applications,” (IBM, 2019). Due to the success of the prototype, IBM began developing and released the IBM 5100 Portable Computer 2 years later. Further, in 1981 IBM released the IBM 5150 which became the industry standard for personal computers. Generation 4 was an especially innovative time period for IBM in bringing easier to use computers in the hands of everyday civilians.

IBM & Generation 5

To date, the final and current computer generation, Generation 5, began in 1985. This is the artificial intelligence era in regards to software. Hardware developments include an even more improved version of integrated circuits, Ultra Large Scale Integration (ULSI), parallel processing hardware, and networking. IBM has also released countless products in this generation. One of the earlier products released was the ThinkPad in 1992. This became a popular personal computer, and IBM continued developing the ThinkPad until Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s personal computing division. With their partnership, Lenovo has continued developing the ThinkPad, regularly releasing new models.


IBM’s history is consistent with their aim: “to be the world leader in providing technology and transformation solutions, for you, our enterprise and our small and medium business clients, in all industries and countries worldwide,” (IBM Archives). Their consistent developments in each computer generation, continuation of successful models, and partnership with other companies is where their success comes from. Their partnership with Lenovo has definitely broadened their world influence with technology solutions. This drive will keep them in the top technology companies of the world.


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