The 4th generation computers are marked by the usage of integrated circuits and microprocessors. As the years passed, computers became smaller and smaller, and their prices became lower and lower. Millions of components could be placed onto a single silicon chip. Computers became more efficient and more reliable, and they could perform more and more operations. They began to catch the eye of the general public, and soon more sophisticated software and equipment were designed. Networks became commonplace, and the whole world was connected by the Internet and by the World Wide Web.
The Intel 4004 is a 4-bit microprocessor. Microprocessors are integrated circuits that contain thousands and millions of transistors. The Intel 4004 is the essence of a general-purpose computer. It performed many input and output operations and was also able to read and respond to instructions stored in its memory. The microprocessor was able to group all the components of a computer, including the CPU, or central processing unit, the memory, and the input and output controls on a single chip. The Intel 4004 was first used on March 2, 1972 in the Pioneer 10 space probe.
In November of 1972, Intel came out with a new 8-bit processor, known as the Intel 8008.
The Intel 8080 is a re-engineered version of the Intel 8008. It had a larger and more versatile instruction set.
The Altair 8800 is often called the first personal computer. It was developed by Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems (MITS), a small company centered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Altair 8800 was sold as an electronic hobbyist kit for only $397. The Altair computers were of blue box-shaped machines with dimensions of 17 inches by 18 inches by 7 inches. They were very simple, and so in complex that they did not even have a keyboard or display. These computers did not even have enough memory to perform any useful tasks. The Altair 8800 used an Intel 8080 microprocessor and had switches on the front panel for input and rows of neon light bulbs for the output. These lights were known as light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. It is hard to believe, but it is the in-complexity of the Altair 8800 that helped to establish the personal computer industry. Because of its limitations, the Altair allowed for other companies to refine the computer and do develop more software.
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One such example of software developed for the Altair 8800 is the development of a version of the programming language, BASIC, for this computer. BASIC was a popular programming language used by many minicomputers and other machines. It was simple and easy to develop. The BASIC programming language designed for the Altair was developed by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the cofounders of the software giant, Microsoft.
Microsoft was not the only company to develop programs and software for the Altair. In fact, more and more companies began entering the software business by developing software and peripherals for the Altair 8800. The personal computer soon became a business machine.
Developed in 1976 by Gary Kildall of the company Digital Research, CP/M was a popular operating system that made it possible for one version of a program to run on a variety of computers.
Apple Computer was started by Stephen G. Wozniak and Steven P. Jobs. In 1976, the company introduced the Apple II to the personal computer market. The Apple II was appealing to consumers, because of its abundance of appealing software and with its well-written manuals. The computer also was able to be plugged into a standard household outlet.
VisiCalc, standing for Visible Calculator, is the first personal computer financial analysis tool. This software was developed by Harvard business graduate Dan Bricklin and programmer Bob Frankston. VisiCalc was able to give immediate responses to "what if" questions. It turned personal computers like the Apple II into business machines and was an overnight success.
Invented by Adam Osborne, the Osborne I was the world's first portable computer. By today's standards, it wouldn't exactly be portable because of the fact that it weighed a whopping 24 pounds. The computer had a 5-inch display, 64 kilobytes of memory, a modem, and two 5-¼ floppy disk drives. It sold for $1,795.
The DN100 was the first workstation. It was developed by Apollo Computers, and it had much more power than some of the minicomputers around at the time. It was also available for a comparatively low price.
The Lisa, invented by Apple Computer, was the first PC to use graphical user interface. It had one MB of RAM and had a 12 inch black and white monitor. The Lisa had two 5-¼ floppy disk drives, 5 MB of profile hard drive, and it used a Motorola 680000 microprocessor. Unfortunately, Lisa was never successful because of its high price and slowness.
The powerful word processor used in nearly every household today, Microsoft Word, makes its debut as "Multi-Tool Word" in 1983. Microsoft Word can be used for all sorts of word-processing tasks and for creating all sorts of text documents. It is now widely used and widely distributed. Two years after introducing Word to the general public, the company, Microsoft, then introduces its now-famous Microsoft Windows.
In 1983, Compaq Computer Corporation built a portable computer, a clone of the IBM PC. Looking like a sewing machine, Compaq's computer weighed 38 pounds (13 kg). Amazingly, this was considered lightweight at the time! The Compaq personal computer was compatible with the IBM personal computer, and could use software designed for IBM computers. It was an immediate success, bringing in $110 million in its first year of sales.
The Apple Macintosh was designed by Apple Computer and had many of the same features as the Lisa computer, also designed by Apple. The main goal of the Macintosh was to create a computer that would accommodate as many as Lisa's features as possible at a much lower price. It slimmed down on Lisa's high-level languages, and it also used the minimum number of chips and circuit boards needed to operate efficiently. It had graphical user interface and a user-friendly design. The computer contained software in which users could point and click with a mouse. For example, there was MacPaint and MacWrite. The Apple Macintosh used a 32-bit Motorola 68000 central processing unit and had a 9 inch black and white screen. It was first sold for $2,500.
Microsoft makes its debut with its first windows operating system. The new Apple Macintosh had shadowed the personal computers, and now the Microsoft Windows Operating System gives PC compatibles the same capacities as the Macintosh. In future years, Microsoft continued to improve its operating system, and the company soon became the dominating software company for PC compatibles.
C++ is a general-purpose programming language that was derived from the C programming language. It had many of the C's capabilities, such as the ability to efficiently deal with objects such as bits, bytes, and words and the ability to efficiently implement user-defined type.
In 1989, the popular computer game, SimCity, was developed by Will Wright and Jeff Braun. SimCity was a video game that used simulators. The player starts with a plot of land, and he or she must build houses, buildings, roads, and other objects to ensure the survival of the city. The player must provide health care, education, and public services for the inhabitants of his or her city, and periodically, challenges presented themselves in the forms of natural disasters or monster attacks. The player was forced to make decisions that would best benefit their city.
In 1990, the software giant Microsoft released a new version of Windows. Windows 3.0 was the first successful version of the software. It was user-friendly and it sported a new interface with new designs that allowed personal computers to support many images and other graphical applications. Windows 3.0 included programs such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, and it also allowed for many of these programs to be run simultaneously. It ran on an Intel 80386 microprocessor.
In 1996, IBM invents a supercomputer
named "Deep Blue." Able to compute more than 100 million chess positions
second, Deep Blue challenged the reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov
to a chess match. Kasparov wins the match, with 3 wins, 2 ties, and 1 loss.
This was the first time ever that a computer has beaten a reigning world chess
champion. It brings up the question: will computers soon surpass humans in
chess playing and in other aspects of intelligence?
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