Third generation of computers

The third generation of computers spanned a period between 1964 and 1971 . It marked a new era that was defined by the improvement of ICs , that is, integrated circuits created since 1958, which are silicon chips or tablets, which allow the placement of huge amounts of electronic devices in a minimum space, managing to reduce again the size of the computers and incorporating multiprogramming . Its use revolutionized the way of composing computers, in force until today in the manufacture of cell phones, calculators.

  • Date: From 1964 to 1971
  • Featured Computers:  IBM 360, CDC 6600, PDP-8

What is the third generation of computers?

Third-generation computers had integrated circuits , in other words, circuits obtained by etching hundreds and later thousands of microscopic transistors into silicon chips. Such devices were known as semiconductors. On the other hand, the memory capacity of these computers reached up to 2 megabytes and the processing speed reached 5 million instructions per second . This generation of computers allowed the introduction of programs capable of being manipulated by users without technical training .

  • Characteristics of the third generation of computers
  • History of the third generation of computers
  • Size of computers of the third generation of computers
  • Inventions
  • Inventors of the third generation of computers
  • Featured computers from the third generation of computers

Characteristics of the third generation of computers

The incorporation of integrated circuits made possible a new generation of computers with the following characteristics:

  • Much smaller.
  • They emitted less heat, thus reducing the cooling requirements.
  • Being smaller, they also required a reduced consumption of electrical energy.
  • Integrated circuit interconnections are much more reliable than soldered connections, generating more flexible computers.
  • Minicomputers, cheaper and with greater processing capacity
  • Teleprocessing (processing of data from terminals in a central unit)
  • Multiprogramming (technique in which two or more processes are executed simultaneously by the CPU while they are housed in main memory).
  • Peripherals renewal
  • The number π (Pi) was calculated by yielding more than five hundred thousand decimal places.

History of the third generation of computers

The third generation of computers began to be generated with the invention of the integrated circuits better known as microchips .

In 1964, two physicists, Jack St. Claire Kilby and Robert Noyce were its creators and with this they revolutionized the electronics industry and ushered in an era of high technology. From this moment, events were unleashed that made history .

First, fellow physicist and Intel worker,  Ted Hoff, invented the microprocessor . Then, thanks to George Gamow , a new way of programming emerged , and that is with the discovery of the structure of DNA, the Russian physicist and astronomer proposed that its sequence formed a code.

On April 7, 1964, IBM announced the S / 360 , designed by chief architect Gene Amdah. It was one of the first commercial computers to use integrated circuits . The 360 ​​was considered one of the most important in history, since it influenced the design of computers in later years, and marked the starting point for the third generation of computers.. It is a mainframe family computing system designed to cover applications, regardless of their size or environment (scientific, commercial). They called this first group of machines built with integrated circuits the Edgar series and could perform both numerical and administrative analysis or file processing. The models ranged in speed from 0.034 MIPS to 1,700 MIPS (50 times the speed) and between 8 KB and 8 MB of main memory. The design made a clear distinction between architecture and implementation, allowing customers to purchase a smaller system knowing that they could always migrate to a higher capacity system, making it a resounding success in the market.

Control Data Corporation introduces the CDC , a supercomputer capable of executing multiple instructions per second, making it the most powerful at that time.

New storage units appear, 9-channel magnetic tapes , and although some still used punched cards for data entry, they had fast readers.

The company Digital Equipment Corporation DEC , foreseeing that IBM had monopolized an important sector of the market, decided to focus on making smaller computers , which were cheaper and easier to operate, reaching popularity. At the end of this technological era, the minicomputer then emerged.

Size of computers of the third generation of computers

With each invention, the space requirements required by a computer for its operation became less . First was the creation of transistors for processing information that replaced vacuum tubes, and marked an era (second generation) of considerably reducing the size of computers by accommodating 200 transistors in the same space. Then, the integrated circuits better known as microchips were created.

Among the most important advantages that integrated circuits have is their small size in relation to electronic circuits built with discrete components. By comparison, an integrated circuit can contain thousands to millions of transistors in just a few square millimeters, thus achieving the miniaturization of its components. Thanks to this, computers reduced their dimensions, increased their operational capacity (faster), emitted less heat, becoming more efficient equipment .


Initially computers handled a single function, mathematics or business, but never both.

The ideas and beginnings of the creation of the integrated circuit occurred years before this generation. The composition of this small germanium device grouped six transistors that formed a rotational oscillator on the same semiconductor base. They were very economical because they were manufactured by being printed by photolithography in one piece and also because they could be mass produced with almost no defects. They were also very efficient because their energy consumption is considerably lower.

Thanks to integrated circuits, computer manufacturers gained more flexibility in programs, and were even able to standardize their models .

Currently we can see them in multiple electronic devices such as cell phones, watches, vehicles, televisions, etc.

Inventors of the third generation of computers

Here we should highlight two, the winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics , Jack St. Clair Kilby , and the co-founder of Intel and Fairchild, Robert Norton Noyce , also known as “the Mayor of Silicon Valley . ” The first was responsible for developing the integrated circuit in 1959. For his part, Robert Norton Noyce, developed his own, just six months later, solving some of the problems presented by the Jack St. Clair Kilby model.

Featured computers from the third generation of computers

  • IBM 360: without a doubt, the IBM 360 was the most relevant machines of this generation of computers. Made with integrated SLT technology. It caused such an impact that more than 30,000 units were manufactured. These computers were conceived to cover applications regardless of their size or use (scientific, commercial). It was a great success because users knew that they could buy a small design that met their needs, and later incorporate a system with greater capacity. It marked a milestone in the technology industry influencing equipment designs in the following years. It was the first computer to be attacked with a virus in the history of computing .
  • CDC 6600: With a 60-bit CPU, Control Data Corporation brings this Seymour Cray-designed computer to market, known as the first supercomputer in history. It had 10 peripheral processing units and was considered the most powerful and fastest computer in the world at the time, since it could execute millions of instructions per second with a performance of 1 megaFLOPS. The first CDC 6600 was delivered to the European Organization and its use was primarily for High Energy Physics Research (CERN).
  • DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) PDP-8 ( Programmed Data Processor ): it was the first minicomputer. Its capacity is 16 bits and it was conceived in Reading England.

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