Third Generation Computers

What Does Third Generation Computers Mean?

Third generation computers were computers that emerged due to the development of the integrated circuit (IC). They were the first steps toward computers as we know them today. Their main feature was the use of integrated circuits, which allowed them to be shrunk down to be as small as large toasters. Because of this, they gained the name microcomputers because compared to second generation computers which would occupy entire rooms and buildings, they were quite small. Well-known computers in this generation include the DEC PDP series and the IBM-360 series computers.


Techopedia Explains Third Generation Computers

Third generation computers were developed around 1964 to 1971, though different sources contradict each other by one or two years. The third generation was brought about by advances in the manufacture of transistors; scientists and engineers where able to make transistors smaller and smaller, which led to entire circuits fitting onto a single piece of silicon, now known as the integrated circuit or microchip. This revolutionized computing, as it was now possible to create smaller, cheaper computers that were multitudes faster than pre-microchip era computers.

Suddenly computers became more affordable, and soon programmers and technology enthusiasts became more numerous, leading to further developments in the field of computer programming as well as in computer hardware. It was during this time that many high-level programming languages were gaining widespread use, programming languages such as C, Pascal, COBOL and FORTRAN. Magnetic storage also became more popular in this era.

Characteristics of third generation computers include:

  • Integrated circuits instead of individual transistors
  • Smaller, cheaper, more efficient and faster than second generation computers
  • High-level programming languages
  • Magnetic storage

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.