Features of Second Generation Computers

By Rebekah Worsham

Computers have become a mainstay in today's modern society. Earlier computer systems of the 1800s did not resemble the compact, high-speed systems of the modern age. The mid-twentieth century marked the development of second-generation computers, which began to display the advancements in technology that we are familiar with today.

Introduction of Transistors

One of the biggest advancements in second-generation computers was the development of transistors, which took the place of the vacuum tubes in first-generation computers. The development of transistors symbolized a marked increase in technology. Not only were transistors smaller and required the use of less heat, they were also less prone to failure than computers made with vacuum tubes. As a result, transistors allowed computers to become smaller, faster and less expensive than first-generation computers

Language Changes

In addition to the development of transistors, another major change that came about with the development of second-generation computers was a modification in language. Machine language was replaced with assembly language, sometimes referred to as symbolic language. While both were highly technical in nature, the change to assembly language allowed computer programmers to specify instructions in words as opposed to machine codes. Typical assembly languages used included Common Business-Oriented Language (CBOL) and Formula Translator (FORTRAN). The change in language brought forth the benefit of faster and more accurate computing.

Storage Advances

Another advanced feature that was seen in the development of second-generation computers related to storage ability. First-generation computers did not have the capacity to store its instructions internally. Second-generation computers, however, had the ability to store its usage instructions in its memory, which had advanced from magnetic drum to magnetic core technology. This advancement marked the beginning of more streamlined, user-friendly technological advances and the advanced memory storage capacity we use today.

Utility Advancements

Several new utilities also were available with the development of second-generation computers, many of which are still in use today. Second-generation computers were the first to feature tools such as printers, disk storage and operating systems, which was often used for financial operations. These advancements allowed computer users to keep better control of their records and triggered the increase of computer use in day-to-day business operations.