The Fourth Generation of Computer: Microprocessor

As technology grows, development gets better with more advantages, reducing the disadvantages to the maximum extent. The fourth generation of computers was a progressive version of the third generation of computers. This eventually added more benefits to computer technology. 

Fourth Generation of Computer

This article discusses about the fourth generation of computers, its history, examples, features, advantages, and disadvantages, etc. Let's understand this:

What You Will Learn

What is the fourth generation of Computer?

The fourth generation of computers began with the use of microprocessors in computer systems. The invention of the microprocessor revolutionized computers because hundreds to thousands of integrated circuits could be assembled on a single silicon chip. This ultimately enabled manufacturers to develop computers in a very compact size that could easily fit on the desk as well.

Microprocessors were typically developed using LSI (large scale integration) and VLSI (very large scale integration) techniques. The VLSI circuits helped to combine about 5000 transistors and many other circuit components on a single chip, called a microprocessor. Due to microprocessors, fourth-generation computers were minimized, leading to the development of microcomputers.  

Note: The microprocessor refers to a controlling unit widely used in microcomputers, built on a small chip that can perform arithmetic-logical operations and help to communicate with other connected devices. In 1971, it was jointly developed by Federico Faggin, Marcian (Ted) Hoff, Stanley Mazor, and Masatoshi Shima.

Microprocessors were widely used as a key component in computers from 1971 to 1980. Although they are still in use for computers today, they are no longer considered the main technology. Therefore, the period of the fourth generation of computers is considered from 1971 to 1980.

The following image shows the structural view of the microprocessor:

Fourth Generation of Computer - Microprocessor

Apart from the small size, fourth-generation computers were also more powerful, reliable, and inexpensive. This eventually led to the widespread use of personal computers (PCs). This means that computer systems became accessible to mass audiences due to their portability. Besides, time-sharing, time networking based, distributed operating systems were used in computers. In terms of languages, fourth-generation computers used high-level programming languages such as C, C ++, DBASE, and more.

Examples of Fourth Generation Computers

Fourth-generation computers used thousands of integrated circuits assembled on a single chip, making these computers relatively different from computers developed in the third generation. Due to such a single chip, microprocessor, computers became very small but extremely powerful. A microprocessor helped in performing arithmetic and logical functions for programs. 

Micral, IBM 5100, and Altair 8800 are great examples of fourth-generation computers. Besides, Micral is said to be the first personal computer based on a microprocessor. It was developed in 1973 and used the Intel 8008 microprocessor.

Fourth Generation of Computer - Example

The first processor was developed by Intel in 1971 and was called Intel 4004. It was built using about 2,300 transistors on a silicon chip. Furthermore, from memory to input/output control, all components, including a microprocessor (commonly called a central processing unit), were included on a single board.

In addition to many benefits, fourth-generation computers also introduced the technology of connecting computers. This means that the computer could be liked simultaneously to form a computer network. It also helped in the concept of developing the internet. Overall, this generation is considered a major achievement that introduced major developments in the field of networking. Furthermore, fourth-generation computers also widely used GUI (graphical user interface), mouse, keyboard, and many other handheld devices.

Some other examples of the fourth generation computers are listed below:

IBM 4341
PDP 11
DEC 10
STAR 1000
CRAY-1 (Super Computer)
Cray-X-MP (Super Computer)

Characteristics of Fourth Generation Computers

Some essential characteristics or features of the fourth generation computers are as follows:

Use of microprocessors based on VLSI technology
Use of high-level programming languages such as C, C ++, DBASE, etc.
Use of graphical user interface technology to add simplicity and comfort
Use of pipeline processing
Use of large programs due to increased storage capacity
Use of data communication and networking
Use of a single board consisting of a single-chip processor and other circuits

Advantages of Fourth Generation Computers

Some of the advantages of the fourth generation of computers are listed below:

Fourth-generation computers were faster and reliable than their predecessors.

Computers were compact in size and could easily fit on a desk.

Fourth-generation computers were somewhat cheaper than previous generations' computers. This led to the widespread use of these computers.

Fourth-generation computers were more energy-efficient than third-generation computers, and the heat produced was almost negligible.

In this generation, the air conditioning system for the computer was not very much needed.

Fourth-generation computers required almost no maintenance and this greatly helps in reducing maintenance costs.

Due to better portability, the production of fourth-generation computers for commercial as well as personal use was easier and cheaper.

Fourth-generation computers were mainly used for general purposes.

Fourth-generation computers had a larger storage capacity than third-generation computers.

Almost all high-level programming languages were supported in fourth-generation computers.

Disadvantages of Fourth Generation Computers

Some of the disadvantages of the fourth generation of computers are listed below:

The construction of VLSI circuits required highly sophisticated technology.

Even after generating very little heat, fourth-generation computers require fans to cool the internal components. During high usage of the computer, the fan generated disturbing noises.

The development of microprocessors was complex and required high technical skills.

The design and construction of the microprocessor were complex.

Computers were highly sophisticated in the fourth generation.

Fourth-generation computers still used integrated circuits and hence advance technology was needed to make them.


The fourth-generation period began in 1971 and ended in 1980. The fourth-generation computers used microprocessors as the core component. This generation of computers gave a new rise to the generation of computers, parts of which continue to the present generation (fifth generation).

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