Third Generation of Computer: Integrated Circuits

With the third generation of computers, the development of computers was further enhanced and innovations were obtained. Continued development made third-generation computers more superior to second-generation computers.

Third Generation of Computer

This article discusses about the third generation of computers, its history, examples, advantages and disadvantages, and much more. Let's understand this:

What is the third generation of Computer?

The development of third-generation computers is marked by the period when the transistors were replaced by integrated circuits. Integrated circuits (IC) were widely used as the main technology in third-generation computers. In particular, the transistors were assembled on silicon chips, called semiconductors, which resulted in faster speeds in the computer and improved efficiency.

The development of computers using IC's had already begun in the 1960s, but they were not in widespread use. However, from 1965 to 1971, almost all computers were incorporated with the IC's. Therefore, the period of the third generation of computers is considered from 1965 to 1971. Due to the use of an integrated circuit, the size of the computer was reduced even more than the second generation computers. This helped to make the computer more portable. 

Note: An integrated circuit refers to a small electronic device developed using semiconductor materials. A single integrated circuit consists of multiple transistors, resistors, and capacitors with associated circuitry. The device was jointly developed by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce around 1958–1959.

The following image shows the structural view of the integrated circuit:
Third Generation of Computer - Integrated Circuit Diagram

In the third generation, computers had better input-output devices. The use of keyboards and monitors was introduced in place of punched cards and printouts, which helped in increasing the speed of input and output operations. Besides, remote processing, time-sharing, and multiprogramming operating systems were also introduced in this generation, which eventually allowed users to run multiple applications at once.

For the advancement of software, third-generation computers used high-end languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN-II to IV, BASIC, PASCAL PL / 1, ALGOL-68, etc. As a result, the computer was made more reliable than the previous generation of computers.

Examples of Third Generation Computers

Some sources claim that the third generation of computers was started with the development of the IBM 360 computer. It was developed to achieve high-speed data processing for various scientific tasks such as weather forecasting, space exploration, theoretical astronomy, and subatomic physics. However, the development of this third-generation computer cost around $5 billion.

There were many successive models of IBM 360 computers. The IBM 360 Model 50 is said to be about 263 times faster than the first generation ENIAC computer. Besides, it was capable of performing approximately 5,00,000 additions or subtractions per second. The more advanced version of the IBM 360, called the IBM 360 Model 91, was estimated to solve more than 1,000 problems, as well as approximately 200 billion calculations in a second.

Third Generation of Computer - IBM 360

Although integrated circuits were the main component in third generation computers, they are still in use in computers. However, they are not used as the main component in today's computers. Even after many years, today's generation (fifth generation) computers have their roots going back to the third generation.

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

IBM 370/168
Honeywell 6000 series
PDP 8 (where PDP means Personal Data Processor)
PDP 11
TDC 316
ICL 2900, etc.

Characteristics of Third Generation Computers

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

Use of integrated circuits (IC) as basic technology
Use of high-level programming languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN-II to IV, BASIC, PASCAL PL/1, ALGOL-68, etc.
Use of keyboards and monitors as the input-output devices
Use of line printers
Use of magnetic storage devices

Advantages of Third Generation Computers

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

Integrated circuits helped make third-generation computers smaller and portable than the previous generation.

Third-generation computers were somewhat cheaper than computers that used vacuum tubes and transistors in previous generations.

Third-generation computers had a large storage capacity.

The performance of input-output operations was improved due to the use of the keyboard and monitor.

Computers were relatively fast and reliable in the third generation as compared to second-generation computers. They could calculate data in nanoseconds.

Computers were more energy-efficient than second-generation computers and produced less heat.

Due to better portability, the production of third-generation computers for commercial use was easier and cheaper.

Maintenance costs of computers in the third generation were comparatively low due to low hardware failure rates.

Disadvantages of Third Generation Computers

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

Even after using integrated circuits and producing less heat, third-generation computers needed air conditioning systems.

Highly sophisticated technology was required to manufacture integrated circuits.

Maintenance of integrated circuits was difficult.

Although computers were somewhat cheaper than the previous generation but still expensive for personal needs.

Third-generation computers were a bit difficult to operate, requiring formal training to learn how to use these computers.


The third generation period began in 1965 and ended in 1971. Second-generation computers used integrated circuits as a core technique. Although the third generation added some advantages to computer technology, there were still some problems. This eventually led to the development of computers in the next generation, called the fourth generation of computers.

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