SECOND GENERATION COMPUTERS (1956 to 1963)
By 1948, the invention of the transistor greatly changed the computer's development. The transistor replaced the large, cumbersome vacuum tube in televisions, radios and computers. As a result, the size of electronic machinery has been shrinking ever since. The transistor was at work in the computer by 1956. Coupled with early advances in magnetic-core memory, transistors led to second generation computers that were smaller, faster, more reliable and more energy-efficient than their predecessors.
The first large-scale machines to take advantage of this transistor technology were early supercomputers, Stretch by IBM (above) and LARC by Sperry-Rand. These computers, both developed for atomic energy laboratories, could handle an enormous amount of data, a capability much in demand by atomic scientists. The machines were costly and tended to be too powerful for the business sector's computing needs, thereby limiting their attractiveness. Second generation computers replaced machine language with assembly language, allowing abbreviated programming codes to replace long, difficult binary codes.
One of the most famous men in the discovery of the transistor was William Shockley, for which he won a Nobel Prize.
Shockley set up a company near San Francisco, in an area that eventually became known as Silicon Valley, and he employed many of the young pioneers of electronics.
However, Shockley was a bad manager and most left to form their own companies.
So, which two of these companies were formed directly from this?
Throughout the early 1960's, there were a number of commercially successful second generation computers used in business, universities, and government from companies such as Burroughs, Control Data, Honeywell, IBM, Sperry-Rand, and others. These second generation computers were also of solid state design, and contained transistors in place of vacuum tubes. They also contained all the components we associate with the modern day computer: printers, tape storage, disk storage, memory, operating systems, and stored programs. By 1965, most large business routinely processed financial information using second generation computers.
It was the stored program and programming languages that gave computers the flexibility to finally be cost effective and productive for business use. The stored program concept meant that instructions to run a computer for a specific function (known as a program) were held inside the computer's memory, and could quickly be replaced by a different set of instructions for a different function. A computer could print customer invoices and minutes later design products or calculate paychecks.