Report: Slave and Expert Systems

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  Late 1950s - Early 1960s: Second Generation Computers

An important change in the development of computers occurred in 1948 with the invention of the transistor. It replaced the large, unwieldy vacuum tube and as a result led to a shrinking in size of electronic machinery. The transistor was first applied to a computer in 1956. Combined with the advances in magnetic-core memory, the use of transistors resulted in computers that were smaller, faster, more reliable and more energy-efficient than their predecessors.

Stretch by IBM and LARC by Sperry-Rand (1959) were the first large-scale machines to take advantage of the transistor technology (and also used assembly language instead of the difficult machine language). Both developed for atomic energy laboratories could handle enormous amounts of data, but still were costly and too powerful for the business sector's needs. Therefore only two LARC's were ever installed.

Throughout the early 1960s there were a number of commercially successful computers (for example the IBM 1401) used in business, universities, and government and by 1965 most large firms routinely processed financial information by using computers. Decisive for the success of computers in business was the stored program concept and the development of sophisticated high-level programming languages like FORTRAN (Formular Translator), 1956, and COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), 1960, that gave them the flexibility to be cost effective and productive. The invention of second generation computers also marked the beginning of an entire branch, the software industry, and the birth of a wide range of new types of careers.

browse Report:
Slave and Expert Systems
    Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Early Tools
-3   1950: The Turing Test
-2   1940s - 1950s: The Development of Early Robotics Technology
-1   1950s: The Beginnings of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research
0   Late 1950s - Early 1960s: Second Generation Computers
+1   1961: Installation of the First Industrial Robot
+2   Late 1960s - Early 1970s: Third Generation Computers
+3   1960s - 1970s: Increased Research in Artificial Intelligence (AI)
1980s: Artificial Intelligence (AI) - From Lab to Life
Robot relates to any automatically operated machine that replaces human effort, though it may not resemble human beings in appearance or perform functions in a humanlike manner. The term is derived from the Czech word robota, meaning "forced labor." Modern use of the term stems from the play R.U.R., written in 1920 by the Czech author Karel Capek, which depicts society as having become dependent on mechanical workers called robots that are capable of doing any kind of mental or physical work. Modern robot devices descend through two distinct lines of development--the early automation, essentially mechanical toys, and the successive innovations and refinements introduced in the development of industrial machinery.