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Fourth generation for the computers is the era of blooming in multiple dimensions rather than invention of electronic components. Fourth generation computers use ICs as in third generation. But third generation computers used Small Scale and Medium Scale ICs whereas in fourth generation, Large Scale ICs (LSI), Very Large Scale ICs (VLSI) and the Ultra Large Scale ICs (ULSI) are used.
As millions of electronic components got integrated in a tiny chip, the computers became very small with increased speed, reliability and reduction in cost.
The size of computer reduced to minicomputers and microcomputers. Today, we have laptops, palmtops and pocket PCs.
Probably the most important development in this generation is microprocessor. The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971, took the integrated circuit one step further by locating all the components of a computer (central processing unit, memory, and input and output controls) on a minute chip. Whereas previously the integrated circuit had had to be manufactured to fit a special purpose, now one microprocessor could be manufactured and then programmed to meet any number of demands. Soon everyday household items such as microwave ovens, television sets, and automobiles with electronic fuel injection incorporated microprocessors
In this generation mini computers were built that had more user friendly software packages like word-processor and spreadsheet calculation.
In 1981, IBM introduced its personal computer (PC) for use in the home, office and schools. Other companies made the clones of IBM PCs to make the personal computers more affordable.
In 1984 Apple developed its Macintosh line. Notable for its user-friendly design, the Macintosh offered an operating system that allowed users to move screen icons instead of typing instructions. Users controlled the screen cursor using a mouse.
Fourth generation is the duration when we saw the tremendous improvement in operating systems and high level programming language.
As the small computers become powerful, it was possible to link and work in cooperative environment. This led to the invention of networking. WAN, MAN, LAN and PAN networks came into existence.