The second generation computers were characterized by transistors. A transistor is a solid state semiconductor device that revolutionized the electronic industry. Transistors were smaller, highly reliable, consumed less electricity and generated less heat. Also magnetic core memories were developed during this generation. These are tiny ferrite rings that can be magnetized in either clockwise or anticlockwise direction so as to represent binary 1 or binary 0. Magnetic cores were used as primary memories. Later magnetic disks also came into existence and were used as secondary storage devices. All these new developments – transistors, magnetic core memory and magnetic disk storage devices made the computers more powerful and reliable. This further led to the existence of operating systems. Programming languages like FORTRAN, COBOL, Algol etc. also developed. Commercial applications of the computer increased and now the computers were used in business and industries for applications like payroll, employee management, inventory control etc. IBM 1401 and IBM 1620 were popular computers of this generation.
Salient Features of Second generation computers:
1. Use transistor based technology
2. Were smaller and less expensive as compared to first generation
3. Consumed less electricity and emitted less heat
4. Magnetic core memories and magnetic disks were used as primary and secondary storage respectively
5. First operating system developed
6. Programming in assembly language and in the later part high level languages were used
7. Wider commercial use but commercial production was still difficult
8. They also required constant air-conditioning.