The Computer Age

February 13, 1981

Report Outline
Second Industrial Revolution
Development of U.S. Industry
Future Directions and Goals
Special Focus

Second Industrial Revolution

Recent Changes in Electronics Industry

It's been called the second industrial revolution, and according to the National Academy of Sciences, “its impact on society could be even greater than that of the original industrial revolution.” This prediction is based on recent developments in the electronics industry that have led to a new generation of sophisticated computers. As the application of this technology advances, it could radically change virtually every aspect of society.

The basis for the new industrial revolution is the computer chip, first developed in the early 1960s, but perfected only in the last decade. Chips are tiny silicon wafers, about half the size of a fingernail, which contain the resistors, transistors and diodes that are the brains of today's computers. Recent refinements in chip technology have allowed the size and price of computers to shrink while their capacities have increased.

The most advanced chips, called microprocessors, contain the entire central processing unit of a computer. Microprocessors can carry out millions of instructions per second, and can be reprogrammed to function in different ways. Products made possible by advances in microelectronics include computer games, digital watches, razor-thin, hand-held calculators and supermarket computer checkout systems. A less visible array of microprocessing technology is being used in a number of ways.

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Computers and the Internet
General Employment and Labor