Britain's Alvey programme of collaborative research in Information Technology

INMOS IMS T414B-G20S transputer chip.

 

During the 1980s the Japanese government in conjunction with the IT industry starting working on 5th Generation Computers . The main goal of this project was to increase their international competitiveness by creating computers the likes of which had not been seen before. Not long after the Japanese published their decision to push forward the frontiers of computing, Britain and the United States followed suit. In Britain the Alvey program was created which was also a collaborative research project between government institutions and industry and ran from 1983 to 1988. An independent evaluation of the achievements of the Alvey project was compiled by Ken Guy of the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex and Luke Georghiou of the University of Manchester.

The transition from 1st to 4th generation computers was made in terms of scalability and programmability. First generation computers were large mainframe valve computers programmed in machine code. Second generation computers were built with transistors and programmed in assembly language. Third generation computers were based on ICs and programed with the help of an operating system.  Fourth generation computers utilized VLSI technology and formed the foundation for the Workstations and PCs of the 80s. Fifth generation computers were conceived of as being based on parallel processors like the Transputer. Unfortunately, the demand for parallel processors never really got of the ground because the speed of conventional microprocessors produced by companies like Intel increased immensely negating the need to develop parallel processors further for the mass market.

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