Exploring the Evolution of GPT: From GPT-1 to GPT-4

Exploring the Evolution of GPT: From GPT-1 to GPT-4

GPT, or Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is a class of machine learning models developed by OpenAI that has taken the natural language processing world by storm. These models have evolved significantly over the years, from GPT-1 to GPT-4.

In this article, we explore the evolution of GPT and how it has revolutionized the field of natural language processing.

Evolution of GPT: Quick Summary

A quick summary of how GPT evolved over the years.

Model Release Year Number of Parameters Key Features
GPT-1 2018 117 million Sentence and paragraph generation with limited accuracy and coherence
GPT-2 2019 1.5 billion Context understanding, more meaningful responses
GPT-3 2020 175 billion Largest language model ever created, highly coherent text, wide range of natural language processing tasks
GPT-4 2022 Undisclosed Improved coherence and context understanding, enhanced task adaptation, even broader range of NLP tasks


As the first model of the GPT series, GPT-1 (simply known as GPT) was released in 2018. It had 117 million parameters, which initially seemed like a lot, but is actually relatively small compared to more recent GPT models. The model was trained on a large corpus of web pages, which gave it a broad understanding of the English language.

Despite being a significant breakthrough in natural language processing, GPT-1 did have some limitations in terms of accuracy. For example, it would sometimes generate responses that were nonsensical or didn't match the prompt.

GPT-1: Key Takeaways

  • Trained on a large corpus of web pages for a broad understanding of the English language
  • Had limitations in terms of accuracy and coherence

While there are no official updates or variations of GPT-1, it served as the foundation for the development of GPT-2 and subsequent models in the GPT series. The success and limitations of GPT-1 informed the development of more advanced language models in the GPT series, leading to significant improvements in natural language processing capabilities.


GPT-2 was released in 2019 and had a significant upgrade from GPT-1. It had 1.5 billion parameters, which is more than ten times the number of parameters in GPT-1. This increase in parameters enabled GPT-2 to generate much more coherent and contextually relevant text.

One of the key features of GPT-2 was its ability to understand context. For example, if given the prompt "I went to the bank to withdraw some money", GPT-2 was able to generate a response about a financial institution rather than a riverbank. Thanks to its improved language understanding, GPT-2 was also capable of generating more meaningful responses to prompts.

With the abilities of this model, there were concerns raised about the potential misuse of its language generation capabilities. Addressing these concerns, OpenAI decided not to release GPT-2 to the public, but instead made it available only to selected researchers and organizations.

GPT-2: Key Takeaways

  • Understood context, enabling it to generate more meaningful responses to prompts
  • Generate coherent and contextually relevant text
  • Had different sizes available for accessibility to developers and researchers
  • Was not released publicly due to concerns about its potential misuse


GPT-3 was released in 2020 and was considered the most advanced model in the GPT series that actually generated world-wide traction in a matter of weeks. The model had a staggering 175 billion parameters, making it the largest language model ever created. This increase in parameters not only enabled GPT-3 to generate highly coherent and contextually relevant text, but also perform a wide range of natural language processing tasks.

GPT-3 was also capable of generating text that was almost indistinguishable from text written by a human. This eventually raised further concerns about the potential misuse of its language generation capabilities, particularly in the context of fake news and disinformation.

GPT-3: Variations

With each of the following variations of GPT-3, the language model was designed to make more accessible and efficient for developers and researchers, while still maintaining its powerful natural language processing capabilities.

  • GPT-3 API: The GPT-3 API, released in June 2020, allowed developers to access the capabilities of GPT-3 through a cloud-based platform. The feature made it easier for developers to integrate GPT-3 into their own applications and services, without having to worry about the infrastructure required to host and run the model.
  • GPT-3 6B: OpenAI released a smaller version of GPT-3 with 6 billion parameters in February 2021. This version of the model was designed to be more efficient and accessible for researchers and developers who may not have access to the full 175 billion parameter model. While this version was less powerful than the original GPT-3 model, it was still capable of performing a wide range of natural language processing tasks.
  • GPT-3 13B: OpenAI released another intermediate version of GPT-3 with 13 billion parameters in July 2021. This version was intended to bridge the gap between the 6 billion parameter model and the full 175 billion parameter model. Although more powerful than the 6B model, it was still less powerful than the original GPT-3 model.
  • GPT-3.5: In March 2022, OpenAI released new versions of its GPT-3 and Codex language models that were more capable than previous versions with edit and insert capabilities. These models were trained on data up to June 2021 and were later referred to as belonging to the GPT-3.5 series by OpenAI. In November 2022, OpenAI released ChatGPT, which was fine-tuned from a model in the GPT-3.5 series.

One of the most impressive features of GPT-3 was its ability to perform a wide range of natural language processing tasks, such as text completion, translation, and summarization. For example, GPT-3 was able complete sentences and paragraphs, translate text from one language to another, and summarize long articles.

The GPT-3 API in particular has been widely adopted by developers and businesses, allowing them to leverage the capabilities of GPT-3 without the need for extensive infrastructure or technical expertise.


Released on March 14, 2023, GPT-4 is significantly reliable, creative, and able to handle much more nuanced instructions than its earlier versions. It comes in two versions, one with a context window of 8,192 tokens and another with a context window of 32,768 tokens, a significant improvement over GPT-3.5 and GPT-3.

GPT-4 can take both text and images as input, allowing it to describe humor in unusual images, summarize text in screenshots, and answer exam questions that contain diagrams. With its release, OpenAI also introduced the concept of "system messages" to give users further control over the tone of voice and prescribing specific tasks for the model.

While OpenAI clarified that the model was trained using a combination of supervised learning on a large dataset and reinforcement learning using both human and AI feedback, it did not provide further details about the training process, including the construction of the training dataset, computing power requirements, or hyperparameters used.

Ethical considerations

As GPT models become more advanced and capable, there are concerns about their potential misuse. The ability to generate highly coherent and contextually relevant text raises concerns about the potential for these models to be used in the dissemination of fake news and disinformation. As such, it is important to consider the ethical implications of the capabilities of GPT models and to ensure that they are developed and used in a responsible manner.

Final Thoughts & Key Takeaways

GPT has come a long way since the release of GPT-1 in 2018. With each new version, the capabilities and sophistication of the language model have grown exponentially. As GPT continues to revolutionize the field of natural language processing, its impact is only expected to increase in the years to come.

As we know, the evolution of GPT over the years has been quick, and continues to grow at a much faster pace than one would have realized. With the capabilities of GPT-4, it is sure to push the boundaries of what is possible with natural language processing in the future.

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