A key component of our tech-centric, tech-dependent lives, microprocessors are built into a wide variety of technological products, including computers, laptops, smartphones and home devices, gaming consoles and even self-driving cars, and without a microprocessor, these devices simply won’t function.
So, what exactly is a microprocessor? Let’s take a closer look:
What Is a Microprocessor?
In its simplest terms, a microprocessor is a computer combining the functions of a central processing unit on a single integrated circuit (IC), or at the very most, a few integrated circuits.
A multipurpose, clock driven, register based digital integrated circuit that takes binary data as input, and process it as per the instructions that are stored in its memory, a microprocessor then produces results as output.
What Did We Use Before the Invention of The Microprocessor?
While it might seem like a very distant memory now, small computers were constructed using racks of circuit boards with many medium and small-scale integrated circuits before the microprocessor was created. Going on to incorporate this into one or several large-scale IC’s, microprocessors became more economical to process due to the integration of a whole CPU onto a single or a few integrated circuits.
What Does a Microprocessor Do?
Commonly described in more simple terms as a mass storage device, microprocessors are also an advanced form of computer, and as such, are often referred to as microcomputers. Useful in a variety of applications, with their low cost, low power and light weight computing capabilities, microprocessors are widely used; in fact, one or more of them are used today in many products from tiny embedded systems and handheld devices, to huge mainframes and massive supercomputers.
Found in computers, smartphones, automatic product testing, speed control of motors, traffic light control, television and everyday home appliances such as microwaves and washing machines, microprocessor-based systems are even used in military applications.
What Categories Are Microprocessors Used in?
Microprocessors can be found in a multitude of categories, but the following five are perhaps the most common or familiar:
- Handheld devices – including smartphones, tablets and portable media players, these devices have powerful microprocessors that can easily compete with a desktop computer
- General-purpose computing – with companies like Intel and AMD market leaders in this field, microprocessors are used in general-purpose computing such as regular desktops and laptops
- High performance computing – more complex than a simple desktop computer, super computers have a higher level of performance and play an important role in computational science
- Appliances – microprocessors are used in smart home devices, gaming and cars
- Automotive industry – using a microcontroller, cars can handle functions such as enabling complex interactions involving sensory systems, speed, temperatures, audio visual multimedia systems and braking systems
Microprocessors: any type of miniature electronic device containing the necessary circuitry to perform the myriad functions of a digital computers processing unit, are a vital component of many technological products in the modern world and will be performing their essential role for many years to come.