The evolution of microprocessors is an amazing journey. If you have purchased a personal computer ever, you might have had a tough time in choosing the “best” CPU with a powerful microprocessors. Usually in the world of computers, the terms microprocessor and CPU are used interchangeably and when a person asks you about the capacity of your CPU, he might be actually referring to the microprocessor of your computer.
The microprocessor is the brain of a computer which makes your computer execute different Arithmatic, Logical and Control functions for you. In fact the microprocessor is a chip that incorporates the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of a computer and increased processing power, hi-speed computing, cutting edge multimedia has lot to do with how microprocessors have evolved over the last 30 to 40 years.
The microprocessor can be considered the intellectual area of any computer that enables the system to execute different functions and run various applications. Microprocessor, an integrated circuit or chip, is normally attached to the motherboard of a computer. The microprocessor is responsible for carrying out different computer functions. In other words, the primary functionality of a microprocessor is executing different sets of stored instructions which are commonly referred to as computer programs.
The microprocessor or the CPU reads an instruction from the main memory which is known as a Fetch operation. The Control Unit, a major component of CPU, takes care of this operation. As the name indicates, control unit controls the operations inside the CPU. Next, it Decodes or interprets the instruction to decide what kind of action is to be carried out and then directs the data to move from the memory to the Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU). This is followed by Execute phase, where the actual operation is executed at the ALU. The final process is Writeback where the results of the completed task are analyzed and the data is written back to the memory. With this four-step process, the microprocessor enables a computer to execute instructions.
Popular Microprocessor Manufactures
Microprocessors are available from many different companies and some of them are Intel, Motorola, AMD, Zilog, IBM and so on. Today, Intel and AMD are the giants in the microprocessor manufacturing industry. The microprocessors from different companies vary mainly in the configuration. You might have heard terms like Pentium, Celeron, Athlon, Duron and so on. What are all these? All these are microprocessors from top brands such as Intel, AMD etc. Microprocessor companies introduce different kinds of microprocessors over time mainly varying in their capacity and name those processors beautifully.
Intel came up with world’s first single chip microprocessor, the Intel 4004, in 1971. The next year, they introduced the first 8-bit microprocessor, the 8008. Since 1971, they have been introducing microprocessors varying in performance to meet the emerging computer needs. Pentium is a microprocessor from Intel introduced in early 90s. Before Pentium, the names of Intel microprocessors were numbers like 4004, 8008, 8086, 8088 and so on. Celeron is another microprocessor from Intel which is targeted for entry level computing.
AMD started manufacturing microprocessors in 1982, since they signed an agreement to serve Intel as a second source for microprocessors. Later in 1996, AMD acquired NextGen, a microprocessor company. Athlon and Duron are microprocessors from AMD. You could find a long list of microprocessors from different manufacturers if you search on the Internet.
Advantages of Multi-Core Processors Over Single-Core Processors
Do you know the difference between single-core, dual-core and quad-core CPU? Many computer newbies purchase computers with quad-core CPU even though they just want to browse mails or play games. The difference between these is the number of microprocessors included in the chip. As the name indicates, a single-core CPU chip contains one microprocessor. Microprocessors have been single-core since their origin. As the processor requirements increased over time, chips with more than one processor emerged.
CPUs with more than one core are commonly referred to as multi-core processors. You can find out how fast your CPU is on your computer by looking at your system settings. A dual-core is a chip with two distinct processors that can work simultaneously. In 2004, IBM introduced the first dual core processors named POWER4. In 2006, Intel came up with the first quad-core chip which contains four different processors in a single chip. Now, even deca-core chips are available in the market and Intel Xeon E7-2850 is an example.
Multi-Core CPU and the Evolution of Microprocessors
Of course, the higher the number of cores available to you, the faster and efficient your computer will become. But, the fact is that most of today’s computer users do not require so much processing power they have, while they running simple MS Office applications and browsing the net. If you are a programmer or designer who has to run multiple programs simultaneously, then you might feel a positive difference in speed or performance of your computer when you use a multi-core processor. Not just that, you have the freedom to upgrade your CPU as and when required. So, you don’t have to worry much if you have a single-core processor now and plan to start developing complex applications, animations or graphics. You can upgrade your CPU to a dual or multi-core considering the extent to which your motherboard supports such a CPU upgrade. After all, everyone wants to speed up a computer if the chance arises.