What is a microprocessor?
We explain what a microprocessor is, the history and characteristics of this integrated circuit. In addition, what it is for and its functions.
What is a microprocessor?
The central integrated circuit of a computer system is called microprocessor or simply processor , where logical and arithmetic operations (calculations) are carried out to allow the execution of programs, from the Operating System to the Application Software.
A microprocessor can operate with one or more CPUs (Central Processing Units), each consisting of registers, a control unit, an arithmetic-logic unit and a floating-point calculation unit (or mathematical coprocessor).
Likewise, it has generally been connected via a socket to the motherboard or motherboard, together with a heat dissipation system that makes up certain thermal dissipation materials and a cooler fan ( inert fan ).
While the same microprocessor can have one or more physical or logical cores, in which all the calculation work is carried out, the same computer system can have several processors working in parallel.
The performance of these processors is not easy to measure , but the clock frequency (measured in Hz) is often used to distinguish between the power of each other.
Microprocessors emerged as a product of the technological evolution of two specific branches: computing and semiconductors. Both had their beginnings in the mid-twentieth century, in the context of World War II , with the invention of the transistor , with which the vacuum tubes were replaced.
From then on, silicon was used to generate simple electronic circuits, giving rise later (the beginning of the 1960s) to the creation of the first digital circuits: Transistor-Resistor Logic (RTL), Diode Transistor Logic (DTL) , Transistor-Transistor Logic (TTL) and Complemented Logic Emitter (ECL).
The next step towards microprocessors would be the invention of integrated circuits (SSI and MSI), thus allowing the start of aggregation and miniaturization of components. The first calculators to use this technology , however, required between 75 and 100 integrated circuits, which was impractical. And so, the next step in reducing computational architecture was the development of the first microprocessors.
The first processor was the Intel 4004 manufactured in 1971 . It contained 2300 transistors and with its barely 4 bits of capacity could perform 60,000 logical operations per second, at a clock frequency of 700 Hz. Since then, the technological career invested in the development of better and more powerful microchips: 8 bits , 16 bits, 32 bits and 64 bits, currently reaching frequencies above 3 GHz.
The microprocessors resemble a small digital miniature computer, so it presents its own architecture and performs operations under a control program. This architecture is composed of:
- Encapsulated . A ceramic cover that covers silicon and protects it from the elements (such as oxygen from the air).
- Cache . A type of ultrafast memory available to the processor, so that it does not use RAM except when necessary, since at various levels of the cache data in use is saved for immediate recovery.
- Math coprocessor . Called floating point unit, it is the portion of the processor that is responsible for logical and formal operations.
- Records . A short working memory in the processor, designed to keep track of its own operation and conditions.
- Ports . The conduits that allow the processor to communicate the information with the rest of the system components.
What is a microprocessor for?
The microprocessors are the “brain” of the computer: its logical center of arithmetic and logical operations, where all the system’s programs , both those of the Operating System, and the applications executed by the user will be executed . There are also binary logics of the system and access to memory. That is: the processor is the informational engine of the computer .
A microprocessor operates based on a series of elementary instructions that are preprogrammed and stored in the form of binary code. These instructions will be organized in the main memory, and are given according to several phases, which are:
- Prefetch . Or pre-reading of the instruction from the main memory of the system.
- Fetch . Sending of the specific instruction to the decoder.
- Decoding . Translation of the instruction in a series of operations to be performed, and reading of the operands necessary to do so.
- Execution . Performing instruction by system components.
- Writing . Engraving of the results back in the main memory, or in the records.
These phases are carried out in several CPU cycles, and their duration depends on the frequency at which the microprocessor works.