CPU alternatively referred to as the brain of the computer, processor, central processor, or microprocessor, the CPU (pronounced as C-P-U), short for Central Processing Unit, was first developed at Intel with the help of Ted Hoff in the early 1970's. The computer CPU is responsible for handling all instructions it receives from hardware and software running on the computer.
The picture below is an example of what the top and bottom of an Intel Pentium processor looks like. The processor is placed and secured into a compatible CPU socket found on the motherboard and, because of the heat it produces, it is covered with a heat sink to help keep it cool and running smoothly.
Components of the CPU
In the CPU, the primary components are the ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit) that performs mathematical, logical, and decision operations and the CU (Control Unit) that directs all of the processors operations.
Four steps of Machine cycle
- Fetch – Retrieve an instruction from the memory.
- Decode – Translate the retrieved instruction into a series of computer commands.
- Execute – Execute the computer commands.
- Store – Sand and write the results back in memory.
Types of CPUs
There are two main types of CPUs found in computers today: 32-bit and 64-bit. In addition to this, CPUs can be broken down into types based on the manufacturer and version as well.
There are 3 major manufacturers of computer processors at this time. These are Intel Pentium, AMD Athlon, and Intel Celeron. These processors come in different versions and their speeds, as well as heat tolerance, vary. The faster the processor, the greater amount of heat it generates. This is a great challenge to manufacturers as being better able to manage the heat generated by the computer processors also means better performance.
The contending parties in terms of market share are Intel and AMD. Intel is a veteran in computer processor manufacturing but AMD is keeping up and may at this point compare and even surpass the more popular Intel computer processors.
The AMD Opteron series and Intel Xeon series are two common types of CPUs for servers and some workstation computers.
Some mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, use ARM CPUs. These CPUs are smaller in size, require less power and generate less heat.
Computer Processor Speed
As technology progresses, computer processors increase in speed. Speed is measured in terms of Megahertz or MHz. One MHz is 1 million computer instructions per second or normally expressed as cycles per second. If your computer processor has a speed of 1000 MHz, this means that your computer is running at 10,000,000 cycles per second. A lot of tasks to do in 1 second. Now, many computer processors are in terms of Gigahertz (GHz), which means 1,000 MHz.
Multi-Core Computer Processors
Computer processors used to have only one core. Now, they are available as dual core, triple core, or quad core. Dual core is equivalent two running two computer processor units, triple core is equivalent to three computer processor units, and quad core is similar to running four computer processor units. In the future, there may be more cores in the computer processor to achieve greater speed and do a multitude of tasks.