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microprocessor
Last modified: Wednesday, February 05, 2003 

A silicon chip that contains a CPU. In the world of personal computers, the terms microprocessor and CPU are used interchangeably. At the heart of all personal computers and most workstations sits a microprocessor. Microprocessors also control the logic of almost all digital devices, from clock radios to fuel-injection systems for automobiles.

Three basic characteristics differentiate microprocessors:

  • Instruction set: The set of instructions that the microprocessor can execute.
  • bandwidth : The number of bits processed in a single instruction.
  • clock speed : Given in megahertz (MHz), the clock speed determines how many instructions per second the processor can execute.
  • In both cases, the higher the value, the more powerful the CPU. For example, a 32-bit microprocessor that runs at 50MHz is more powerful than a 16-bit microprocessor that runs at 25MHz.

    In addition to bandwidth and clock speed, microprocessors are classified as being either RISC (reduced instruction set computer) or CISC (complex instruction set computer).

    See the Microprocessor Comparison Chart page in the Quick Reference section of Webopedia for a comparison of microprocessors.

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    For internet.com pages about microprocessor . Also check out the following links!

    Related Links

    Microprocessor Comparison Chart 
    A cut-to-the-chase guide that compares and contrasts popular processing chips.

    PC system processor reference guide 
    Comprehensive look at the system processor. Covers semiconductor technology, manufacturing, characteristics, power, voltage levels, cooling, packaging, sockets, external and internal architecture. Discusses performance factors. Complete look at over 20 popular processors, including the latest offerings from Intel, AMD and Cyrix.

    VLSI Microprocessors 
    Excellent collection of high performance microprocessor resources from the Supercomputer Software Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    Great Microprocessors of the Past and Present
    Article on "Great Microprocessors of the Past and Present", including an index and in-depth descriptions.

    National Semiconductor home page
    This home page offers links to company and product information, design engineer resources, news articles, information on environmental health and safety, and an annual report.

    Processor Architecture and Operation
    Provides a complete look at the way processors work. Includes sections on external processor interfaces and operations, internal processor architecture and operations, and processor performance. This page is from "The PC Guide".

    Processor Physical Characteristics
    Discusses the physical properties of processors. Includes information on processor manufacturing, physical chip characteristics, power and voltage, cooling and packaging, and sockets and slots.

    Yahoo!'s microprocessor page
    Yahoo!'s directory of microprocessor hardware components.

    related categories

    Microprocessors

    related terms

    386

    Alpha Processor

    AMD

    array processor

    bandwidth

    chip

    CISC

    clock speed

    CNR

    CPU

    Cyrix

    fab

    fabless

    flip-flop

    GHz

    Intel microprocessors

    Merced

    microcode

    microcontroller

    microprocessor

    Moore's Law

    Motorola microprocessors

    oscillator clock

    overclock

    Pentium microprocessor


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