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[microprocessor] =cpu?

  1. Jan 17, 2012 #1

    Is microprocessor =cpu use in PC? what's the difference between the two?

    wiki says microprocessor is a part of cpu used in personal computer, so I guess Mac doesn't use microprocessor?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 17, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    A CPU is a microprocessor but not all microprocessors are CPUs.
    ... the GPU would also be an example, and the math co-processor. Modern computers have more than one microprocessor, the CPU being the main one... which, itself, may be composed of several. Thus "CPU" is just the name of the box that does the central processing.
  4. Jan 17, 2012 #3
    I am talking about the ones use in PC.
    ok, so microprocessor is like one small department in the CPU that handles specific types of function, a bunch of them made up the CPU?

    I want to do something in this field, should I study ee or ce?
  5. Jan 17, 2012 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    The GPU is the "Graphics Processing Unit", if your PC outputs to a monitor, it has one. All PCs also have a math co-processor and probably several other microprocessors.

    You've heard of dual-core or quad-core cpu's?

    A microprocessor is a microcircuit built to be a digital computer.
    Modern computers are so complex they are built out of several smaller computers, that's all.

    What you study depends on the emphasis and the balance of courses offered at the college you go to. "Something in this field" is a bit vague. You want to design and build tomorrows computers?
  6. Jan 17, 2012 #5

    The names can be used kinda interchangeably, but an understanding of the terms really comes from their history.

    In the past a single computer was very big, and was made of several cabinets ("Units") spread through a room. You would have Input Units, Output Units, Controlling Units and a few Processing Units. Eventually, with micro-circuits a single cabinet could do all program processing, so that was called the Central Processing Unit; later that cabinet shrunk to a single circuit board, so that circuit board was now the CPU, and a big computer could have several CPUs in order to run several programs at the same time.

    Then Ted Hoff at Intel in 1969 proposed a microchip for hand calculators (not computers!), which could do the calculations by running "micro-programs". So a "micro-program" would handle the "+" key, another the "-" key, and so forth, so he called that a "micro-programmed calculator", of which the core chip was a "micro-processor". So, you see, these started as marketing terms.

    Initially those microprocessors were too slow for use in actual computers, but as they grew in size and power the microprocessor could just be used as the CPU of a brand new type of computer - the micro-computer, or personal computer. So at a given time all CPUs were really made out of high-end microprocessors. A that point one could use the terms inter-changeably.

    Nowadays, you see, you can use a tiny, low-end microprocessor pretty much anywhere. Every digital watch has one, for example, as do the TVs, remote controls, cars have several, your keyboard has one, as do your mouse, your car keys, and even credit cards have a microprocessor inside. They are everywhere.

    So, although the beeper on your car keys a fully functional micro-processor inside (and therefore one could argue "yeah, it has a CPU too!!!"), the fact is that it has a very tiny, slow and limited one, so nobody really cares calling it that.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2012
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