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How a microprocessor works and its history

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What is a microprocessor

Processor: A device that performs the logic and arithmetic operations of a computer. The computer microprocessor is an integral part of every single electronic device that we use today. From refrigerators to cars, a microprocessor is what enables the devices to do their job – but how?

The first thing that has to happen in order for a processor to function is it needs power; some may say this would be its fuel.

Without any power, it can’t operate, just like your car wouldn’t work without gasoline. The microprocessor is microscopic in size and needs to be connected to a circuit board. The microprocessor also needs to be bathed in a coolant, otherwise, the transistors within the microprocessor will overheat.

The next step is for the circuitry of the processor to program its transistors by raising or lowering their voltage levels. For example, if you want a component of the computer to turn on (such as a hard drive), you need to raise its voltage level above ground; when it comes time for the component to be turned off (like a monitor), you lower its voltage level below ground. Essentially, this is making sure that the voltage levels are stable.

The third step is for the microprocessor to respond to its commands. This is where it receives output from its initial settings and processes it accordingly; this can be a simple binary answer or by looking at the data, it will transform that data into a different format. The microprocessor will perform this by going down memory lane as they say; what is memory? Memory is where all of the programs are stored (a computer’s main source of information). This one-step allows computers to have a sense of understanding.

Fifthly, all processors need the power to keep their transistors happy and their coolant level topped up. The processor receives this power from a power supply. The processor is usually connected to a casing that holds all of the components together. Processors are the only component in a computer that actually need this, otherwise all other components can receive power from the motherboard directly from different ports on it.

History and yearly advancement

The microprocessor was first created by 1971 and held all of its programing in a silicon chip. In 1972, a group of engineers at Fairchild Semiconductor developed the first memory (addresses) for the chip. In 1977, Intel released this same microprocessor into the marketplace; however it was sold under their brand name as an 8-bit processor (note: there are other forms of processors that aren’t limited in size to 8 bits).

1980Intel released a 16-bit version of their microprocessor and the 32-bit version
1982The microprocessor can process 32 bits of data at a time.
1983Central Point Design sold the first 32-bit processor to IBM and they created the first ‘Alpha’ processor.
1989Intel created a 32-bit version and released them for the marketplace
1990IBM launched their own 32-bit version (called ‘PowerPC’).
1991AMD released its Athlon, which was an upgraded variant of Intel’s x86 series of processors.
1996BM released their PowerPC G5 processor; this was a 64-bit microprocessor.
1999AMD closed its acquisitions with Intel and created its own 64-bit chips called the Itanium V.
2003Intel released its Pentium 4 processor and in the same year; IBM made a 64-bit version of the PowerPC.
2005Intel released its first Core 2 Duo processor.
2007AMD announced that they had created the world’s smallest high-performance multi-core processor, which was a quad-core (and it was still in development till 2009).
2010AMD created its new eight-core processor (for laptops), which was called Bulldozer. In the same year took Intel’s 45 nanometer microprocessor called Conroe and released it to market along with its two daughters. This meant they had a range of processors to suit every user’s needs! These processors ranged from 1 GHz to 3.4 GHz.
2011Intel released a Nocona based processor for computers, which was called Ivy Bridge. This was the first 4th generation (4 th gen) of Intel processors.
2012AMD created another processor with double the cores; Cadenza is a total of 12 cores!
2013Intel created its new Haswell processors that were announced in June and released in late 2013/ early 2014. Note: These are still available for purchase today!
2014Intel released their Broadwell processors. This is a range or generation 5 th (5 th gen) of Intel’s processors. They are available from 2 GHz to 3.3 GHz with Turbo Boost and 2133 MHz system memory support maximums.
2015AMD announced that they had created its newest series of processors called Zen, which would be released in 2016. It would be compatible with the AM4 socket.
2017Intel released their Skylake-X processors and Kaby Lake-X processors. These are the new range of processors created for ultra-high end computers. The Kaby Lake-X range is available from 2.5 GHz to 3 GHz with Turbo Boost and 2133 MHz system memory support maximums.
2018Intel released its new processors touting better performance than the previous i5 and i7. This is called the Intel Core i9 .
2019AMD announced the release of its Zen 2 processors for computers that are compatible with the AM4 socket where users can expect them to come in around mid 2019.
2020AMD introduced its 7nm processors for desktop computers. Apple announced it’s own M1 processors


When it comes to microprocessors, most people just learn the facts and leave it at that. However, when you learn the history of microprocessors, you are learning more about what makes your computer tick! Certainly, the information has helped you in some way. We all know that once computers or technology gets more advanced, they get faster and faster. However, it’s not just about how fast they are, but also how efficient they are. With this article on microprocessors, I have just given you a few extra facts that will help you to understand the workings of your computer more fully. By understanding these processors, you will be able to better understand just what is happening in your computer when you click on its screen. I wish you all good fortune in the future!

To read more about Apple’s M1 processor, read this article.

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How does Apple's M1 chip compare to Intel?