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A Central Processing Unit (CPU) is a processor or microprocessor; it is the heart of all computing devices to include; cell phones, video game consoles, GPS systems, and of course computers along with many other electronic devices. While CPUs have evolved a lot since the 1950s, their basic flow is still the same. The CPU is similar to the brain in each of its respective devices and is the central hub for all data. The CPU processes data instructions through software or hardware installed on a computer or device and executes the instructions making the data available to the user. Since these electronic devices are a part of everyday life, it is important to have a basic understanding of what is going on under the hood Without CPUs, many of the devices that make life comfortable would be rendered inoperable (Diaz, 2009).
CPUs are small and square metallic or plastic in appeara. The top the CPU will typically have a logo one of the many manufacturers. All CPUs have a notched corner to ensure the proper placement on the motherboard. The bottom of the CPU contains rows of pins or flat contacts with a metallic appearance. The pins and connectors plug into the motherboard allowing data from hardware and software to reach the CPU.
Fig 1. Central Processing Unit (Ackerman, 2013)
CPUs are made from beach sand. Silicon is extracted from the sand purified, melted and cooled then sliced into wafers, and polished until smooth. Each wafer is exposed to ultraviolet lasers after receiving a coat of photoresist liquid. A three-dimensional chip will be mounted consisting of tiny copper wires and a casing. This is the primary process of how the brain of every computing device is created (Intel, 2018).
Fig 2. Wafer slices (Intel, 2018). Fig 3. Photolithography (Intel, 2018).
CPUs handle two types of data at a time, data that needs processing, and program code. The data and program codes are processed by a complex set of electronic circuits that store instruction to be executed. Program codes contain the list of instructions on how to prepare the first type of data. When the CPU receives data, it goes through a list of instructions and executes each in order. CPUs cannot tell the difference between programs; it only follows instructions that make up the program, it does not understand what the program is trying to accomplish. The CPU only sees data, it executes orders and produces a result that the user sees on the computer screen.
Figure 4 shows the CPU receives instructions or input and sends out electrical signals to the computer directing the execution of instructions the instructions. The instructions could tell the computer to go into sleep mode after being on for a certain period of time, or when an application is clicked and opened. Any input that the CPU receives it executes (How Computers Work, n.d.).
Fig 4. (How Computers Work, n.d.)
The CPU can be divided into two major units, the Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU), and the Control Unit (CU). The ALU is the electronic circuits that are responsible for all arithmetic and mathematical operations, addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. The ALU compares numbers, letters, and special characters, this allows the computer to take the appropriate action based on the results of the comparisons. Comparisons make it possible for a computer to tell if a credit card transaction has taken place, or whether the movie you want to see has available seats (How Computers Work, n.d.).
The CU directs all operations of the CPU. The CPU directs all devices and software in the computer system to carry out or execute program instructions. Like a commander in the army who directs leaders to execute battle drills, the control unit does not execute program instructions it directs other parts of the system to do so. The CU must work cohesively with ALU and memory.
The components of a CPU and how they function is all about speed. When a computer is used, instructions need to be executed as fast as possible. The instructions or input that a CPU receives is growing more complicated daily; these complications place high demand for faster CPUs, this demand is resulting in processor technology is driven by the need for speed.
- Ackerman, D (2013). Fig 1. Intel’s Next-Den Quad-Core Processors Tested. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://www.cnet.com/news/intels-next-gen-quad-core-processors-tested/
- Diaz, J (2009). How Modern Processors are Made? Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://gizmodo.com/how-modern-processors-are-made-5318104
- Intel (2018). Making Silicon Chips: From Sand to Circuits Retrieved June 6, 2019, from https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/history/musem-making-silicon.html.
- Intel (2018). Fig 2. Wafer Slices. Making Silicon Chips: From Sand to Circuits Retrieved June 7, 2019 from https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/history/musem-making-silicon.html.
- Intel (2018). Fig 3. Photolithography. Making Silicon Chips: From Sand to Circuits Retrieved June 7, 2019. from https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/history/musem-making- silicon.html.
- How Computers Work: The CPU and Memory (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://homepage.cs.uri.edu/faculty/wolfe/book/Readings/Reading04.htm
- How Computers Work: The CPU and Memory (n.d.). Figure 4. The Central Processing Unit. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://homepage.cs.uri.edu/faculty/wolfe/book/Readings/Reading04.htm
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