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History of the Microprocessor

A microprocessor is one of the most central parts of a modern personal computer or, in fact, any advanced computer
device. It integrates the functions of a central processing unit , the portion of a computer responsible for carrying out
programmed instructions, onto a single integrated circuit that couples the important thinking devices of the machine
with the electrical infrastructure needed to support them. Microprocessor design is able to incorporate a tremendous
amount of processing power in a very small space. Perhaps more than any other component of the modern
computer, the microprocessor has a long and storied history, and an almost mythological status thanks to its great
importance. Each step of the way to modern microprocessing has spurred more triumphs, innovations, and

Early Inventions
Before the development of the microprocessor, there were a variety of early technologies for simulating logic
functions in computing devices. Many of these early inventions were spurred by wartime necessity during World War
II. These early technologies were extremely expensive, slow, and prone to failure, and by today's standards their
capabilities were amazingly primitive. Computing technologies based on vacuum tubes and transistors helped make
IBM a giant in the large-scale computing industry, but were not realistic for business or home use due to their
prohibitive costs and intensive maintenance schedules. Early integrated circuits appeared in calculators, of all things,
in the early 1960s; years before Intel began work on the first recognizable microprocessor.
Great Moments in Microprocessor History: Cross-referenced overview of the history of microprocessor technology
from the 1960s to the present.
History of the Microprocessor: Another view of the history of the microprocessor from a more technical perspective,
focusing on the different companies and competition involved at various stages of microprocessor design.
Microprocessor Timeline Diagram: Graphical timeline giving a family tree of different microprocessor units and their
creators from 1971 to the late 1990s.

4-Bit Chips
Though IBM was a titan in the early huge-scale computing race, it was Intel, founded in 1968, that provided much of
the pioneering work associated with first-generation microprocessor technology. The power of a given
microprocessor was, and still is, measured in bits. Put simply, this refers to the most basic unit of coded instructions,
expressed in a string of binary 1s and 0s, which the computer interprets to carry out tasks. The more powerful the
processor, the more instructions it can carry out at one time, leading to faster processing and more effectiveness at
complex tasks. Though 4-bit chips were fairly simple, they gave weight to the prophetic prediction known as Moore's
Law, predicting that the capacity of integrated circuits (and thus, of computers) would double every two years.

Microprocessors Throughout the Ages: Illustrated view of the development of the microprocessor and its importance,
provided by Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.

Intel 4004 35th Anniversary Project: Fan project for the Intel 4004, a 4-bit microprocessor that revolutionized the early
personal computing industry.

The Intel 4004: Overview about the Intel 4004 focusing on the contribution of its designer, Federico Faggin, and the
historical importance of the chip in context.

8-Bit Chips
Intel remained a forerunner in early microprocessor technology, releasing its first 8-bit microprocessor, the 8008, in
1972. Many of the same engineers involved with the original 4-bit models contributed ideas and design specifications
to this new generation of chips, which had taken only about four years to develop. By this time, other companies were
becoming increasingly interested in the microprocessor field, thanks largely to Intel's own evangelization of the
potential benefits. By the middle of the decade, Intel's new 8080 microprocessor made major inroads in catching the
eye of computer developers and engineers and the ascent of microprocessors was only beginning.

Intel 8008 Microprocessor Oral History Panel: Oral history transcript with interviews of individuals who contributed to
the design of the Intel 8008 8-bit microprocessor chip, including Federico Faggin above.

The Evolution of a Revolution: Graphical timeline of microprocessor development with basic technical specifications
and other information, provided by Intel.
The Evolution of the Computer: Heavily illustrated, detailed guide to computer development, with the development of
the microprocessor in context with other major events before and after.

16-Bit Chips In
the mid-1970s, National Semiconductor entered the field of microprocessor development, enticed by the fast pace of
breakthroughs at Intel. Unfortunately, the era of 16-bit chips was short, even by the standards of such an industry. 16-
bit microprocessors including National Semiconductor's PACE were relatively slow, though more advanced iterations
like the Motorola 6800 found their way into early Macintosh systems and others. By the time 16-bit chips were living
up to their potential, the 32-bit era had already begun to arrive and 16-bit technology was destined to be eclipsed by
the next big thing a foretaste of things to come in an industry where research never ends.

The First 16-bit Microprocessor: Information on the first 16-bit computer microprocessor. From the Chip Collection of
the Smithsonian Institution, which includes detailed articles on other milestone processors and internal computer

A Brief History of Microprocessors: Summary of key events in microprocessor history up to the creation of the modern
Intel Pentium processor.

32-Bit Chips
By the late 1970s, development of 32-bit microprocessors was in full swing and they began to appear on the mass
market in the 1980s, courtesy of National Semiconductor and Hewlett-Packard. Desktop engineering devices entered
a new phase with the inception of 32-bit processing. 32-bit microprocessors were relatively advanced and can be
looked upon as the forerunner of modern microprocessors.

Microprocessor: Cited, encyclopedic article on the use, development, and importance of microprocessors.

Motorola 680x0 Resources: Internet resource page for the Motorola 680x0, an early 32-bit microprocessor that is still
in use in some places today.

Intel iAPX -432: Detailed, fairly technical discussion on the invention and capabilities of this benchmark 32-bit chip,
the first object-oriented microprocessor in wide usage.

64-Bit Chips
64-bit chips have been available since 1992, and are now in the mainstream of computer use. Much of the 64-bit
microprocessor era has been dominated by the battle between Intel and AMD. The latter company was founded in
1969 and rose to prominence after inking a deal with IBM and Intel by which AMD would become the second source
manufacturer of Intel-designed processors. From that humble agreement, prompted by IBM's internal policies at the
time, was born legal controversy, corporate intrigue, and ultimately, the development of a vigorous microprocessing
market with two major superpowers and the potential for many more as technology develops.

AMD: Evolution of an Innovator: Timeline-based history focusing on the contributions of AMD to the development of
microprocessors and other important computer technology, and the shared history of the AMD company with Intel.

Free Online Dictionary of Computing: Computer jargon and terminology dictionary supported by Imperial College,
London. Includes information on microprocessing and many other processes and components of modern computers.

Chip Shots Gallery: Florida State University-supported site exploring microscopy of integrated circuits and offering
information on a variety of microchip producers, past and present.

RISC Chips
RISC, standing for Reduced Instruction Set Computer, derives from an IBM research project dating back to the
second half of the 1970s. RISC chips were intended to streamline computer programming by omitting the most
complex instructions and relying more effectively upon the simpler, more common instructions that could be
processed and acted upon more quickly. Such chips are still used today and have developed into a spectrum of full-
fledged computing architectures in competition with CISC methods of development, which makes full use of complex
instructions. RISC architecture is widely used in devices such as cellular phones and certain types of travel PCs.
RISC vs. CISC: Illustrated, accessible article on competing internal architectures in computing.
RISC Architectures: Historical view of the development, commercialization, and future of RISC architecture.

A Brief History of RISC: Another view of the subject, covering developments from the 1950s up to 2001.
Great Microprocessors of the Past and Present: Definitions and other information pertaining to RISC and CISC
architecture, as well as historical information on microprocessor development available at the same site.

Microprocessors Today
Today's microprocessors are immensely powerful, capable of executing complex instructions at a faster rate than
ever before. As computers grow ever more sophisticated, engineering science begins to run up against puzzling
challenges. The continued forward march of microprocessor technology depends as much on pure computing
research as it does on cutting edge developments in other fields of science. The engine of microprocessor
development in the 21st century may well be the creation of new forms of miniaturization or new semi conductive
alloys that permit ever more transistors to be placed on a microchip. Though it is not known if Moore's Law can stand
up against these unprecedented technical challenges, it is indisputable that today's microprocessors are more
powerful than anything that could have been imagined at the dawn of the computing age over half a century ago. As
increasingly globalized societies demand better computing technology, more great advances are sure to be made.

How Modern Microprocessors Are Made: Illustrated, step-by-step guide to modern microprocessor manufacturing.
The Microprocessor Today: Far-ranging, illustrated article on the current state of microprocessor technology that
originally appeared in IEEE Micro, an official journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer

The Future of Microprocessors: Another article original sourced from IEE Micro that discusses trends and potential
future developments in the field of microprocessing and the challenges and costs associated with new
microprocessor technology.

Future of Microprocessors: Huge Performance Gains Now a Reality: Scholarly article focusing on the performance
gains possible within the near future of microprocessor technology.

A microprocessor is a component that performs the instructions and tasks involved in computer processing. In a
computer system, the microprocessor is the central unit that executes and manages the logical instructions passed to

A microprocessor may also be called a processor or central processing unit, but it is actually more advanced in terms
of architectural design and is built over a silicon microchip.

What is a Microprocessor ? A
microprocessor is an integrated circuit (IC) which incorporates core functions of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU). It is
a programmable multipurpose silicon chip, clock driven, register based, accepts binary data as input and provides output after
processing it as per the instructions stored in the memory.

Block Diagram of a Computer

Block Diagram of a Computer

How does a Microprocessor work ?
A processor is the brain of a computer which basically consists of Arithmetical and Logical Unit (ALU), Control Unit and
Register Array. As the name indicates ALU performs all arithmetic and logical operations on the data received from input
devices or memory. Register array consists of a series of registers like accumulator (A), B, C, D etc. which acts as temporary fast
access memory locations for processing data. As the name indicates, control unit controls the flow of instructions and data
throughout the system.
So basically a microprocessor takes input from input devices, process it as per instructions given in the memory and produces

Advantages of a Microprocessor

 Low Cost
Microprocessors are available at low cost due to integrated circuit technology. Which will reduce the cost of a
computer system.
 High Speed
Microprocessor chips can work at very high speed due to the technology involved in it. It is capable of executing
millions of instructions per second.
 Small Size
Due to very large scale and ultra large scale integration technology, a microprocessor is fabricated in a very less
footprint. This will reduce the size of the entire computer system.
 Versatile
Microprocessors are very versatile, the same chip can be used for a number of applications by simply changing the
program (instructions stored in the memory).
 Low Power Consumption
Microprocessors are usually manufactured using metal oxide semiconductor technology, in which MOSFETs (Metal
Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors) are working in saturation and cut off modes. So the power consumption
is very low compared to others.
 Less Heat Generation
Compared to vacuum tube devices, semiconductor devices won’t emit that much heat.
 Reliable
Microprocessors are very reliable, failure rate is very less as semiconductor technology is used.
 Portable
Devices or computer system made with microprocessors can be made portable due to the small size and low power

Common Terms used in a Microprocessor

A bus is a set of conductors intended to transmit data, address or control information to different elements in a microprocessor.
Usually a microprocessor will have 3 types of buses : Data Bus, Control Bus and Address Bus. An 8-bit processor will be using
8-bit wide bus.

Instruction Set
Instruction set is the group of commands that a microprocessor can understand. So instruction set is an interface between
hardware and software (program). An instruction commands the processor to switch relevant transistors for doing some
processing in data. For eg. ADD A, B; is used to add two numbers stored in the register A and B.

Word Length
Word Length is the number of bits in the internal data bus of a processor or it is the number of bits a processor can process at a
time. For eg. An 8-bit processor will have an 8-bit data bus, 8-bit registers and will do 8-bit processing at a time. For doing higher
bits (32-bit, 16-bit) operations, it will split that into a series of 8-bit operations.
Cache Memory
Cache memory is a random access memory that is integrated into the processor. So the processor can access data in the cache
memory more quickly than from a regular RAM. It is also known as CPU Memory. Cache memory is used to store data or
instructions that are frequently referenced by the software or program during the operation. So it will increase the overall speed
of the operation.

Clock Speed
Microprocessors uses a clock signal to control the rate at which instructions are executed, synchronize other internal components
and to control the data transfer between them. So clock speed refers to the speed at which a microprocessor executes instructions.
It is usually measured in Hertz and are expressed in megahertz (MHz), gigahertz (GHz) etc.

Classification of Microprocessors

Based on Word Length Hope you read about word length above. So based on
the word length of a processor we can have 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit and 64-bit processors.

RISC – Reduced Instruction Set Computer

RISC is a type of microprocessor architecture which uses small, general purpose and highly optimized instruction set rather than
more specialized set of instructions found in others. RISC offers high performance over its opposing architecture CISC (see
below). In a processor, execution of each instruction require a special circuit to load and process the data. So by reducing
instructions, the processor will be using simple circuits and faster in operation.

 Simple instruction set

 Larger program
 Consists of large number of registers
 Simple processor circuitry (small number of transistors)
 More RAM usage
 Fixed length instructions
 Simple addressing modes
 Usually fixed number of clock cycles for executing one instruction

CISC – Complex Instruction Set Computer

CISC is the opposing microprocessor architecture for RISC. It is made to reduce the number of instructions per program,
ignoring the number of cycles per instruction. So complex instructions are directly made into hardware making the processor
complex and slower in operation.

This architecture is actually designed to reduce the cost of memory by reducing the program length.

 Variety of addressing modes
 Variable number of clock cycles for each instructions

Special Purpose Processors

There are some processors which are designed to handle some specific functions.

 DSP – Digital Signal Processors

 Coprocessors – processors used along with a main processor (8087 math-coprocessor used with 8086)
 Input/Output processors
 Transputer – Transistor Computer : Microprocessor with its own local memory


 Intel 4004 – The First Microprocessor

 Intel 8085
 Intel 8086
 Intel Pentium 4
 Intel Core i7
 AMD Athlon

Evolution of Microprocessor – Types of Microprocessors


The microprocessor is nothing but the CPU and it is an essential component of the computer. It is a
silicon chip that comprises millions of transistors and other electronic components that process millions of
instructions per second. A Microprocessor is a versatile chip, that is combined with memory and special
purpose chips and preprogrammed by a software. It accepts digital data as i/p and processes it according
to the instructions stored in the memory.The microprocessor has many functions like functions of data
storage, interact with various other devices and other time related functions. But, the main function is to
send and receive the data to make the function of the computer well. This article discusses about the
types and evolution of microprocessor.Please follow this link for Microprocessor History and Generation of

Evolution of Microprocessor

The microprocessor has become more essential part of many gadgets. The evolution of microprocessors
was divided into five generations such as first, second, third, fourth and fifth generation and the
characteristics of these generations are discussed below.
First Generation Microprocessors

The first generation microprocessors were introduced in the year 1971-1972. The instructions of these
microprocessors were processed serially, they fetched the instruction, decoded and then executed it.
When an instruction of the microprocessor was finished, then the microprocessor updates the instruction
pointer & fetched the following instruction, performing this consecutive operation for each instruction in

Second Generation Microprocessors

In the year 1970, small amount of transistors were available on the integrated circuit in the second
generation microprocessors. Examples of the second generation microprocessors are 16-bit arithmetic 7
pipelined instruction processing, MC68000 Motorola microprocessor. These processors are introduced in
the year 1979, and Intel 8080 processor is another example of the microprocessor. The second generation of
the microprocessor is defined by overlapped fetch, decode and execute the steps. When the first
generation is processed in the execution unit, then the second instruction is decoded and the third
instruction is fetched.
The difference between the first generation microprocessor and second generation microprocessors was
mainly the use of new semiconductor technologies to manufacture the chips. The result of this technology
resulted in a fivefold increase in instruction, speed, execution and higher chip densities.

Third Generation Microprocessors

The third generation microprocessors were introduced in the year 1978, as denoted by Intel’s 8086 and
the Zilog Z8000. These were 16-bit processors with a performance like mini computers. These types of
microprocessors were different from the previous generations of microprocessors in that all main
workstation industrialists began evolving their own ISC based microprocessor architectures.

Fourth Generation Microprocessors

As many industries converted from commercial microprocessors to in house designs, the fourth
generation microprocessors are entered with outstanding design with a million transistors. Leading edge
microprocessors like Motorola’s 88100 and Intel’s 80960CA could issue & retire more than one instruction
per clock cycle.

Fifth Generation Microprocessors

Fifth generation microprocessors employed decoupled super scalar processing, and their design soon
exceeded 10 million transistors. In fifth generation, PCs are a low-margin, high volume business
conquered by a single microprocessor.

Types of Microprocessor

Microprocessors are classified into five types, namely: CISC-Complex Instruction Set Microprocessors, RISC-
Reduced Instruction Set Microprocessor, ASIC- Application Specific Integrated Circuit, Superscalar
Processors, DSP’s-Digital Signal Microprocessors.

Complex Instruction Set Microprocessors

The short term of Complex Instruction Set Microprocessors is CISM and they classify a microprocessor in
which orders can be performed together along with other low level activities. These types of processors
performs the different tasks like downloading, uploading, recalling data into the memory card and
recalling data from the memory card. Apart from these tasks, it also does complex mathematical
calculations in a single command.

Reduced Instruction Set Microprocessor

The short term of Reduced Instruction Set Microprocessor is RISC. These types of processors are made
according to the function in which the microprocessor can carry out small things in specific command. In
this way these processors completes more commands at a faster rate.

Superscalar Microprocessors

Superscalar processor facsimiles the hardware on the processor to perform various tasks at a time.
These processors can be used for ALUs or multipliers. They have different operational units and these
processors can carry out more than a one command by continuously transmitting several instructions to
the extra operational units inside the processor.

The Application Specific Integrated Circuit

The short term of Application Specific Integrated Circuit processor is an ASIC. These processors are used
for particular purposes that includes of automotive emissions control or personal digital assistant’s
computer. This type of processor is made with proper specification, but apart from these it can also be
made with off the shelf gears.
Digital Signal Multiprocessors

Digital signal processors are also called as DSP’s, these processors are used to encode and decode the
videos or to convert the D/A (digital to analog) &A/D (analog to digital). They need a microprocessor that is
excellent in mathematical calculations. The chips of this processor are employed in RADAR, home
theaters, SONAR, audio gears, TV set top boxes and Mobile phones
There are many companies like Intel, Motorola, DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation ), TI (Texas
Instruments) associated with many microprocessors such as 8085 microprocessors, ASIC, CISM, RISC,
DSPs and 8086 microprocessors like Intel

Advantages and Disadvantages of Microprocessors

The advantages of microprocessors are

 The processing speed is high

 Intelligence has been brought to systems
 Flexible.
 Compact size.
 Easy maintenance
 Complex mathematics
Some of the disadvantages of microprocessor are it might get overheated and the limitation of the
microprocessor imposes on size of data.
The applications of the microprocessors mainly involve in controllers in home appliances, wireless
communication equipments, office publication and automation, consumer electronic goods, calculators,
accounting system, video games, industrial controllers and data acquisition systems