Computer Processor - Before, Now And Eventually

By: Kevin Dark

The fact is that a computer comprises several processors however the one regularly used by advertisers when they want to draw attention to the power of a computer commonly relates to the Central Processing Unit (CPU).

Few individuals will not have heard of Intel or AMD processors while their significance to the advertising community and thereby the general public at large is comparable to the way motor manufacturers sell their cars. If in the market for a sports car an individual usually wants as much performance as is available hence manufacturers will sell their most powerful cars simply by stating the number of cylinders a particular model possesses. By using just two letters such as V8 - a message is sent to the public consumer who will automatically recognize that this indicates a potentially powerful engine. The equivalent term to excite the adrenalin rush in the computer buyer today is probably a "Dual Core Processor".

However before describing the merits of dual core processing or any other electronic component or semiconductors it seems reasonable to first explain why the CPU attracts so much attention, possibly more than any other electronic component lurking within a computer.

The specification of a CPU is defined by its speed for example 900 MHz provides an approximation of the number of instructions that a CPU is able to process by the second - 900 million in this example. In addition the data handling capability of a CPU defines its power: a 64-bit CPU is able to combine, stage-manage or subtract numbers that are 64-bits wide. In the early nineties computers with 16-bit CPUs were considered powerful while today 64-bits are the norm, a reflection of how far the IT public sector experience has developed in a little over fifteen years.

A CPU today would seem like something from an alien world to the computer geeks of fifteen years ago, Not only have they become much more powerful but in addition their use of new materials as semiconductors increases efficiency beyond anything thought manageable fifteen years ago. The intention of these new semiconductors is directly aimed at the speed with which a CPU operates. Making the CPU faster is an ongoing challenge that drives this industry because ultimately all computers are limited by the capability of their CPU and, because IT has become an established ingredient in the daily routine people now have to handle we are much more proficient at using them.

The knock on effect from the IT development of the past fifteen years relates to people and their improved functionality when interacting with computers. The demands made on electronic components will continue to increase as people learn how to add, manipulate and subtract using their IT on a daily basis and it seems that no matter how fast electronic components become they will never quite be capable of matching the speed of the brain whose fingers deftly work a keyboard.

In addition a fast CPU back in the early nineties ran at around 386 MHz, an electronic component that would today freeze being within close proximity of a modern PC game.

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