CPU Article

The FAQ’s of CPU’s

What is a CPU? New users ask that question a lot. They often refer to the system box, which houses the motherboard on which the CPU sits, as the CPU. But this is not correct. CPU stands for central processing unit, the very core of the computer, and the artificial brain that allows the rest of the computer to operate. The CPU is the most important part of the computer, and without it a computer would not function. It is a tiny microchip that receives data and instructions from the user through the software he or she is using and processes that data. In essence, the CPU tells the rest of the computer what to do and how to do it. Some people refer to the CPU as the chip because it actually is a silicon microchip containing the equivalent of thousands and thousands of transistors. Microchips like the CPU allow modern computers to be small and more powerful than their mainframe ancestors that were gigantic and temperamental. Original computers often took up all the room in large warehouses and had to be air-conditioned to keep the tubes at the proper temperature, with filtered air to keep out dust.

The invention of the microchip in the 1970’s led to the creation of the CPU and changed the world. Home computers can now be built much smaller and even more powerful. An entire new industry was created by the CPU and all other industries in the world were affected as well. Those under age 30 probably don’t remember a world without home computers and CPU’s, but older adults, especially those over 40 look back in amazement at the changes made to their world.

The CPU is not only unique to home computers but several other devices used on a daily basis may contain a CPU. A digital camera or even a modern film camera will have a central processing unit to control the camera’s actions and make the photographer’s life easier and sometimes make him appear to be more talented than he is. Cell phones also contain CPU’s, as do the cell sites they constantly communicate with. Trying to keep track of all of those individual towers and thousands upon thousands of voice and data signals being transmitted is a job no human could handle. CPU’s can and do keep track of thousands of signals.

CPU’s are also found in automobiles. Today’s cars are much safer and more fuel efficient than those made 30 years ago. Look at the dashboard of a modern car and you’ll see tiny lights that tell you when fuel is low, or when you need to have your engine checked. The CPU tells the rest of the car how to operate, and keeps track of such items. Many cars today also have global positioning systems or GPS systems built in for safety and convenience. GPS systems are dependent on CPU’s to process complex data sent to them by satellite transceivers. Think that’s all that a CPU will do for you in your car? Think again. Satellite radio is very common these days as are satellite telephones. Both use CPU’s in their manufacture and operations.

The invention of the CPU also affected industry with the growing field of robotics. Industrial robots contain CPU’s and are used to perform tasks in factories and on assembly lines. The use of CPU’s saves these companies millions of man hours per year and allows them to make more profit for stockholders. They also save human lives by letting robots take on the more dangerous and repetitious jobs.

With life saving in mind, think of the average modern hospital. How many devices in the hospital are computerized these days? And remember that if they are computerized they include a CPU. This includes devices to monitor patients in their hospital beds, laser surgery instruments, magnetic resonance imaging systems, life support systems and many more. And of course remember that hospitals use ambulances to bring emergency patents in their doors – vehicles using CPU’s. They even use personal computers built around CPU’s for patient admitting, record keeping and billing. CPU’s are utilized in every conceivable fashion in our world. So much that it is hard to imagine a world without the CPU.

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