What Is Microprocessor And How It Has Changed The Computer Science?

A microprocessor is a controlling unit that is fabricated on a small chip that is capable of performing arithmetic logical unit operations and can communicate with other devices connected to it. In other words, it is the brain of the computer system that manages and executes logical instructions that are passed to it.

What Is Microprocessor And How It Has Changed The Computer Science

It is a multipurpose silicon chip that is clock-driven, register based and accepts binary data as input and an output is provided upon processing the data according to the instructions stored in the memory.

What is a Microprocessor and How Has it Changed Computer Science?

A microprocessor is an important unit within a computer system. It is responsible for processing a unique set of instructions and processes such as logical and computational tasks along with typical operations such as addition, subtraction, interprocess, communication between devices, management of inputs and outputs, and so on.

The architectural design of a microprocessor is quite unique and exceptional. A microprocessor comprises integrated circuits (IC) that hold several thousands of transistors but the number of transistors depends on the relative computing power.

Ideally, microprocessors are classified based on the number of instructions they can process in a given time. This takes into account the clock speed in megahertz and the number of units used per instruction.

Let us take a look at the generation of microprocessors

Generation Year Examples Description
First-generation 1971 to 1972 INTEL 4004
  • First-generation microprocessors were 4-bit processors that could execute simple arithmetic and logical operations.
  • The INTEL 4004, was a 4-bit processor that could perform simple arithmetic & logical page 2 operations such as addition, subtraction, Boolean OR/ Boolean AND
Second-generation 1973 to 1978
  • INTEL 8085
  • Motorola 6800
  • Second-generation microprocessors were 8-bit processors that performed arithmetic and logical operations on 8-bit words.
  • INTEL 8085, is an eight-bit microprocessor that was designed using NMOS technology. The use of this chip was wider and used in other devices such as ovens, washing machines, and mobile phones.
  • Motorola 6800 was a popular 8-bit processor used in peripheral devices, arcade game devices, and point-of-sale terminals. It had a range of clock rate from 1MHz to 2 MHz.
Third-generation 1979 to 1980
  • Motorola 68000
  • INTEL 8086
  • Third-generation microprocessors made it possible to illustrate signed numbers in the range of −32,768 to +32,767. This was a decent range for performing arithmetic calculations. Moreover, the third-generation processor became very popular for its control applications and for its number crunching operations. The speed of these processors were 4- times better than the 2nd-generation processors.
Fourth-generation 1981 to 1995
  • INTEL 80386
  • Motorola 68020
  • Fourth-generation microprocessors were 32-bit processors that used HMOS technology which made them more reliable and faster.
  • The INTEL 80386 processor stems from the 32-bit family that supports operands from 8-bit, 16-bit & 32-bit. Moreover, the processor could address up to 4 GB of physical memory.
  • Motorola 68020 is another great 32-bit processor that significantly reduced the execution time of many instructions. This processor also improved the performance of the CPU and came with new addressing modes such as scaled index, memory indirect addressing modes, and larger displacements.
Fifth-generation 1995 - present
  • Octa-core processors
  • Dual
  • Quad
  • Fifth-generation microprocessors are 64-bit processors with a clock speed of 1.2 to 3 GHz. The latest microprocessors are generally low in cost, generate less heat, are portable, consume less power, and are versatile and more reliable.
  • Let us take a look at PENTIUM processors as an example.
  • Pentium has a 64-bit data bus which is faster and has a higher speed of data transfer.
  • Quad microprocessors on the other hand are much faster and more reliable than dual processors and are ideal for high-intensity tasks.

Some of the advantages of microprocessors

  • The latest microprocessors have a high processing speed
  • They are compact in size
  • Microprocessors are easy to maintain
  • These can perform complex math
  • They can also be improved according to your  requirement(s)

Some of the disadvantages of microprocessors

  • Overheating may occur due to overuse
  • The performance of the processor depends on the size of the data
  • Most microprocessors do not support floating-point operations

How Have Microprocessors Transformed Computing?

Back in the mid-1900s, Central Processing Units (CPUs) used to be gigantic and inefficient. Large CPUs only generated a lot of heat and were slow and took up a lot of space which wasn’t ideal.

It was not until the 1960s that designers were trying to integrate the functions of a CPU onto microprocessor units. Thanks to the triumphant development of the microprocessor, home computers were born.

Microprocessors for general purposes allow our computers to be used for editing text, multimedia display, computation, communication or even playing games. Due to the small size and speed of these processors, they have become an integral part of the development of technology for everyday use.

Microprocessors can be classified into divergent categories based on the following:

  1. Word Length

Microprocessors can be differentiated based on the number of bits the processor’s internal data bus/ or the number of bits it can process at a given time. This processing time is known as word length. The classification of a microprocessor can be 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, or 64-bit.

  1. Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC)

RISC microprocessors are more for general use and the execution of instructions requires a special circuit that can load and process data. RISC microprocessors have simpler circuits because they have fewer instructions and thus operate faster. Moreover, such microprocessors have more registers, use a fixed number of clock cycles to execute an instruction, and use more RAM.

  1. Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC)

CISC microprocessors' purpose is to reduce the number of instructions per program. The number of cycles for each instruction is ignored because complex instructions are made directly into the hardware. This is the reason for CISC processors’ being slower and more complex. These also use less RAM and have more transistors, fewer registers, and several addressing modes.

  1. Special Purpose Processors

Special Purpose Processors are built for specific functions. An example of this is the digital signal processor which contains special instructions to handle signal processing.


Microprocessors have changed the history of computer science. These processors are the brain of a computer and other devices without which we would not be able to perform anything on it. Nowadays, you can find a microprocessor in watches, microwaves, washing machines, phones, and even in home lighting systems.

Thanks to these processors, life has become easier for us. We get the desired output in seconds without much effort and it has helped make scientific and technological development a lot easier.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What devices use microprocessors?

Ans. Almost every household device you own uses a microprocessor. Some of the devices are ovens, microwaves, toasters, stereos, washing machines, computers, lighting systems, and video games.

Q2. How many generations of microprocessors are there?

Ans. There are a total of five generations of microprocessors.

Q3. What is the most advanced microprocessor?

Ans. The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X is considered the best microprocessor in the market due to its phenomenal performance, energy efficiency, and due to its support for the latest PCle 5.0 and DDR5 technology.

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