By Joe Grimes

Microprocessor information

A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit (CPU) on a single integrated circuit (IC), or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results as output. It is an example ofsequential digital logic, as it has internal memory. Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary numeral system.


During the 1960s, computer processors were constructed out of small and medium-scale ICs each containing from tens to a few hundred transistors. For each computer built, all of these had to be placed and soldered onto printed circuit boards, and often multiple boards would have to be interconnected in a chassis. The large number of discrete logic gates used more electrical power—and therefore, produced more heat—than a more integrated design with fewer ICs. The distance that signals had to travel between ICs on the boards limited the speed at which a computer could operate.

Gilbert Hyatt

Gilbert Hyatt was awarded a patent claiming an invention pre-dating both TI and Intel, describing a "microcontroller".[18] The patent was later invalidated, but not before substantial royalties were paid out.

8-bit designs

The Intel 4004 was followed in 1972 by the Intel 8008, the world's first 8-bit microprocessor. The 8008 was not, however, an extension of the 4004 design, but instead the culmination of a separate design project at Intel, arising from a contract with Computer Terminals Corporation, of San Antonio TX, for a chip for a terminal they were designing,[26] the Datapoint 2200 — fundamental aspects of the design came not from Intel but from CTC.

12-bit designs

The Intersil 6100 family consisted of a 12-bit microprocessor (the 6100) and a range of peripheral support and memory ICs. The microprocessor recognised the DEC PDP-8 minicomputer instruction set. As such it was sometimes referred to as the CMOS-PDP8. Since it was also produced by Harris Corporation, it was also known as the Harris HM-6100.

16-bit designs

The first multi-chip 16-bit microprocessor was the National Semiconductor IMP-16, introduced in early 1973. An 8-bit version of the chipset was introduced in 1974 as the IMP-8.

Other early multi-chip 16-bit microprocessors include one used by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the LSI-11 OEM board set and the packaged PDP 11/03 minicomputer, and the Fairchild Semiconductor MicroFlame 9440, both of which were introduced in the 1975 to 1976 timeframe.

In 1975, National introduced the first 16-bit single-chip microprocessor, the National Semiconductor PACE, which was later followed by an NMOS version, the INS8900.

32-bit designs

16-bit designs had only been on the market briefly when 32-bit implementations started to appear.

The most significant of the 32-bit designs is the Motorola MC68000, introduced in 1979. The 68K, as it was widely known, had 32-bit registers in its programming model but used 16-bit internal data paths

64-bit designs in personal computers

While 64-bit microprocessor designs have been in use in several markets since the early 1990s, the early 2000s saw the introduction of 64-bit microprocessors targeted at the PC market.

With AMD's introduction of a 64-bit architecture backwards-compatible with x86, x86-64 (also called AMD64), in September 2003, followed by Intel's near fully compatible 64-bit extensions (first called IA-32e or EM64T, later renamed Intel 64), the 64-bit desktop era began.