The CPU controls the flow of information within a computer system, much like a heart beats inside the human body. A computer, phone, tablet, or other gadget depends on that flow for its operation.
Let’s dive into the heart of the computer, the CPU.
What is a CPU?
A central processing unit is the main part of any digital computer system. A CPU has three main parts. It has main memory or registers, a control unit, and an arithmetic unit. These component parts are made up of processing units called cores, which when combined form an integrated circuit chip called a microprocessor.
The core as manufactured is made of silicon, plastic and copper and is called a wafer. This is done in a sterile environment called a “clean” room in the manufacturing facility. Workers must cover their entire bodies and wear special clothing similar to space suits or chemical protection suits.
In their most basic form, these cores are a series of small simple switches that turn on or off. This is specified as 1 = on, 0 = off. These are arranged in a series of 8 switches per byte, each switch being considered a bit.
For example, the sequence 01000001 represents the letter A. This is commonly called machine language. Because it’s the only way a computer can compute using electromechanical 1’s and 0’s.
A CPU uses a specific type of memory called a cache (pronounced cache). This is extra memory that can be retrieved quickly to perform tasks such as graphics transfers or data that needs to be accessed for a specific purpose, such as processor routines that the computer does not use. This may involve advanced mathematics and calculations. The cache is usually very small, typically between 64k and 256k.
There are also bus connections such as wires and fiber optics used to connect various computer components and transfer data between them. In a CPU, the bus is usually located on the motherboard (the board on which all internal components are located), holding the pins on the bottom of the CPU to the motherboard and connecting the CPU to the rest of the computer components.