Hardware newbie: what is it and how the CPU or processor work?

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The central processing unit or CPU is the most important components that can be found in almost every piece of modern high technology. However, most of us are rather poor in what it does and how they do, how they have become complex technological miracles are, and what are the main modern types notions.


For computer engineers and racing purposes there is surely no need to know much more about the Hardware of computers and other modern gadgets work. However, for the average fan even sure there are some other things to know and would like to clarify finish.

For these cases in Gadget we have prepared a series of articles that will try to detail the most important aspects of the various components that give life to all those gadgets that help us to enjoy a higher quality of life.

What is a CPU

Although you can not say no one more important part of a computer, since more than one is absolutely vital for its operation, the CPU or processor can be considered a cornerstone of these machines . And it is precisely this component is responsible for computing , order or process , concepts that define modern computers or computers.


Currently these are complex pieces of technology developed with microscopic architectures, most of them comes in the form of a single chip, quite small, hence they were given the name of microprocessors several decades ago.

Today processors are practically all objects we use in our daily life, such as TVs, smartphones, microwave ovens, refrigerators, cars, stereos, and of course, personal computers. However, there were always small miracles of technology they are now.

A little history

There was a time when processors were made ​​by huge contraptions that could easily fill a room. These first steps in computer engineering were mainly composed of vacuum tubes, although at the time were substantially more powerful alternative to electromechanical relays formed by today’s 4 MHz to achieve maximum we used seem laughable.


With the advent of transistors in the 50 and 60 CPUs started to become, in addition to smaller and powerful, also much more reliable, since the machines formed by vacuum tubes tended to have an average failure every 8 hours.

However, when we speak of becoming smaller we do not mean to fit in the palm of the hand. Just went from room size to be sized fridge . And those still large processors were composed of dozens of printed circuit boards that were connected together to give life to a single CPU.


After that came the invention of the integrated circuit, which basically all united in a single plate or wafer printed circuits, which marked the first step towards the attainment of the modern microprocessor. The first integrated circuits were very basic, since they could just group a bunch of transistors, but over the years, and the exponential growth of the number of transistors that could be added in an integrated circuit, the mid-sixties we had the first processing complexes consisting of a single wafer.

The first microprocessor as such would be introduced to the market by 1971, it was the Intel 4004 , and since then the rest is history. With the rapid development of these small chips, and flexibility, they have captured the entire computing market, being that except for very specific applications that require highly specialized hardware, are the core of almost all types of modern computer.

How to run a CPU

Simplifying to end, and in teaching terms, the operation of a processor is given four phases. These phases are not necessarily always separate, but overlapping general rule, always occur simultaneously but not necessarily for a specific function.


  • During the first phase the processor is responsible for loading the code from memory. In other words the data must be processed subsequently read. In this first phase is a common problem in the architecture of the processors, and is there a maximum data that can be read by time period, and are often lower than those that can be processed, so there is a kind Peak effect currently bottle is overcome by applying the multichannel and caches.
  • In the second phase the first stage of processing occurs as such. The information read from the first phase is analyzed by following a set of instructions (next section of this article). Thus, within the read data will be descriptive fractions to the set of instructions that tell what to do with the rest of the information. To give a practical example, no code indicating that the data should be added to a package with another package, each package information describing a number, with the common arithmetic operation is obtained.
  • Then comes the phase continues with the processing franc , and is responsible for executing instructions decoded taken in the second phase. In the above example, this would be where the sum is performed and the result.
  • Finally, the process ends with a writing phase , where new information is loaded, only this time from the processor to the memory. In some cases the information can be loaded to processor memory for reuse later, but once finished processing work in particular, the data always end up being written into the main memory, which can then be written to the storage unit or not, depending on the application.

Top modern architectures

As already mentioned, the processor function is to interpret information. Data is loaded from the different memory systems by way of binary code, and that code which must be processor to be converted into useful data applications . The mentioned interpretation is performed by a set of instructions , which is what defines the processor architecture.


Currently used mainly two architectures RISC and CISC . Gives life to the RISC processors designed by the British firm ARM , with the rise of mobile devices has seen significant growth. Also PowerPC , architecture that gave birth to Apple computers , servers and consoles Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 , is based on RISC. CISC architecture is used in x86 processors from Intel and AMD X86-64.

As to which architecture is better, since it has always been said to be much cleaner and be much better optimized RISC would be the future of computing. However, Intel and AMD have never given budge and have managed to create a very solid around its processors, although being highly contaminated obsolete elements backward, always ecosystem have been at the height of its rivals .

In general, due to its flexibility and relative ease of production for a few years but the CPU will remain thecenterpieces of modern computing . But always keep in mind that over the year they have evolved technologies in parallel to help decentralize the load and today more than ever graphics, more powerful but less flexible processors have started gaining almost as important as the unit central processing .

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