Evolution of the Central Processing Unit Cpu Essay

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evolution of the central processing unit (CPU). In order to accomplish this task, literature was gathered and researched to arrive at a consensus of the actual historic evolutionary process of this particular piece of technology. After the research was processed, a summary of the findings were presented to communicate this collection of facts and opinions. The essay concludes by suggesting trends for this technology in the future and what we can expect our computer power to contribute during this upcoming time.

The central processing unit (CPU) is at the heart of every computer running in today's world. That fact alone suggests the massive importance this technology has afforded mankind. To best understand how this development has affected mankind it is necessary to review the CPU's history and its evolution into the mainstream.


The history of computer was first based upon the idea that bigger was better. The very first computers took up large rooms and varying technologies were used to run the computing processes of the computer. As a result, of this confusion and impracticality, the central processing unit was born. The first modern CPU was built under a very recognizable and familiar name: Intel. The Intel 4004 microprocessor, which was built at the request of calculator manufacturer Busicom, was truly an incredible invention. This technological advancement was the first general-purpose CPU created which could be programmed to perform various calculations based on data programmed into its on-board memory. Previously, microprocessors could only perform certain pre-defined tasks (Smith, 2010).

While the Intel 4004 is widely considered the first, various projects were also underway at the same time. Texas Instruments and General Instrument, two other calculator manufacturers, also created programmable microprocessors and debuted products based on them in the early 1970s. These products were further refined during the mid 1970s, resulting in the debut of more powerful early CPUs like the Intel 8008.

Unfortunately, the 4004 was limited in its capabilities and something more powerful was sought after by programmers and designers. In 1972, Intel delivered the 8008, a scaled up 4004. The 8008 was the first of many 8- bit microprocessors to fuel the home computer revolution. It was limited to only 16 Kilobytes of address space, but in those days no one could afford that much RAM. Two years later, Intel introduced the 8080 microprocessor with 64 Kilobytes of memory space and increased the rate of execution by a factor of ten over the 8008. About this time, Motorola brought out the 6800 with similar performance. The 8080 became the core of serious microcomputers that led to the Intel 8088 used in the IBM PC, while the 6800 family headed in the direction of the Apple II personal computer (Lilly 2009).

The 16-bit processors came next in the evolutionary climb towards our present day. The Intel 8086 was the first of these models. The major advantage of the 8086 was up to 1 Megabyte of memory addressing. Now, large spreadsheets or large documents could be read in from the disk and held in RAM memory for fast access and manipulation. Today, it's not uncommon to have a thousand times more than that in a single 1 Gigabyte RAM Module, but back in that time it put the IBM PC in the same league with minicomputers the size of bathrooms.

These CPUs were first developed around the middle of 1978 and introduced something called x86 architecture into the computing world. Smith commented on the importance of this development, " Through the late 1980s and the early 1990s Intel gradually became the processor of choice. The adoption of the x86 instruction set architecture started a snowball effect which eventually lead to all modern CPUs in personal computers being x86 based, as well as many processor in other devices. Having a set standard for programming CPUs made it easier for programmers to make software and for consumers to make informed choices."

The next big step for CPU's came a year later in 1979 when Intel released their Intel 8088 unit. Three years later, Intel released their 80286 or 286 model. According to Lilly (2009) this was a big deal: " The first 286 pedaled along at 6 MHz and, like the original 8086, would later double in speed. However, clock for clock, the 286 boasted twice (or more) the performance…[continue]

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