Microprocessor and Memory Basics

What is a microprocessor and where are they used?

Close up of an ARM microprocessor

Close up of an ARM microprocessor

In essence, a microprocessor is the heart of a computer on a microchip. It is the primary means of processing information within a computer and many other modern devices. Microprocessors are therefore the "engines" of all computers and computer-controlled devices. Microprocessors are controlled by programs, which are simply lists of simple instructions. Microprocessors make computers appear to be clever because microprocessors can execute millions of these instructions every second.

Microprocessors are everywhere in the modern world. There are microprocessors in your mobile phone, your digital camera, your MP3 player, your USB drive, and your CD player. There are microprocessors in washing machines, microwaves, televisions, set-top boxes, cars, assembly-line robots, and electronic machine tools - and in millions of personal computers around the world.

Today's microprocessors are small, flexible and cheap - everyday miracles of miniaturised complexity.