How Does a Processor Chip Work?

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  • The processor chip is one the most powerful inventions of the twentieth century. It is the "brains" of every electronic device known today. Computers, TVs, radios, satellites, watches and calculators are just a few of the things that processor chips have brought into our everyday lives.
    The processor chip's primary function is as an integrated circuit, translating electrical currents into usable forms. The discovery of the first processor chip in 1974 initiated a whole new direction for the field of electronic technology. Since then, processor capabilities have doubled every 18 months, and continue to do so today.

  • The most amazing feature of processing chips is how small they are. The side of a chip can be up to 1 inch long, but the chip itself can contain thousands of components. The material used to make the chip is silicon, sliced wafer-thin.
    The physical composition of silicon makes it the perfect material on which to build the circuits that make up a processor chip. Using laser light, the circuit design is etched onto the surface of the silicon. Once drawn, the transistor portions, or wiring, are built onto the chip. The spacing between transistors can be as narrow as 60 nanometers, which is just a fraction of the width of a human hair.

  • In the case of personal computers, the processing chip is the central processing unit (CPU), meaning that all commands and processes are initiated by the chip. The two primary components of the CPU are Arithmetic logic Unit (ALU), which carries out arithmetic and logic functions; and Control Unit (CU), which retrieves and processes instructions from the computer's memory
    Using "bus" lines, the processor chip sends and retrieves information to and from various computer components.
    Boolean logic is the processing language used by the chip to communicate bits of information throughout the computer. In its simplest form, Boolean logic uses a two-value logic system of "true" and "false" to translate electrical currents into information that can be used by the system.

  • As technology becomes more advanced, the processor chip continues to decrease in size. The compartmentalizing of processor capabilities means reduced cost and greater efficiency.
    As such, nanotechnology explorations are well on their way. Current research attempts are focusing on applying the processor chip model on the molecular level. Once achieved, the speed and efficiency standards we see today will become painfully slow by comparison.

  • Photo Credit http://www.technology.niagarac.on.ca/, http://www.interweb.in/, http://www.texaslawyers.com/
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