Processor, CPU (central processing unit) – a sequential digital device that retrieves data from the main memory, interprets it and executes it as orders. Processors perform sequences of simple mathematical and logical operations from a set of basic operations.
Processors are usually made as integrated circuits enclosed in an airtight housing, often with gold-plated leads (used for oxidation resistance) and in this form they are called microprocessors – in colloquial terms the processor and microprocessor are used interchangeably. The heart of the processor is a single-crystal silicon, on which a series of semiconductor layers have been applied by photolithography, forming, depending on the application, a network of several thousand to several billion transistors. Its circuits are made of metals with good electrical conductivity, such as aluminum and copper.
One of the basic features of the processor is the specific length (number of bits) of the word on which it performs basic computational operations. For example, if a word consists of 64 bits, then such a processor is referred to as 64-bit. Another important parameter that determines a processor is the speed at which it executes commands. For a given processor architecture, this speed largely depends on the duration of a single measure, and therefore mainly on its clock frequency.
The processor is also sometimes called the central unit, central processing unit or central processing unit (by translating the English expression central processing unit in an almost literal way). Some users associate the “central unit” with the commercial term for the computer system unit – consisting of a processor, motherboard, expansion cards, memory, hard drives and other elements enclosed in a common housing – not including peripheral devices (monitor, keyboard, printer).
Today, most processors have a multi-core structure. The first multi-core processor for general purpose was the IBM Power 4 processor introduced in 2001. The first multi-core processors of the x86 architecture were versions of Intel’s Opteron processors and Intel’s Pentium Extreme Edition introduced in April 2005.
Intel Pentium D was a popular Intel model that continued this trend. Intel Core 2 Duo built on the basis of Conroe architecture (65 nm) became very popular.
CPUs have cores clocked at up to 4.4 GHz (e.g. AMD A10-6800K and i7-4790k), but there is no longer a significant increase in clock speed in subsequent generations of processors. The calculation speed, however, increases by increasing the number of transistors and cores in processors.
Intel’s largest competitor, or AMD, has launched a popular dual-core processor model Athlon 64 X2. Both companies now also offer quad-core models (some Intel Core i5 and Intel Core i7 and AMD Athlon II X4 and Phenom II X4 AMD) and six-core models (Phenom II X6 and Core i7 9×0 series) designed for desktop class computers. AMD was the first to introduce octa-core processors. Recently, Intel also has such a design on offer. It is an i7 5960X processor with a base frequency of 3 GHz. This unit was made in 22 nm technology, was based on Haswell architecture (known from models with 4xxx series designations) and was released in the third quarter of 2014. Processors for server applications have even 16 (AMD Opteron) – 24 cores (Intel Xeon Processor E7 v4 in 2016) .
Processor designers are also trying other methods to increase processor performance, such as hyper-threading, where each core can behave like two logical processors, sharing cache resources and execution units. When one of the competing processes leaves unused resources, the process assigned to the second logical processor can use them, which in favorable circumstances can lead to an overall increase in performance from a few to several percent.
In 2007, Intel presented tests on the Intel Polaris integrated circuit equipped with 80 general purpose cores that achieved 1.01 TFLOPS performance.
In addition to the main processor (CPU), the computer (especially a personal computer) usually has auxiliary processors: image (GPU, latest designs allow the integration of the CPU with the GPU in the APU), sound, arithmetic coprocessors (since the 90s they are usually integrated with the CPU) .
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