A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit (CPU) on a single integrated circuit (IC),or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results as output. It is an example of sequential digital logic, as it has internal memory. Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary numeral system. The advent of low-cost computers on integrated circuits has transformed modern society. General-purpose microprocessors in personal computers are used for computation, text editing, multimedia display, and communication over the Internet. Many more microprocessors are part of embedded systems, providing digital control of a myriad of objects from appliances to automobiles to cellular phones and industrial process control.
During the 1960s, computer processors were constructed out of small and medium-scale ICs each containing from tens to a few hundred transistors. For each computer built, all of these had to be placed and soldered onto printed circuit boards, and often multiple boards would have to be interconnected in a chassis. The large number of discrete logic gatesused more electrical power—and therefore, produced more heat—than a more integrated design with fewer ICs. The distance that signals had to travel between ICs on the boards limited the speed at which a computer could operate. Microprocessors integrated into one or a few large-scale ICs the architectures that had previously been implemented using many medium- and small-scale integrated circuits. Continued increases in microprocessor capacity have rendered other forms of computers almost completely obsolete (see history of computing hardware), with one or more microprocessors used in everything from the smallest embedded systems and handheld devices to the largest mainframes and supercomputers. The first microprocessors emerged in the early 1970s and were used for electronic calculators, using binary-coded decimal (BCD) arithmetic on 4-bit words. Other embedded uses of 4-bit and 8-bit microprocessors, such as terminals, printers, various kinds of automation etc., followed soon after. Affordable 8-bit microprocessors with 16-bit addressing also led to the first general-purpose microcomputers from the mid-1970s on.
These include large and small household appliances, cars (and their accessory equipment units), car keys, tools and test instruments, toys, light switches/dimmers and electrical circuit breakers, smoke alarms, battery packs, and hi-fi audio/visual components (from DVDplayers to phonograph turntables.) Such products as cellular telephones, DVD video system and HDTV broadcast systems fundamentally require consumer devices with powerful, low-cost, microprocessors. Increasingly stringent pollution control standards effectively require automobile manufacturers to use microprocessor engine management systems, to allow optimal control of emissions over widely varying operating conditions of an automobile. Non-programmable controls would require complex, bulky, or costly implementation to achieve the results possible with a microprocessor.
The Intel 4004 was followed in 1972 by the Intel 8008, the world's first 8-bit microprocessor. The 8008 was not, however, an extension of the 4004 design, but instead the culmination of a separate design project at Intel, arising from a contract with Computer Terminals Corporation, of San Antonio TX, for a chip for a terminal they were designing, the Datapoint 2200 — fundamental aspects of the design came not from Intel but from CTC. In 1968, CTC's Austin O. “Gus” Roche developed the original design for the instruction set and operation of the processor. In 1969, CTC contracted two...