History of the Microprocessor


The first Integrated Circuit was created in 1959 by Fairchild Semiconductor, marking the beginning of microprocessor history that resulted in giving us the advanced computer capabilities we have today. A microprocessor, essentially, is a computer processor that is built on a microchip; its job is to process and execute any instructions it is given. But how does this apply to you? The computer you are using to read this, is employing a microprocessor to transfer data to you.

Microprocessors are extremely advantageous for any computer user. Just a few of these advantages include:

• Low cost– since the cost of making microprocessors is low, the overall cost of the computer system is reduced as well;
• High speed processing– they can carry out millions of instructions per second;
• Small size– allows for a reduction in the size of the computer system as a whole;
• Generates less heat– compared to their counterparts, microprocessors emit far less heat, reducing the chances of your computer overheating.

Microprocessors are made up of a central processing unit (CPU), memory modules, input/output units, and a system bus to keep data moving quickly and effectively. It uses all these components to execute three basic functions:

1. Perform mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division);
2. Transfer data from one memory location to another;
3. Use instructions to make its own decisions.

Since the creation of the microprocessor, there have been five different generations- each faster and more capable than the last.

• 1st generation (1971-1973) – Intel created microprocessor 4004, which only ran at 4-bits, was only able to add and subtract numbers;
• 2nd generation (1973-1978) – progressed to 8-bit processors, carried out through Motorola’s 6800/6801, Intel’s 8085 and Zilog’s Z80; • 3rd generation (1979-1980) – 16-bit processors included Intel’s 8086 and Zilog’s Z8000;
• 4th generation (1981-1995) – Intel’s 80960CA and Motorola’s 88100 were introduced as 32-bit processors;
• 5th generation (1995-present) – low margin, high performance and high speed 64-bit processors; include Pentium, Dual, Quad and Celeron processors.

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