Central Processing Unit
CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. This is the main "brain" of a PC and even though it's one of the physically smallest components, it's the one most people use to refer to their PC.
At the core, CPU's are a bunch of switches, millions in fact all fitting onto a board about the size of your palm. Amazing huh?. A CPU's performance is measured in Hertz(Hz), or cycles per second. What this means is if a CPU runs at 2000 Megahertz (MHz) it performs 2,000,000,000 cycles every second! This means that the switches inside the CPU turn on or off 2 billion times a second, and this is how the CPU processes data, remembering that all computer calculations (at the lowest level) comprise of 1's and 0's.A 1 means a switch is on, a 0 means a switch is off. The switches turn on and off, on and off in a particular pattern and this is what makes the computer work, the faster the clock speed, the more times the switches can be turned on and off every second, and hence the computer runs faster.
A number of different companies both develop and market CPUs.
Defunct CPU Manufacturers
- Cyrix (Was bought out by VIA)
- Texas Instruments
Note: Texas Instruments are the world's largest manufacturer of silicon chips, their focus is on the embedded chip market (mobile phones, appliances, etc).
Newbie Guide: Multi-core Processors
Its fairly technical at the start but it still is understandable, after what is multi-core? benefits chapter choose "for consumer" and after that it goes on to show about Direct Connect Architecture.
An example of Intel's dual core offerings can be found on the link below.
CPU Power Usage
For information about the power consumption of a specific type of CPU check out CPU Power Usage article. Also useful when considering the amount of heat dissipation and cooling required in a new system.