What is the "brain" of a Computer?

Computer Chip Pixabay

The “brain” of a personal computer, in which all data flows with commands and instructions, is the central processing unit of the computer. Known as the CPU, this important component of the computer hardware facilitates instructions between the ‘brain’ part of the computer and the ‘mouth’ (the output). 

A CPU is in many devices. You’ll find a CPU in laptop computers, desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones. Even your smart TV has a CPU within.

What is the CPU?

The central processing unit is a microprocessor that acts as the command center of the electronic device. The CPU essentially handles many of the basic instructions of the computer, but it can also hand off more complex tasks and programs to specific chips for these components to follow through on the data instructions. 

Today’s CPUs have multiple cores (individual processors within a CPU). There are dual-core processors (2 cores); quad-core processors (4 cores), octa-core processors (8 cores), and so on.

How does the CPU look? 

The CPU comes in the form of a tiny silicon chip that holds complex integrated circuitry. There are billions of tiny transistors built onto a single computer chip. The transistors power the CPU to execute the instructions to run your computer programs. Today, transistors are getting smaller, resulting in faster CPU speeds for your computer. 

Its dimensions are usually between 4mm2-10mm2 per core for most consumer-focused processing devices. On its bottom side, a CPU has a series of metallic, rounded connectors. These connectors are replacing older-style pins in a CPU. 

How Does a CPU Work?

A CPU does calculations, very quickly, that involve processing instructions, computing numbers together, and moving things around in memory. The executions of these instructions is what makes your computer start up Windows 10, open a spreadsheet, or view a video on YouTube. 

With millions of computer instructions running, CPUs must execute many of these instructions in milliseconds. One of the fascinating assets of a CPU is that it is able to get instructions from RAM before it needs them. This helps the CPU to execute faster on the instructions, as they are already pre-logged with the CPU. 

Click here for an in-depth rundown of the components inside a CPU and how they interact together during processing. 

CPU History

Central processing units in computers came out in Intel computers in the early 1970s. In 1971, Intel introduced the Intel 4004, which contained the first microprocessor. The 4004 performed about 60,000 operations per second, using over 2,000 transistors and 640 bytes of memory. In 2017, Intel launched three new microprocessors, each with 14, 16 and 18 cores.