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A microprocessor - also known as a CPU or Central Processing Unit - is a complete computation engine that is fabricated on a single chip. The first microprocessor was the Intel 4004, introduced in 1971. The 4004 was not very powerful - all it could do was add and subtract, and it could only do that four bits at a time. But it was amazing that everything was on one chip. Prior to the 4004, engineers built computers either from collections of chips or from discrete components (transistors wired one at a time). The 4004 powered one of the first portable electronic calculators.
The first microprocessor to make it into a home computer was the Intel 8080, a complete 8-bit computer on one chip introduced in 1974. The first microprocessor to make a real splash in the market was the Intel 8088, introduced in 1979 and incorporated into the IBM PC (which first appeared in 1982 or so). If you are familiar with the PC market and its history, you know that the PC market moved from the 8088 to the 80286 to the 80386 to the 80486 to the Pentium to the Pentium-II to the new Pentium-III. All of these microprocessors are made by Intel and all of them are improvements on the basic design of the 8088. The new Pentiums-IIIs can execute any piece of code that ran on the original 8088, but the Pentium-III runs about 3,000 times faster!
The following table helps you to understand the differences between the different processors that Intel has introduced over the years.
Name Date Transistors Microns Clock speed Data width MIPS
8080 1974 6,000 6 2 MHz 8 0.64 MIPS First home computers
8088 1979 29,000 3 5 MHz 16 bits, 8 bit bus 0.33 MIPS First IBM PC
80286 1982 134,000 1.5 6 MHz 16 bits 1 MIPS IBM ATs. Up to 2.66 MIPS at 12 MHz
80386 1985 275,000 1.5 16 MHz 32 bits 5 MIPS Eventually 33 MHz, 11.4 MIPS
80486 1989 1,200,000 1 25 MHz 32 bits 20 MIPS Eventually 50 MHz, 41 MIPS
Pentium 1993 3,100,000 0.8 60 MHz 32 bits, 64 bit bus 10...
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