Computer Fundamental
Computer Tutorial



The processor or the CPU is the main component of the computer. Select a processor based on factors like its speed, performance, reliability and motherboard support. Pentium Pro, Pentium 2 and Pentium 4 are some of the processors.

Developments of Processors

A computer processor is one of the most advanced technologies available in the market today. It is also one of the most defining inventions by mankind, along with television and automobiles. Computer processors grow by leaps and bounds every year, with processors getting faster year in and year out. Processor speeds are increasing all the time and their sophistication is growing with every innovation.

The Intel 4004 was a 4-bit processor which had a speed of 740 kHz. In 1976, Intel introduced the 16-bit 8086 processor which had a speed of 5 MHz. A later version of the 8086 was used to build the first personal computer by IBM. This was followed by the Intel 486, which was a 32-bit processor which had a speed of 16 MHz. During this time, several improvements in technology were made. For instance, processors could run in both real mode and protected mode, which introduced the concept of multitasking. Power-saving features, such as the System Management Mode (SMM), meant that the computer could power down various components. Computers finally went from command-line interaction to WIMP (Window, Icon, Menu, Pointing device) interaction.

In 1993, Intel introduced the Pentium processor which has a speed of 60 MHz. This was followed by the Pentium II which has a speed of 233 MHz, and the Pentium III which has a speed of 450 MHz, and the Pentium 4 which has a speed of 1.3 GHz. Later, Intel brought out the Celeron processor, which has a speed of 266 MHz and which is used in affordable low-end computers. In 2003, Intel inaugurated the Pentium M processor, which ushered in a new era of mobile computing, under the Centrino platform. The Pentium M is slower, at 900 MHz, so that energy consumption is reduced and the battery of the laptop lasts longer. In 2006, Intel introduced the Core processor which has a speed of 1.6 GHz. It has more than one core, like in the case of Core Duo (which has two cores) and has virtualization capability which allows multiple copies of an operating system to be run on the same computer.

While Intel is the leading company in the manufacturing of processors, there are other companies such as AMD that make processors too. In 1991, AMD had brought out the Am386 processor and its speed is 40 MHz. It is compatible with the Intel 386 processor. In 1999, AMD introduced the Athlon processor which has a speed of 500 MHz. Athlon was a legitimate competitor to Intel Pentium III because it was faster. As a matter of fact, AMD Athlon was the first processor to reach the speed of 1 GHz. The future for the computer processor industry is promising, as processors will continue to get faster and cheaper. According to Moore‘s Law, the number of transistors on a chip used to double every year, and from 1975, it used to double every two years.

In the future, processors will have more cores that will be blistering fast and reduce power consumption. Software programmers will have to create multi-threaded applications to utilize the multiple cores. Computers with such processors will be faster for multimedia applications such as graphics software, audio players and video players. There is also a possibility that optical computing will increase processor speeds exponentially. All these signs point to a brighter future for processors, which will be to the benefit of everyone.