Essay by Robert BaileyHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 1996

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Inside of the mysterious box that perches ominously on your desk is one of the marvels of the modern world. This marvel is also a total enigma to most of the population. This enigma is, of course, the microprocessor. To an average observer a microprocessor is simply a small piece of black plastic that is found inside of almost everything.

In How Microprocessors Work they are defined as a computer's central processing unit, usually contained on a single integrated circuit (Wyant and Hammerstrom, 193). In plain English this simply means that a microprocessor is the brain of a computer and it is only on one chip. Winn L. Rosch compares them to being an electronic equivalent of a knee-joint that when struck with the proper digital stimulus will react in the exact same way each time (Rosch,37). More practically a microprocessor is multitudinous transistors squeezed onto as small a piece of silicon as possible to do math problems as fast as possible.

Microprocessors are made of many smaller components which all work together to make the chip work. A really good analogy for the way the inner workings of a chip operate can be found in How Microprocessors Work. In their book, Wyant and Hammerstrom describe a microprocessor as a factory and all of the inner workings of the chip as the various parts of a factory (Wyant and Hammerstrom, 71-103). Basically a microprocessor can be seen as a factory because like a factory it is sent something and is told what to do with it. The microprocessor factory processes information. This most basic unit of this information is the bit. A bit is simply on or off. It is either a one or a zero. Bits are put into 8 bit groups called bytes. The number 8 is used...