When we think of the brain, immediately we think of a higher power that is at the head and controls the organism or being that it is part of.
This brain has a network of fibers or nerves which goes to all parts of the body and ensures that all the organs work in perfect harmony. In the electronic or computer world it is no different.
The central processing unit (CPU) is the brain which ensures that all parts of the computer work together in perfect harmony.
Where is the computer brain located?
The first thing one notices when opening up the metallic or plastic case of any personal computer is a very large circuit board, also called the motherboard.
It consists of many different electronic components and wires which are interconnected by an extensive network of microcircuits.
This is also where we find the brain of the computer or CPU, located in its slightly elevated square platform.
The CPU is not always easily visible as it is often hidden under a fan located on the top of a large square block of horizontal metal plates.
Physical Characteristics of the CPU
Closer inspection of the computer brain reveals a hard, green resinous square with sides measuring about three to four centimeters in length. Embedded within this green, hard square is usually one or more black microchips representing the actual CPU.
This means that unlike the human body, a computer system can actually have more than one brain. The fortunate thing is that these individual brains are able to work together in perfect harmony.
In the case where there is more than one processor, it is often referred to as dual or multicore. Originating from the sides of each microchip is an array of sliver pipes or tubes which disappear into the green resinous square.
These silver tubes are found all along the full perimeter of the microchip. On the underside of the green square is a myriad of short metal pins occupying almost the entire area of the square base.
These metal pins are the connection points between the CPU and the motherboard. Handle these pins with care as they are easily damaged and could result in a misfit between the CPU and the motherboard. The result could be a misfiring computer brain.
Fitting the computer brain into its neural network
The CPU fits snugly into a special square area on the motherboard. This site is identified by the many tiny metal coated holes covering its entire area. The number of holes match the number of pins found on the underside of the square housing the CPU.
Each pin on the underside of the computer brain fits snugly into its own hole. To ensure that the connection between the CPU and the rest of the system is always uninterrupted, it must be locked into place.
Along the side of the raised square area, is the locking device, usually a small metal lever. When in the locked position, lever in the downward position, the CPU is intimately attached to the motherboard and is able to interact with the rest of the computer system if it is necessary to disconnect or remove the CPU from its neural network, simply lift the silver lock lever into its unlock position.
The CPU will be freed from its tight fit on the motherboard and can be removed with ease.
It is important to note that we do not get a universal computer brain that fits all computers. Each motherboard is only able to accept a specific type or range of CPUs. When changing or acquiring a CPU, ensure that it is the correct one for the motherboard you have.
Protecting the Computer Brain From Self-Destruction
While the computer system is switched on and work is actively being done, the CPU is constantly working to ensure that everything within the system goes according to plan.
In its activity, a huge amount of heat is produced which can lead to the brain malfunctioning and bring the entire operation to an immediate standstill. For the purpose of self-preservation, a square metal block of horizontal metal plates is fitted above the CPU.
The metal block is known as a heat sink and has the job of removing heat from the surface of the CPU and dissipating it into the air. Often the heat sink is partnered with a fan to form a protective duo, ensuring that the CPU remains cool and is able to perform its important function under optimal conditions.
The Relationship Between Micro Transistors and CPU Prowess
The CPU consists of a huge number of micro transistors which collectively give the microchip its teeth. In other words, these transistors form the various memory areas which influence CPU performance.
As computers and technology advanced, the physical dimensions of these transistors have decreased, thus increasing the number of transistors per unit area of chip.
With this came the ability to process information at a faster rate. This rate of processing information is also called the clock speed of the computer.
Currently, most computers have a Pentium processor, which is also represented by the code 80586. Some of these CPUs are able to process over 188 000 000 bits of information per second, which is extremely fast.
In the case where computers have more than one brain, each one is able to process different bits of information in an organized way.
The beauty of this is that the information processing portion occurs much quicker and the processed information is presenting without any evidence that two or more processors shared the work. In computer terms this is often called multi-threading.
The clock speed of a processor is measured in Hertz (Hz). Most CPUs today have clock speeds in excessive of 3 gigahertz (GHz). As a result, modern computers have tiny, but extremely powerful brains, capable of processing information at lightning speed.
How Does the Computer Brain Communicate with the Rest of the System?
In order to communicate, there must be a common language that all of the role players understand. The language of communication used by the CPU is called machine language.
It is made up of arrays of ones (1) and zeros (0). For this reason, machine language is also known as binary code. This code is understood by all electronic components, which ensures that the communication between the computer brain and its peripheries is always clear without any misunderstanding.
In this system the ones represent ON and the zeros represent OFF. All instructions between the CPU and the rest of the system occur in this way.
How does the CPU Process the Information?
The processing of any information has two important components or phases.
Arithmetic: The processing of information often involves various types of calculations or numerical operations.
Logical:The results of any processed information must be in a form which is understandable. Often very important decisions are made depending on the way the information is represented. The forms part of the logic of the whole process. All of the processing, both arithmetic and logical, occurs in a specific area of the CPU called the arithmetic logic unit (ALU).
The Main Function of the Computer Brain
Being the brain of the computer, the function of the CPU is to ensure that the computer works accurately and optimally. In other words, it deals with signals or information all the time. The entire process can be divided into three main phases.
Input:In this phase the CPU receives information from the main memory banks of the computer.
Processing:Once the information has been received, it is analyzed and processed. By the end of this phase the information is packaged and will have clear instructions of what must take place.
Output:The packaged information is transmitted back to the rest of the computer in a process which is called output.
Input Devices and the CPU
Input devices are the peripheral components which are used to put information into the system. These are usually things like the keyboard, mouse and scanner.
The information can take on various forms such as text, pictures or graphics, and numbers. This information is relayed to the CPU where it is processed.
Output Devices and the Computer brain
After the computer brain has processed the information and put it into a form which we can understand, it gets the output devices to display the information. Examples of output devices are printers and the computer monitor or screen.
The computer Brain and the Operating System
Although the CPU is the brain of the computer, it cannot work in isolation as all of its instructions and processes are delivered using machine language.
There needs to be some way of managing the flow of information between the computer brain and the rest of the computer system. There is a special piece of software (computer program) which forms a link between the CPU and the rest of the system.
This special software, or middleman, is known as the operating system. It creates a favorable environment in which the CPU can do its work and communicate with all of its role players. Today there are many different types of operating systems.
The most common ones known to many of us are Windows, Mac and Linux (Unix). As humans we are unable to understand and process binary code. It is therefore important that we are able to collect the information in a way we understand.
The operating system also plays a decisive role in this regard. It consists of a number of smaller programs which are able to convert the binary code into a form which we as humans are able to understand.
The Computer Brain and Memory
The word brain and memory are almost synonymous, meaning when we hear the one word we almost immediately tend to think of the other word as well.
The computer brain is a small microchip with great processing power, but it does not have the ability to store loads of information. It therefore has to depend on other devices to store the information.
This means that information is moved from a storage device to the CPU. Here it is processed and the processed information is send back to the storage device for safe keeping.
This process of getting information to and from storage devices can affect how quickly information can be processed and displayed.
It is important to note that the computer brain will process the information at its optimal rate, and that delays we often encounter is not due to the actual CPU, but because of the storage devices.
The CPU is able to interact or communicate with different types of storage devices.
Cache: This type of memory is found on the CPU and it is also the fastest memory available to the brain. Unfortunately, it comes with a hefty price tag and therefore has very limited storage capacity.
ROM: This is called Read Only Memory. It consists information about the computer system and interacts with the brain upon computer start up.
BIOS: This also stands for Basic Input and Output System. It also has extremely limited storage capacity and in involved with instructions for input and output of information.
RAM: This stands for RANDOM access memory. It is not permanent memory and it loses its storage ability as soon as the computer is powered down. The CPU access this memory bank as a temporary store to place information prior to it being saved onto a permanent storage device.
Permanent Storage:There are a number of permanent storage devices. The CPU cannot process information on permanent storage devices. It will first move the information to RAM, from where it can fetch it for processing.
The CPU is also known as the brain of the computer. It is able to manage and communicate with other computer peripherals to ensure that the system is able to operate optimally at all times.
Its shares its management function with special computer software programs known as operating systems. Every computer system MUST have a CPU.