Tech Talk: CPU Quiz


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About This Quiz

When you sit at your computer, browsing the Internet, playing video games and running word processors, it's easy to feel like you're in control. But have you ever thought about what really makes your desktop or laptop run?

What does CPU stand for?

The central processing unit (CPU), or the microprocessor, is the heart of your desktop of laptop computer, a tiny chip that contains an entire computation engine on top.

When was the first commercial microprocessor introduced?

The first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004, was introduced in 1971. Although it couldn't do much -- it could only add and subtract four bits at a time -- it powered one of the first portable calculators.

Out of what material are computer chips made?

Computer chips are small pieces of silicon onto which transistors are etched. Much of the microprocessor-producing industry is located in the San Francisco Bay Area in Southern California and has earned the nickname of "Silicon Valley."

The width of the smallest wire on a computer chip is typcially measured in:

The smallest wire on a chip is measured in microns. Current chips have wires that are less than one micron wide, while a human hair is about 100 microns thick.

Which of the following is not part of a computer chip's job?

Although CPUs have many complicated tasks to run, they do three basic things: perform mathematical operations, move data between memory locations and follow sets of instructions. The job of starting up the computer specifically involves the bootstrap loader.

To what do buses and lines connect in a computer chip?

Address and data buses, which send addresses and data to memory, and read and write lines, which tell the memory whether it wants to set or get an addressed location, can connect to either ROM or RAM and generally connects to both.

What does ROM stand for?

ROM stands for read-only memory. Unlike RAM (random access memory), ROM chips are programmed with a set of bytes that can't change.

On a PC, what do the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) instructions do?

When the microprocessor starts up, it looks towards the BIOS for several instructions. Among other things such as storing the boot sector in RAM after it's read, BIOS instructions check the machine's hardware for errors and then load the operating system.

Computer chip designers create language instructions that the microprocessor reads. What translates the words from the instructions into bit patterns the chip can understand?

Because humans aren't very good at remembering complex bit patterns, the assembler translates semantic instructions developed by designers into a language the CPU can use.

About how much address space can a 64-bit microprocessor access?

While 32-bit microprocessors can only address between 2 and 4 gigabytes of RAM, 64-bit microprocessors can address as much as one billion gigabytes of RAM if needed. Although that may seem excessive for something like home computers, such extra space may be necessary in the future for overloaded servers.

The Intel 8086 processor, introduced in 1978, included what important advance?

The 8086 popularized 16-bit technology, which helped make it the first of an influential series of CPU chips.

How many transistors are included in the Intel Core i7 processor, introduced in 2008?

The i7 packs 731 million transistors onto its CPU chip. Count 'em.

The CPU is included on a central component of the computer known as:

The motherboard holds the CPU, memory cards and various ports and controllers.

What is a CPU’s clock speed?

The clock speed indicates how quickly the CPU can execute instructions. The frequency is measured in megahertz or gigahertz.

The memory that a CPU can use directly is called:

However instantanous the actions of a computer seem to be sometimes, every little operation takes time. Retrieving data from the cache, however, is much faster than retreiving from system memory.

The process size of a CPU refers to what?

Process size refers to how finely the CPU components are etched on to the chip. In 2012, the process size for chips had reached 22 nanometers.

A turbo boost allows a CPU to:

Turbo boost increases the power and speed of a CPU when more processing power is needed.

Every CPU needs to:

Getting rid of heat is important to keeping a CPU running. Passive heat sinks or fans are the most common methods.

Which type of CPU was used in the first IBM personal computer?

The original PC, introduced in 1981, used an 16-bit processor, but it only had an 8-bit bus to carry the data.

The first commercial processor was used in:

Intel Corp. created its 4004 programmable chip for calculators in 1971.

Which of these is an important manufacturer of CPU chips?

Along with Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, known as AMD, is a major maker of microprocessors.

There’s a concept that states that the number of transistors manufacturers can pack into a chip of the same size doubles every two years. What’s it called?

More of an estimate that has held somewhat true than a law, the idea was first put forth in 1965 by Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel, who at first predicted the number would double every year. The term is still used in computing circles, but the time frame gets revised periodically.

The type of processing where multiple instructions are sent to more than one processor to execute at the same time is called:

Many of today's CPUs include multiple processing cores, allowing the divvying up of instructions to speed up processing. It should be noted that two cores don't double speed, as there are other factors at play.

What sort of CPU contains a very large number of cores on a single chip?

Most new computers have CPUs with multiple processing cores integrated into one chip to increase speed and efficiency, often as many as four. But chip makers are working on massive multi-core processors, also called many-core processors, with dozens or even hundreds processing cores to handle even heavier processing.

What does a transistor do?

A processor contains many millions of transistors etched right into the silicon. Electrical signals are applied to make the transistor either allow or disallow the flow of electricity.

What's the term for a single chip that integrates all the computing components necessary to run a device?

Many of our smaller computing devices, such as smartphones and smart watches, use system-on-a-chip (SoC) processors to pack a ton of computing capability into a tiny package. These chips may include the CPU, GPU, RAM, ROM and other components all on one integrated circuit.

What type of processor would be included in a household appliance with limited computing capabilities?

Many everyday devices like dishwashers, cameras, thermostats and cars now include processors, albeit smaller and less powerful ones than those in most computers. Non-computer devices containing processors are often referred to as embedded devices.

What part of the processor performs arithmetic and logic operations?

The arithmetic logic unit (ALU) performs arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and logic operations such as AND, OR, NOT, NAND, NOR and XOR.

In this sort of processor architecture, the CPU is designed to perform tasks using a small, simplified set of computing instructions:

As opposed to CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) architecture, in which the hardware has a large set of more complex instructions, RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture includes a more optimized set of simple instructions, each requiring fewer transistors and executing in only one clock cycle. These instructions can be strung together via software to perform more complex operations.

What sort of substance has a variable ability to conduct electricity depending upon conditions?

The semiconductive material silicon is used to make most microchips because changes in conditions (such as current and voltage) can be used to control how conductive of electrons it is at a given moment, allowing controlled flow of electricity.

This is a place on a CPU that holds a small amount of data:

A CPU's registers can hold data, such as computing instructions or storage addresses, for use in processing.

What's another name for a microchip?

Integrated circuits were conceived of in the late 1950s when engineers realized you could make computing components smaller by etching transistors, resistors and capacitors into a solid block of silicon rather than stringing them together with wires. And thus the modern microchip was born.

What part of the CPU stores the location of the instruction to be executed?

The program counter is a type of register that contains the address of either the current or next instruction to be executed.

What processor design company came to dominate the mobile device market with their low-power RISC based architecture?

The company Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) developed processors using RISC architecture that allowed for small chips with high-speed performance at low-power, making them ideal for small devices like smartphones, tablets and wearable devices.

What is the die size of a processor?

Die size is a term used to refer to the surface area of the microchip, usually in square millimeters.

Which term refers to how long it takes for the CPU to request and receive data from the cache?

However instantaneously your computer seems to react, every little action takes time. Retrieving data from the cache, however, is several times faster than retrieving from RAM (random access memory). Both are usually measured in nanoseconds. One nanosecond is a billionth of a second.

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