Acronym for central processing unit. The computational and control unit of a computer. The CPU is the device that interprets and executes instructions. Mainframes and early minicomputers contained circuit boards full of integrated circuits that implemented the CPU. Single-chip central processing units, called microprocessors, made possible personal computers and workstations. Examples of single-chip CPUs are the Motorola 68000, 68020, and 68030 chips and the Intel 8080, 8086, 80286, 80386, and i486 chips. The CPU—or microprocessor, in the case of a microcomputer—has the ability to fetch, decode, and execute instructions and to transfer information to and from other resources over the computer’s main data-transfer path, the bus. By definition, the CPU is the chip that functions as the “brain” of a computer. In some instances, however, the term encompasses both the processor and the computer’s memory or, even more broadly, the main computer console (as opposed to peripheral equipment). See the illustration. See also microprocessor. Central processing unit. The part of the computer that contains the circuits that control and perform the execution of computer instructions.
In computing, abbreviation for central processing unit.