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Principal component of a digital computer, composed of a control unit, an instruction-decoding unit, and an arithmetic-logic unit. The CPU is linked to main memory, peripheral equipment (including input/output devices), and storage units. The control unit integrates computer operations. It selects instructions from the main memory in proper sequence and sends them to the instruction-decoding unit, which interprets them so as to activate functions of the system at appropriate moments. Input data are transferred via the main memory to the arithmetic-logic unit for processing (i.e., addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and certain logic operations). Larger computers may have two or more CPUs, in which case they are simply called processors because each is no longer a central unit. See alsomultiprocessing.
Variants of CPU
CPU in full central processing unit
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on CPU, visit Britannica.com.