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Miniature electronic device that contains the arithmetic, logic, and control circuitry needed to function as a digital computer's CPU. Microprocessors are integrated circuits that can interpret and execute program instructions as well as handle arithmetic operations. Their development in the late 1970s enabled computer engineers to develop microcomputers. Microprocessors led to intelligent terminals, such as bank ATMs and point-of-sale devices, and to automatic control of much industrial instrumentation and hospital equipment, programmable microwave ovens, and electronic games. Many automobiles use microprocessor-controlled ignition and fuel systems.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on microprocessor, visit Britannica.com.