A central processing unit (CPU) is the electronic circuitry within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logical, control and input/output operations specified by the instructions. The term has been used in the computer industry at least since the early 1960s. The form, design, and implementation of CPUs have changed over the course of their history, but their fundamental operation remains much the same. Principal components of a CPU include the arithmetic logic unit (ALU), which performs arithmetic and logical operations, and the control unit (CU), which fetches instructions from memory and decodes and executes them, calling on the services of the ALU when necessary. Most modern CPUs are microprocessors, meaning they are contained on a single integrated circuit (IC) chip. Some computers have two or more CPUs on a single chip and thus are capable of multiprocessing; these are called multi-core processors. An IC that contains a CPU may also contain memory, peripheral devices, and other components of a computer; such devices are variously called microcontrollers or system on a chips (SoC). Not all computational systems employ central processing units. For example, an array processor or vector processor has multiple parallel computing elements, with no one unit considered "central".


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